By on February 18, 2014

10 - 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAs most of you know, I have some history with the 1965 full-sized Chevrolet. Back in 1990, when I bought mine, these cars were still very common in high-turnover wrecking yards; this was the result of high production (in fact, more 1965 full-sized Chevrolets were built than any other single year/model of American car in history) and low scrap value. Today, however, shredders that turn scrap cars into quick cash (I recommend this book to anyone curious about the recent technological advances in the scrap-metal field) mean that beat-up old Detroit heaps that aren’t worth restoring get funneled right into The Crusher‘s voracious maw. I find the occasional 60s full-size Chevy in wrecking yards these days, but 25 years ago they were as common as are Chrysler LHs today. That makes today’s find, a rust-and-Bondo-nightmare ’65 Bel Air coupe, even more special. (Read More…)

By on June 29, 2013

Since it took me so many months to scan the hundreds of 35mm, 126, 110, and Super 8 negatives and slides that went into the telling of the 1965 Impala Hell Project Story (tip for time-travelers: if you’re going to document a project like this, wait until digital photography becomes cheap and easy), I figure it makes sense to put together a single roundup page with links to all 20 parts in the series. For those of you unfamiliar with this series, it tells the story of a 1965 Chevrolet Impala sedan that I bought in 1990 and spent a decade daily-driving and modifying into, among other things, an art car and a 13-second drag racer. Here’s your portal to each chapter. (Read More…)

By on January 13, 2012

More than a month has passed since Part 19 of the Impala Hell Project series, partly because I’ve been getting sliced up by sadistic doctors and flying on Elvis-grade prescription goofballs but mostly because the final chapter has been so difficult to write. Here goes! (Read More…)

By on November 18, 2011

After getting the car to run 13s in the quarter-mile with the new engine, I found myself— at age 33— in a sort of “what am I doing with my life?” period of agonizing reappraisal. Ten years of the Impala Hell Project absorbing most of my creative horsepower, and what had I really accomplished with all that work? (Read More…)

By on November 10, 2011

Summer, 1999: I’d managed to get the Impala into the 14s, barely, with a screamin’ 406-cubic-inch small-block under the hood, but I knew the car would do much better with more traction. Meanwhile, my desire to tell the car’s story coincided with a job move into the maelstrom of dot-com madness. (Read More…)

By on November 3, 2011

After dropping the hopped-up 406 small-block I’d built from scratch in place of the worn-out 350 I’d swapped in 1990, I was geared up to take the car to the dragstrip and see if I could better the high-16-second ETs I’d managed in Atlanta; an important part of this process involved stripping a lot of unnecessary weight out of the car. At the same time (early 1999) I was reevaluating the Impala Hell Project’s role in my life, and thinking about how I might best realize my original vision for the car which had gone from art project to daily driver. (Read More…)

By on October 17, 2011

After painstakingly building a medium-hot 406-cubic-inch small-block engine to replace the Impala’s very tired 350 (motivated by the car’s lackluster quarter-mile performance), 1998 became 1999. Finally the New Engine was ready for swapping. (Read More…)

By on October 6, 2011

Before packing up the Impala and leaving Georgia in the fall of 1996, I took the car to Atlanta Dragway and ran some semi-disappointing low-17-second quarter-mile passes. Back in California, I resolved to make some improvements to the car’s running gear. After 15 years as a cheapskate, junkyard-centric gearhead, I was finally willing to spend substantial cash for new aftermarket performance parts. The main question was: what kind of engine would I build? (Read More…)

By on September 29, 2011

After I moved from San Francisco to Atlanta and then got a job writing Year One’s catalogs, rubbing elbows with all those drag-race-crazed Southern gearheads on the job meant that it wasn’t long before I took the Impala to the dragstrip. (Read More…)

By on September 22, 2011

After I hauled all my stuff 2,500 miles in the Impala and settled in Georgia, it was time for me to go job-hunting. After a few boring office-temp jobs, I spotted an ad that got my attention: Copywriter needed to write catalogs for large auto-parts company. Must know classic American cars. Within minutes of showing up for my interview at Year One, I had my first full-time writing job… and a nickname inspired by my car: Mad Max. (Read More…)

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