Marv Bauer is our new hero. He doesn't own a truck or a trailer. When his subtly (but extensively) modified '63 Impala pulls into a show field, he's got to clean it up before the car cleans house. We are not just talking just local shows, folks, though he attends these. This car is a marathon runner. Marv's made the thousand-mile roundtrip from his home in Nebraska to the Super Chevy Show in Denver a dozen times. Iowa? South Dakota? Kansas? Illinois? Been there, done that, and then drove it home each time with new awards.
All told, he's put 65,000 miles on the Impala since its transformation from a 100,000-mile SS to a long-distance trophy chaser. Marv's love of Chevys runs deep, and his first new car was a '62 Impala. A '63 SS followed that, then there were a couple of Corvettes (one with the 340-horse 327, the next with a 365-horse 327), a '66 SS396 Chevelle, a '67 Camaro SS-the list goes on and on. He used to drag race his former '63 and was looking for another when he came upon this one in '94. Purchase price? A rust-free bargain at $2,800.
"I bought the car from the person who purchased it in 1968," says Marv, who is the third owner. "I tried to sell him a '67 Chevy and he told me about the '63 he had. He was saving it for his son, but said he might sell it because his boy was into Mopars."
The SS was white with a blue interior and Marv had a lot of ideas for it, ideas he's been executing over the course of the last 16 years. He continues to modify as this is being written. Last year he added front disc brakes; the project for the winter of 2010-2011 was rear disc brakes.
A lot of the changes are so subtle and unusual that you don't even notice them. For instance, even though the car is technically the same color-Laser Red-because it is a three-step paint process, the painter, Jerry Nelson, was able to alter the mixture to make the top of the car slightly darker than the sides. Also, they used the same mixture to add a darker area from the front of the doors to the rear-below the belt line to the area where stainless trim resided from the factory. A pair of '61 SS flags are used on the front fenders. The grille was chromed for added effect.
Marv modified the '63's taillights to make them one of a kind, too (or is that six of a kind?). He sprayed the tail panel to match the car, but when lights shine on it you can still see the special engine-turned silver design behind the color.
Inside is equally unusual. He didn't like the pattern on the factory '63 seats so he mimicked that of the '64 (done up in silver tweed). It was all stitched by Joe at Lincoln Upholstery in Nebraska. While most people would simply hang a few gauges from the dash, he took the gauge housings from a '59 Chevy, fit aftermarket gauges to them, modified the housings, and mounted them under the instrument panel. There's no air conditioning-simply roll the windows down and open the kick panel vents, just like the old days.
The tricks continue under the hood. He made his own battery cover and the heat shields over the exhaust manifolds are Marv's creation as well. Even the headlight shields have Bow Tie emblems on them.
The engine itself is not the hottest on the block, but it's been a model reliability. It's a '67 327 built by Don Kringel in his garage. It's got a Crower crankshaft, 9.5:1 compression, a Holley Street Avenger carb (650 cfm) and Pete Jackson gear drive. That's about it, but the owner reports that if he doesn't beat on it, the mill can run on 87 octane if necessary. A '63 vintage T-10 four-speed backs up the mouse. A four-row Griffin aluminum radiator keeps the car cool whether it's running at 5,000 feet elevation or at sea level.
The SS sits low, but it has no air suspension. Marv had custom-wound springs made that ensured a low stance and good handling, but also a compliant ride. There's also a rear sway bar off a '69 Chevelle for improved cornering. The wheels are 17-inch Coys C-5s, the tires are Michelins (255/45ZRs all around).
Once upon a time, it was not a big deal to drive thousands of miles or even cross-country and back in a '60s car. Air travel was prohibitively expensive before deregulation and trains were passé; millions of families literally saw the USA in their Chevrolet.
Most motorists today would be aghast at the idea of taking a journey of a thousand miles in a "primitive" automobile like our feature '63 Impala. There's no GPS, On-Star, cruise control, or (heaven forbid) side curtain, seat, or driver and passenger air bags. But Marv Bauer has more fun in his '63 than the owner of probably any new car with every modern convenience.
If you see him cruising on the highway, give him the thumbs up. He deserves it.