1965 Impala Hell Project Part 2: The Modifications Begin

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

More by Murilee Martin

Join the conversation
3 of 16 comments
  • Liljoe Liljoe on Jun 09, 2011

    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.

    • 87CE 95PV Type 87CE 95PV Type on Jun 12, 2011

      @ liljoe 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. http://ca.jalopnik.com/5551040/why-old-cars-suck 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.

  • Liljoe Liljoe on Jun 09, 2011

    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.

  • Ted Lulis Head gaskets and Toyota putting my kids through college👍️
  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
  • Jalop1991 Here's something EVangelists don't want to talk about, and why range is important: battery warranties, by industry standard, specify that nothing's wrong with the battery, and they won't replace it, as long as it is able to carry 70% or more of its specified capacity.So you need a lot of day 1 capacity so that down the road, when you're at 70% capacity with a "fully functioning, no problem" car, you're not stuck in used Nissan Leaf territory."Nothing to see here, move along."There's also the question of whether any factory battery warranty survives past the original new car owner. So it's prudent of any second owner to ask that question specifically, and absent any direct written warranty, assume that the second and subsequent owners own any battery problems that may arise.And given that the batteries are a HUGE expense, much more so than an ICE, such exposure is equally huge."Nothing to see here, move along."
  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.