In Debt, With No Regret: A Custom 1962 Impala that breaks the bank but not the heart

Gabriel Cestaro has no qualms about the bundle he dropped on this Impala

Dakota Wentz Aug 16, 2006 0 Comment(s)
Sucp_0610_01_z 1962_chevrolet_impala Front_view 1/11

Isn't it ironic? Sometimes that's just about all you can say in certain situations. While hanging out at the Atlanta Super Chevy Show this year, I stumbled across Gabriel Cestaro Jr.'s '62 Impala and immediately wanted the red cruiser in front of the lens. When it was time to shoot it, we found the desolate area you see here. The spot was chosen, and I began randomly sizing up the lead shot of the story. I noticed some graffiti in the background that I thought looked cool, and figured I'd put the car in that general area.

When I jumped behind the camera and checked everything out, the first words out of my mouth were, "Now isn't that ironic?" The graffiti above the car reads "Debt." If that doesn't explain our situation surrounding cars, then I don't know what does. For once the writing is truly on the wall, but the funny thing is that the irony surrounding Gabriel's Impala doesn't end there.

As it turns out, Gabriel is a second-generation Impala aficionado, particularly of the '62 model. Growing up, he remembers his dad's '62, and that car left an impression on him. Over the years, he has owned several '62 Impalas, but the story of this one begins a few years back. Gabe went to a show in New York with his '62 SS, where he ended up selling it to a spectator on the spot. When he returned home, a guy from the local hot rod shop happened to have one, and since Gabe was in the market, he figured why not go ahead and check it out? But whom was he kidding? He planned on buying it all along. Once the Impala was in the garage, he decided this '62 would be built like no other he had ever owned.

There's something about the style and design of the '62 that intrigues him--in fact, the only thing Gabriel customized on the body was adding late-model Impala badges on the rear quarters. The rest of the build, however, was wide open. He started with the foundation. A lot of builders might worry about handling, cornering, braking, and more, but Gabe's focus was simple: It was all about stance. When sorting through the options, he could have gone with stock ride height, a mild drop, a mean rake--or hydraulics, Vato--but there was only one look on his mind, and that was on the ground. With an Air Ride Technologies system, Gabriel, JP King, and Timmy Beatty dropped the Impala all the way. They also cleared the way in the wheelwells to make room for the Billet Specialties Vintech 18s. Cestaro didn't see much need for anything else considering the Impala was built to cruise, not slash and dash through cones.

With the chassis finished, the focus was shifted to the engine bay. The 327 was yanked and sent through the ringer. It was bored 0.030 over and then warmed over with new products such as a Comp Cams camshaft, an Edelbrock intake manifold, and a Demon 650 carburetor.

Although Gabriel did manage to crank 350 hp out of the small-block, horsepower wasn't his main focus. What he really wanted was a hunk of chrome under the hood, so he swapped every piece in there for the shiny stuff. The pulleys and air compressor are from Street & Performance, the water pump, front cover, and oil pan from Advanced Plating, and the air cleaner from Walter Proster. Basically every engine piece that comes in chrome was ordered.

The only glitch in finding chrome pieces was with the valve covers. Gabe couldn't find one that had the right look to it until he turned to the Blue Oval. Gabe found a set of Ford valve covers that matched the brackets he had already ordered for the 327. Since the Ford covers won't bolt up to a Chevy, Gabe hacked them up to fit a Chevy valve cover base.

As for the engine compartment, Gabe and JP smoothed the firewall and slicked the inner fenders. The firewall was painted torch red to match the exterior of the Impala, and the inner fenders were painted gloss black to give the engine a more exotic look. Matching the firewall are two Optima batteries that have been smoothed out and also painted torch red with an Impala badge resting on top of each battery.

Lastly, the Impala was taken to Carolina Restyling, where a complete one-off interior was stitched up. The seats were covered in tan leather. What separates this interior are the Ostrich leather inserts in the seats. Along with these inserts, the door panels and dash have been upholstered to match the seats. The stock window crank handles have been replaced with polished billet handles. Even the Hurst shifter boot and shift knob are decked out in bird skin. Taking the safari look one step further, Gabe had the Billet Specialties steering wheel wrapped in Ostrich, but the interior didn't stop with stitching up various animal skins.

Instead of throwing in new gauges, Gabriel and JP fabricated a new dash. The American Classic speedo and tach are built to the right side of the steering wheel in custom bezels.

As for the rest of the gauges, they have been sunk into the dash behind the steering wheel, while a late-model Impala badge rests across the top of the gauges.

Gabriel is a chip off the old block when it comes to his desire for '62 Impalas. Some may call it irony, and others may call it fate, but whatever the case may be, his latest Impala is just plain rad. And there could be a third-generation aficionado on his way, too. Gabe's 5-year-old son came along for the build of the '62 with a wrench in hand.

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