By on June 1, 2011

In Part 1 of this series, I described the purchase of a 1965 Chevrolet Impala in early 1990, for use as the raw material in a complex performance/installation art piece. Within a single day of taking ownership of the car, I began the process of modifying it to suit my artistic vision.

In harsh daylight, the body damage on the left rear door looked about right for the menacing appeal I had in mind, but those skinny bias-ply tires and Artesian Turquoise 14″ wheels just looked wrong.

The three dog-dish van hubcaps that came with the car added a certain goofy appeal, particularly in the context of UC Irvine’s bulldozed-by-The-Man “middle-class shantytown” trailer park, but they didn’t fit my idea of a car that touched each of the three automotive archetypes I had in mind (cop car/ghetto hooptie/hillbilly drag racer).

Identifying emblems also diluted the generic-steel-boxiness of the car’s image, so I enlisted the help of a cutoff-saw-equipped friend and we removed all but the small leaping-Impala-in-a-circle fender emblems. I thought about ditching the distinctive Impala circular taillights for something more generic (in 1990, 99.99% of ordinary people wouldn’t have recognized the profile of a post-’64 Impala), but didn’t have the heart to remove a styling feature with so much cool.

Flat black spray paint took care of the emblem holes and anything shiny on the car. I added some cryptic serial numbers on the doors, inspired by the numbers I painted on the Phone Police Enforcermobile.

The skinny-tire problem needed a very cheap solution, since I’d spent nearly half of my $400 budget purchasing the car. Fortunately, the friend to whom I’d sold my ’68 Mercury Cyclone still had the universal slotted mags with 295-width Radial TAs that I’d put on the car years before, and he sold them back to me for $50. A quick coat of flat black over the faux-gold coating, and the car looked orders of magnitude better.

The addition of some JC Whitney backup lights and the “No Other Possibility” bumper sticker from Negativland’s A Big 10-8 Place and my Impala was ready for its first real-world performance piece: “Lowering Property Values.” You can see the effect on UCI’s upscale parking lot already!
Next up: Part 3 — Lowering Property Values
1965 Impala Hell Project Roundup

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16 Comments on “1965 Impala Hell Project Part 2: The Modifications Begin...”

  • avatar

    Love the Negativland bumper sticker. Unfortunately, “Car Bomb” isn’t as advisable to play out loud these days as it once was.

  • avatar

    The Negativland bumper sticker just pulls the whole look together…it’s all about the accessories.

  • avatar

    That Citation cowers in the presence of a REAL Chevrolet. (Later, both fall victim to Toyota.)

    • 0 avatar

      That’s not a Citation. That’s my trailer neighbor’s Phoenix!

      • 0 avatar

        Citation, Phoenix, they’re the one and the same! ;-)

        Seriously, I had to replace the driver’s side rear door interior door handle in my Dad’s old 83 Citation and found a black one from a Phoenix and put it in as the parts were one and the same.

        My parents also had an 83 Buick Skylark that they bought new and I have to agree, those X bodies were not all that great.

        As for your 65 Impala, have to agree on those taillights and glad you got the IMPALA as the lesser Biscaynes had the single tail/turn/brake lights instead of the 2 on either side of the backup lights and yes, those things were probably the coolest design element of the entire car! Too bad they were only for one year though.

        Will be interesting to see what you did with it as the series unfolds.

  • avatar

    Shoot, Murilee! I wish I’d had the inspiration of this when I had my old and aged ’77 Corolla. It even had a bullet hole from a police chase that went through my neighborhood in North East DC in the late ’80s. Oh, the things I could have done with that car to make it far cooler than I could have imagined at the time.

    In my defense, I did let my niece and nephew, then 5 and 9 respectively, draw all over it with magic markers. Especially given how stuffy and conventional their parents were, this was a real thrill for them. But unfortunately, it rained later that day, consigning their artwork to oblivion.

  • avatar

    MadMaxRockatansky needs to be painted down the hood in a racing stripe motif. A dozen dolls should drag behind the vehicle at all times. I’d forgotten how ridiculous the disproportion between front and rear overhang was on these babies.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    What I’m loving is the battleship color.

  • avatar

    I was at UCI from ’89 – 94. I lived in those apartments in the back in the last pic…I didn’t know such cool people went to UCI. My friend Garrick lived in that trailer park…it was pretty quite for the most part.

  • avatar

    Is there a kindred Coot dwelling within that camper in the background?

    If there are any nearby dumpsters take care; they may be considered a vittle source.

    I betcha that Chevy would look groovy covered with some astro-turf-type stuff.

    The local Lowes sells it at a reasonable price.

    For extra pizzazz glue some golf balls to the stuff.

    A “kiss my balls’ bumper sticker is optional.

  • avatar

    Something tells me this is not going to be a proper vehicle resotration, rather a candidate for one of those LeMons “races” MM writes so much about.

    I wonder what object will be welded to the roof or trunk lid on this beast? A stuffed impala?

    It’s only a four-door sedan, so it’s not worthy of restoration, anyway, in my book. Only the hardtops and convertibles from that era are worthy of a restoration. All others were deliberately desinged to look ugly and this is no exception.

    Keep the emblems, though, and if the radio works, sell it – it was a $74.00 option!

  • avatar

    I should feel insulted about the Artesian Turquoise wheels looking “all wrong”, since my whole ’65 Impala was that color. I have to agree, though that for an art car, A-T IS all wrong. Besides, a couple people asked me if that was the original color, and one guy told me it was the most awful looking green he’d ever seen. Funny, my ’68 Montego MX was called “seafoam green” but everybody thought it was yellow.

  • avatar

    Please don’t get rid of the car without calling me I am interested in purchasing some parts from the car as 4 door with center post are hard to find. I need several parts to make mine complete. If interested call Joe at 360-888-9445.

    • 0 avatar
      87CE 95PV Type Я


      I am possibly going out on a limb here and calling you a troll, but perhaps I am mistaken. This was in 1990, 21 years ago and Mr. Martin no longer has this car. In this article Mr. Martin says he got rid of his last carbureted car in 2000.

      Seriously, did you really think he still had this car!? Also, posting your phone number is a bad idea, but I will not be calling any time soon.

      Enjoy your car and Western Washington, nice looking place out there.

  • avatar

    My entire car is Artisian Turquoise, for some reason I am going to keep it as is and fight the urge to change the color. My interior is all messed up though and I am in need of door panels, dome light, and a clock inside. I also need about 5 pieces of trim from the exterior.

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