Standing out from the crowd is one of the fundamentals of hot rodding. Trouble is, street machine Chevys that look unique in commuter traffic can seem as common as the proverbial belly button at big car shows, where there's typically a sea of Tri-fives, Camaros, and Chevelles. That's exactly why Wayne Mullen chose a '58 Impala convertible for his latest custom car project.
"Everyone always thought the '58 was ugly," Wayne said, "but I loved the body style. I wanted to build a street rod that could be driven and enjoyed by myself, my wife, and my two young boys, so I chose the convertible." Settling on a certain model and body style was one thing, but Wayne soon discovered that finding an Impala convertible was the real challenge. After four months of searching he finally stumbled across a basket case project (one of those friend-of-a-friend deals) in his hometown of Hesperia, California. Though the car looked like junk to many of his friends, Wayne was convinced that he could build it into the "baddest '58 Impala convertible anyone had ever seen."
Wayne began his quest by building a CAD-designed custom frame at his shop, Advanced Performance. Wanting the car to handle well at high speeds, Wayne designed a custom three-link rear suspension arrangement and set the frame up for adjustable Koni coilover shocks both front and rear. A 9-inch rearend with Strange axles and freeway-friendly 3.10:1 gears rounded out the rear suspension, while the front was completed using Morrison spindles, a TCI sway bar, and manual rack-and-pinion steering. Wilwood disc brakes were mounted on all four corners, with Halibrand wheels (15x7-inch front, 15x8.5-inch rear) and BFGoodrich rubber finishing things off.
Of course, a badass Impala needs a killer engine, and Wayne pulled out all the stops when he mapped out the monster 540-inch Rat. First he had the crew at Pettis Performance stuff the Bow-Tie block with a Lunati crank and rods, Arias pistons, and a Lunati roller camshaft, then top it with Brodix aluminum heads. Aiming for the utmost in power and driveability, Wayne elected to build the electronic fuel-injection system himself using a modified Brodix intake, Bosch 37 lb-hr injectors, an Enderle hat, and an Accel DFI control unit. Combined with MSD ignition components and a pair of custom headers, the engine package is stout enough to send 585 hp and 630 ft-lbs of torque through the B&M-shifted Turbo 400 transmission and custom one-piece driveshaft.
Those long body panels required many hours of block-sanding to make them straight, especially after much of the stock Impala trim was shaved off. But the Advanced Performance crew (which includes Wayne, Mike Bridgeman, and Andy Diaz) made sure the body was flawless before applying the smooth Sherwin Williams Probe Red paint. Following paint, stitcher extraordinaire Ron Mangus (of Custom Auto Interiors in Bloomington, California) crafted a luxurious interior of gray leather and Italian wool. The comfortable custom cabin was further outfitted with Auto Meter gauges in the dash and console, a Grant steering wheel atop the tilt column, and a McIntosh stereo surrounding passengers with sound.
Any individualist can tell you that being different comes at a price. With hot rods, that means designing and building your own parts rather than relying on off-the-shelf, bolt-on components. It also involves long searches for hard-to-find original parts (trim, glass, etc.), since few reproduction pieces are available. As you can see, Wayne has paid that price (and spent a pretty hefty chunk of change as well) building this wild ragtop. But he has also gained something that's priceless to many hot rodders: the ability to stand out in-and speed away from-any crowd.