The Donk: Putting Huge Wheels on a Car

As you may or may not have noticed, hip hop (and music in general) has created a lot of other, sometimes dubious idea. To name but a few strange trends, we’d mention baggy trousers, oversized shoes, bling bling and especially gold teeth, pink pimp suits and pimp sticks and pimp goblets.
Rick Ross 1973 Impala donk 12 photos
Photo: Autoglitz
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Hip hop music has also had a huge impact on car culture. Lowriders, for example, are already a part of American car culture that’s famous the world over. From Snoops’ old rap videos to hot rod magazines, they’re kind of hard to miss. Lowriders are so famous in fact that people from Japan to England are making their own.

while California and the West Cost enjoys its classics low to the ground, things are a little bit different in New Orleans, Memphis or Miami, the Dirty South.

There, instead of slamming cars to the ground, they raise them up into the air, creating what’s called a Hi-Riser. It’s another type of car customization that targets either inexpensive American sedans or cars from the 70s and 80s that are modified using huge diameter wheels usually in from 28 inches to 32 inches and even more in some extreme cases. The so-called sky-scrapers have been know to use 50-inch wheels.

Why is this done? We’re not 100% percent sure. Some say small time thugs were putting they money they got into their cars and wanted to be at the same level as richer guys with escalades. Others say it’s a cultural thing, a response to the lowriders from the West Coast.

The Hi-Risers feature many other mods besides the large diameter wheels. Suspension modifications are often needed in the style used of raising pickups and SUVs. Owners also go for custom chromework, custom painjobs and expensive audio systems.

What we like about the guys from the donk scene is that even though they ‘invest’ a lot of money into the projects, nothing is taken quite so seriously. A few years ago, a new trend emerged where people were trying to find the silliest paintjobs so fake corporate sponsorship appeared. That’s why you might see a McDonald’s or Skittles cars out there, ridiculous but quite funny to look at.

Of course, the wheels are always the most important part of a donk, so that’s where most of the money goes. Forgiato, Asanti, DUB and Davin, these are the biggest names in the business. Gold plated or powder coated to match the color of the car is quite common, but the coolers sets of wheels are the ones that don’t look like they’re moving. It’s called “Skating”, and it costs big money.

The most popular cars to turn into donks are full-size sedans and coupes, sometimes convertibles. For some reason, Chevys are by far the most popular, especially the Impala, Caprice and Monte Carlo. However, people also like to buy retired police service Ford Crown Victorias. Because why not be puled over by the police in an old police car!

The coolest and most classical cars are the fifth-generation Impala two-door models. The Impala symbols often times referred to as a “donkey”, which is where the “donk” name came from.

Hi-Risers are also referred to a box donks. This is used for 1980’s models that are squared off at the front (Impala, Caprice, Monte Carlo).

However, much more modern cars are now used, sometimes ones that aren’t even American. Since we’ve been following the Hi-Riser phenomenon, we’ve seen a Mercedes R-Class on 30-inch wheels, a Nissan Murano convertible SUV on gold wheels, a BMW 7-Series, an Audi Q7 and lots of current generation Chevy Camaros that seem to take these 30-inch wheel quite easily.

So what about the tech behind this seemingly simple lift and jazz. Well, it can be quite complicated. If the axles need to be lifted, truck lift kits are used, which is why it everything looks so beefy. The brakes also need to be upgraded because of the huge inertial force the spinning 30-inch wheels have. Also, if these top-heavy cars turn too fast, there’s a chance they might tip over, so the springs are hard to prevent leaning. But really, you’re only really supposed to go real’ slow, real’ careful like, coz it’s just for show!

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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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