Low Rider magazine was started by three San Jose State students - Larry Gonzalez, Sonny Madrid and David Nunez. The three founders were actively involved in the Chicano movement at the university. They sought to establish a strong voice in their Bay Area community as their Mexican-American pride grew in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Mr. Madrid came up with the idea of publishing a magazine when he was promoting dances in San Jose. The leaflets showed pictures of lowrider cars, and this generated strong interest. He borrowed $4,000 from his mother to launch the magazine, and his partners kicked in about $1,500 each. The magazine covered cultural and political issues as well as cars, music and fashion. It was initally sold door-to-door in East San Jose, and sales outlets included grocery and liquor stores. The team also sold the magazine during car shows and community events. Titled as Low Rider with two words, it is the forerunner to Lowrider that began in 1988.
The first operations were done at 282 W. Willow, San Jose. The early issues do not include the publisher's name, but within the first year it was listed as ATM Communications at 203 Terrace in Capitola, California. By 1980, the main office was at 444 E. William in San Jose. Mr. Madrid was the named editor and publisher, Mr. Gonzalez handled distribution and circulation, and Mr. Nunez was responsible for advertising sales.
Madrid and associates established branch offices and hired distribution representatives in key cities: Los Angeles and San Diego, California; San Antonio, Texas; and Phoenix, Arizona. Madrid traveled extensively for three years and often used a fully customized lowrider as advertisement. The magazine also sponsored large lowrider shows in Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and Phoenix. The first large sponsored event was the 1979 SuperShow in Los Angeles that had 20,000 attendees.
As the magazine grew in the 1980s, the core staff still handled distribution, often spending 25% of their time on this task. This approach reduced content and coverage, and it killed productivity. Competitors such as Q-Vo and Firme: Chicano Life contributed to increasing financial challenges. Mr. Madrid was eventually in debt to the point that he had to forfeit the entire operation to the magazine's printer, TechnoWeb, in 1984. TechnoWeb continued the operation, and it appears it operated as Aztlan Communications. The new editor added lifestyle and advice columns, but production eventually ceased with the December, 1985 issue.
Much has been written about the huge impact of this magazine. The founders created a platform that ultimately spread the lowrider culture globally. It also helped build a strong multi-cultural and multi-generational community centered around lowrider cars and Chicano culture.
But this impact did not end in 1985. Original founder Larry Gonzalez, along with publisher Alberto Lopez and managing editor Dina Loya, bought the rights to the magazine and formed Park Avenue Publishing. Re-located to Southern California in Fullerton, the first issue of Lowrider was launched in June, 1988 with an initial print run of 20,000. It continued through 2019 when print production ceased.
The table of contents can be seen by clicking on the icon.
The publisher did NOT provide net paid circulation data to N.W. Ayer.
A total of 94 issues was printed from January, 1977 through December, 1985. Magazine cover images are complete for this title except for the following: 5/83 and 10/83.