When I first moved from the East Coast to California, I paid attention to the whispers of “hi-riders” I kept hearing at car shows in the East Bay region of the Northern California San Francisco Bay Area. The short version of the story was that, in the late Seventies and Eighties, East Bay high schools played host to some sort of friction between the “lowriders” and “hi-riders” and it was, apparently, a glorious moment in time, as far as high school parking lots are concerned.
Two things I deduced from the stories of those hi-riders: 1) they were as much a cultural opposition to the lowrider scene that was so prolific in the region as they were the literal opposite and 2) we just called them “cars” where I had come from.
Point is, the hi-rider movement was definitely a cultural one, if I was to read between the lines. Your car is low and slow? Well, ours are high and fast, homeboy. You got your own clubs and language? So do we. Girls dig your rides? We got our own girls. High school can be brutal and you can take that to the bank.
Which is exactly what, as it is want to do, Hollywood attempted with the 1978 release of “Hi-Riders.” If you recognize its director, Greydon Clark, you’re probably a fan of cheesy B-movies and this one does not disappoint. Without risking any spoilers (there’s no spoiling “Hi-Riders,” much as we try), a few car-guy observations:
- The real hi-rider movement was full of bona-fide muscle cars, but wasn’t limited to them. As I’d been told, hi-riders were defined more accurately by a set of Gabriel Hijackers than just a 1st-gen Camaro. Clark seemed to get this right with the pink fur-dashed ’61 Olds Dynamic 88 he wrecks (shudder) in the movie.
- The “Fast ‘N Furious” screenwriters must’ve gotten some dialogue cues from Diane Peterson’s character, when she describes her ride (at the 00:39 marker in the trailer).
- Speaking of Diane Peterson; she went on to become a professional stunt driver after a role on “Kojak,” and became the president of the Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures.
Fill us in on your experience with the hi-rider movement: Ever hear of it? Was it only a West Coast thing? Ever see the movie in the theater – or, better yet, at the drive-in? Do any of the picture cars still exist? Too bad about that Olds, though…