For weekend road-racers turning laps in their foreign sports cars, the sudden appearance of Buster D'Amato's '67 Impala SS running them down from behind can more than affect the way they drive. Not only do they tend to give this two-ton heavyweight plenty of braking room, but they also refrain from using intimidation to gain the preferred line going through a curve. Then they peg their tachometer on the straightaway in a vain attempt to keep up with 502 inches of Chevy power. It's the revenge of the land yachts and this story couldn't be any sweeter.
"A lot of drivers have told me that they'll see me in the rearview mirror thinking, 'Oh my gosh! What is that coming up?' " Buster says with a twinkle in his eye. "They may get around me in the corners, but I'll just blow by them. Then they feel like they'll catch back up with me in the next corner, but most of the time, I'm already gone.
"When I took it to a time-attack event, my instructor asked me to slow down because it was scaring him," Buster continued with a laugh. "This car is the biggest thing in terms of size on the track."
Buster was offered this classic Impala as payment for a paintjob he did for a customer a little over 15 years ago. The offer was hard to turn down. Not only was this the same kind of car that he had earned his driver's license in, but it was also an original Super Sport.
"It was light blue with a white vinyl top, and it had a 327 with a Powerglide in it," Buster says. "My mom had a plain Jane car like this that I learned to drive in. It wasn't perfect, but it was a good little get-around car. I drove it for two years before parking it. My plan was to do a nice restoration, so I started collecting parts for itùand that was the hardest part by far."
As it was, the car was in fine enough condition for many people. It came nicely equipped from the factory with aggressive fastback styling, air conditioning, power steering, and numerous safety improvements such as a collapsible steering column. Even so, this 327-cid, 275hp Super Sport tended to be overlooked in collector's eyes by the bigger 427 version that debuted for the first time that year.
Pulling a fullsize 4,100-lb car like this would be a load for any small-block, especially on a racetrack. Buster decided that a modern-day big-block would be the answer. When the ZZ502 crate engine with the oval-port aluminum cylinder heads became available, Buster was one of the first in line to get one. With 502 peak horsepower and 567 lb-ft of torque from 92-octane pump gas, this was just the engine combination for a classic fullsize street car.
While the new crate engine provided more than enough motivation for this Impala, Buster realized early on that he would have to upgrade other areas as well for it to be a balanced performance. Kooks Custom Headers devised an exit strategy for the exhaust that utilized 3-inch stainless steel tubing, an X-shaped crossover, and high-flow mufflers.
Mike Graham from Virginia Speed put together a Turbo TH350 automatic with a mild shift kit and an ATI 2,600-stall converter, and then replaced the stock differential with an Auburn rear with 3.42:1 gears.
Handling was substantially improved with the addition of some beefy aftermarket sway bars and KYB gas shocks. To improve the braking, a Master Power Chevy power front disc-brake kit that features oversize cross-drilled/slotted rotors was bolted to the original drum spindles. The back end features a Master Power rear drum-brake kit as well with cryogenically treated 11-inch drums.
Seventeen-inch Cragar rims shod with Goodyear F1 rubbers helped provide plenty of "stick" on both the street and road courses.