A little known fact about Impalas (we are talking about the Sub-Saharan African animals): they have a small black spot just behind their hooves. Some biologists believe this spot confuses predators during the chase, namely lions, leopards, and cheetahs--animals that are generally faster than the Impala. In an effort to combat street-going predators, Kiwi Riordan of Hendrick Motorsports put together this Impala (the gasoline-powered vehicle), which can outrun just about anything that comes its way.
In 2000, Rick Hendrick drove a Jon Moss Signature Series Impala SS, and decided that he wanted something similar. The project was given over to Kiwi, who took it even further than the Moss car, and what he ended up with is a part of Impala lore today. The 1996 SS used for the build was purchased back in 2001, and the 350 in the engine bay was exchanged for an all-alloy Bow Tie big-block V-8 with a 4.280 bore and 4.375 stroke, yielding 503ci. Bill Miller Engineering 10.3:1 compressions pistons were slotted into the cylinders, and Kiwi and his crew chose Sealed Power piston rings, a Crower crankshaft and connecting rods, and J.E. pins to complete some of the bottom end work. All machining and assembly was done at Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte, North Carolina, including the Brodix aluminum heads with GM valves for internal intake and exhaust work (2.250 and 1.880, respectively). On top of all of this beauty lives the magnificent intake system, which is truly a sight to behold.
The sweet stuff gets forced into the cylinders via Kinsler, with 350 lb/hr injectors, through the help of a Bosch fuel pump and an Aeromotive regulator. The intake manifold is also Kinsler--a monster Crossram unit, even painted with a high-gloss black. The individual throttle bodies (2.680-inch diameter each), are attached to a Hendrick Motorsports custom induction system, and the carbon-fiber polished aluminum piece contains 6-inch long-ram tubes, forcing air up to custom boxes enveloping the throttle bodies. On the spark side, an MSD box, coil, and wires send the juice to Bosch plugs buried under that massive array of carbon fiber. A Motec ECM controls the Kinsler setup, with an XFI box handling the other electronic engine duties, and exhaust runs through Jim Pettigrew Enterprises headers and Edelbrock 2-inch mufflers.
Kiwi knew he already had a good candidate in the suspension department, with the Impala's stock GM Police-grade bushings and A-arms. He added Eibach springs and Koni shocks all around, giving the car improved ride characteristics. The front cross member was cut slightly in order to fit the motor, but this didn't mean sacrificing the handling. The tranny is a heavy-duty GM model--the 4L80-E four-speed--which was originally offered in GM's trucks. It sends power back to the 9-inch Ford housing via a composite driveshaft. The rear also contains 3.73 gears and Strange axles, putting the power to the ground through an alloy/composite driveshaft. For rollers, Kiwi tubbed the rear to fit the monster 18x13 HRE wheels wrapped in 345/35/ZR18 Michelin Pilot rubber. Up front, matching 18x9.5 HREs have the same Michelin rubber, helping to keep the Impala pointed in the right direction. Kiwi then sourced the brakes through a Melbourne, Australia company, with 6-pot calipers in the front, 4-pot in the rear, and 14-inch rotors all around.
While the interior of a vehicle is not something that we, as serious car nuts, like to look at, this SS is worth a peek. Kiwi and his crew imported seven Italian leather hides for upholstery, throwing in `96 Z28 gauges and scrapping the air bags. Finally, they added carbon fiber accents throughout the cabin to give the SS a truly custom feel.
Now for the important figures. Kiwi claims the Impala makes somewhere around 600hp to the rear wheels, with 650 ft/lbs of torque. He also estimates that about $400,000 has been invested overall, give or take. "The car drives much like it did," Kiwi said, "but it's got 600hp now." With just 200 miles on the clicker, this one-of-one super Impala is a real head-turner, splitting its time between special events and Hendrick's personal car garage (among his 80 other daily-drivers, that is).