They say good things come to those that wait and that patience is a virtue. If ever there were a poster boy for those sentiments, it would be Ken Cook of Sacramento, California. The 71-year-old retired Civil Engineer waited most of his life before getting a badass car: a 1962 Chevy Impala. And when he finally did, he did it right. No corners cut; no expenses spared. Cook had a vision and teamed up with Jason Walroth of Gearhead Garage to turn his dream into reality.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” explained Cook. “I’ve been a Chevy guy all my life. My first car was a ’53 two-door sedan that I drove for I don’t know how many years while I went to college and beyond. I grew up in a Chevy household so that made me partial to Chevys. The 1962 Impala has been a favorite model of mine ever since I graduated high school, which also happened to be in 1962. To me, it is one of the most classic body styles of all time.”
It’s no surprise that when the time came to start the project, the first order of business was one of the most dreaded—locating the vehicle. “There are cars all over the country, but I really didn’t want to have to drive to Kansas City to look at a car. I was really hoping to find something locally. California is still kind of ‘the place’ to get decent cars, so I thought if I just bided my time a bit I’d find something close by,” said Cook, displaying more of his signature patience. The universe rewarded him for his virtue. “A couple of weeks after I started my search, one popped up in the local car rag. I went out and looked at it, as did Jason. He gave it a thumbs-up, so I got it. It was in pretty good shape considering it was over half a century old.”
Speaking of the age of the car, Cook knew he was going to drive the car every day so he presented a challenge to Walroth and the team at Gearhead Garage. “I had a 2000 Lexus LS430 at the time, and when I first started talking to Jason at Gearhead Garage, I jokingly said, ‘This is how I want the car to ride.’ I knew it was a tall order to get a 60-plus-year-old car to ride that nice, but this was going to be my everyday driver, so it had to ride decently. It’s not a show car or a car that I start up every other month. I drive it every day, every place, so it needed to be comfortable,” Cook related of his design parameters. Being an engineer, his attention to detail, as well as his ideas, were quite grand. Luckily for him, Walroth is the same way. “This is the first specialty car I’ve ever had. After I got the car, I knew I wanted certain things done to it. I wanted a more modern instrument panel, better interior, and things like that. The car was fitted to me specifically, both in design and measurements. It was exactly the way I wanted it.”
The result of 18 months of hard work resulted in a one-of-a-kind 1962 Impala that turns heads. Coated in Ford Toreador Red, the car features a full Roadster Shop chassis with C6 Corvette spindles and double-adjustable coilovers up front and independent suspension out back. A 427-cubic-inch LS3 that has been significantly warmed over resides between the framerails. The engine’s output is an estimated 580 horsepower with an equal amount of torque—all with A/C and power steering. “I wanted a bigger engine than the 327 it came with. It was old and tired and had been rebuilt at least once,” Cook explained of the genesis for his modern powerplant. “I wanted enough horsepower to know that, when I needed to get on the gas, it had it there. Jason recommended the LS since he’s had good success with the transplants.”
A set of Hooker Super Comp headers feed into a Blake’s Motorsports custom 2.5-inch exhaust featuring a MagnaFlow X-pipe, mufflers, and resonators. Power is sent back through a Tremec TKO 600 transmission and 11-inch Ram single-disc clutch to a Ford 9-inch centersection stuffed full of 3.73 gears and a Detroit Truetrac differential, giving the combo ideal street manners. Circle Racing billet Rallye wheels accent the car’s looks, measuring 18x8 in front and 18x9.5 out back. Kore3 C6 Corvette brakes measuring 14 inches up front and 13 inches in back rein in the Impala in both city traffic and spirited jaunts. Inside the car, a modern dash was fitted in-house at Gearhead Garage, and full-power Lexus front seats were installed. “I started the build with a 4L80E automatic transmission; I’m 71 years old. When I first got the car, I was a few years younger, but my thinking was, ‘I don’t want to be horsing around with a clutch and changing the gears all the time,’” Cook laughed. “The more I drove it, the more the automatic didn’t cut it. I got the yearning to shift gears myself. My first four cars were all manual transmission cars, but I had forgotten how much fun it could be.”
Once the car was “done,” it was time for Gearhead Garage to tackle the really custom stuff for Cook. “I really enjoy playing some golf, and since this was set to be my daily driver, I had a special rack built that bolts into the trunk to hold my golf clubs. I never take them out of the car unless I’m using them.” Golf isn’t Cook’s only hobby; he also enjoys pedaling about quite a bit. “I’m also pretty serious into cycling and I wanted to be able to carry my bike around. So again, Jason chopped up a bike rack to make it fit and welded it to the frame in the rear so that everything sits perfectly. My bike is different than most, so not only did Jason have to fit the mount onto the car, he had to fit the mount to the bike itself,” relayed Cook. He also went a step further with it. “It all came out so well, I even had the bike frame painted to match the car.”
With such an extensive list of modifications, Cook is most proud of the fact that it still looks like a 1962 Impala. “If you look at the car, it looks almost original from the outside. The only real difference is that the mirrors are rectangular instead of round, to give me a better view. Then I added a third brake light. Other than those things, it looks like it did when it sat on the showroom floor in 1962,” Cook said, as he recalled his high school dreams. “I also insisted on leaving the Chevy emblem in the middle of the back seat. It was a part of all the cars of the time, and I really wanted to keep that. Even with the modification of the rear seats that makes it more of a two-person seat, I feel like that feature helps the car keep some originality.” With the car done and exactly how he wanted it, Cook is currently driving the wheels off of it, between heading to the clubhouse to get a few holes in, taking off to ride his custom bike, or even just running the day’s errands. He says that thumbs up from other car guys follow wherever he goes and is incredibly quick to lavish praise on the team that turned his longtime dreams into a daily driven reality. “Jason and his team deserve the bulk of the credit. The work that they’ve done is incredible.”