Hot women and hot cars are the classic association, especially since bomber pilots don't paint nose art anymore. And especially since Lowrider Magazine started in 1977 as a newspaper with decidedly Chicano politics and hot cars. And, editor Ralph Fuentes, says, hot women.
"It's that guy-girl kind of thing. The guy's after the girl. [But] his main toy, even as a big boy, is still the car. The appeal of girls and cars is just the No. 1 attraction. For us it's just a given," he says. "The first cover was of a girl, in '77. It's been on-again/off-again over the years." Which is weird, because Anaheim-based Lowrider is perhaps the car magazine most associated with the buxom, big-butted, vaguely-Latina vixen—how could it ever have been off-again? Fuentes wonders; he says it's definitely on, now—so much so that, for maybe the first time in its 29-year history, the cover girl slightly overshadows the cover car.
"Our [cover] formula is a 3/4-shot [of the] car with a full shot of the girl in front," he explains. "It has changed with her just recently being able to obscure the [Lowrider] logo." Which sounds like a small thing; all kinds of fashionable magazines—Gentlemen's Quarterly, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker—do strange things with their logo. But Lowrider is Lowrider. The magazine is the lowrider, and vice versa. Could a woman ever get bigger than a lowrider? How could you cover a $50,000 lowrider up with a woman—even one so smokin' as the Lowrider babe: she of bolt-on boobs and apple-bottomed behind?
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Actually, you couldn't, Fuentes confesses. They tried it last year. It didn't work—in contrast to OC Weekly, where it works . . . really well.
"Just last year, we did try the predominant woman [cover], in January and, say, in October, where we did run pretty much the whole girl," he says. "And saleswise it wasn't very good. Did [the girl] kill the sales? It's hard to say. But in the surveys, it's come right back to the formula of 3/4-car/full girl in front."
Lowrider knows because it surveys its readers—once mostly U.S. men, ages 18-24; now global, multicultural—yearly, but also because increasingly, its readers write in. Husbands send pictures of their wives or girlfriends, in hopes they'll be picked for models—or else women, who increasingly read the magazine themselves, send their own pictures. When Fuentes put out the call recently for an all-girl issue, in four months, he received 100 write-in applicants—more than enough for an issue. So, he says, it's a balance: the Lowrider woman—typically "light-skinned African-American or Mexican or Hispanic"—wears a bikini inside the magazine. But on the cover, she's more apt to wear a sexy dress or a lowcut blouse. Once—early 2000s, right around the time the Ron Jeremy documentary hit—the magazine used several porn stars as models. Now, it's looking for the hot girl-next-door type. She may get the whole cover—or an issue devoted to her—or, dressed as an Aztec maiden in huge headdress, she may be overshadowed by a two-ton glasshouse Impala with metal-flake freeway scallops. But she will never, ever not be on the cover of Lowrider, Fuentes says. It's just not possible.
"You'll never get away from the girl. It's just that connection," he says: women and cars. "Some people even refer to the car as the other woman."