As an active member of the Impala SS Club of America and owner of three B-bodies, it should come as no surprise that Chris Nickell chose a '95 Impala SS as the basis for a competitive bid in the NASA American Iron road racing series. This makes it no less bizarre, though, when Chris's Dark Green Grey Metallic Impy sedan passes much smaller and lighter Mustangs and F-bodies on the tight confines of a road course. The 38-year-old Illinois native first hatched the scheme at the 2003 ISSCA Nationals, after hauling his '96 Impy drag race/show car around the Hallet Motor Racing Circuit in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since then, his '95 DGGM race car has been devoted to providing hope to B-body enthusiasts everywhere.
Since its purchase in 2004, it's been a long, hard road to get the 167,000-mile retired police cruiser into racing shape. After quite a bit of elbow grease, Chris managed to scrape off all the northern Illinois rust, and coat the frame and underside of the body with POR-15, before sandwiching Energy Suspension poly bushings between the body and frame. His cousin Paul Mason also helped with a little more bodywork, and with painting the Impy Dark Green Grey Metallic. The stock steel hood was traded for a Glasstek fiberglass pin-on hood, as the first of many steps taken to lighten up the broad-shouldered beast, while an aluminum wing increases downforce to keep the behemoth from busting loose at high speeds. The interior was completely gutted, and taken to Cowdry Fabrication for a six-point NASA-spec rollcage with NASCAR doorbars. An aluminum sheetmetal dash was also fabricated to house a host of Auto Meter gauges and a Longacre push-button start. A Rebco quick release steering wheel, Kirkey racing seat, G-Force six-point harness, fire extinguisher, RJS window net, Percy's Speedglass windshield, and Lexan windows complete the race car transformation.
For weight distribution, the PCM, fuse block, and battery were all moved to the cabin. In addition, Chris moved the motor mounts back as far as possible, since the firewall can't be modified (per AI rules), and a 383-cube LT1 built by Mullins Race Engines now sits 1.5 inches further back in the B-body's front end. Equipped with JE flat-top pistons, Eagle H-beam forged rods, and an Eagle forged 3.750-inch stroke crank, the 12.0:1 compression Gen II can reliably spin to high rpm with a COMP Cams High Energy Cam. A Melling high-volume oil pump, Moroso Oil Accumulator, and Canton Road Race oil pan help keep the Clevite bearings and Total Seal rings happy, and an AFCO aluminum stock car radiator was necessary to dissipate the brutal heat produced by a day of hotlaps. Though it ultimately boosted Chris into the American Iron Extreme class for exceeding the 9:1 power-to-weight ratio, a 232/246 duration, .555/.576-inch lift hydraulic roller, and Air Flow Research 195cc LT4 heads were the chosen power producers. The CNC-ported aluminum castings came complete with 2.02 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves (as well as 1.53-inch valvesprings), so all it took was mild porting by Lloyd Elliot to free up power under the curve before bolting them up to the stroked LT1, inserting Manley hardened pushrods, and affixing COMP Cams Pro Magnum 1.6 ratio steel rockers. The stock intake manifold was ported to match the heads and a Holley 52mm throttle body, and was assembled with SVO 30-pound injectors fed by a Walbro 255-lph fuel pump. A PCMforLess tune and mostly stock ignition keep the LT1 amicable, and with the help of Jet Hot-coated Flowtech 1 5/8x3-inch long-tube headers (originally made for a Second Gen Camaro), and Dr. Gas 3-inch X-pipe and Boom Tubes, the powertrain was ready for action.