Chuck Schroedl came of age before teenagers had 400 channels of cable TV, endless video games, and unlimited cell phone data to monopolize their attention. That left a lot of brain power to focus on cars, and as he approached driving age Schroedl devoted all of it to thinking about fast cars. His parents, however, were not nearly as enthusiastic about muscle cars as he was. “My parents wouldn’t let me have a muscle car,” he recalls. “But they were perfectly happy with me driving this Impala, even though it had a 396 big-block.”
Schroedl’s high school ride had only 21,000 miles on the odometer when he bought it from the original owner on April 1, 1978, and was in nearly new condition. Its stock 396 had sufficient power and torque to move the 3,800-plus pound car along at a decent clip but the youngster from Milwaukee wanted more. So at the tender age of 16 he swapped out the cam and replaced the stock intake and exhaust manifolds with an aftermarket intake and headers. The following year he installed a tunnel-ram and then a cross-ram setup, but after struggling to get the throttle linkage to work properly he switched back to a single four-barrel on an aluminum intake.
In 1981, Schroedl bought a Nova, which was considerably lighter than the Impala, and hatched a plan to make it wicked fast. He pulled the Impala’s original 396, stripped it bare, built it back up with a 0.030-inch overbore and 4.500-inch stroker crank to get 496 cubic inches, and crowned it with a staggered-tube Crower injection setup. The Nova was fast indeed, and the Impala went into deep storage in his grandpa’s garage.
In 1995, with strong encouragement from several friends, most notably Rick Dyers, Schroedl brought the Impala out of hibernation. In addition to some general refreshing he bought a new 502ci long-block from Chevrolet and topped it with a Roy Miersch blower tunnel-ram intake and a massive Mooneyham 14-71 blower. With help from Dyers, who has extensive experience with fuel injection, he dialed in an Enderle Birdcatcher setup modified by Gorr Fuel Systems. Spark comes courtesy of an MSD Pro-Mag magneto.
In addition to the engine work, Schroedl wanted to upgrade the chassis so he gave Mark Markow a call. Markow launched his fabrication business, appropriately called Markow Race Cars, in 1991 after gaining more than a little notoriety running mid 8-second quarters with his street-legal 1967 Chevy II and low 7-second runs with a Top Sportsman Beretta. Off-the-shelf race parts for 1965 Impalas aren’t exactly falling out of the trees so Markow designed, fabricated, and installed his own four-link rear suspension with a Panhard bar and Ride Tech airbags.
For the next 10 years Schroedl drove his heavily modified Impala extensively, crisscrossing the country to participate in five Hot Rod Power Tours. Though Schroedl had a ton of fun using the car he did eventually get bored with its performance. In 2005, he concluded that the only way around that was to “get out of hand with it.” To start with, he stripped the 502 down and turned the block over to Randy Plotz at Machine Work by Don’s in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for machining. When he got the block back, Schroedl did the assembly himself with an eye toward cranking up the blower’s boost and running the engine on methanol. He installed a Lunati crank, Schneider cam and chromoly pushrods, Crower roller rockers, ARP fasteners, Melling oil pump, Milodon oil pan, and Gorr Fuel Systems modified Enderle 990 fuel pump. The short-block is capped with aluminum Air Flow Research heads that, together with domed Speed Pro pistons, yield a stout 11.5:1 compression ratio.
Schroedl reinstalled the Mooneyham blower but altered its drive ratio to increase boost to 31.5 psi. He also installed a TRP fuel-injection setup tuned by Gorr Fuel Systems to deliver the prodigious volume of methanol this uber-thirsty engine demands. The methanol is housed in a 15-gallon, trunk-mounted Harwood cell that sits between twin Optima YellowTop batteries. Spent gasses are channeled out via Jet-Hot–coated, custom made stainless steel headers comprised of 2.5-inch tubes that go into a 5-inch collection box. Flowmaster mufflers do what they can to mitigate the big mill’s roar. There’s no shortage of heat under the hood so Schroedl needed to upgrade the engine’s cooling system. With help from Be Cool’s Justin Larocque he spec’d out the correct aluminum radiator for his extreme application, and installed a CSR electric water pump to keep the coolant flowing.
The engine produces approximately 2,000 horsepower at 7,200 rpm so Schroedl needed a super-strong transmission. For that he turned to Kenny Klazura at US Speed Research. Klazura built up a heavily modified Turbo 400 and coupled it to a 4,200-stall Precision torque converter. The Hurst-shifted transmission turns the 4.10-geared Ford 9-inch Detroit Locker rearend via a driveshaft built by Inland Driveshaft.
Schroedl was entirely satisfied with the rear chassis and suspension Mark Markow built 10 years earlier, but the frontend was still largely stock so he reached out to Tom Ljujic at OTE Design and Fabrication in Waukesha, Wisconsin, for ideas. Ljujic designed and fabricated a double-rail chassis, Funny Car-spec ’cage and frontend that includes custom-made tubular control arms, Fox adjustable struts, and Ride Tech airbags.
The car rides on Cragar AlumaStar wheels sized at 15x6 up front and 15x15 at the rear. The front wheels wear Mickey Thompson Sportsman tires measuring 26x8.50-15LT and the rears are shod with DOT compliant Mickey Thompson Sportsman Pro rubber sized at 33x18.50-15LT. Stopping power comes courtesy of cross-drilled rotors squeezed by Aerospace Components two-piston calipers, which are carved from solid billets of 6061-T6 aluminum.
The Impala’s race car theme was brought into the car’s interior as well. OTE and Markow did all of the tin work, which includes a fully removable floor. Some of the double-rail chassis and TH400 transmission were left exposed for visual effect. For maximum safety, the driver is surrounded by a comprehensive rollcage and tethered in place to Corbeau racing seats by a Deist five-point harness. In spite of the radical changes to the interior, Schroedl wanted to retain his Impala’s original ambiance so he’s retained the factory door panels, dashpad, radio, glovebox, and instrumentation, but supplemented the OEM gauges with a tach, oil pressure, and water temperature gauges from Auto Meter. He replaced the original steering wheel with a smaller-diameter, thicker rim specimen from Billet Specialties.
As with the rest of the car, the exterior has evolved over Schroedl’s 39 years of ownership, generally getting more radical and more functional with each change. In keeping with his desire to retain the main elements of the car’s factory styling, most of the major sheetmetal is original. The front and rear bumpers were replaced with Glasstek fiberglass bumpers that retain the same dimensions and shape as the original steel units. And to further their factory look, Kevin at Top Speed Plating chrome painted them. Schroedl also tapped Glasstek for the trunk lid and a 4-inch cowl-induction hood, both of which are locked down with Dzus fasteners. Todd Evers, Fast Eddies, and Gavin Moore handled all of the body work and prep, and laid down a relatively understated metallic black over pewter paint scheme.
With the most recent round of modifications this ’65 Impala moved further away from its street car origins and noticeably closer to a Funny Car. That obviously impairs its practicality, which means Schroedl is no longer crisscrossing the country going to Power Tours and Street Car Shootouts. He does, however, still drive it on the street at every opportunity. “I love driving it and enjoy tinkering with it,” he explains, “making changes to stay up to date. But the most fun for me is going to shows and meeting people who instantly fall in love with the car. I enjoy talking about it and sharing its history with anyone who’s interested.”