Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Red 65 Impala Rod

For the auto industry in the United States, 1965 was a great year. Sales were at record levels, the Ford Mustang was defining a completely new genre and both Ford and GM introduced full-size cars that were virtually all-new from bumper to bumper.

While Ford designers went in an angular direction, GM countered with what was referred to as “Coke-bottle styling” with the rear third of their full-size cars kicked up in the rear. This styling treatment looked especially good on models featuring pillar-less hardtop greenhouses and the convertible models that topped the Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac lineups, all looking especially graceful.

From all of the many choices, the Chevy Impala, especially the SS two-door hardtop, seems to stand out from the crowd.

This sense of style has not been lost on Bobby Jackson of Ventura, California. Jackson, a retired truck driver, has focused his spare time on building an award-winning 1965 Impala SS two-door hardtop. With the help of his wife Alisa and his three grown children, Dathan, Anitra and Chennelle, the car’s evolution from a solid rust-free Impala to the showstopper seen here is complete.

Bobby’s taste in cars was influenced by his father and, to a lesser degree, his uncles. Growing up, he noted that all of them spent time keeping their rides in tip-top shape, trading up whenever possible and seemingly in competition with each other to have the best-prepped ride. Early on, he saw their pride in their cars and how their cars made each feel special.

Bobby shared his first car, a 1952 Ford four-door, with his brother. Coming of age in the mid-’60s, he was smitten with the Mustang. At the same time, he was smitten by an interest in the opposite sex and realized you are what you drive. He was equally smitten by his first 1965 Impala and he noted that its shape found favor with the ladies.

After getting married and three kids later, Bobby decided just before his retirement it was time to get another 1965 Impala. He found a car on Craigslist in 2004 in San Francisco. It was a very original car, Van Nuys, California-built, first purchased in Northern California at Montgomery Chevrolet. Bobby still has the original license plate and frame.

“The car was in stock condition when I bought it,” says Bobby. “It had very little rust but along the way it received an engine swap from a 327 to a 350. With my retirement just a year away, I decided to do a full body-off restoration so I got busy and had half the job done just before retiring.”

The project went forward, but not without detours along the way. There were bad body shops that didn’t follow through. “It wasn’t until I hooked up with Brandon Echols that the project really came together,” says Bobby. “Brandon is responsible for the fantastic body and paint job.”

The underhood area received a lot of attention. Out went the tired 350, replaced with a 350 crate engine. Upgrades included a COMP XE274 cam, an MSD distributor, Edelbrock RPM performance dual-carb intake, RPM Performance 70cc heads, March Performance serpentine belt kit with Hot Rod Air A/C setup, and a Be Cool radiator with SPAL dual fans. Other upgrades included a pair of Hedman headers, a Tuff Stuff brake booster and master cylinder, Baer brakes, and Flowmaster mufflers.

The Turbo 350 transmission hooks up with the rolling stock that starts with classic American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels. The look is timeless even though the wheels (18 inches up front, 20 inches in the rear) are quite a bit bigger than the 15-inch wheels found on the car in 1965. BFGoodrich tires (245/40-18 up front, 295/40-20 in the rear) give the car a forward rake that works well with the overall stance.

The rear axle is 12-bolt main, with an Eaton posi-traction set-up with 3.08 gears. Upgrades were done by Coast Driveline of Ventura, California. Exhaust came courtesy of Pettigrew Muffler of Oxnard. The grille, headlights and bumpers were chromed by Advanced Plating of Tennessee, with the rest of the exterior trim supplied by both Classic Industries and Impala Bob’s.

The interior stands out in every way, featuring a two-tone leather treatment by Superior Upholstery in Camarillo, California. Inside, you’ll find the controls for the RideTech air suspension system, a complete set of Auto Meter gauges, a B&M shift kit, and the high-powered and sweet-sounding Alpine audio system. A Ron Francis wiring harness ties together the 12-volt necessities.

When Bobby took us for a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, we couldn’t help but notice the attention to detail at every turn. It was as if someone applied modern luxury car treatments to a mainstream GM full-size car.

A 1976 shade of Ferrari Red was the paint choice with the clearcoat blended with 1986 Honda Red. With the early morning sunrise just coming over the mountains to the east, the depth of the paint is simply unbelievable.

“This car was built to drive and that’s exactly what I do. I drive it to all shows, it’s never been on a trailer,” says Bobby with a measure of pride. “The first thing people notice about my car is the bright red paint and straight body lines. Then, they notice the interior and engine and custom taillights. Props go out to Alan Palmer of Palmer’s Customs in Camarillo, who helps to keep my car special.”

Many agree that it is one of the finest mid-’60s Impalas ever encountered.