Big Mike Muniz saw his first Impala SS in 1994 and was so amazed that he just could not look away. As he drove by a dealership in the San Fernando Valley, it appealed to him so much that he hooked a U-turn and went back for more. He pulled over, and while gazing like a child about to meet Santa Claus, a profound thought entered into his head. "If Darth Vader was a gearhead, this is the car he would be driving." The late-body Impala SS is a spitting image of the Death Star, right? OK, maybe not, but we can see where he was going with that.
In 1995, after never even test-driving one, Mike purchased a brand-new '96 Impala SS from a local dealer. The stock LT1 supplied 330 lb-ft of torque, enough to leave him grinning from cheek to cheek as he laid strips of rubber through the California hills. After a while, the grin started to fade and more power was needed. He spent the next five years in his quest for horsepower and ultimately manufactured enough ponies to wake up the neighbors in the next town over.
Except for the stripes, Mike's Impala SS looks like just about any other at a distance. It's big, black, and demands attention at the supermarket. Up close, though, one can't help but notice the massive 21 1/2-inch skins housed in the rear. Under the hood is a cornucopia of chrome piping and twin turbochargers feeding the 409-cubic-inch LT1. According to the owner, the twin turbo'd mill squeezed out north of 1,200 horsepower before the transmission went kaboom.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The stock LT1 left this world the hard way, the victim of way too much sauce. Mike tracked down another LT1, one that had been built by Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. The forged pistons were designed with boost and a lower compression ratio in mind. With the massive amount of boost he was planning on running, Mike knew he needed to get much more air and fuel to the engine. He ported and polished the LT1 heads and intake to allow 25 psi of boost to flow freely to the cylinders. He then installed a Comp camshaft with .578-inch intake lift and 230 degrees of duration; the exhaust lift is .589 with a duration of 236 degrees. An Aeromotive Eliminator fuel pump feeds the motor pumping more than 800 lb/hr at 45 psi. Little research and development has ever been done on these Impalas, so Mike employed Turbo Buick guru Keith Mease of Mease Performance Engineering to help fabricate the twin turbo setup and front-mount intercooler.
Fab-Tech Fabrication in Chatsworth, California, tackled the arduous task of back-halving the family sedan and installing the eight-point rollcage. It was the first time they had attempted such a rear-end conversion, but they succeeded and gave the Impala SS a great stance and room for much-needed larger tires. Also, the second row of seating had to be removed to make room for the oversized wheelwells. The whole conversion was completed using Chris Alston's Chassisworks components.
Mike did all the interior work himself using Kirkey Pro Street racing seats and Street Trends interior upholstery. He installed Auto Meter and Edelbrock gauges on the A-pillar and plans on replacing the stock shifter for a B&M Pro Ratchet. The stock console, dash, and instrument cluster have been kept and retain a factory look from the driver's seat.
Keeping the Impala SS on the road are 15-inch Weld Draglite rims wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber, 26x7.5 in front and 33x21.5 out back. And what is an Impala without some kind of hydraulics? An Air Ride Technologies suspension system up front allows for 5 inches of play, letting the nose scrape the ground if he so pleases.
Mike was tired of going to dragstrips and only seeing Pro Street cars from the Golden Age of American muscle. Being an innovator and visionary, he went out on a limb and tried something that few before have. In his words, "It came down to my love for the way the '94-96 B-body cars look and my love for the Pro Street look. I just combined both to make my special and unique ride."
He transformed an automobile that rivals a '60s Cadillac in size and weight into a doomsday machine capable of 8-second pas ses in the quarter-mile. It took more than five years to complete in total, but the proof is in the power. In the future, Mike plans on making even more horsepower by replacing the LT1 with a 700ci big-block engine. He hopes to see dyno numbers over 2,000 and quarter-mile times well into the 7s, making this Impala SS quite possibly the fastest four-door on the planet.