As the author of many of these “What Are You Working On?” articles, I’ve built several over the past 20 years. Me, and my brother, Dan, are currently working on a ’63 Chevy Impala.
The ’63 Impala was an opportunity that knocked…we had built a ‘52 Willys as a Lark, just to see what we could do with a vehicle like that. So me, being an artist, illustrated the car as a ‘gasser,’ including the wild paint job.
Left: The '52 Willys in faded flat black. Body was rust-free and relatively straight. Right: The illustration of the Willys "gasser" before the build commenced.
The build took 18 months, start to finish. The Willys debuted at the Pueblo, Colorado, NSRA event in June, 2016, and got kudos and ‘love it’ simply because it wasn’t a ‘serious’ car. Dan and I had all kinds of humorous sayings (done in vinyl) on it –“ The Ho-Hum Motivation Crew,” “Never judge a book by its cover,” “If it isn’t fun, why do it?” and “This is your Granpaw’s Willys!”
There were fake items adding to the gasser ‘look’ – the moon tank wasn’t hooked up, the hood scoop had eyeballs in the opening looking back at you and a “What are you looking in here for?” lettered inside the scoop. The scoop was simply bolted on (hood wasn’t cut open), the Ford headers in the fender wells were simply bolted to the inner panels (not hooked up), the tach on the dash wasn’t wired, the “chromed” straight axle wasn’t chrome at all – it was vinyl), but the funniest (or funnest) part was that it wasn’t a V8 as the headers suggested. A 1977 Buick V6 with a 200 4R behind it running into an 8-inch Ford Maverick rearend made up the powertrain. It was fun to drive!
In October, 2016, Chuck Kumalaa in Ohio put up an ad wanting to trade his partially built ’63 Impala for something, anything, to drive summer, 2017. I contacted Chuck, conversation ensued and pictures went back and forth. He loved the Willys, said it was the right color – orange, his favorite, and we chatted via phone. Thru-out the conversation it was learned he’d built the car over a six year period and had yet to drive it because it wasn’t finished. Dan and I give credit to Chuck for the majority of the build on the ’63. He had the 427” big block engine built and added a brand new M21 four-speed and a 3:55 Posi. The engine currently has less than 100 miles on it.
Left: The finished interior of the Willys 'Gasser'. Aluminum door panels and aluminum console. Saturn buckets fit like they were made for it. Right: The unfinished interior of the Impala.
Chuck had the floors, rockers, trunk, fenders and both quarters replaced. A new wiring kit had been installed and he’d purchased new SS side trim, SS cove trim, a repro grille, new taillights, dash trim and a couple of used SS buckets and consoles. The entire chassis had been redone (a body-off) with quality parts and disc brakes were added up front. The car, as it sat when we picked it up, simply needed finishing. We were quite aware more money would need to be spent, but finishing the car (paint and interior ) was the easy part.
After all the photos going back and forth and questions answered on both sides, Chuck said, “Let’s trade. Straight across!” We agreed but Chuck said he had no way to get the ‘63 to Denver, Colorado. The response was, ‘Don’t worry, we have an enclosed trailer, we’ll bring the Willys to you.”
Left: The Impala minus the fenders and inners, yet to be re-done. Right: The 427" big block complete with chromed Sanderson headers and 2.5 inch stainless exhaust. Note the red-that went away soon after it arrived.
Two days travel to Ohio, the we unloaded the Willys and drove the running Impala into the trailer. Chuck’s storage shed was emptied of Impala parts – we filled the back of the Silverado pickup with old and new ’63 Impala parts. On the way home we debated how to finish the car and, as it turned out, there was a bit more work to ‘finishing’ the car than we first anticipated. But, we’re not complaining since both Dan and I are Chevy guys.
The first thing they did after unloading the car was sand the red paint off (I’mnot a fan of red). Then we pulled the primered fenders, blocked the old primer, re-primed them, painted the inner panels and put ‘em back on. The repro grille was installed next and headlights and doors. The old primer on the hood was blocked, re-primed, the underside painted black and bolted on.
We were worried the hood wouldn’t fit since the big block had a riser manifold, 4-barrel carb and K& N filter. After adjusting the hood, we found it had 3/8-inch of clearance. The dash was next –not a fan of the factory black, it was sanded and painted the first of the two-tone colors we had picked out –Hyundai Copper Beige. Neither Dan or I are a fan of factory stock, so the two SS consoles that came with the car went up for sale – a new one would be built. The doors were next –removed, old primer blocked and re-primed. In the process red was removed from the jambs, sealed and painted the second color they chose – Chrysler Mango-Tango.
Left: Jambed in the second color-Chrysler Mango Tango. Right: The dash in Hyundai Copper Beige.
We usually only work on a car on weekends so it’s not like it’s an everyday obsession to get the car done. The goal is Spring or early Summer. We’ve been working on the car since November 1st, 2016 and are in no hurry.
After the doors were hung and adjusted, we tackled the trunk – one of the original rear coves was crooked when the repro quarter was installed. It was cut out and replaced with a new cove. The driver’s side was replaced as well. Since the trunk had been replaced, the floor was scuffed and new spackle paint was sprayed, now it looks new. The trunk lid was blocked, re-primed, adjusted and the roof was blocked and re-primed after that. The Impala’s quarters were primed and the car guide-coated. The car is to be painted by a good friend, Dave Pareso of Back Street Kustoms in Fountain, Colorado.
Left: The new dash cover, kustom covered by CB Auto Trim of Denver. They will do the rest of the interior and headliner. Right: The Hyundai color on the inside of the trunk.
After the car is painted, the bucket seats will have been upholstered and the interior door panels should be ready to be put back in. The headliner will be kustom made of the same vinyl used on the seats and the carpet will be loop and a color to match.
The Impala in its final primer with guide coat covering it. Blocking is next and then paint.
Chuck sent an e-mail awhile ago – asked when the car would be finished so he could come to Denver and give it a test drive. We told him the goal and at this time we are right on schedule. He told us he’d taken the Willys to its first car event in April and won “DJ’s Choice.” He’s happy with the Willys and told me he was going to drive the car the way it is this year and maybe put a real V8 in it next year. He’s happy, Dan and I are happy…the best part of a trade is it works well when both parties felt they got the best deal!
Roger and Dan have a lot of work ahead, and will have even more stories to tell. It all starts with a project, and if you’ve got one you’re working on, share it with us! Send us an email and yours could be the next project featured in “What Are You Working On?”.