Creating a unique vehicle is always a blend of artistry and mechanical skill. Whether it’s a restored original, a restomod, or an off-the-chart custom, lots of decisions have to be made before you can even begin. The toughest one is assessing the time, tools, and talent required to complete the task. Sometimes, doing it yourself is simply not an option and the best decision is to contact a pro. Once you get there, the question is, what’s the best strategy when you happen to be a pro?
It’s a situation that the team at StreetHeat Customs in Melbourne, Florida, has faced and solved many times. Matt Verzi and Gavin Broome have been building one-of-a-kind customs for clients for almost two decades. Their high-end patina trucks and cool restomods have been the subject of numerous magazine articles and they have a strong client base, both domestic and abroad. When it’s time to begin the next creation, their strategy is simple. Rather than hunting for a dirt-cheap project vehicle and spending time and money just to bring it back to “good,” they buy it good to begin with and start the enhancement process from there. As a result, they can usually complete the project in half the time and, since time is money, they always come out ahead. That’s the approach they took with this beautiful 1960 Chevrolet Impala two-door hardtop.
In fact, this car was well known to them for several years, as part of the South 40 collection near their shop. As the owner of South 40 regularly repositions cars within his collection, the StreetHeat guys are always eager buyers for his high-quality rides. Verzi recalls, “From the beginning, this 1960 Impala two-door hardtop caught our eye but it was always out of our reach. It was a frame-off restoration, brought back to incredible factory condition and garaged throughout its life. Seeing the car over the years and making many trips back and forth gave us plenty of ideas about what we could do with it if we ever got it.”
Sadly, the owner of the collection passed away and the vehicles were sold from the estate. Although the Impala was their goal, they had to buy 10 cars in a package deal from the collection in order to get it. The other cars were quickly sold off and Verzi and Broome began implementing all those long-simmering ideas, adding the best of everything and creating an exclusive build designed from the outset for future resale. Amazingly, just one short month later, the car rolled out of the shop completely transformed from factory stock to a slick, showstopping sled with serious attitude.
The car had good bones, outfitted from the factory with A/C, AM/FM radio, power brakes, and power steering. The Ermine White paint was in wonderful condition and the interior, although somewhat faded, still looked good. The odometer—zeroed out during restoration—had just 280 miles. Plans for the new millennium makeover began with a discussion about potential powerplants but, in fact, it was just a really quick chat.
The LS3 Connect & Cruise package from Chevrolet Performance is a team favorite thanks to its high power output, ease of installation, reliability, and factory warranty. They’ve used it multiple times in the past, always with great success. The 6.2L LS3 produces 430 hp in stock form and the boys added a cold-air kit and Hooker Super Comp headers that feed a custom 2.5-inch exhaust for an appropriately aggressive sound. The sophisticated V-8 is bolted up to a 4L60E transmission that multiplies the power to the 8.2-inch Eaton Positraction rear with 3.42 gears. A Champion radiator, Proform electric fan, and B&M trans cooler ensures the Impala’s temps stay in the green.
Naturally, replacing the original 283ci/170hp V-8 with a powerplant 2.5 times more potent demanded some serious planning when it came to handling. To give it that special StreetHeat touch, the X-frame chassis now runs Performance Online tubular A-arms along with Classic Performance Products 2-inch drop spindles. Hotchkis 1.25-inch sway bars front and rear and KYB gas shocks on all four corners add just the right dose of starch while the CPP 605 power steering conversion kit provides quick changes in direction.
The team achieved the car’s in-the-weeds profile with Air Maxx 2,600-pound bags, the AccuAir ENDO-VT extruded aluminum tank with the valves cleverly mounted inside, and a pair of black Viair 440 compressors on the outside. Taking technology a step further, the air system is managed by the e-Level self-leveling controller that also gives the driver three different ride heights at the touch of a button. Not only does the trunk-mounted installation look clean and compact, now this car really gets down!
Upgraded stopping power was one of the final big items on the list, accomplished with 13-inch, dual caliper Z51 Corvette brakes up front and 11-inch versions in the rear. Billet Specialties Dagger wheels did a great job of filling the wheelwells using 18x8s up front and 20x10s in the rear. Toyo rubber, 215/40ZR18 and 255/35ZR20, front and rear, respectively, wrap the Daggers. Thanks to aftermarket magic, the Impala’s formerly humble genes were transformed into right-now reflexes.
Moving inside, although the original interior was in fairly good shape, the new C.A.R.S. Inc. vinyl upholstery package is clearly an improvement, replicating the original and done in aqua houndstooth. The front and rear seats, door panels, kick panels, headliner, and carpet are all new. In the dash, the Dakota Digital VHX gauges, silver with blue lighting, provide modern telemetry with an analog look, perfectly in character for a ride from the ’60s. Subtleties continue with the factory steering column employing a Lokar adapter that connects the original Powerglide shifter to the modern 4L60E trans. Equally hip is the Gen IV SureFit A/C, Vintage Air’s latest release, featuring a fully electronic, microprocessor-controlled servomotor drive that eliminates cables and vacuum connections. There’s a panel under the dash for the horizontal vents and circular vents cool each end. Stock looking but full-featured, the RetroSound radio fits right in, playing tunes through a pair of Alpine speakers. And with that the additions to the car were finally complete!
As you can imagine, the cleaner, leaner, and decidedly meaner Impala is a source of pride, fulfilling the goal of showcasing StreetHeat’s style. Verzi and Broome smile when they say, “Our goal was to leave no room for improvement” We would say they definitely met that goal.
Photography by the Author