“Necessity is the mother of invention.” The customization career of Johnny Salters embodies this Plato quote on a daily basis and for good reason; he’s a Lowrider living in Monetta, South Carolina. If you’ve never heard of the town, it’s because Monetta is one of the most rural hamlets on the East Coast. “It’s really country out here, “ Johnny says with a bubbly Southern drawl, “ we don’t even have a red light in this town.” Those of you who are unfamiliar with Johnny probably assume that a guy as isolated as he is must buy his Lowriders pre-assembled from elsewhere, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that this 21-year veteran of the Lowrider culture builds his masterpieces himself, out of his shop, “Salters Custom Paint and Body” in Monetta. While others would outsource the majority of their work in his situation, Johnny instead chose to singlehandedly become a jack-of-all-trades, experimenting tirelessly and learning the tricks of the trade that have made him one of the most respected builders in the culture today. “People don’t understand that out here we don’t really have a choice; we have to do all the work ourselves. There aren’t shops out here like there are on the West Coast. Even if you took your work to somebody else, they’d most likely be three hours away and their workmanship can’t touch the West Coast shops,” he explains. Determined to earn his respect by working for it, Johnny put his nose to the grindstone and has already carved out quite the resume for himself. With a feature for his ’61 Impala named “Southern Belle” appearing in the February 2000 issue, and his ’59 Impala “Cloud Nine” featured in 2007, this talented builder is no stranger to the pages of Lowrider Magazine. He also had his builds featured in a Snoop Dogg video as well as having them showcased in other publications, but it was his Third Place finish with “Cloud Nine” in the Lowrider Las Vegas Supershow that really moved him up in the rankings. “I was worried initially about going to Vegas with “Cloud Nine,” he says. “I just thought ‘these guys are gonna pick my car apart. They’re not gonna believe that this country guy who drove all the way from South Carolina knows anything about Lowriding.’” After placing third, Johnny’s confidence received a boost, and the attention towards his build inspired him. “People couldn’t believe that I had done all the work myself! Coming in third to me was heaven sent; I finished behind Chris Roark’s ’58 and Faustino’s ’58 and for those two guys to beat me, I didn’t have any problem with that. I mean, these guys were top builders, I was thrilled! Everybody respected my work, and that just meant so much to me, coming from where I’m from,” Johnny says with sincerity.
Motivated by his experience, Johnny knew it was time to begin work on his masterpiece, a 1958 Impala Convertible that he had tucked away six years ago at his shop. “The first year of Impalas is the ’58, making it probably one of the hardest and most expensive model years to build and own,” Johnny states. An owner of over one hundred previous Impalas, and a handful of ‘58’s, Johnny knew that this convertible was special and was determined to put his all into the build. “They hardly reproduce anything for the ‘58s, so everything on my car is OG stuff, from the side trim, the continental kit, everything; it’s all been reworked and redone,” he beams. It’s a good thing he had been collecting parts long before he started on the build. “I paid two grand for the pair of spot lamps years ago, and they go for something crazy now, like $3,000 a piece!” Johnny says with a laugh.