By on May 19, 2011


I put in four years and thousands of posts at Jalopnik, writing about most of my formative cars… but never once did I write the story of the car that served me longest, gave me the most miles, endured the most engine swaps, and generally laid claim to a bigger piece of my heart than all the rest of my motley lifetime fleet combined: a 1965 Chevrolet Impala sedan, built at the long-defunct South Gate Assembly Plant in Los Angeles, equipped with a 283/Powerglide drivetrain, and painted Artesian Turquoise. Today, at last, the story begins.

I bought it with tax-refund money during my senior year of college, with the idea that it would serve as my canvas for a high-concept mixed-media performance/installation art project (don’t worry, my version of an art car isn’t a ’79 New Yorker with plastic army men hot-glued all over it). This it did, helping pry loose a degree from the Regents of the University of California, and then it— totally unexpectedly— won me over and became a more-or-less bulletproof daily driver that put 100,000 miles under its wheels during the following decade. It moved me and all my possessions across the country and back, earned me the nickname “Mad Max” from my coworkers at Year One, survived the rigors of living on the streets of San Francisco, and accepted parts from hundreds of junkyard donors. By the end, it sported a three-dimensional patina that would make the most inked-up Billetproof hipster swoon with envy, and it was knocking off mid-13s at the strip with a low-buck small-block. It’s going to take a while to relate the entire story, so check in after this weekend’s LeMons race (part of the six-races-in-seven-weeks 24 Hours of LeMons Springtime Death March) to get the next installment.
Next: The Purchase.

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17 Comments on “Art Car to Daily Driver to Drag Racer: 10 Years of My 1965 Impala Hell Project...”


  • avatar

    Somehow it’s lovely. Despite having a prndl

  • avatar

    Let us away, O CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN!

  • avatar

    No amount of industry “coverage” can compare to the stories of passionate owners. Kudos to you, sir. Looking forward to the rest of this series.

  • avatar
    erik_t

    Is/was this the one with the glorious trunk handle-rack?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Impalas to the Apacolypse, Baby. (Ohhhhhhhhh good name for an album, just give me credit in the liner notes, OK?)

  • avatar
    340-4

    Spent 15 years with a ’68 Caprice. Right there with ya.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I drove a 66 Parisienne for twelve years. That would be a Canadian Pontiac with a PRNDL and a 283. It died from a terminal case of frame rot in 1985

  • avatar
    MarkT

    ’68 Impala 4 door 283/Powerslide. Was that a two speed auto? We used to comfortably fit seven teens in that beast.

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      My parents’ first new car was a ’68 Impala SS 327, the car my mom took me to preschool in. (My assumption is that my dad, who had previously had a ’65 Le Mans with a 326 and 4-on-the-floor, had a heavy hand in picking it out, the last time that would happen with the family mainstay.) And yes, it was a beast.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    This outta be interesting indeed, this series.

    My first car in HS was a ’68 Chrysler Newport 4 door sedan, sadly, not the hardtop variant but a Newport none the less and while I didn’t have it for more than a couple of years, I spent many an hour working on that car though. Such good times!

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    How much cooler is TTAC with Murilee?

  • avatar
    nikita

    We had a ’65 Impala wagon when I got my license, 327/PG. It could transport a dozen teenagers and it saw serious offroad duty in the California desert. The 327 did have an appetite for 100+ octane gas. A 283 would have been cheaper, but less fun.

  • avatar

    You can tell right away whence the ideas for Volga GAZ-24 were stolen. Too bad they did not also steal a decent V-8 and had to do with a pathetic 4-banger. Ruined the whole thing.

    • 0 avatar
      MoppyMop

      They did design their own V8, but it was KGB-only. According to Cars of the Soviet Union (an excellent read, if you can get around the not-always-thinly-disguised Soviet apologism), the designers also wanted to give it a V6 but the Party said nyet.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    One of my best friends at the top of my street had one of these – a 2 door sedan. His dad bought it as an extra car for the family, as most of the kids still at home (3) were about to reach driving age – my friend already had, and this car was a Biscayne. As stripper as a stripper could get! Mist green with a kind of matching interior – the seat coverings were even printed with a tuck-and-roll pattern! Looked pretty convincing more than 6 feet away, too. 283 cu. in., powerglide. Thing was, that car almost literally flew! We had lots of fun blowing the doors off just about anything we came up against that wasn’t a factory hot rod! To add to that, my buddy put a shift kit and it raced even better. Lots of people dismiss the powerglides, but this one was special. It did have an AM radio, which was really important in those days (1969)! A real sleeper.

  • avatar
    M 1

    Can I get that first picture desktop wallpaper-sized???


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