A Field Guide To Miami Cars Cruising On South Beach

May 27, 2013

A Miami Impala painted with a skyline of Miami Beach.
Credit Anthony Segovia

South Florida has serious car culture and Memorial Day weekend is one of the best times of year to see it in its full splendor. As Urban Beach Week draws car enthusiasts from all over the country to South Beach, there’s no mistaking a local car if you know what to look for.

“I can just look at cars and tell which one is from Miami,” says Isaac Hernandez, a Miami car enthusiast and owner of Ride Kreations.

At the Forgiato Fest car show last month, Hernandez explained that the best-known Florida cars are the “Donk,” “Bubble,” “Box” and “G-Body.” These cars gained popularity in the 1990s because it was cheaper to buy one of these American built cars than buying a new one.

While you’re out celebrating Memorial Day, or just cruising around South Florida, here’s a visual field guide to Miami cars:

Credit Anthony Segovia

  • A Donk is a 1971 – 1976 Impala or Chevrolet Caprice. The name comes from the impala symbol, which was referred to as a donkey. Later it was shortened to just “Donk.”

Credit Anthony Segovia

  • A Bubble is a 1991 – 1996 Chevrolet Caprice or Impala. It gets the name bubble because the shape of the body looks, well, bubbly.

Credit Anthony Segovia

  • A Box is a 1979 – 1990 Chevrolet Caprice. Notice the boxy shape.

Credit Anthony Segovia

  • A G-body is a 1978 – 1988 Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet El Camino or Grand Prix. The name comes from the General Motors G platform car series.

There are other ways to identify a Miami car—like by its paint job. Over the years, Miami has switched from the flamboyant candy colors—such as sunset gold, red wine, candy-apple red etc.—to what are considered classier base coat, clear coat colors. These tend to be basic reds, blues and greens with a shiny clear coat on top.

Miami is also known for focusing on the small details of a car.  Like color-coordinating disk breaks to match the car body:

Look at how the Miami based car matches the brake pad color to the car.
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Another indicator of a Miami car is if the back of the car is lowered to fit the rim. So instead of putting 32-inch rims on a car—which is common in Broward—Miami owners will use 28-inch rims:

A simple Miami style Chevrolet Impala. Notice how car sits low on the rims.
Credit Anthony Segovia

Anthony Segovia is a journalism student at Florida International University.