The coolest car on the UK lowrider scene? Straight outta Lay ‘N’ Play, it ’s a Honda Civic of all things. And would you believe it’s a 10-year-old kid hitting the switches?
Lowriders – they’re all Impalas and Coupe De Villes, aren’t they? No, far from it… let Pete Blackhurst clear it up for you: “In lowriding, the margins between cool and bad taste are carefully managed by individuality and creativity,” he says, “so in effect it doesn’t really matter what people think, there’s no real prerequisites, your ride is an expression of you.” So is it cool to run a 1980s Honda Civic in the lowrider scene? Hell yeah, it is – particularly when we tell you that this particular Civic is owned by a cool-as-a-cucumber 10-year-old dude named Sol. Given that Sol’s running a very busy schedule of planning world domination and climbing trees and stuff, we’re talking to his old man Pete about the car, and it turns out that all of this brightly coloured and hydraulic-powered whimsy is genetic. It stems right back to Pete’s own childhood.
“As a kid I worked at my dad’s shop on Saturdays,” he recalls, “and he’d send me to the local newsagents to buy magazines and Hot Wheels along with a bag of chips and curry sauce for lunch. I always liked hot rods, customs and classic Fords; my neighbours had a Mk1 Mexico and a 105E, and when I finally passed my driving test at 18 my parents bought me a Mk3 Fiesta – which wasn’t so cool back then. I quickly swapped that for a Mk2 Cortina 1300 Deluxe – a rusty piece of crap that was delivered to my house with a dodgy MoT, it was a huge mistake but it almost lasted a year before falling to bits!”
Undeterred, Pete bought another Cortina, threw on some rims and graphics, and took it to his first show, Run to the Sun in Newquay – a mere 300 miles from home. This was where he saw his first lowrider up close, and at this point everything changed: the Vauxhall Viva owned by Sideshow Bob of Lo-Rdz Lowrider CC drove past on three wheels, and from that moment he knew he was hooked.
“The next step was research,” says Pete. “I was around 19 when I found the internet forums and chat rooms of Unity and Lo-Rdz; the great rivalry and amazing cars that came out of those early days saw me joining up with Unity and planning my first lowrider build. The Cortina was replaced with a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass, and with the help of fellow club member Stevie D, wire wheels and juice came quick and I headed out to every show, meet and gathering I could find. The Cutlass was a coming of age for me, meeting up with the guys I saw at shows and making friends, it’s only now fifteen years later I realise what effect it had on me and some of my lowrider bros.”
Not long after joining Unity, Pete, Stevie D and another friend Little Gray set up Tru-Rydaz, a UK-based club that now has members worldwide, and its influence is spreading relentlessly. In the small village where Pete lives, the Civic gets to play with an Impala, an El Camino and a Lincoln Town Car, and the guys have set up a lowrider lifestyle brand, Lay ‘N’ Play, which is the UK’s voice for the scene on social media as well as organising displays at shows like Gravity, Fitted UK, Mod Nats, Ultimate Stance and the Retro Rides Weekender.
“Through all the partying and lowriding, I became dad to a badass dude called Sol – in fact I was in Vegas at the Lowrider Super Show when he was born!” says Pete. “It was a life-changer, and I wanted him to be part of the action too; not long after he could stand and walk, he was attending shows, his first Tru-Rydaz shirt came next, followed by hitting switches on my cars in front of crowds and now his own whip, the Civic.”
That’s right. Pete’s passion for the low-down lifestyle is so strong that he had to build a car for his son to play with at shows – and how many 10-year-olds can boast that they own a car, let alone a unique show-stopper like this?
But why a Civic, though – bit of an odd choice for a lowrider isn’t it? Well, it all goes back to what Pete was saying at the start: there are no prerequisites, the car’s an expression of yourself. “The Civic was a break from the norm for me,” he says. “I’ve only ever really owned RWD cars, American, UK and German stuff; Sol was hankering after his own car to hit switches at shows and my El Camino was tired from a hard year of shows and events. So a plan was formed – I wanted to step away from my usual comfort zone, build something that was cool in LA in the ’90s but never really had its time here; something Japanese, boxy and small. Around a year ago the Civic popped up on eBay not far from me, and a deal was struck to bring it home.”
The Honda was completely standard as-bought; a few dents and some frilly sills, but nothing too hard to fi x. The plan was simple: get it all straight, fi t hydraulics and wire wheels, and give it some awesome paint. Sol is partially colour-blind so bold patterns would make sense, and essentially it should look like something from an early-nineties rap video.
Now, fitting hydraulics to most American cars is fairly straightforward, but adding juice to a monocoque requires a bit more lateral thinking and ingenuity – it basically involves ripping out the struts and replacing them with hydraulic rams which have to be modified to fi t. It’s not like you just buy an off-the-shelf juice kit for a Civic! “In simple terms, you fill the boot with pumps, valves, batteries, solenoids and accumulators to replace the now-missing shocks and coils,” Pete explains, “then you hose and wire it all up with some switches, and boom – you’ve turned your reliable grocery-getter into something that baffles your grandma and puts smiles on kids’ faces everywhere!”
To augment the trad lowrider style, he was keen to run wire wheels too, and with the reverse-laced 7x13s sitting pretty under the chrome arches, it was time to think seriously about paint.
Pete spent endless hours trawling through images of 1990s customs to figure out the look he wanted, and he worked with long-time club member and paint guru Ali Butler at Vision Autoworks to lay out something truly eye-popping. Ali was given the car, a budget, and a few months, with the ultimate deadline being the 2018 Retro Rides Weekender. “I wanted to build something that would crossover between styles, showing the UK that you don’t necessarily have to invest tens of thousands into a project to get noticed – and hopefully encourage people from inside and outside the scene to have a go at something similar,” says Pete. “Giving someone artistic license can be a dangerous game, but Ali is a proper lowrider obsessive; we’d agreed on lots of colours broken up in lots of lines, backed by flake and finished with candy, and that’s what rolled out of his workshop – Sol and I couldn’t have been happier!”
The finish of the paint really is awesome – it’s what first drew us toward the car, the level of intricate detail is just mind-blowing… and then Sol started flipping the switches and bouncing the car up and down, and we were hooked! Perhaps the idea of a retro candy-painted Civic on hydros doesn’t work on paper, but seeing it up close shows you just how important it is to kick out of your comfort zone. This Honda is nothing short of incredible.
“No build’s ever finished, there’s always more to do,” Pete ponders, “but for now the car is being used and abused by the coolest 10-year-old on the streets (albeit being driven by his embarrassing 35-year-old dad), going to as many shows as we can and generally just enjoying trying to break stuff so we can fix it again! The feedback we’ve had has been immense, of all the cars I’ve had and all the money I’ve spent, this plucky little Honda has surpassed the attention of any.”
Pete and Sol have every intention of continuing to modify the car – and with a good seven years before Sol will be old enough to drive it to school, who knows how different it’ll be by then? But one thing’s for sure: he’ll be the coolest kid in the car park. Let’s face it, he already is.
TECH SPEC: HONDA CIVIC
Custom candy and flake paint by Vision Autoworks.
D14A1 1.4-litre twin-carb, stock running gear.
7×13-inc reverse lace ‘China’ all-chrome wire wheels with 3-bar knock-offs, 175/50 Nankang tyres, 2 pump 4 dump Black Magic hydraulic pumps custom-fitted and modified side-ported front and rear hydraulic cylinders, 4x Hankook MF31 1000amp batteries (wired at 24volt), 2 banks of Accumax solenoids, pre-wired 10-switch box, 4 switches in dash, 4x accumulators with manual lock-off valves, adjustable rear camber arms.
Stock EF interior.
My girlfriend Rach and her daughter Liv, Sol’s mum Kate, all the support from grandparents, all the hard work put in by Matt and Bains and my Tru-Rydaz brothers, and fi nally all the homies within the lowrider scene that continue to support UK lowriding.
Words Dan Bevis Photography Si Gray