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.
1. So It Begins.
1990: My high-concept performance/installation art piece takes the form of a full-hooptie, 25-year-old Impala sedan.
2. The Modifications Begin
1990: Fat tires, de-chromification, de-trimization.
3. Lowering Property Values
1990: Where art becomes The Realtor Man’s Nightmare.
4. Saddam Chooses My New Engine
1990: Forced to ditch my plan for a 454-cubic-inch big-block swap by Saddam’s gas-price-jacking invasion of Kuwait, I replace the tired 283 with a 350 small-block.
5. Three Speeds, Two Exhaust Pipes
1990: The Powerglide gets replaced by a TH350, while a homebuilt dual-exhaust system increases the volume.
6. Gauges! Switches! Buttons!
1991: The factory dash gets ripped out and replaced by a handbuilt Space Shuttle-style instrument panel.
7. Disc Brakes In, Couch-Surfing Expedition Enabled
1991: The brakes from a 1970 Impala add stopping power, an HEI distributor enhances reliability, so I take off on a month-long couch-surfing trip up and down the state of California, culminating in a road trip to the first Lollapalooza Festival.
8. Refinements, Meeting Christo’s Umbrellas
A heater and new springs makes the car much more daily-drivable, and so I visit Christo’s pedestrian-killing umbrella art installation in Southern California.
9. Fastening Shoulder Belts, Bailing From Academia
1992: Three-point seat belts added, I drive the Impala to grad school.
10. Fiat Hood Scoops, Endless Ribbon of Asphalt
1992: Fiat X1/9 hood scoops add menace, zero function. North-to-South California road trips continue.
11. Son of Orange County
1993-1994: Generation X ennui, pilgrimage to the birthplace of Richard Nixon upon learning of his demise.
12. Next Stop, Atlanta!
1994-1995: Packing up, moving from San Francisco to Atlanta.
13. Mad Max At the Confederate Mount Rushmore
1995: Writing for Year One, getting a new nickname.
14. First Taste of the Quarter-Mile
1995-1996: Running 16s at the dragstrip.
15. No Replacement For Displacement!
1996-1998: Back to California, building a healthy 406.
16. Another Heart Transplant
The new engine goes in.
17. Crash Diet, Frying Tires At the Dragstrip
1999: New engine installed, interior gutted, one-legger differential becomes limiting factor.
18. Back To the Dragstrip, Website 1999
1999: Locker differential leads to 13.67 run at Sacramento Dragway.
19. The Road Not Taken, Final Photo Session
1999: Thinking I might write about the car someday, I shoot some nice portraits at the ex-Alameda Naval Air Station.
20. The End
2000: Time to let go.

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3 Comments on “Ten Years In the Life of My Greatest Car: The 1965 Chevy Impala Hell Project!...”

  • avatar

    Murilee, running across this series earlier this year is the main reason I got hooked on TTAC. You’re my car-guy hero, sir–please give us more on the Plymouth, the A100, whatever! and don’t slow down on the Junkyard Finds.

  • avatar

    Saved to my Car Stories File.


  • avatar

    I need to get back to scanning some more of my old photos. And, yeah, writing about my current projects. Right now the A100 is up on jack stands in the garage with the transmission out, the ’41 Plymouth is a bare frame with Lexus suspension thinking about getting attached, the B18C1 engine is sitting next to the A100 while I get around to readying the Civic for the swap, and the 20R Sprite got sold six months ago.

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