Johnson making automotive dreams come true

Published 7:45 am Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Panola native regularly featured on TV show

Panola County native Patrick Johnson is finally gaining the attention he’s earned after years of honing his craft.  As a master of custom paint design, among most other aspects of auto fabrication and restoration, he’s been recently making regular appearances on the popular reality TV show Texas Metal.

Half a dozen seasons of the unscripted program are available through the MotorTrend channel, which can be streamed through Amazon Prime Video.  The show offers fascinating auto building challenges that will intrigue nearly any kind of viewer, and is chock full of surprises for even the most seasoned car & truck lover or gearhead.  

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Shop owner Bill Carlton and his team, including Johnson, operate in an enormous shop located in Houston, Texas, where Carlton has worked since his teens.  Each episode typically presents a building-challenge of some sort – which can involve anything from modifying classic vehicles from the 40s, 50, 60s or 70s, to just dismantling and reimagining a more contemporary one. 

Literally anything on wheels is a possibility, and muscle cars and jacked monster trucks are common among the team’s often 25 to 30 builds per month.  

Similar to the show’s star, Johnson grew up in a family shop, in the town where he lived his entire life.  This was up until being called upon to pursue his dream on a larger stage, at Carlton’s Ekstensive Metal Works – which has earned countless accolades, some celebrity clientele (including John Cena), and always a long waitlist. 

Johnson credits his late father, who built a shop behind their home in Batesville, as his greatest influence, along with some other older mentors.  “I basically took off from there,” he said of growing up in the shop.  

Most of Johnson’s support and clientele for his locally based operation Busted Knuckle Kustoms actually came from outside of Panola County, and it was through social media that he began gaining wider support, which eventually led to his interview at Ekstensive.

“Months later, I got that call, and that’s when I picked up and took off,” he recalled.

The show features Johnson typically near the tail end, since painting tends to be the final detail, after the crew had overcome all other challenges presented to them, usually in a very tight timeframe.

“This is the first time in my life I have ever been on a tv show,” he said.  “It kind of caught me off guard because I have never been, but now I’m used to it.  About the third day I was here they put a mic on me and camera in my face, and they told me ‘You’re built for this,’  So, I’m basically just being myself.”

A mad scientist of sorts, paint-mixologist Johnson guides the viewer through the process at hand, and effortlessly performs his job, in an instructive and comprehensive manner.  He’s gifted with not only his talent but also an engaging and appealing swagger.

“I just try to explain different paint jobs or paint schemes.  Basically, try to teach the at-home guys – the do-it-yourselfers – and give them some insight on custom work,” he said.

“Paint is the first thing you notice when you see a vehicle, the first thing that catches your eye,” said Johnson.  “I’m mainly focused on the custom part of it, instead of doing things the old basic way.  I just put a twist to it.  More modernized, like different colors and tones.  I’m trying to set the bar a little higher as far as custom automotive painting.”

Due to his growing success of late, Johnson relocated his family to Houston, where he bought a house and plans to open his own shop soon – aside from continuing his work with the rough & tumble Texas Metal crew.  Echoing his own upbringing, he plans to eventually work on custom cars alongside his now 18-year-old son.

Johnson considers every project he’s ever worked on to be his favorite, since he possesses a genuine passion for the artistic aspect of his labor.  “That’s what it is, it’s an artform.  People sometimes forget.” 

Besides his artistic drive, family is also a huge motivator for Johnson, along with his faith.  “I am a family-oriented man,” said the husband and parent of four.  “That’s how my father raised us – to take care of your family.  I want to give them better opportunities than I had coming up.”

His drive to beat the odds also comes from his naturally positive attitude, which helped him through many years of struggling to gain hometown support.  “That just gave me more will and more drive to do better or strive harder,” Johnson said.