Since its inception, there have been many milestones in the world of lowriding, but none quite as historic or monumental as the one that took place on April 12, 2017—the date “Gypsy Rose” was inducted into the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA).
On that epic day, Gypsy Rose, along with the Hirohata Mercury and Bob McGee’s 1932 roadster, shared the spotlight as they all landed a spot in the National Historic Vehicle Register, as well as the U.S. Department of the Interior, Historic American Engineering Record. In being part of this celebration, the legacy of the infamous Gypsy Rose will go onto become an integral part of U.S. automotive history but also a permanent archive of the Library of Congress, thus making it the very first lowrider to have ever been registered. “The register celebrates automotive heritage as well as automotive culture, and modified vehicles are a distinct part of our culture,” Mark Gessler, the president of the HVA, says. “These three cars are all works of creative talent, and the craftsmanship and passion that has gone into them is unparalleled.”
Aside from being the first lowrider ever inducted into the HVA, these three vehicles are the first custom vehicles (not built for racing) that have landed spots in the National Historic Vehicle Register. Not only a milestone for the lowriding community, but being displayed at the National Mall in D.C. is both humbling and an honor. To have our culture recognized at this capacity is a major milestone for lowriding but its path to glory is one that has been in the works since it was first released in the mid ’60s.
Best known for its appearances on the boulevard, the vehicle achieved national fame and acclaim when it made an appearance on the sitcom Chico and the Man. Since then the legendary vehicle has remained relatively untouched, which in itself is a major accomplishment. Whereas most custom car builders are looking to sell and start over, or revamp and redo, Gypsy Rose has remained the brainchild of legendary lowrider pioneer Jesse Valadez. Even after his death, Gypsy Rose remains in the Valadez family and serves as an extension to what he contributed to the game.
With heavy candies, pearls, and plenty of cobwebbing, this is actually the third reincarnation of Valadez’s vision for Gypsy Rose. In it’s final version (the one you see here) the 1964 Impala was painted by Walt Prey and Don Heckman, and it features an elaborate display of roses and intricate details, which are reminiscent of the early days and style of lowriding. During its debut, it sparked much debate but soon achieved legendary acclaim once it was publicly displayed at the 1968 Winternationals. The car was so unique and so appealing that it soon found itself landing a feature in the Mar. ’72 issue of Car Craft—one of the first lowriders to ever be featured in a major mainstream publication.
But the shocking theme and the charismatic vision wasn’t only skin deep. Inside, the motif of extravagance and loud colors follows suit with a one-off custom interior that is more like something out of a nightclub. Complete with a cocktail bar, lounge chair, as well as chandeliers, crafted by Jesse’s older brother, the interior is soaked in pink crushed velvet and makes one fantasize about what it feels like to be able to roll in true splendor.
Now in the possession of his son, this incredible lowrider is often seen with one of two sets of wheels. Late bloomers to the game may recognize the car on spokes, while old-timers remember it first being debuted on a set of Cragar S/S wheels. In fact, the car was recommended to the HVA thanks to the president of Cragar wheels and the reason for his recommendation was because of the historic presence and fanfare that Gypsy Rose has amassed. Because of its fine preservation and major impact on automotive culture it was only right that this relic land such a monumental achievement.
When you consider the current climate of lowriding, we’re seeing epic builds come up every few months. We’re seeing competition cars built for the streets, classic restorations good enough for concours, but to see a piece of lowriding history survive untainted and unharmed is something special that we’re blessed to have. In all, the Gypsy Rose is among just a few of the handful of cars that have captured and preserved the early look of lowriding, and with that we tip our hats and salute all who made this magic happen.
A special thanks goes out to HVA President Mark Gessler, Director of Operations Dianne Parker, and Historian Casey Maxon and their incredible staff. Without their vision and support none of this would have been possible. In the same breath, we would also like to thank Nancy Brunner from Quaker State & Shell Lubricants. Congratulations goes out to the Jesse Valadez family and the Imperials Car Club.