While the basic chassis of this X-frame car was okay, the accumulation of dirt and mud seemed to indicate that this car spent a lot of time in a rural setting. Both of the rear inner wheelwells were replaced with salvaged parts. New floors in the passenger compartment and the trunk were installed along with new front inner and outer fenders. The horizontal wing on the driver's side was also replaced. Removing the paint down to the bare metal provided an opportunity to discover and repair a lot of rust issues.
The suspension was modified with spindles, A-arms, shocks and air bags from RideTech in front, which helped drop the ride height by a full eight inches at its lowest setting. UMI Performance had extra goodies in the form of rear trailing arms, while Performance Online provided the massive 11-inch diameter drilled and slotted rotors. Seventeen-inch American Racing rims shod with Riken rubber make up the rolling stock.
When it came time to reassemble the car, Ebert's Classic Chevy Parts supplied the re-anodized grille, while straightening and polishing all of the assorted trim pieces. Tri City Plating Company of Elizabethton, Tennessee, and Paul's Chroming in Evans City, Pennsylvania, made the bling shine. Ed Barrell of Barrell's Collision in Petersburg, Virginia, did the custom, two-tone paint work with Inferno Red and Omini White to help accentuate the low slung, long and lean look of the car.
In the passenger compartment, Freddie Stell of Stingray's Upholstery in Prince George, Virginia, assembled the interior with components from Spalding International and Auto Custom Carpets. Additional enhancements include Auto Meter instrumentation installed in place of the stock gauges, an Eckler's 15-inch steering wheel, and a Hurst competition shifter. A Custom Autosound head unit with an iPod connector hidden in the ashtray is used with Pioneer speakers to make up a vibrant sound system.
Real hot rod aficionado's like the tunes that Vitpal's 348 cubic tri-power engine puts out the best, however. Rick Eley of Rebco Engine City in Petersburg rebuilt the 348 to stock specs. Introduced in 1958 with its trademark scalloped valve covers, the 348 was the predecessor to other better known W-series engines, such as the 409 and 427, which were both famous in their own right. With its three high performance Rochester 2GC carburetors, the Super Turbo Thrust Special 348 was at the top of the food chain in Chevy performance at that time—and good for an advertised 335 horsepower. Additional goodies include a Pertronix ignition, Ledfoot Racing aluminum 3-row radiator, a 7-quart deep oil pan for plenty of lubrication and a set of Sanderson ceramic coated headers which dump into twin 40-series Flowmasters.
"What I love about the car is how we designed it to be a true street rod, while keeping all of the body styling intact," Vtipil exclaimed. "It's been modernized with all of the right parts while not being over the top. I love that you can look the car over four or five times and still find something new or different. From an extra gauge pod on the dash to an overhead console to an air ride suspension, it just shows what the result can be when the right parts come together."
Apparently, everyone loves Don's '59. It won the Super Chevy AMSOIL Best of the Best online voting competition in 2012 and 2013 from the Virginia Super Chevy Show, and the Impala was voted the top fullsize car in the national competition in 2012. Time will tell if it can back that up this year.
With the right car and combination of friends, suppliers and parts, Don Vtipil proved that you don't always have to go too far from home to find the love of your life.