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1963 Chevy Impala - A 750-Horse Family Heirloom

If only Aunt Emma Could See Her Impala Now!

Jim Campisano Apr 3, 2013
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Brian Smith's Great Aunt Emma bought this Impala new in Reno, Nevada, in 1963. Like many an Impala back then, it was powered by the reliable-yet-unremarkable 230ci six/Powerglide combination. It served her well for 11 years until she gave up driving. Aunt Emma, a retired schoolteacher at this point, turned her baby over to Brian's mother, who made it her daily driver until handing the keys to Brian when he got his license in 1977.

No doubt about it, we've heard a million different variations of this story over the years. Raise your hands—how many of you got a hand-me-down Chevy for your first car? Unlike most, however, Brian never got rid of this full-size bomber, and it eventually ended up as the street fighter/show winner you see here. And though you may find this shocking, the straight-six has since been replaced with a 750hp, all-aluminum Brodix 572. If only Aunt Emma could see her Impala now!

Brian, a locksmith from Las Vegas, vividly remembers the day he and his father picked up the car in Reno and tried to drive it 200 miles back to their home in the Bay Area in California. It was the stereotypical "little old lady's car" with only 16,000 ticks on the odometer.

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"It had probably never been on the highway and probably no one ever sat in the back seat. All she used it for was driving to school and the grocery store. My dad got it up to about 50 mph and all four tires started coming apart," Brian says. "We had to pull over and get towed so we could put new tires on it."

From that inauspicious beginning, however, a lasting relationship was born. The white-over-black Impala became a permanent part of Brian's life. The good times were many and a love affair grew.

"Though in high school it wasn't the fastest car on the road, I certainly have fond memories it," relates Brian, whose adventures in the B-body could probably fill a book. "For example, I used to disconnect the speedometer and tell the folks I was spending the night at a friend's house a few miles away. Little did they know that I was on my way up to Lake Tahoe, 225 miles away with a trunk load of firewood and provisions for a weekend of camping. From my high school camping trips alone, there is probably an extra 5,000 miles on the car that my folks did not know about.

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We'd say mission accomplished on that last part, but there's a lot more to the story than that. The Impala has consistently been hot rodded and upgraded through the years, including the addition of a Weiand-blown 327 and 15-inch Rally wheels. Ultimately, it was going to be turned over to Brian's son when he turned 16, but the rebuild that started in 1998 quickly got too far out of hand. Once the owner started pulling the vehicle apart, he just couldn't stop himself—it turned into a frame-off-restoration. Brian felt it would be too nice for his son to use as his high-school car.

"The reproduction side moldings were $500 and thinner than stock," he recalls. "I couldn't let the car sit in a high school parking lot.

Everything was sandblasted and painted. Brian credits his friend Anthony "Bud" Larsen with giving him pointers on how to prepare each piece, then letting him use his facility and equipment to get it ready to paint. Bud allowed Brian to use a corner of his bodyshop to get the Impala up to snuff—not that there was a ton work to do. The body was rust free. Brian smoothed out a bunch of door dings, lined up and hung the doors, hood, and trunk, blocked the body, etc. Then Bud applied the basecoat/clearcoat Ermine White paint. Every piece of rubber, door and window gaskets, dash, headliner and upholstery was replaced by Brian.

Once Brian and his wife, Lise, realized the car wouldn't be their son's driver, it was decided to put something with a little more oats under the hood. To that end, Brian contacted Nelson Racing for a full-on, tire-destroying Rat. The Brodix aluminum 10.2-inch deck height block has both a 4.50-inch bore and stroke. The 9.8:1 compression makes it pump-gas friendly and a solid roller with 0.678-inch intake and 0.688 exhaust lift opens the valves in the CNC-ported Brodix aluminum heads. A Holley 1050 Progressive Dominator sits atop a Brodix single plane intake. On the pump, the output was 752 hp at 6,100 rpm and 700 lb-ft of torque at 4,900. It makes 665 lb-ft at 3,600. Oof.

The biggest hurdle was finding headers that would fit with the tall-deck block and the factory frame. Stainless Headers Inc. of Fargo, North Dakota, supplied Brian with flanges and collectors. Using these, he designed and built the tubes with PVC tubing and sent Stainless Headers the model. The folks there built a set of 21/8-inch 304 stainless headers that fit perfectly in the car. A set of Doug's Headers electric cutouts supplies lots of noise (but only when it's really wanted). Performance Muffler of Las Vegas fabricated the 3-inch aluminized exhaust, which uses Magnaflow mufflers and an X-shaped crossover.

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Backing the 572 is a Jake's Performance-built 4L80-E with with paddle shifters. A Denny's 3-inch aluminum driveshaft sends the power to a Moser Engineering 9-inch with a Trac Loc diff and 4.11 gears (assembled by the owner).

Brian reupholstered the front and rear seats himself with OE replacement covers. The biggest deviation is the Billet Specialties 15.5-inch steering wheel, Twist Machine shifter paddles, and Auto Meter Ultra Lite gauges. There's a modern stereo/CD player hidden in the glovebox.

A Ride Tech air suspension gives Brian infinite height adjustability for the Impala. Ride Tech Shockwave shocks and tubular control arms up front are aided by a Hotchkis 1.25-inch sway bar. Out back are Ride Tech black series shocks, air bag and a 1 inch Hotchkis sway bar. Stopping this magnificent giant are Baer 13-inch brakes (four-piston calipers in front and two-piston calipers in the rear. Tires are Michelin Pilot Sports (225/45ZR18 and 275/35ZR20) on Boyd Coddington Genesis wheels (18x7 with 5 inches of backspacing front, 20x10 with 6 inches of backspacing out back.

For now, all that's left for Brian to do is put the screws to the Impala at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He's anxious to see what it'll do, but has had to put this off because of a broken right ankle.

As for his son, Alan? He got a used Crown Victoria instead.

Sucp 1304 07 1963 Chevy Impala Passenger Side 9/9



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