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Tom & Cynthia Thibodeaux’s ’60 Impala

What a Guitar and a Promise Can Get You

Scott Crouse Jan 1, 2002

Step By Step

The rear of a ’60 Impala is what makes this car so unique. The quarter-panel curvature creates smooth and stable bodylines, offset by the tightly grouped taillights.

Once Cynthia restored the dash and instrument panel to its new condition, Citrus Upholstery covered the seats and floor in grey tweed and vinyl.

How can you quickly tell the difference between a 409ci and a 348ci? The oil dipstick tube on a 348ci is located on the driver side, and the 409’s is on the passenger side.

There’s no fancy tricks or high-dollar body shops involved here—just devoted enthusiasts working in the driveway to bring an Impala back to life.

Replacing a rear quarter-panel isn’t as fun as Tom makes it look.

Whatever happened to the good old days of drive-ins with carhops on roller skates? When Friday night’s biggest worries were whose car to pile in and where to go? Today’s generation can only imagine how cool it must have been to cruise the boulevard filled with hot rods and pull into your favorite burger joint. It was a time when American iron ruled the streets.

Tom and Cynthia Thibodeaux inherited their piece of American history as a third-generation heirloom from her side of the family. Cynthia’s parents bought this ’60 Impala brand-new and after several years of use they decided to give the car to Cynthia’s grandfather. He drove the finned cruiser for several years before he and Cynthia struck a deal. Cynthia could have the car on three conditions. She had to promise never to sell the car, she had to restore it, and she had to give him her old guitar.

Over the next 6-½ years, Tom and Cynthia worked on their restoration project. The suspension received custom 2-inch dropped spindles, front disc brakes, new bushings, and Classic Performance Products lowering springs. They removed the 348ci W-engine and Powerglide in order to clean them properly. Once the suspension was rebuilt and the engine bay was clean, they dropped the untouched, original, trouble-free, 200,000-mile engine back in. Moving from the mechanical side of things, it was time to restore the Impala’s sheetmetal countenance. This had been perhaps the biggest challenge as the right side of the Impala suffered from extensive rust and the left side was damaged in a collision. Luckily Tom and Cynthia knew Norm Stafford who possessed the skills to repair the damage. After searching junkyards for several years, they eventually collected pieces from nine separate donor cars. Norm, Tom, Cynthia, and several other friends all pitched in and brought the Impala back to life. Like any restoration project, the car’s true beauty wasn’t revealed until it returned from the paint shop and the chrome was added.

Once the Impala was finished, Tom and Cynthia decided it was time to do some cruising of their own. The first stop was Cynthia’s grandfather’s house—he couldn’t believe his eyes.

The husband and wife team are members of the Cal-Rods and GoodGuys car clubs, and they show the car quite frequently. They have enjoyed driving the Impala back to their high schools, on the Rod & Custom Americruise, and to countless car shows across the country. Future plans include rebuilding the original 348 and trying different tire and wheel combinations.

Special thanks to Frisco’s Diner in the City of Industry, Ashley Guess, and Shawna Spencer.

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