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Marcus Edell resurrects the Joe Roth 1959 Impala, “Little One”

Rob Fortier Nov 15, 2016
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On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first orbiting satellite, into outer space. A year later, the U.S. responded when General Motors launched the 1959 Chevrolet Impala into dealer showrooms nationwide.

1959 Chevrolet Impala Front End 2/24

OK, so the two abovementioned events are totally unrelated—or are they? While the USSR's orbital launch is widely credited with the beginning of the Space Age and the United States didn't officially counter with the Apollo missions for another decade, the space race did take hold in consumer product design, namely automotive manufacturing. And nothing looks more spacy—or factory mild custom—than the 1959 Chevy Impala low (lightly chopped) roofline, tasteful horizontal fins, opposed teardrop taillights, and so on.

1959 Chevrolet Impala Rear 3/24

But it's highly doubtful any of the "custom" touches are what originally led Joe Roth's mother to purchase her Impala new off a Milwaukee lot nearly a half-century ago. Thankfully for Roth, however (not so much his mom), a frontend fender bender put the Chevy's title in his name—and following some required collision repair work, the customization and subsequent birth of "Little One."

In 1960, Cudahy Auto Body's Ed Cork began the Impala's non-stock transformation. For obvious reasons, most of the effort went into the hardtop's frontal region: transverse lighting was updated to canted quads, the teardrop hood vents filled, the bumper eliminated in favor of a molded and rolled pan that incorporated an oval grille mouth filled with mesh screen and, count 'em, over a hundred knobs normally found on the interior of a 1959 Edsel. The rear end also gave up its bumper in favor of a rolled pan (along with a frenched plate), while the taillights were heavily tunneled with dual 1956 Packard lenses mated together in each pocket. Chrome trim is devoid below the beltline other than an abbreviated side spear.

1959 Chevrolet Impala Grille 4/24

While a brilliant Candy Apple Red finish adorned the exterior of Roth's Little One, it may have been the "candy cane" two-tone tuck 'n' roll interior by the late, great Karl Kasprzyk (Kasper Auto Trim) that really stood out on the 1959. Besides the vivid color contrast, the opposing pleat design—from the dash cover to the door panels to the seats clear back to the package tray—speaks volumes and not in a gaudy, overdone manner, either.

1959 Chevrolet Impala Interior 5/24

Roth showed Little One the following couple years, but by the mid '60s, the Impala's pink slip would bare its third owner's name: fellow Milwaukeean Alan Morrison (actually, it was sold to Alan's mother, as at the time, he was but 11 years old!). Whether it was time or owner neglect, the 1959 was purchased from a wrecking yard—minus the six-deuce powered 348, its paint worn thin, and lacking the chrome reverse wheels with cheater slick wide whites—not directly from Roth. Nevertheless, Morrison eventually brought the Chevy back (close) to its former glory, enjoying it as he saw fit for the better part of 30 years before relegating it to storage for another 20 in the mid '90s.

1959 Chevrolet Impala Right Profile 6/24

That's where Marcus Edell came into the picture. Listed on Craigslist, the Impala came up for sale in 2015, and Northern Californian Marcus wasted no time acquiring the car—even less time having her brought back to that former '60s show car form. He enlisted the services of Jeff Spence/Kustoms by Spence (Willits, California) to not only repair some minor damage, but spot-in portions of the Candy Red paint, ultimately giving the entire exterior a fresh coat of clear. The interior also got a little freshening up before Marcus hauled the 1959 straight down to Pomona, California, mere months after acquiring, for its debut at the 2016 Grand National Roadster Show. (Shortly thereafter, Marcus relinquished ownership of the Joe Roth custom—we're hoping it's enjoying a nice "retirement" at this point in time!)

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