Car culture is an amazing thing, isn’t it? There are so many different little niches you can be involved with that there’s literally something for everyone who wants to get involved. Maybe you want to tune Japanese economy cars, or maybe you want to lift trucks and do some serious off-roading. Maybe, you’re into interior customization or creating awesome sound systems that sound as good as they are expensive. Maybe you’re into cars that sit really low and just barely hover off the ground, or you could be into the hydraulic scene that showcases some of the most expensive, intense, and expensive car customizations known to man.
That latter point is exactly what we’re about to talk about today. Well, in part, anyway. We’ve compiled pictures of cars that take hydraulic suspension to all-new levels, and we counter them with a handful of images that showcase cars that were lifted in ways that should have never happened. The cars that feature hydraulic suspension are done right while the cars that were lifted often feature outrageous ride height and cater to the ego of those who think big wheels are a status symbol. You know how the saying goes: the bigger, the better. Well, the images you see here prove exactly the opposite while those featuring hydraulics prove there are people that can do car suspension right – as long as you’re into that kind of thing anyway. As such, I present to you 11 cars with bumpin’ hydraulics and 8 that just, downright, shouldn’t have been lifted.
19 Three-Wheel Motion
One of the cool things about hydraulic suspension is the ability to elevate the car in a way that allows it to sit stably on just three wheels. Usually, you’ll catch these guys hitting three-wheel motion as they bend corners. Of course, it’s technically an unsafe maneuver to do while in motion, but it speaks volumes as to the skill involved to actually control the hydraulic pumps in a way to make this possible.
The image you see here shows someone doing such a thing at low speed or a standstill and in a way that would be physically impossible while on the move around a corner.
Either way, it’s pretty cool to see, and all of the chrome underneath is just a testament to how expensive this hobby can really be. Lowrider reports a budget build that ran about $1,200, however, systems prepped for competition usage typically cost much more than that.
18 Classic Lowrider
While some hydraulic suspensions allow owners to defy gravity and jump their cars off the ground, other systems are more about lowering the car’s stance and positioning the body in unique ways. The outfit you see here likely falls into the latter category as it has typical coil springs up front while the rear appears to be fitted with your typical hydraulic setup that includes a pair of hydraulic actuators, and – as you can see – no springs of any kind. Notice how the rear tire sits flush with the ground? Well, the other rear tire is sitting deep in the wheel well with the rear corner just inches from the ground. According to How Stuff Works, cars with hydraulic suspension typically use multiple car batteries that are dedicated to the suspension, as the hydraulic actuators use more power than the alternator on an engine can typically provide.
17 Trucks Play Too
As reported by Camaro Car Place, the most common lowriders are typically old-school, early-60s Chevy Impalas, but there’s a big love for GM G-bodies as well. But, those aren’t the only kind of cars that “dance” as it’s called. Case in point: The pickup truck you see here.
That’s right – even compact trucks like the Chevy S-10 and Ford Ranger can be dancing examples of Hydraulics done right. And, since they have that big open bed, they are often perfect for larger systems.
To get all four wheels off the ground, this vehicle needed at least four hydraulic actuators, a plethora of extra car batteries, and, since it’s unsafe to be in during its dance, it’s controlled by an external arrangement of switches. Of course, that serves a dual purpose since the owner gets to enjoy the show along with everyone else. For the record, this kind of hydraulic setup is quite expensive with How Stuff Works reporting that a single actuator can run a minimum of $500, and let’s not even get into the cost of installation labor or car batteries.
16 Love Thy Wagon
Late model Impalas and G-Body GM cars might be the cream of the crop, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some other really cool cars out there with some serious hydraulic suspension. In this case, we’re talking about an old-school wagon and, while it may only have rear hydraulics, it’s enough to set it off from the rest of the crowd because of its somewhat unique body style in this niche. The best part is that the owner kept it simple. It doesn’t have some extravagant paint job or outrageous wheels. While you won’t catch it “dancing” with the other guys, it sure does look good, and it can manage that ever-so-desirable three-wheel motion. As How Stuff Works points out, the single-axle hydraulic systems aren’t “that” expensive or overbearing on the car so it can still be driven on a regular basis too.
15 Hello G-Body
Remember how I said G-body GM cars are highly desirable in the hydraulic world? Well, here is a prime example of one that is done right. It has the right wheels, a clean body, and an attractive paint job. There’s no telling as to whether it has front hydros too, but based on the height of the front wheels, it looks like this may be a 50-50 package.
In other words, the owner only set up the rear axle with full hydraulics. In this case, the front end may have cheaper to attain and install airbags.
With that in mind, however, it should be noted that the owner didn’t cheap out as far as customization goes. Notice how the pinch welds underneath are painted to match the body and how there is a cross painted just above the hydraulic shocks? That, folks, is what you call attention to detail and excellent taste in style. Take note.
14 Not Dancin’
The last G-body we showcased may have been capable of dancing should the owner hit the switches right, but this one, on the other hand, looks like it’s designed more for dropping low or body raising in the lightest form. We would say that this thing is fitted with nothing more than airbags, but if you noticed that huge, seemingly six-gauge, power wire sticking out of the rear deck it’s highly likely that there’s a small plantation of extra car batteries back there. If so, this picture could be highly deceiving. Maybe she is ready to dance. After all, it’s not like the owner has necessarily gone cheap. A car in this condition isn’t exactly attainable with pocket change and those wheels, assuming they aren’t knockoffs, aren’t cheap either. There’s certainly something provocative in the trunk too. As such, we’re giving it the benefit of the doubt and putting it right here with the rest of the cars that have bumpin hydraulics.
13 A Better Example
At a glance, you might think this is the same “classic low rider” that we showed you toward the top of this list. It may be the same model, but it’s a completely different vehicle. Notice how there is tons of chrome underneath? How about how nice those pinch welds and wheel wells look. The chrome strip at the bottom of the side is a dead giveaway as are the more recessed lights.
Make no mistake, it is a classic Chevy, but it’s one that’s done in every form of right that we can think of.
From the meticulous detailing of the undercarriage to the perfectly blended wheels with hints of red finish inside the spokes. It’s gorgeous in every sense of the word, and it makes us sad that we can’t see what the interior looks like too. If someone pays that much attention to what’s underneath, just imagine what’s happening inside. Either way, this baby is bumpin like none other, and it’s a prime example of how the low rider culture is about creating works of art more than it is just customizing cars.
12 Nimble Land Yacht
This thing is clearly a show car, but its hydraulic nature is as commanding as any other vehicle on this list. According to Pinterest, this is a 1982 Cadillac Deville, so, it’s essentially a land yacht, and with a 4.1-liter V-8 under the hood, it’s not exactly light-footed either. So, it probably won’t lift the front end off the ground by six feet like some of the cars on this list, but it looks pretty darn good as a whole package. The paint job is sophisticated, beautiful, and in good taste, while the smaller wire wheels have a nice blue accent hidden away in the middle. You might not be able to see it from this angle, but there’s lost of attention to detail going on under the body too, as proven by the mirrors on display. It’s clearly a two-axle setup, but that doesn’t matter as the trunk space on these cars was downright outrageous, so there’s plenty of room. Honestly, if the owner really wanted to dance, he could – there’s plenty of room back there for the necessary equipment, even for a monstrous and heavy beast such as this one.
11 Big Oops
Okay, so maybe this car should have been added to the “not so hydro-matic” part of this list, but accidents happen, and we forgive it this time. Sure, this thing is clearly spewing hydraulic fluid like there’s no tomorrow, so this car’s owner had a bad day at the show.
That doesn’t mean that the hydraulics weren’t bumpin hard right before this catastrophic failure. In fact, the proof is in the pudding.
Good quality hydraulic systems can take a lot of beating before something like this happens, so that’s kind of evidence enough that this thing was bumpin just before the picture was taken. It’s clearly able to do some pretty wild things. Well, it was prior to this, anyway. Based on the paint job, the wheels, and the undercarriage, the owner wasn’t exactly cheap about his mods, so maybe he rode this one just a little too hard for too long. Here’s to a speedy recovery.
10 Slammin Ram
Usually – and by usually, I mean most of the time – we would knock this truck’s owner for not only having massive, gaudy wheels but for slamming the truck on the ground. This truck actually looks really good, though, so it gets a pass. The only real problem is that we’re not sure if this thing belongs on the list or not. After all, the slammed nature could indicate that the truck is riding on nothing more than your run-of-the-mill airbags. And, it’s even highly likely given the large wheels, but it’s not necessarily true, and we’re better off holding judgment for now. After all, the huge, covered bed could be the home to a massive arrangement of batteries and large hydraulic actuators. If this is the case, the owner is a connoisseur of sorts as they didn’t go with the little wire wheels that you find, almost exclusively, on lowriders with hydraulics. A trendsetter, maybe? Anything is possible.
9 Seriously Bumpin’
Now, unless you see a car with hydraulics in the air, you never truly know if it can dance with the best of them. However, this car gives us at least two hints that point directly to its dominance of breaking gravity’s hold. First, this Lincoln features that pigtail that emerges from the rear deck, something that indicates the owner clearly stands outside the vehicle when it’s time to dance.
Pair that with the fact that the car is nearly spotless with the exception of the rear bumper which has clearly taken some damage. No, this guy wasn’t hit in the rear on his way to the show. This is what happens when you take dancing cars to a whole new level.
This happens when the front end gets so high that the rear end naturally hits the ground. Sure, the tradeoff is damage to the bumper, but it this case, it’s more of a cool battle wound than it is a blemish. More like evidence of awesome capability, if you will. It’s a nice blemish on an otherwise gorgeous car.
8 Far From Hydro-Matic
Ok, so Volvo is far from a car brand that you would expect to have hydraulics so, naturally, this one doesn’t. But, it might have been better off if it did. Apparently, the owner of this car lost both upper and lower ball joints on the front driver side while simply driving through town at seemingly lower speeds. The sad part is that the owner could have easily known this type of thing was going to happen. According to Federal-Mogul, clunky sound and loose steering are common symptoms. The symptom we can see, though, is showcased nicely on the tire. Notice how the tire is worn more to the inside than it is the outside? This is a common trait of bad ball joints as they cause the tire to lean inward under the weight of the front end – mimicking a bad camber adjustment. Fortunately, for this car’s owner, it didn’t happen at higher speeds. The point is, however, that this thing is far from hydro-matic. Pay attention to your maintenance, folks, or you’ll end up like this chap.
7 Too Low
The low-rider culture originated from big land yachts (like the ones seen at the top of this list) with hydraulic suspension or, at the very least, airbag suspension. More recently, however, the low-rider style has made its way to tuner cars as well. I’m talking about Honda Civics and Mazda Miatas, among others. Sitting lower gives a better stance and makes them more aerodynamic, at least in theory, anyway.
Most tuners do it more for aesthetic purposes as opposed to true performance but that’s a convo for another time. The point is, it doesn’t always work out for smaller economy cars either.
Granted, this sixth-gen Civic Hatchback didn’t have hydraulics, but if it did, it probably wouldn’t be sitting on the back of a tow truck in this picture. Stock ground clearance for this model, according to Auto Evolution, is 5.9 inches – about double of what this car actually has. Whether or not there was some kind of chassis failure is hard to say, but you can bet it lost its bumper because its ride height wasn’t adjustable like it would be with hydros or airbags. Yup; not hydro-matic.
6 Bad Stance
A step-side Ford Ranger with airbags. It doesn’t necessarily look bad, and the wheels are kind of attractive, but the lowered stance really doesn’t work with the Ranger. On that note, one has to wonder if the owner just couldn’t afford to go with a full hydraulic system. Some would even refer to airbags as the poor man's mod since they are typically cheaper systems. According to Low Rider, they are significantly cheaper and are of the bolt-on nature. In most cases, it’s as simple as replacing coil springs with air bags, with the most important aspect being whether or not the airbags rub against any part of the chassis during inflation or deflation. With that in mind, however, we just see this one as a lost opportunity as, with that enclosed truck bed, this thing could have easily been fitted with a quad-actuator system, six extra batteries, and all of the extras to make it a dancing fool on the street scene. But, to each their own, right?
5 Wrong Scene
A Jeep with hydraulics? You better not even think about it. In fact, you would probably be ridiculed by off-roads and hydraulic kings all the same. So, this model is the farthest thing from hydro-matic, but it sure does have wheel travel comparable to that of those with big actuators and extra batteries in the trunk.
For what it’s worth, there is some form of hydraulic suspension for off-roaders, but it’s a far different setup that allows for adjustable ride-height and not for dancing as you would in an old Lincoln or GM G-body.
This thread over at Pirate 4x4 covers the basics and how it’s setup. It doesn’t go into grave detail, but it does give an idea of just how different the systems are from those found in old school lowriders. In the end, it’s best just not to consider making your Jeep a lowrider – there’s just no way it could ever look good.
4 It’s Not Bad
Just because this list is focused mainly around hydraulics and how cool the systems can be, we’re not completely biased either. And, that’s why this Honda Accord comes into play on this list. The owner managed to find a pair of wheels that rock a purplish-blue color that contrasts nicely with car’s natural grey bodywork. The owner of this ninth-gen Accord even gave it a little bit of lowering love, but with Autoblog reporting a stock ride height of 5.5 inches, it hasn’t been lowered that much and shouldn’t fall victim to potholes like the Civic you saw above. On that note, the owner could have gone with a nice airbag system for adjustable ride height, but it’s probably just a set of coilovers that are designed for manual adjustment. So, while it’s not exactly hydro-matic as shown by the first half of this list, this Accord at least looks good and knows its place in the world of cars. Kudos to the owner – an Accord with hydros would probably be a bad idea anyway.
3 Misguided Styling
It’s one thing to turn your car into a lowrider, and it’s another to do it in bad taste with cheap coilover kits, but the people that stance cars with extreme camber are of a special breed. Of course, they are free to do as they wish, but on cars like the one you see above, it just doesn’t look right.
Why not cut out the wheel wells and install airbags if you want to go that low? The car has no ground clearance at all, is completely undrivable in this form, and even if it was, it would drive like crap.
It would be atrocious by any means, but full-blown hydraulics would be better on this car than the stanced look. Kudos to the owner for going with those wheels, as those are a nice touch, but that camber really needs to be dealt with.
2 Slammed In The Worst Way
Slamming your car is a statement of style and personalization, but there are plenty of lowriders out there that aren’t exactly personalized. In fact, they are victims of zero maintenance, just like the Citroen model shown here. Considering the condition the body is in, one would think that the car was maintained fairly well. It’s not even that dirty, but that suspension, on the other hand, needs some serious love. Hydraulics are certainly out of the question, and the whole airbag suspension thing doesn’t exactly fly in other parts of the world, but at this point, anything would help this poor car. Hydro-matic? Definitely not. In need of some serious suspension work of any kind? That’s a definite yes.
1 Budget Hydros
This S-10 Blazer seems to have it all. It’s got the chain bridges that link the frame to the rear axles, the small wheels, and there’s even a huge chome actuator peeking out of that rear quarter glass. Be that as it may, this vehicle’s owner is on a budget.
First, notice the mismatched wheels? The front end – what we can see of the undercarriage, anyway – looks bone stock, and the paint job looks like the original cake bake from GM’s factory in the mid-90s.
We could give the owner the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s a work in progress, but it looks like he thought it was competition ready based on the measurements being taken. Oh well – if nothing else maybe he can hit that three-wheel motion, right?