Jonathan Salmi Photography: Blog en-us (C) Jonathan Salmi Photography (Jonathan Salmi Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:36:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:36:00 GMT Jonathan Salmi Photography: Blog 80 120 Old Skool: Dan Butler's '61 Bel Air 1961 Chevy Bel Air on air suspension, with Astro Supreme wheels and Jerry Chingas pinstriping

Dan Butler didn't seek out this 1961 Chevy Bel Air. He didn't even really intend to own one. Dan was driving and wrenching on a 1950 Ford Tudor "shoebox" with an extreme chop and a serious attitude. But Adam Melton, known locally in the rustic car scene, had his eye on the Ford. He offered to trade Dan the '61 Bel Air for it. Adam had already put a lot of work into the once unassuming family sedan, and Dan bit. Of course, Dan has continued to work on the car, but it came to him with much of the customization ready to go.

1961 Chevy Bel Air on air suspension, with Astro Supreme wheels and Jerry Chingas pinstriping

1961 Chevy Bel Air on air suspension, with Astro Supreme wheels and Jerry Chingas pinstriping

Most obviously, the Bel Air is slammed to the ground over those 14" Astra Supreme wheels on a full air ride suspension. It's running Dominator bags, AVS Arc-7 switchbox, Accuair vu-4 manifold valve, a five-gallon air tank, and two Viair 444C compressors. The car rides low enough on the street that Dan is planning to add slam pans to both the oil plan and transmission pan. In my opinion, the wheels are the perfect choice for this car, striking that balance between obviously modified and period correct. The paint is original, as is almost all of the body work. Some remarkably intricate pinstriping was done by Jerry Chingas, who also provided the scallops on the hood and both sides.

1961 Chevy Bel Air on air suspension, with Astro Supreme wheels and Jerry Chingas pinstriping

1961 Chevy Bel Air on air suspension, with Astro Supreme wheels and Jerry Chingas pinstriping

The Bel Air started life with a fairly pedestrian straight 6 and 3-on-the-tree manual transmission. Adam swapped out the sixer for a Chevy 350  V8 and 700R4 automatic trans plundered from an '88 Suburban. Dan has since added a three-core Champion aluminum radiator, 600 Series Edelbrock carb with finned air cleaner, and aluminum valve covers. That big V8 has plenty of growl thanks 2" dual straight pipes dumping forward of the rear wheels. This car doesn't demand attention, it reaches out and takes it.

1961 Chevy Bel Air on air suspension, with Astro Supreme wheels and Jerry Chingas pinstriping

1961 Chevy Bel Air on air suspension, with Astro Supreme wheels and Jerry Chingas pinstriping

1961 Chevy Bel Air on air suspension, with Astro Supreme wheels and Jerry Chingas pinstriping

Inside, you'll find some fur and some Mexican blankets upholstering the seats. The shifter knob is obviously aftermarket and the design blends well with the overall build. Dan tells me that the shifter itself is original and still has the same shift pattern as the old three speed. In one concession to modernity, Dan did upgrade the stereo to a Pioneer unit with Bluetooth and some new speakers. What's a cruiser if you don't have your tunes?

I first laid eyes on this Bel Air at the Iron Gate Motor Condos car show last month. For those of you unfamiliar, Iron Gate is a high-end garage condo facility and their monthly car show is populated heavily by high-dollar exotics and immaculate muscle cars. At one unit, I saw a (real!) GNX parked next to an SRT 6.4L-powered Hemi 'Cuda. In another, a Ferrari F430 and Lamborghini Gallardo were snuggled up next to one of the only never-titled DeLoreans in existence. Among all that, the Bel Air caught my eye. The crazy low stance and scallops drew me in and I discovered Jerry Chingas' pinstripe work, all done by hand. This was a car that I needed to shoot.

1961 Chevy Bel Air on air suspension, with Astro Supreme wheels and Jerry Chingas pinstriping

I guess I'm just a sucker for uniqueness. I absolutely love tri-fives, Corvettes, and Mustangs. Supras and Lancer Evos, too. But there's something to be said for having something that no one else does. Dan's Bel Air is the embodiment of all the reasons we car guys give for modifying our rides. We want to go faster and look cooler, of course. But what we really want is to make it our own. With this lowrider, Dan has succeeded.

]]> (Jonathan Salmi Photography) accuair astra astra supreme automotive bel air belair chevrolet chevy chicago low rider lowrider pioneer rat rod retro rustic vintage Fri, 14 Jun 2019 06:55:19 GMT
From Ashes: Bill Allred's RX-7 Blue 1994 Mazda RX-7 turbo on Forgestar F14 wheels

A few years back, Bill Allred bought himself a beautiful 1994 Mazda RX-7. With black paint, large wheels, and a seriously aggressive aftermarket hood, it looked downright angry. He hadn't had the car all that long when he had a slight problem. The car suffered a fuel leak. And then it caught fire. Ok, maybe "slight" wasn't a great choice of words. When all was said and done, Bill's killer new toy was a burnt-out husk and almost everything forward of the seats was completely destroyed.

Photo credit: Bill Allred

Photo credit: Bill Allred

There was a bright side, though: the block was still in good shape. After much deliberation, Bill decided to rebuild the car. That decision was definitely helped by an offer to display his car in a vendor booth at the Chicago Auto Show. Chicago puts on one of the premiere auto shows in the world and it wasn't an opportunity to be missed. He began sourcing parts and doing the hard work of rebuilding the interior and most of the engine bay. While Bill began working on that, Zach at Cliff's Auto Body got to work on the paint, a custom shade of blue that must have induced whiplash in at least a few people. (We couldn't even get through the photo shoot without someone driving up to tell Bill how much he loved the car).

Blue 1994 Mazda RX-7 turbo on Forgestar F14 wheels

Blue 1994 Mazda RX-7 turbo on Forgestar F14 wheels

Other than the paint, though, Bill decided to keep the exterior subtle. The car rides on Forgestar F14 wheels, 18x9 in the front and 18x10 out back, wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sports. A Roninspeed rear wing and Shine Auto Project sideskirts round out the minimal body enhancements, and a set of Sake Bomb HID headlights help to modernize the dated halogen tech under those iconic pop-up headlights.

Under the hood, all pretense at subtlety is abruptly shattered. A massive Borg Warner S400-75 turbo dominates the landscape, forcing pressurized air into the rotary engine through a Precision Turbo front-mount intercooler. Nearly everything is modified, from the Xcessive lower intake manifold and oil pan, to the CJ motorsports fuel rails, to the Adaptronic e440 ECU. The Aeromotive FPR survived the fire and remains in place now. An Exedy Twin carbon clutch helps get all that power to the ground.

Blue 1994 Mazda RX-7 engine bay

Blue 1994 Mazda RX-7 turbo on Forgestar F14 wheels

Inside the car, Bill installed a Bubbletech dash and switch panel, along with a bevy of guages, a Windows 10 tablet, and a Clarion digital 4-channel amp. The seats are OEM suede and they are complemented by a set of LRB door panels and rear bin delete.

On the photography side, shooting this car at night was a no-brainer. That metallic blue paint simply pops under the lights and the grungy parking garage interior was a great contrast to the insanely clean Mazda. Location choice is always a big part of planning any shoot, and it really paid off this time. Rather than strobes, I decided to use an LED panel to paint the car with light using long exposures. This is a time-intensive process, but the results are always worth the effort.

Blue 1994 Mazda RX-7 turbo on Forgestar F14 wheels

After many late nights, Zach and Bill finished up their work and managed to get the RX-7 ready for display at the Auto Show. Of course, it's been an ongoing project since then and Bill still has more plans for the street car. Only time will tell just how extreme this phoenix will get.

Night photo of blue 1994 Mazda RX-7 turbo on Forgestar F14 wheels


]]> (Jonathan Salmi Photography) automotive boosted f14 forgestar forgestar f14 HKS import jdm mazda michelin performance rotary rx7 turbo Tue, 07 May 2019 04:02:29 GMT
Mojito Jeep Mojito JeepMojito Jeep

In classic Jeep form, the newest Wrangler is immediately recognizable. For decades now, the formula has been "evolution, not revolution" with each new generation. That doesn't mean that the new JL is not also immediately desirable. As soon as it was available, James and Kim Anderson (of Shocker Racing fame) knew they were going to need one. James and Kim have been modifying, racing, and enjoying their cars for years and have been running their car lifestyle website for a decade now. 18 days after they placed an order in July 2018, their new Mojito Green Wrangler arrived and a YouTube star was born.

Off roadOff road

Because this model was still so new and the Internet wheeling community was hungry for content, the couple started making videos featuring Mojito Jeep for YouTube. It started simply, with basic upgrades, hard-top removal, and the like. It was inevitable that these two were going to modify their Jeep, and once the mods began, it was time for more videos. The channel has grown to over 4,500 subscribers with hundreds of thousands of views and it's easy to see why. This Jeep turns heads. What was originally intended to be a daily driver for Kim has become a serious show-stopper.

GRID wheels on Mojito Jeep Wrangler JL UnlimitedGRID wheels on Mojito Jeep Wrangler JL UnlimitedGRID wheels on Mojito Jeep Wrangler JL Unlimited

Mojito Jeep Rear 3/4Mojito Jeep Rear 3/4Mojito Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JL with GRID wheels

Most immediately noticeable among the extensive modifications is the 20x9" Grid Off-Road GD3 wheels wrapped in 35" BF Goodrich K02 tires. The taller, meatier tires give the Jeep some extra ground clearance and a more serious look. Also providing some visibility off-road is a set of Diode Dynamics dual LED lightbars and brackets. You won't be able to miss the AM Off-Road Shark grille, either. This one is sure to spark some controversy since the iconic seven-slot grille is so beloved, but you can't deny that this looks evil. Mojito Jeep backs that up with some evil sound as well, thanks to a Flowmaster Delta Force intake and Flowmaster Force II exhaust. Diode Dynamics also provides the LED accent lighting behind the grille and under the seats.

Mojito Jeep front endMojito Jeep front end2019 Jeep Wrangler JL Unlimited front end with AM Off-Road Shark grille and Diode Dynamics LED lighting

Fender lightsFender lightsDiode Dynamics lighting on Jeep Wranger Unlimited JL, Mojito color

Diode DynamicsDiode DynamicsDiode Dynamics light bar and fender lights on Mojito Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JL

Nobody buys a Jeep to stay cooped up inside, though, and this Jeep will be an outdoors oasis come summer. Once the weather cooperates, the doors and top will come off using the couple's Racor top lift and you'll see the Motor City tube doors and Alien front and rear sunshades in cherry red. With the doors and tops off, James and Kim will be able to show off the new red Rubicon dash panels. Even their iDrive throttle controller is red.

Red dashRed dashJeep Wrangler Unlimited JL Rubicon with red dash panels and phone mount

iDriveiDriveJeep Wrangler Unlimited JL with iDrive module

Rubicon interiorRubicon interiorJeep Wrangler Unlimited JL interior with red dash panels

For this set of photos, we wanted to make sure we showed the Jeep in its element. Nothing says Jeep more than getting out of the suburbs and blazing your own trail out in the countryside. Once we had the location pinned down, James and I both prayed for good weather. Our prayers were answered as we both arrived out at the site to see some amazing light thanks to the clear skies and setting sun. In order to highlight the eye-catching Mojito Green paint, these photos were mainly shot using strobes or light painting. With a location like this and such a beautiful sunset, it was easy to make this Jeep look good.

Mojito Jeep wheelMojito Jeep wheelMojito Jeep Wrangler JL Unlimited with GRID off-road wheels

Mojito Jeep 3/4Mojito Jeep 3/4Mojito JL Jeep Wrangler off-road with GRID wheels, Diode Dynamics lighting, iDrive

Mojito Jeep is definitely built for adventure. We'll find out how well it holds up to that adventure soon. James and Kim will be taking it for their first serious off-roading trip in the next few weeks. Make sure you keep an eye out on their channel for what is sure to be some epic video. You can also follow them on Instagram @mojitojeep and @mojitojlchick and on Facebook at Mojito Jeep

RollerRollerJeep Wrangler Unlimited JL Rubicon rolling shot

Mojito Jeep profileMojito Jeep profileSide profile of Mojito Jeep Wrangler JL Unlimited, light painted

Mojito at nightMojito at nightMojito Jeep Wrangler JL Unlimited Rubicon at night with Diode Dynamics LED lighting and AM Off-Road Shark grille

]]> (Jonathan Salmi Photography) 4x4 diode dynamics grid off-road idrive jeep JL mojito mopar offroad rubicon wheeling wrangler wrangler JL wrangler unlimited Fri, 05 Apr 2019 06:03:16 GMT
2019 Chicago Auto Show 2019 Acura NSX

The second week in February is one of my favorite weeks of the year in Chicago, which should probably make anyone who lives in the Midwest suspicious. The weather around here is terrible. We've just survived the polar vortex, there's already more snow on the way, rock salt has turned our roads into cratered minefields and there's no such thing as a clean car for more than about an hour. But there's light at the end of the tunnel that has nothing to do with a rodent in Pennsylvania. It's Auto Show time, and ours is the largest in North America (take that, Detroit!). As usual, the manufacturers have brought us current models, concept cars, and pre-production prototypes. Let's take a look at this year's celebration of all things automotive.

2019 Acura NSX wheel


Acura pulled out all the stops for the 30th anniversary of their NSX supercar. This mid-engine speedster has captured the imaginations of gearheads for two generations now and will likely continue to do so for decades to come.

Lexus brought the heat with a convertible LC concept car, which staff on hand assured me was at least somewhat likely to go into production, and these two RC-F coupes, one in the track edition and one heavily customized. Both of those cars would be sure to appall James May, which makes them pretty good contenders in my book. With the exception of the LF-A, Lexus has never been a brand most people would associate with anything track-ready, so these are bold choices that stand out at the show.

Lexus LC Convertible

Lexus RC-F custom

Lexus RC-F Track Edition

BMW and Mercedes were conspicuously absent from the Chicago Auto Show this year, but that really only served to make some of the other European luxury brands stand out. Porsche and Alfa Romeo, especially, had strong showings at their exhibit areas. Audi never disappoints in the sporting department, and this year brought a matte white R8 V10. They also included a fun aural simulation of the driving experience with exhaust notes available on demand by pressing accelerator pedals mounted below speakers.

Audi R8 V10, matte white

Audi R8 V10 wheel

Audi RS throttle pedals

Porsche Panamera 4S gauge cluster

Porsche 911 Carrera S

2019 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

Of course, the Big Three didn't want to be left out either. Chevrolet's still-exciting Corvette ZR-1 was front and center in their exhibit. Jeep took a more hands-on approach with the return of the Camp Jeep test track. It's impossible not to be impressed with the capabilities of a Wrangler Rubicon when it's holding on a downhill 30-degree incline or handling 11" concrete stairs with ease. The masses also finally got to see Ford's newest fire breather, the Mustang GT500. The 700hp beast manages to look intimidating even in powder blue.

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

2020 Jeep Gladiator pick up

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JL

2020 Ford Mustang GT500

Ford GT, Gulf Oil livery

2019 Corvette ZR-1

The entire Chicago Auto Show, all one million-plus square feet of it, is always a highlight of the Midwestern winter. There's so much to see, so many exciting new cars to drool over, and its arrival reminds us better than the groundhog that spring is really only a few short weeks away. As car enthusiasts, it's everything we could ask for.

2020 Mazda3 interior


2019 Nissan 370Z

Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

Nissan Rogue DJ booth

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD

2019 Corvette Grand Sport

Bugatti Chiron gauge cluster, interior

2020 Toyota Supra


]]> (Jonathan Salmi Photography) 911 alfa romeo auto auto show boxster cayman chevrolet chicago corvette ford GT500 jeep lexus mustang porsche RCF show supra toyota Tue, 12 Feb 2019 03:04:19 GMT
Autocross Warrior: Justina's 1989 Camaro RS Welcome to the first post of this new blog. My main goal here is to provide some much-deserved exposure for unique builds and local shops doing outstanding work. Each month, we will explore a new vehicle or shop and along the way, discuss some of the photographic processes that went into the shoot. First up, we have this stunning ’89 Camaro RS.


When most people think of an autocross build, a third gen F-body probably isn't the first thing to come to mind. Of course, most people also aren't picturing a petite college girl behind the wheel and turning the wrenches. Justina Schwartz is out to change that. She originally got the car as a hand-me-down from her brother, who had in turn got it from his dad, Jeff Schwartz. Jeff is the founder of Schwartz Performance, a high-performance muscle car shop out of Woodstock, IL. He originally bought the car for $1,800 as a dirt-cheap daily driver. By the time it reached Justina, though, the car was past its prime and due for some serious upgrades.


At the time, Justina (then 15 years old) didn't know anything about building cars. Luckily, she had family on hand to show her the way. The original powerplant, a tired 305, was replaced with a 350 which had been bored out to 355ci and paired with a new 700-R4 trans. The engine breathes in through an Edelbrock intake and exhales through a mighty-sounding set of Hooker headers and Magnaflow mufflers. To get the car ready for the rigors of autocross racing, the suspension was replaced with coilovers at all four corners, along with custom Schwartz Performance control arms and panhard bar. BF Goodrich g-Force Rival tires provide the grip, wrapped snuggly around a set of 18" Weld Racing wheels. Rounding out the performance work, the car is stopped by massive 14" Baer rotors with six-piston calipers.

The interior has seen no less work, with the addition of a roll bar to support the 5-point racing harnesses attached to a set of seats from a fourth-gen Camaro. Justina swapped out the original gauges with Dakota Digital and a new Grant steering wheel rounds out the look. Of course, no college student's car would be complete without a stereo upgrade; a Kenwood unit pulled that duty. Outside, a custom blue paint job was accented with a new cowl hood and spoiler upgrade.

I first laid eyes on this car while shooting for the Crystal Lake Car Show last summer and immediately fell in love with the color and the low, aggressive stance. That color lends itself perfectly to a night shoot, so Justina and I agreed to meet one chilly evening for the photos you see here. Each was shot using a technique called light painting, where a small LED light source is passed over the car during a long exposure. This method allows me to light the car far more evenly and really helps the color to pop.

If the amount of effort that went into this car is any indication, the automotive future is in good hands.

Justina's Camaro is sponsored by Dakota Digital, Baer Brakes, Holley Performance, and Weld Racing.





]]> (Jonathan Salmi Photography) 1989 camaro autocross automotive autox baer camaro camaro RS chevrolet chevy chicago dakota fbody photography RS schwartz schwartz performance weld Wed, 16 Jan 2019 07:18:36 GMT