Brian Smith's Great Aunt Emma bought this Impala new in Reno, Nevada, in 1963. Like many an Impala back then, it was powered by the reliable-yet-unremarkable 230ci six/Powerglide combination. It served her well for 11 years until she gave up driving. Aunt Emma, a retired schoolteacher at this point, turned her baby over to Brian's mother, who made it her daily driver until handing the keys to Brian when he got his license in 1977.
No doubt about it, we've heard a million different variations of this story over the years. Raise your hands—how many of you got a hand-me-down Chevy for your first car? Unlike most, however, Brian never got rid of this full-size bomber, and it eventually ended up as the street fighter/show winner you see here. And though you may find this shocking, the straight-six has since been replaced with a 750hp, all-aluminum Brodix 572. If only Aunt Emma could see her Impala now!
Brian, a locksmith from Las Vegas, vividly remembers the day he and his father picked up the car in Reno and tried to drive it 200 miles back to their home in the Bay Area in California. It was the stereotypical "little old lady's car" with only 16,000 ticks on the odometer.
"It had probably never been on the highway and probably no one ever sat in the back seat. All she used it for was driving to school and the grocery store. My dad got it up to about 50 mph and all four tires started coming apart," Brian says. "We had to pull over and get towed so we could put new tires on it."
From that inauspicious beginning, however, a lasting relationship was born. The white-over-black Impala became a permanent part of Brian's life. The good times were many and a love affair grew.
"Though in high school it wasn't the fastest car on the road, I certainly have fond memories it," relates Brian, whose adventures in the B-body could probably fill a book. "For example, I used to disconnect the speedometer and tell the folks I was spending the night at a friend's house a few miles away. Little did they know that I was on my way up to Lake Tahoe, 225 miles away with a trunk load of firewood and provisions for a weekend of camping. From my high school camping trips alone, there is probably an extra 5,000 miles on the car that my folks did not know about.
We'd say mission accomplished on that last part, but there's a lot more to the story than that. The Impala has consistently been hot rodded and upgraded through the years, including the addition of a Weiand-blown 327 and 15-inch Rally wheels. Ultimately, it was going to be turned over to Brian's son when he turned 16, but the rebuild that started in 1998 quickly got too far out of hand. Once the owner started pulling the vehicle apart, he just couldn't stop himself—it turned into a frame-off-restoration. Brian felt it would be too nice for his son to use as his high-school car.
"The reproduction side moldings were $500 and thinner than stock," he recalls. "I couldn't let the car sit in a high school parking lot.