Old habits are hard to break, especially when one considers the fact that they are formed from behavioral patterns imprinted in our neural pathways. Through repetition, these habits become compulsory, and from there they become a habitual effort that trumps logic. But are all addictions bad? Not necessarily. An addiction to perfection would prove to be an exemplary character trait to have, but couple that with a touch of OCD and a love for classic cars and what you’ve essentially created is a car buff who creates vehicles of legendary and exemplary proportions. Thus is the case of Johnny Salters—a lowriding sensation who has long created lowriders that set the benchmark for excellence.
While most of us sift through Craigslist and the classified ads every few months, only one thing remains certain: The cost of project cars keeps rising while our incomes stay stagnant. As the years pass, this ritualistic behavior leaves many of us thinking we should have bought that same year/make/model a decade ago, but as the months pass we continue our hopeless search. Well, for Johnny, this behavior is something he practices daily. At any given moment you can find him searching for deals all across the country, regardless of whether he’s in the market or not. Well, the habit paid off for him in 2012 when he found a 1957 Bel Air convertible in Atlanta. “I was in Los Angeles with my wife, Georgette, and before catching our flight I began looking up cars in Atlanta where our connecting flight was and I found a deal for a 1957,” Johnny says. After a brief phone call, the deal was sealed and he placed an additional call to his parents who met him in Atlanta in tow with a truck and trailer.
Upon the arrival of the 1957, he did a once-over then left it to sit, all the while enjoying the fruit of his labor from the 1958 convertible he built and named “8 Cents.” As the 1957 sat nesting in its new environment, Johnny began to take notice of all the 1957s that were being released in the lowrider game. As he continued to talk, he was specific to mention that he didn’t want to be like everyone else; he wanted to try and be a little different. At around the same time, his fellow South Side club member Chuy broke out a 1956 convertible and Johnny knew instantly that was the direction he was going to go.
As he scoured the classifieds, he found a 1956 convertible located in Florida and contacted the owner. Johnny asked the owner if he was interested in working out a trade but the owner didn’t seem interested. The owner of the 1956 was looking to sell his car to fund another project but once Johnny told him that he was looking to trade with a 1957 convertible the guy was interested—because that happened to be the specific year he was looking for. After a few more discussions, the pair decided to do a straight-across trade, since both cars were in similar condition. They met at a halfway point at a little gas station in Savannah, Georgia, to finalize the deal and essentially met up, swapped titles and cars, and were on their way.
Just like the rest of his projects, the 1956 sat in his garage for quite some time before Johnny put any work into it. While the car sat, Johnny was busy locating N.O.S. parts for the upcoming build. “I found better doors for it and a really good trucklid for it. I was just collecting parts while setting up my game plan.”
Once the project began, Johnny started off the build by addressing the undercarriage. At first he had mocked up the undercarriage with leaf springs but decided to remove them. “I hadn’t seen anyone in the lowrider world do a four-link on a Tri-Five so I decided to do it on mine.” While the car was up on a lift, Johnny and a friend were admiring the four-link install when they began talking about what to do with the frame. “We knew it was going to be difficult to make the X-frame look show quality.” So they began kicking around the idea of cutting out the X-frame, but debated it a lot as it would weakened the convertible and look like a hardtop frame. “I finally decided to take the torch to it and do it. I then reinforced the sides, and one thing let to another, and before I knew it I was boxing in the frame.”
Figuring out a color to go with was the hardest decision for Johnny. He wanted to go with the green he has on it now but at first was thinking of two-toning that green with a yellow. “I had already seen two other guys use that color combination so I knew I couldn’t go with that.” Upon the suggestion of his wife, she mentioned doing a black and green two-tone but knowing the difficulty of maintaining a black car made him hesitant. Setting his doubt aside, he decided to shoot a test panel in green and black and that was enough; he was sold. When the day to paint the car finally arrived, Johnny sprayed the whole thing green to see how it looked. “It looked real good in all green,” he says. “I called my wife and had her come down and look at it. I was going to leave it that way but she insisted that I add the black to it. I thought about it for a while and then added the black and after it was painted two-tone, I knew it was the right way to go and the color combo has been a hit everywhere it goes.”
Before the build was done, he ran into another bump in the road with the interior. In 1956 they didn’t make a green and black color interior combo. So Johnny decided on contacting Gina from Ciadella who sent him over 30 different green samples and was then able create the perfect color combo for it. “I knew if I didn’t get the interior to look right then the whole car wouldn’t look right, but it all ended up working out.
“Every car I’ve done, I’ve always said I’m going to do something simple but then my OCD kicks in and I have to have everything perfect,” Johnny, who is currently working on a 1955, explains. And while the 1955 is slated to be a “simple” build, we’re quite positive that history will once again repeat itself and the combination of his pursuit for perfection and OCD is sure to develop into yet another lowrider that will change the game and forever leave his name a force to reckon with.
1956 Chevrolet Bel Air
Crate 350 with original 265 V-8 valve covers, 4-bbl air cleaner, Mattson radiator, Street & Performance alternator/headers/dress-up kit, Edelbrock carburetor/intake, MSD ignition/distributor, Taylor wires, MagnaFlow exhaust, Lokar dipsticks, CPP master cylinder, and Eddie Motorsports hinges
PPG AquaBase, black, and original green
Currie 9-inch four-link rearend, ABS power brakes/master cylinder/booster with molded and engraved A-arms, and a completely molded and boxed undercarriage
Adex aircraft sidewinders pumps, Adex dumps, and four Optima batteries
Kenwood stereo with JL Audio subwoofers that power the six 6.5-inch mids and two 10-inch JL Audio subwoofers
72-spoke 13-inch Zenith with Premium Sportways 5.20s