What springs to mind when you think of lowrider car culture? Physics-defying Chevy Impalas doing the four-wheeled robot dance? Or perhaps a Cadillac Coupe DeVille with Dayton wires, white-wall tires and a wild paint job? Those are the images that I certainly have of this crazy scene, but there’s a guy in Tokushima, Japan doing things his own way.
Meet Yoshimi Usui, an airbrush artist who has transformed his JDM econobox into a lowrider-inspired rolling canvas.
An accomplished artist who goes by the name Slow, Yoshimi-san has an impressive backlog of finished lowriders under his belt.
When I asked if there were any other lowriders in the area, Yoshimi-san told me his was the only one. There is of course a big lowrider scene in Osaka, three hours drive away, and there are a few classic cars in Tokushima, but nothing quite like this one-of-a-kind creation called ‘Paranoia’.
Lowriders based on JDM models are pretty niche. There are examples elsewhere in Japan, but it’s still a unique take on this style of car customization.
This makes Yoshimi-san’s choice of base car quite peculiar. The 1995 Honda Civic Shuttle was never going to win any beauty contests in standard form, but I think it might stand a chance to win something now.
Working out of his tiny garage, it took Yoshimi-san two years to airbrush the design by hand, painstakingly creating every detail with masterful precision. Lowrider culture has been embraced wholeheartedly in Japan, and while some of the designs and motifs used in the artworks have incorporated Japanese influences, for the most part artists still use traditional styling cues as a base.
The Shuttle is sitting on some solid-looking and now vintage 16-inch McLean Cyclone 16-inch wheels and is fitted with USDM-style projector headlights. It also features a Webasto (a boutique parts manufacturer in Yokohama) sunroof and a one-off stainless steel muffler.
Being big, brash, full of chrome, and in many cases just downright iconic, American cars are the go-to for building a lowrider. But I would love to see more Japanese cars, like Toyota Crowns, Centurys or maybe even a Mark II built like this.
The beauty of Yoshimi-san’s Civic Shuttle lowrider is that it fits perfectly into to Japanese daily life – apart from the fact it’s bright purple and covered in sultry, half-naked women. What I mean is, it’s practical. It’s the right size, vehicle tax is low, and there’s room in the back for a month’s worth of grocery shopping. I can’t imagine doing the weekend errands in an Impala lowrider; most of those are purely show cars and cruisers.
When I met up with Yoshimi-san he was in the early stages of fitting a hydraulic suspension setup. He’s fabricating all the frame work himself, and apparently it will have full independent suspension like the crazy street hoppers that we know. I have no idea how he’ll accomplish it, so I guess I’ll just have to head back to Tokushima and check it out when it’s bouncing.
This build may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s hard not to love it just for what it is. The artwork really is impressive, and driving around with Yoshimi-san the Shuttle just made me smile. At the end of the day, if something makes you happy, that’s the most important thing, isn’t it?