Fuller Project

Greening Auto Company Makes Complexity Simple With a '62 Impala

Eric Geisert Feb 26, 2004 0 Comment(s)

How is it that a guy in Hickory, North Carolina, has someone way over in Cullman, Alabama, build him a car--especially when he's more than capable of building it himself? And this isn't just any car, mind you, but probably one of the most stunning bubbletop six-deuce Chevys to ever hit the streets? Well, it's pretty simple; especially when you understand the way the "grapevine" works in even cross-industry situations. Let's go back a few years and start making some sense.

Well, it's no secret that the custom motorcycle and hot rod/custom worlds relate, and many a hobbyist/builder is into both. Wyatt Fuller is one such individual, but with a few major exceptions. Years back, he put food on the table through a gig flying commercial aircraft--surely not your typical 9 to 5--which lasted a mere two decades. After that, Wyatt transgressed into manufacturing custom parts for both cars and motorcycles. Of course, building hot rods and Harleys was part of that regimen, as well. Soon, Fuller was developing accessory parts for Harley-Davidson (he's the first person H-D ever sub-contracted with since its inception in 1903!) under a "skunk works"-type partnership. He actually used that name until he was advised by the Lockheed Corporation to do otherwise! To this day, Wyatt still develops the H-D "Detachables" line of parts, and is referred to as their "exclusive design consultant."

While Wyatt sure knows his way around a hot rod, he got to a point where he just didn't have time to build another one for himself. This was about the time that Bobby Alloway came out with his line of SpeedStar roadsters and coupes, which really appealed to Wyatt. Through the common "grapevine" mentioned earlier, the name Greening Auto Company came up. Being that they had just built a Ridler award-winning SpeedStar coupe, Fuller knew he was going to be dealing with a competent crew. Long story short, Jeff and Jesse Greening (father and son combo, respectively) ended up building his April '03 Street Rodder cover coupe, but more importantly, a strong relationship was formed between Wyatt and Jesse.

Just as his SpeedStar coupe was making its debut, Wyatt was about to undertake a project he'd wanted since he was in high school back in the '60s--a '62 Chevy hardtop. Now, instead of desecrating or simply "resto-modding" (that's my new term--leave it alone!) a factory 409 bubbletop, he searched for a standard V-8/three-speed model, which he indeed found. Having full faith in Jesse, he simply sent the car down to Alabama, told them what he had in mind, and then went and worked on one of his vintage airplanes or whittled out some more Harley parts while the Greenings worked away. Come November of this last year, Wyatt had his bubbletop Chevy...exactly as he'd expected it to come out.

So, what is it exactly that the Greenings did? Well, quite a bit, as you may be able to tell, starting with an all-new, square-tube perimeter chassis to replace the bulky X-frame centersection. Wyatt wanted this in order to attain the street rod-like approach of keeping all the underpinnings (mainly the exhaust) tucked up under the car, out of sight, as it were. To take the place of the stock suspensions, Hotchkis control arms, springs, and sway bars were used along with '81 Camaro spindles, a Winters quick-change (more street rod influence!), and a quartet of Baer disc brakes. The stock 283 and manual trans were swapped out for a brand-new ZL-1 454 and complementing six-speed tranny (a '97 T6, to be exact). The big-block, for those that aren't aware, was one of only 200 Ramjet-equipped, all-aluminum engines built by GM Performance Parts in 2003. Other than custom primary air induction, machined Comp Cams valve covers, and Sanderson headers, the engine's just as GM prepared it--for obvious reasons!

Now, while Wyatt's known for producing parts that end up chromed or polished (even his SpeedStar featured numerous polished components), his thing is brushed finish. And so it'd be that the Impala would not be Christmas tree-like with plated parts galore--you might say it's a little dull...but in a very cool way. From the flushed and tucked bumpers to the sidetrim to the "faux" three-piece Budnik wheels (with painted centers by Jesse), you won't find a single part on the exterior that you can see your reflection in other than the paint. And speaking of which, Wyatt and Jesse chose the new Nissan 350Z metallic burnt orange (from Glasurit, applied by GAC's Mark Kauffman) to offset the car's unique styling. Another "suggestion" from Wyatt was to use aftermarket Harley-style pop-up fuel filler caps, which Jesse cleverly integrated into the rear tulip panel--one on each side, not limiting the driver to only right- or left-side fills at the gas station!

For the interior, GAC created a full-length center console, out of which nicely protrudes a B&M shorty shifter along with a custom dash insert to house Classic Instruments gauges. After all the base work was completed, neighbor Paul Atkins took possession of the '62 to do his magic with the upholstery. Looking futuristic without being gaudy, the inner confines feature custom-made, low-slung buckets up front with a matching split-bottom/full-back rear, sculpted/stitched door paneling, and smooth package tray with frenched speakers and a waterfall center dip with the car's moniker, "Fuller Project", proudly affixed. Everything would be covered in charcoal-tinted leather, allowing the orange exterior to pop even more. Additionally, the '62 was fitted with a Pioneer sound system, Vintage Air, and a Budnik steering wheel.

As complex as the Impala may seem, in all reality, it's all basic and simple--just expertly thought out and executed. And so it should be, as it mirrors its owner who, as this is being written, is in the middle of restoring an F-86 Sabre jet, or flying his WWII T-6 trainer, or designing a new part for Harley--all basic and simple stuff, right?!

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0507sc_01z 1962_chevrolet_impala Right_rear_view 1/13

0507sc_02z 1962_chevrolet_impala Left_front_view 2/13

0507sc_03z 1962_chevrolet_impala Engine_view 3/13

0507sc_04z 1962_chevrolet_impala Interior_view 4/13

0507sc_05z 1962_chevrolet_impala Seats 5/13

0507sc_07z 1962_chevrolet_impala Tail_lights 6/13

0507sc_09z 1962_chevrolet_impala Left_front_view 7/13

Muscle-heads relax, it wasn't a factory 409'er--just a 283/three-speed model, albeit about as nice as you can get for a 40-year-old Chevy!

0507sc_10z 1962_chevrolet_impala Frame_view 8/13

The Chevy's main drawback, its stock X-frame chassis, was alleviated with a custom 2x3 perimeter centersection that was mated with the stock suspension crossmembers. This allowed everything from the drivetrain to the exhaust to tuck up beneath the car rather than hang down, minimizing airbag travel for drive height, among other things.

0507sc_11z 1962_chevrolet_impala Engine_view 9/13

Factory body-mounting points were kept, and the sheetmetal was bolted back in place in order to fit the potent yet rare ZL-1 454 under the hood and between the fenders. The Ramjet injection system would later receive (as the feature photos clearly reveal) a custom tube air intake, but other than that, it didn't take much to make it feel right at home with a six-speed trans not far behind!

0507sc_12z 1962_chevrolet_impala Right_rear_view 10/13

Speaking of sheetmetal, along with the numerous yet subtle modifications (like the motorcycle pop-up filler caps above the trunk lid), Greening bent up a sports car-like rear belly pan, which gives viewable access to the Winters quick-change to the casual observer. That meant the exhaust would have to be run out and "over" the rear framerails with the fuel tank mounted below the package tray.

0507sc_13z 1962_chevrolet_impala Drive_train 11/13

0507sc_14z 1962_chevrolet_impala Wheel 12/13

While Budnik milled the 18- and 20-inch wheels to Greening's and Fuller's specs, they wanted a bit more racy look, so the centers were drilled and painted to give off the appearance of a three-piece race wheel!

0507sc_15z 1962_chevrolet_impala Wheel_view 13/13

One fine finished product...

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