Sometimes two worlds collide to provide the inspiration for the perfect Lowrider. Such is the case for Salt Lake City’s Matt Smith, who used his two-city upbringing as the motivation for creating his masterpiece, a 1961 Impala that perfectly encompasses his dual-city background. Matt was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, but at 14, his family packed their bags for Las Vegas, NV, where Matt attended Bonanza High School. Matt’s high school buddy, Travis, was a key figure in his Lowrider influence, as he took Matt to school in his pristine Buick Regal. The Regal had Matt hooked, especially on the one fateful day that Travis picked him up after installing a new hydraulic system. Travis hit the switch and Matt was forever intoxicated with the culture that he would soon immerse himself into. Matt was so intrigued by the hydraulics that he did some research and discovered a local store named Fat Boy Hydraulics, which held a reputation for installing the baddest systems in Las Vegas. Matt campaigned heavily to get a job at the shop, and was ultimately successful, earning the chance to work alongside his friend Nick, as the two learned everything there was to know about installing the perfect hydraulic system. At the age of 22, Matt moved back to Salt Lake City, where his Lowriding career continued.
Matt’s first Lowrider was a Mini Truck, which he drove at the height of the popular mid-’90s hopping era. Matt hooked up his Nissan truck with a hydraulic setup, and began competing in different cities, taking home numerous awards and cash prizes. During his career, Matt has owned a few different hopper trucks, and has also cruised in a unique, hopper ’63 Impala, which competed a few years back in the Las Vegas Super Show. Matt’s goal was to one day purchase a ’61 Impala, which he could rebuild with the hope of cruising the streets, while also having the car compete in the bigger car shows. He picked the ’61 in a personal tribute to his old boss from Big Boys Hydraulics, who drove a mean white and black ’61 Impala. After a few months of looking for a car worthy of a makeover, he found one for $3,500, which is not a bad price although there was a problem; Matt did not have the money to purchase the car. Humbly, Matt borrowed the money from the father of one of his closed friends, and rushed down to purchase the Impala. Matt was finally on his way to building his dream Lowrider!
The Impala did not have an engine on it initially, so Matt towed the ’61 to his house where it sat for a while due to money issues. Since Matt did not have enough money to begin working on the ’61, he was forced to sell his beloved ’65 Impala. After this heartbreaking sale, Matt delivered the ’61 to Street Customs, in Salt Lake City, so the crew could begin the necessary work needed to rebuild this classic Chevy. The first step taken was to fully reinforce the X frame, so that it would be able to withstand the abuse of the hydraulic system that was going to be installed later on in the build. The crew of Street Customs then began stripping the car, before painting it a stock ’65 White color. While the paint and body were getting worked on, Ely was busy working on rebuilding a 350 Chevy Engine. He expertly hooked it up with a 700R Transmission, used to help the ’61 keep up on the freeway, as it zoomed next to the more modern cars. After the engine was placed in the engine bay, the extensive work on the interior and the convertible top began. Tom from Street Customs rewrapped the stock upholstery with a combination of white vinyl and red mohair. The convertible top was in poor condition, so the car was taken to Ultimate Hydraulics where they refurbished the convertible top hardware, and got the top working smoothly again. The car was then taken back to Street Customs, where they hooked it up with a 3-Pump Black magic hydraulics setup, with a custom made hydraulic and battery rack. After three years of moving the car from one shop to the other, it was finally time to put the finishing touches on the ’61. Matt had Alex from “Art by Alex” airbrush a “gambler’s theme” between the side moldings that were painted with a brilliant fire truck red. Alex used different casino elements in the artwork, including a roulette table, playing cards, slot machines, and dice in different shades of white to showcase Matt’s love for gambling.
This amazing car was finally finished, so the only thing left for Matt to do was to take his family for a ride in his new pride and joy. While the car can lay some claim to that title, Matt’s real pride and joy consists of his beautiful children, who now helps him clean his car to get it ready for show time. His youngest particularly loves hitting the switches when he gets a chance, and I’m sure that following in Matt’s footsteps is in order for these lucky children. Matt would like to extend his thanks to V-Max from Ultimate Hydraulics, Scott from Solo Hydraulics, Jeff and all the Street Customs crew, his family, and the crew from Ultimate Riders Car Club for their amazing and unconditional support. Make sure you place your bets when this ’61 Impala hits the car shows, as it will undoubtedly be taking home some trophies and awards!
Owner: Matt Smith
Vehicle: 1961 Chevrolet Impala Convertible
City/State: S.L.C. Utah
Club: Ultimate Riders Car Club
Engine: Custom painted 350 engine and manifold and accessories, including a chrome pulley kit, alternator, and water pump installed by Sly at Street Customs in S.L.C., Utah; 700R transmission
Body/Paint: Stock ’61 white with red accents; airbrushed gambling-themed murals
Suspension: Three Black Magic Pumps with a fully reinforced X frame, 8 batteries
Wheels: 13-inch all chrome wire wheels