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Immaculate Pro Touring 1959 Chevy Impala

Hot Wings: Break out your poodle skirt and flattop! Every nut and bolt on Dan Zinke’s Nuevo Pro Tourer was redone

Ro McGonegal Jul 19, 2016
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Right out front: at Chevy High Performance we are fans of the abnormal. Fins. Step right up and get ’em now. Fins. The domestic car world went ape over them, yes, but the telling thing was that staid, stodgy, conservative Mercedes-Benz even put them on their cars way back then. You look at them today and wonder that marketing hadn’t finally outstripped engineering and forced a precedent. And who needed that space age fluff anyway? We did of course!

Here in the “Land of Excess,” they represented artistic license, wanton expression of the world’s most powerful country, and, obviously, a place where you could do (and maybe get away with) just about anything. Besides, compared to these pterodactyls, the ’58 looked like a loaf of bread and carried as much charisma. Concurrently, the factory hot rod business was shifting into high gear. You could get a 1959 B-body, the Slimline Design as it was called, with a plethora of engine combos, topped by high-compression big-blocks with more than one carburetor.


How does Dan Zinke feel about all this? After exhausting several alternatives, he found the ’59 Impala on the Internet. Since he commands a small grocery/liquor store kingdom in the Wisconsin Dells vacationland, he knew he wouldn’t have time to turn wrenches so he set about finding the people who could. As it was, the project got divided into paint/body and chassis/mechanical. There were a couple of constants that he required for his pilgrim: an electronically controlled engine for reliability, power, and fuel economy; an entire chassis upgrade; and a pristine, glass-smooth setting to put it in.

There were two accelerants. Form would be the responsibility of Ken’s Klassics in Muscoda, Wisconsin, while function was the province of Schwartz Performance in Woodstock, Illinois. Righteous right off the mark, middle-aged Dan Zinke let it be known that he was still a trooper and insisted on a pedal for his left foot. Everybody liked that.


Schwartz Performance installed the suspension, engine, and drivetrain as well as all the wiring. They replaced the ancient X-formation and laid the foundation with their cold rolled steel G-Machine space frame. To this they added coilover shocks, Schwartz spindles, rack steering system, control arms, adjustable antisway bars, and a full-floater Moser axle. With the brakes there would be no compromise: Schwartz posted 14-inch discs and six-pot calipers at each corner.

For that modern engine, Dan specified an LS3 that Schwartz couldn’t help but mess with a little. The departure is a livelier Schwartz Stage 1 camshaft (specs are proprietary) and a free-flowing exhaust tract featuring 1 3/4-inch primary pipes and Stainless Works muffs in a 3-inch-diameter system. They spun her up, increasing flywheel output from 430 hp at 5,900 and 424 lb-ft at 4,600 to a juicy 520 hp at 6,600 and 468 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm. To fully exploit this bounty and satisfy Mr. Zinke’s whim, Schwartz Performance buckled down with a TREMEC T-56 Magnum transmission, and for his left foot an 11-inch American Powertrain assembly.


“I wanted the original style and parts to remain on the car,” said Dan. “And the toughest part of the process was dealing with two builders at once.” In spite of the chassis and drivetrain upgrades, the most critical thing was the paint. Black is the most unforgiving. It shows everything, especially when you’re talking about the spectacular compound curves that create the bat wings. “You can’t hide anything with black,” Dan opined. “The body must be straight. Period.” Good thing. Ken Stadele at Ken’s Klassics has an affinity for black. Ken’s did the bodywork and the mending and smoothing. After that, gunslinger T.J. Krueger went to work in the non-static booth. From the looks of it, he had his glasses on straight.

Dan wanted to keep the exterior as it came off the assembly line. Similarly, he blanched at the idea of turning the interior into something it was not. “I wanted the classic looks of the original stock console but wanted the reliability of the new Dakota Digital VHX Carbon Fiber Red gauges made for the ’59 Impala. The gauges look like they came from the factory this way.” Steve Holcomb at Pro Auto Custom Interior developed the console, built the door panels, and swathed the ’64 Impala seats in leather. A few clicks east in Madison, Paul N. at AMS inserted the Kenwood head (with DVD screen) and the JL Audio components.


In Wisconsin Dells when the summer drums are silent and the crowds have shuffled away, the weather is temperate and there is an unhurried invitation to contemplate the quietness that comes over you like a blanket. You feel as if you are the only one on Earth.

Upon completion, Ken Stadele dragged the big, black ark to a few prestigious gatherings for some confirmation. It appeared at World of Wheels events in Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago. It went out the door holding multiple awards. It was validated. Since then, Dan likes “to take the Impala to the local classic car show and driving it around beautiful Wisconsin during the summer months, getting the thumbs up and smiles wherever I go.”


Tech Check
Owner: Dan Zinke, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Vehicle: 1959 Impala
Type: LS3
Displacement: 376 ci
Bore: 4.065 inches
Stroke: 3.622 inches
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Cylinder Heads: OE, L92-style ports, 68cc combustion chambers, 2.165/1.590 valves
Rotating Assembly: Nodular iron crankshaft, powdered metal rods, hypereutectic pistons
Valvetrain: Investment-cast, roller trunnion 1.7:1 ratio rocker arms, Lunati springs
Camshaft: Schwartz Performance Stage 1 (specs proprietary)
Induction: OE intake manifold, Rock Valley stainless steel 15-gallon fuel cell
Ignition: GM E67 ECU, MSD 8mm wires
Exhaust: Schwartz Performance 1 3/4-inch primaries, 3-inch system, Stainless Works mufflers
Ancillaries Be Cool radiator, SPAL fans, Schwartz Performance/Wegner Motorsports accessory drive
Output: 520 hp at 6,600 rpm, 468 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm
Machine Work/Assembly: Schwartz Performance
Tuner: Schwartz Performance
Transmission: TREMEC T-56, American Powertrain flywheel and 11-inch hydraulic clutch assembly
Rear Axle: Moser 9-inch, 3.70:1 ratio, Truetrac differential, 31-spline full-floating axles
Front Suspension: Schwartz Performance G-Machine chassis, spindles, control arms, and splined 1 1/4-inch antisway bar; Ridetech single-adjustable coilover shocks
Rear Suspension: Schwartz Performance four-link system and splined 3/4-inch antisway bar, Ridetech single-adjustable coilover shocks
Brakes: Baer 6S 14-inch vented discs, six-piston calipers front and rear; Wilwood master cylinder, Raybestos booster
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Billet Specialties Turbine 19x8 front, 20x10 rear
Tires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport 245/40 front, 295/35 rear
Upholstery: Steve Holcomb at Pro Auto Custom Interior (Knoxville, TN)
Material: Leather
Seats: 1964 Impala buckets
Steering: Schwartz Performance rack-and-pinion, ididit column, 1959 Impala wheel
Shifter: Hurst
Dash: OE
Instrumentation: Dakota Digital VHX Carbon Fiber Red
Audio: Kenwood Excelon head unit w/ 6.2-inch color LCD, JL Audio front/rear speakers, subwoofer installed by Paul N. at AMS (Madison, WI)
HVAC: Vintage Air
Bodywork: Ken’s Klassics (Muscoda, WI)
Paint by: T.J. Krueger, Ken’s Klassics
Paint: PPG Black
Hood: OE
Grille: OE
Bumpers: OE

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