IMPALA DOWNUNDER

Posted by on 07/03/2011 in Restoration Stories | Short Link

By Peter Taylor. Member # 039297
Written for Late Great Chevy Magazine Orlando Florida USA

My association with Chevrolets began in 1962 when my old man bought me a 1926 Superior K Tourer, which had been cut down in typically Aussie fashion, to a “UTE”. The car and I were inseparable for the next three years on the blacksoil plains of outback New South Wales. I then left
home and spent 20 odd years in the Aussie Air Force (RAAF). It was in 1988 that another Chevrolet came into my care.

This time, a very sad 1929 Tourer that had had the “UTE” treatment also. I figured that 4 to 6 years later I would be driving this beauty to all the club events I could find. How fickle life really is. Four ladies in my life and 5 houses later, the ’29 was still not complete, and far from it, as we entered 1999. I needed a car to participate in club events while the ’29 was being restored.

I received a chance phone call from a young lass in the southwest of Western Australia with a 1963 Chevrolet Impala 4 door pillarless (hardtop) that needed some TLC and was going for a song. As I was now living in Perth, Western Australia, it seemed like a good idea for a 3 hour trip to have a look. My lady (now my wife) on first sight of the car made comment on it looking like a “piece of S..T!” However, although in need of work it was straight and it “appeared” to be all there. She couldn’t argue really as I told her I had just bought it for her as a 50th birthday present. Some 3 –4 months and a couple of thousand dollars and we would have a car to drive to club events. That way it doesn’t matter how long the ’29 takes.

Well, this is what really happened.

Have you ever started a project. All excited, high with expectations of the outcome, set a realistic date to complete said project??? You have??.

Having started that project with all your expectations, totally excited, the finish date you set is only 3-4 months away and you encounter —A CAN OF WORMS!! It really tests one’s patience, good humour and general pleasant disposition to life. It really tests your faith in (sorry ladies) mankind. This ’63 has produced that many cans of worms that I nearly closed my Handy Man business and started a “Worm Farm”!

Every single last item on this car that was looked at produced that “Can of Worms”. It didn’t fit. It was broken. It was the wrong piece. It was missing. It was the wrong size. It was too hard to fix, they don’t make them anymore and the bloke that should have a part, didn’t. AHH! Salvation came in the form of the “Late Great Chevy Club”. After a number of phone calls and faxes to Danny Howell, I finally got the parts that were just not available in Oz. When found, the Impala had been sitting in a hay shed for 9 years. The upholstery had been re trimmed with imported material by a previous owner, he had completely sand blasted and primed the underneath. New brake shoes had been fitted and a 6 cylinder “Blue Flame engine installed, probably in order to overcome the rising cost of petrol back in the 80’s. The young couple who then bought the car attempted to fit what they thought was a 327ci V8 and dropped it into the engine bay. I mean they “Dropped” it in from about 3 feet. The car was pushed into the shed and left there.

When I got the car home I stripped it down to the bare body shell on the chassis and mechanically restored what was necessary. The light “pink” enamel paint job wasn’t the best but it would have to do until I could afford to re spray it. Well, 13 months later and well over $10k (Aus) she was ready for registration. Over the Police pits and a couple of minor alterations and we had a Chevrolet on the road.

During that 13 months we rebuilt the engine (it turned out to be a 1962 cast 283ci V8) which was minus things like the starter motor, alternator, battery, manifolds, exhaust system, fuel pump and radiator shroud. A non genuine radiator was fitted. The brakes had to be completely redone. All wheel cylinders were seized and brake hoses perished. The tail shaft had to be remade to fit the V8, and the diff whined liked a high note from Yehudi Menuhin. Do you know how hard it is to find V8 mounting towers in Australia? I had to remodel the 6 cylinder towers, and when I found Late Great Chevy, things got decidedly easier from there on in. The Aussie $$ exchange rate at that time was the only negative.

We used the car for two years in it’s pink livery, she was affectionately known as the “Tea Lady’s Pink Lady”, my wife being the Chevrolet Club Tea Person. We have run up some 10000 miles without a hitch, the car is a beautiful cruiser and rides very comfortably on 225-65-R14 radial tyres instead of the original 750×14 cross plys. We fitted a 350 Holley carburetor to overcome some tuning and mileage problems and we now get around 22MPG on our trips.

In January 2002, I stripped the car again for a complete repaint. Cutting back to bare metal, I panel beat and filled, primed and painted the entire car in COB acrylic. The colour chosen is the General Motors Holden Caprice colour of 1999, Granada Red. This colour is striking
against the chrome and stainless trim. The Bumpers were re chromed, rear valance panel and grill re anodised with NOS Impala side trim. Weather proofing completed with new ¼ vent, door and hard rail rubbers (Ex LGC). I had the car lowered 2 ½ inches and now it sits
and feels even better on the road. We use the car every weekend and enjoy the admiring looks we get. It is not a show car. In Oz there are relatively few people who restore cars for the sole purpose of showing them. In true Chevy fashion we show ours to everybody and anybody who is out and about.

In Australia, and I guess the same is true for Chevrolets exported to other countries, the 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964 Bel Air and Impalas all had the same dash, steering column and column mounted gear lever for the power glide transmission.. There was some minor relocation of Temp and Air switches but all else remained the same. Your readers will note that the dash is not like anything you had in the US. They came from the 1961 Pontiac. All Bel Air models were assembled by General Motors Holdens.

The absolute majority of Chevrolets imported into Australia from year dot to the early sixties were in KD (knocked down) or CKD (completely knocked down) condition and were then assembled in Australia or fitted with Holden bodies in order to prop up the fledgling Australian industry. A number of Impalas were imported during 1961 – 1964 by General Motors Holden as the top of the range vehicle for that year. All these vehicles came from the Tarrytown plant in New York, completely assembled and carrying the imprint on the data plate “EX-RHD”. These vehicles were all 4 door hardtops fitted with 195BHP 283ci V8 engines coupled to a 2 speed power glide and 3.55:1 ratio differential (rear axle)

A small number of 2 door Impala Convertibles were imported by dealers as “EX- RHD” ex Canada.

This ’63 Impala carries the number 31839T177114.

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