By 1969, the idea of fullsize performance had faded to nearly an afterthought as buyers wanted sportiness in lighter and more maneuverable body styles. The performance age ushered in by Pontiac's GTO had relegated the Impala and her fullsize sisters to literal performance heavyweights. The SS moniker had first appeared on a production Chevy attached to the dash of the '61 Impala, and by 1969 it could be seen on the Camaro, Chevelle, Nova, and El Camino as well, with only the Corvair and Corvette models left unadorned in the car lineup.
Just before '69 model production ended, David Gibbs went to Nalley Chevrolet in Georgia with his father, Homer, to buy a new car for the family. Homer Gibbs was a truck driver working for Mead Packaging, and years of driving heavy trucks on the road left him with a flavor for sportiness with a bench seat. Homer's dislike for buckets was so strong he passed up buying a Z-16 '65 Chevelle from Nalley years earlier.
A longtime customer of the dealership, the Gibbs sat down with their salesman, and in the second week of July 1969, a Tuxedo Black SS427 Impala rolled down the Doraville assembly line, ordered by Homer with factory A/C, power steering, front and rear bumper guards, black vinyl roof, pushbutton AM radio, TH400 auto trans, and most importantly a front bench seat. The L36, 390hp 427 was between the framerails, the second highest performance engine you could get in a fullsize that year after the 425hp L72.
As David Gibbs tells us, "I went with my dad to order this car, and I took him to go pick it up when the dealer called us that it had arrived. He paid Nalley Chevrolet an extra $105 to undercoat the car and another $268 to swap out the 7-inch wide Rally wheels for a set of 8-inch wide Rallys with trim rings and flat caps. Total, the car cost $4,141.74, plus tax. The car was originally painted at the Doraville plant by my brother Dennis, who worked there as a painter. He knew it was being built there and followed it down the line."
Little did the Gibbs family know they would end up owning a fairly rare car, with only 2,455 SS427 Impalas produced in 1969, the last year you could get the SS option on a fullsize Chevy until 1994. With 2.73 Posi-traction equipped rear gears, the Impala will bury the needle on its speedometer quite easily.
Homer would drive the car three years before passing it on to son David, who had hopped-up the car in 1971 with a Tri-power carb and intake setup from a '67 Corvette. Then in 1977, after years of regular driving by David and his wife, the Impala was sold to a local collector, Raymond Fowler. Seller's remorse would haunt David for a long time though, and regularly he would ask the collector if he would sell the car back to him.
In 2009, David was getting ready to start a full Pro Touring build on a '71 Chevelle, and had a $40k parts list figured out when he got a call from Fowler. He had a '57 for sale that he wanted David to look at and possibly buy. Well, when he showed up, the Impala was sitting right next to the '57, covered in dust and grime from sitting for years without much attention. While the '57 was nice, David still wanted his old car back. Some heart-to-heart with Raymond, and a reminder of his own quest to get a past car back helped seal the deal, and David drove home in his old Impala.
Even though the car was still rust- free and in great shape, David wasn't satisfied with that. As soon as he drove it into his garage at home, the tool box drawers were opened, and in two weeks the car was totally disassembled, body separated from frame, and engine/trans combo removed. David stripped the body by hand using a razor blade, and finished stripping the chassis down to the bare frame. But before he could start prepping parts for paint, he started suffering from health issues.
Recovery set work back on the car a year, but with the help of friend Danny Keziah and his shop, Keziah's Body Shop, the body was prepped, primed, blocked, and smoothed, then repainted in single-stage PPG 9300 Black, with all surfaces getting four coats. During this process, the car's original, rust-free hood was ruined by a less than skilled soda blaster, so David had to drive 3,600-miles round trip after finding a perfect replacement in South Dakota.
Through the whole process, David helped do the work on the car whenever possible, including painting different parts and pieces, along with rewiring the body, restoring the engine, trans, and drivetrain, and getting the interior situated. Sam Freeman of Sam's Trim Shop re-covered the seats, while the original stainless was cleaned and reinstalled, and the bumpers and guards were sent to Advanced Plating in Nashville, Tennessee, for rechroming.
Anything that couldn't be reused from the Impala was either replaced with N.O.S. parts, or when that wasn't available, the highest quality new restoration parts. One thing David added was an aftermarket tachometer in place of the factory clock that looks like a factory tach would have. When the last part was bolted on, the result was an Impala SS in better condition than when it left the factory 45 years ago, still with ice-cold air conditioning. The original intake and Quadrajet are still tucked safely away in David's garage, the look and feel of the Corvette Tri-power setup too irresistible to not reinstall.
"This one was my Holy Grail," David tells us. "I enjoy the fact you almost never see one of these cars at any events or on TV like the car auctions or classic car TV shows. The car is finished now, and I'm glad I can start the enjoyment of putting some fresh miles on the odometer."