1964 Chevy Impala - Fade To Black

Go Fast Or Go Home

Mike Harrington Sep 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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Beelzebub and the minions of the netherworld may stoke their endless brimstone fires and, with fury, flap their leathery wings in a futile attempt to match the power residing under the hood of this '64 Impala. A claimed 1,200 iron-clad horses arrayed in brilliant chrome and polished aluminum stand ready to spring into action should the driver decide to flex his foot muscle and depress the accelerator.

Once that accelerator is punched, the twin Rotomaster turbos spool up and boost 12 psi of non-intercooled pressurized air and fuel in the hungry cylinders, through a Victor Jr. intake manifold. The Venolia pistons and Isky connecting rods compress the volatile mixture, ready for the fiery MSD 6AL ignition to discharge its spark in the Brodix Track 1 aluminum heads combustion chamber. A specially cut Isky cam and Crower lifters help the cylinder head breathe through the valves.

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The very sight of this uniquely built engine can render most passersby immobile, plunging them deep into thought or debate. Robert Briggs, the owner of this Impala, has heard it all before. At the local Donut Derelicts early a.m. cruise, he has listened with amusement as other hot rodders told him his engine setup was impossible and even fake. When was the last time anyone saw a sham engine start up and drive away?

One look at this engine and the unique position of The Carb Shop-built draw-through Holley 1050 Dominator in relation to the intake manifold and turbos may leave you wondering how it all works. But work it does, insanely well, we might add.

Briggs, you might say, is a bit of a renaissance man. He collects and builds full-sized Impalas, Bel Airs and Biscaynes, and now owns five of them. This particular '64 has an interesting story behind it. Briggs purchased it from the original owners, who bought it off the lot from the historic Felix Chevrolet dealership in Los Angeles. When Briggs came into possession of it, the Impala was in need of some serious restoration work. The body and frame had to be separated and completely rebuilt. The floor and trunk pans were replaced, and all the rust that may have been hiding anywhere on the doors and quarters were worked right out of existence. Hundreds of man-hours were spent block-sanding and straightening the body in preparation for the black Glasso paint.

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The interesting part of this story is that all this was done 12 years ago in the suburban family's one-car garage. This Impala is a real street-driven family car, and each of Robert's children has either gouged the paint with a screwdriver or 100-grit paper, trying to be just like dad by working on cars. Luckily, Robert is a body man by trade. Since painting the Impala, Robert has opened up his own custom paint shop in Huntington Beach, California, called Paint by Briggs, where he will flame and pinstripe anything that will sit still long enough.

Briggs wanted to remain true to the OE styling of the Impala's exterior and interior, but when it came to the wheels, brakes and suspension, he took a different path. Steadfast Customs, just across the street from his shop in Huntington Beach, handled the installation of the Air Ride suspension system that tucks the large 20-inch Intro wheels and Wilwood brakes in the wells, setting the car to a near frame-dragging stance at shows.

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Over the last dozen years or so, Briggs has gone through three engines in the Impala, each one a little faster and more powerful than the last, including the fourth engine that you see here. And that doesn't count three splintered transmissions in his quest for horsepower. Originally the engine started life as a '76 small-block, but has since been opened up to 406 cubes and transformed into the ferocious animal you see hiding under the hood.

Briggs said the engine never climbs above 180 degrees F on the open highway. There's no fear whenever Briggs takes this land yacht out for a spin, including the time at a car show where he spun the car out at such a speed the front wheels started hopping off the pavement, bending one of the wheels.

It must be tough owning five different Impalas and driving a different one each week. Just watch out for this '64.

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