“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.
After finding the car through a friend in Louisiana, Johnny began by replacing most of the panels which suffered the usual rust that comes along with sitting in that area. Once the body work was complete, Johnny laid down the paint himself, choosing this striking PPG Factory Sierra Gold color, which of course was supplemented by adequate amounts of clearcoat. Johnny restored, rewired, and refurbished the Crate 350 engine himself, using a Matson Radiator and a bevy of Street Performance products, which were chromed by Supreme Plating in Inglewood, CA. “For fifteen years we’ve always sent all of our chrome out to Supreme Plating in Inglewood, we have a great relationship with them,” Johnny explains. Some of the rare accessories Johnny added to the ’58 come in the form of the following stock products: a Continental Kit, cruiser skirts, Trail Master Spotlamps, compass, Autronic eye, Wonderbar radio, floor mats, power windows, power vents, and power seats.
As if adding these hard-to-find parts to the build didn’t uphold tradition enough, Johnny really went the extra mile when it came to the hydraulic set up. He chose to build an old-school aircraft setup. “This was my first aircraft set up, I’ve built many hydraulic set ups before, but this time, I had my work cut out for me,” he says with a laugh. Johnny began experimenting with the parts and using his telephone as a lifeline between some veteran builders for assistance. “I called on John Kennedy and Ted Wells for help, and I also reached out to Andy Lodi, who was particularly helpful to me in building the set up.” In the end, the kit Johnny assembled features four Pesco 777 pumps, four oxygen tanks, four Adex Dumps, four water faucet slowdowns, four filters, and six Optima batteries, which power the system. He also assembled the stock suspension; which uses an ABS four-wheel disc brake system and features moldings and custom engraving from David the Engraver. “I did all the installation, plumbing, bent my own hardlines, wrapped my frame, molded and extended my arms, pretty much everything,” Johnny says exhaustedly. When it came time for the final touches, Johnny called on veteran mural master Fonzy to cap off the build. “We flew Fonzy out to our shop and he lived with us for two weeks while he did my trunk lid and one of my customer’s trunk lids,” Johnny says with a smile. “I’m a guy that goes to church and really respects God, so Fonzy painted a cross scene with my two kids’ pictures and the likeness of Jesus with a picture of the car, it’s just beautiful,” says the South Carolina mechanic.
With the help of his beloved wife, Georgette, the finished ’58 was christened “8 Cents” because of its Penny color and the model year, and with that; the career of this veteran car builder has come full circle. A student of Lowrider Magazine since he was 16, taking influence from car clubs like Premier, Lifestyle, and Southside, as well as builders like Lowrider veteran Robert Espinoza, Johnny’s success in the automobile customization field leaves him with much to be thankful for. “I’ll be honest with you, God’s been good to me, I have really conquered so much in my life already, and I’m lucky to have a certain talent,” Johnny says humbly. After trying three times unsuccessfully to leave the Chevy dealership he worked at to open his own shop, things finally worked out for this master builder. “I decided I was going to leave all of this in God’s hands and if he wanted me to go into business, than it would start to work,” he says. Though he felt pressure to move to an area like the West Coast that would give him more business, he never strayed from his home in Monetta, and is proud to be a beacon of Lowriding within the region. With his amazingly supportive wife, Georgette (“I’ll see a car on Craigslist and an hour later, she’ll be riding with me to another state to check it out”) and his daughter, Haley, and son and future-Lowrider, Josh, by his side, there isn’t much more out of life that Johnny could wish for. Except of course, a Lowrider cover feature to call his own. “For me to get a cover, it’s unbelievable; it’s like my dream come true. Ever since I began lowering cars as a teenager and reading the magazine, I’ve pushed myself to become a better builder.” Johnny has already taken several first place trophies at a show in Tampa with “8 Cents” and he is well on his way to Dallas to qualify for this year’s Supershow. Though his road in Lowriding has certainly been a long one, it has, in true Lowrider fashion, been well worth the ride. “Just follow your dreams, if you want it, you can have it; you just have to work hard for it,” Johnny says with a youthful enthusiasm. Giving thanks to God, his wife and kids, John Kennedy, Ted Wells, Andy Lodi, Fonzy, the crew at Supreme Plating, and Redman’s of Augusta, Georgia, Johnny can’t wait for the world to see his latest pride and joy. No matter how much time and money Johnny has put into the build of his ’58 Impala Convertible, he can rest assured that in the eyes of all who read Lowrider Magazine, “8 Cents” will forever remain priceless.
Vehicle: 1958 Chevy Impala Convertible
Owner: Johnny Salters
Location: Monetta, SC
Engine: Johnny installed a Crate 350 with a Turbo 350 Transmission, Matson Radiator, Street Performance Pulleys, Street Performance parts, which were fully chromed by Supreme Plating in Inglewood, CA.
Paint: Basecoat Clear Coat PPG Factory Sierra Gold, painted by Johnny at his shop, Salters Custom Paint and Body in Monetta, SC. Murals by Fonzy.
Interior: A Cars, Inc. kit with a Dakota Digital Dash was installed by Redman’s of Augusta, Georgia.
Suspension: Johnny installed an ABS 4 wheel disc brake system, and used a stock suspension which was molded and extended. All of the chrome was done by Supreme Plating in Inglewood and the engraving came courtesy of David the Engraver.
Stereo: Johnny installed two JL Audio Amps, two JL Audio C5 5-¼” mids, Kenwood headunit, and two Pioneer 10-inch subs.
Wheels: 13x7 Zenith 72 Spoke, engraved by David the Engraver.
Original Accessories: Continental Kit, cruiser skirts, Trail Master Spotlamps, compass, Autronic eye, Wonderbar radio, floor mats, power windows, power vents, and power seats.