When it comes to helping enthusiasts put old cars back on the road, few companies offer the wide-ranging and diverse background that Speedway Motors has. Speedy Bill started the company in 1952, with a strong feeling of passion. That appetite to restore machinery to its glory has never waned since then.
To celebrate the essence of Speedway Motors — the thing that makes the company thrive — they have been producing a video series called “Employee’s Rides.” It is not mandatory to own a project car to work at the company, but anyone that is employed inherently has the car bug.
The Speedway Motors’ team understands the magic of building a car and has experienced the adrenaline thrill of racing a car they put together with their own hands. This month they are applauding Jason Lubken’s 1963 Chevrolet Impala.
The Dream Job
Lubken currently works as a Marketing and Multimedia Specialist in Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed, a dream job for any automotive aficionado. He has worked his way through the automotive industry by starting as a youth, wrenching on anything he could get his hands on. In 2006, Lubken earned an Associates’s Degree in Automotive Technology from Southeast Community College.
His love of cars never stopped growing, neither did the skills he learned to display his automotive passion. From maintenance to becoming a professional car photographer, he has paid his dues behind the camera and turning a wrench. Jason finished his Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln proving that he is more than a “hands-on” guy.
The Dream Car
To understand why the early Chevrolet Impalas are special to most Chevrolet fans, the history of the nameplate has to be understood. In 1958, General Motors was celebrating its 50th year of production with the release of anniversary models for each brand: Cadillac’s Eldorado Seville, Buick’s Limited Riviera, Oldsmobile’s Starfire 98, and the Pontiac Bonneville Catalina were all newsworthy. However, the hero of the anniversary lineup was Chevrolet’s Bel Air Impala.
The country was in the midst of a huge recession at the time, and few families were buying new cars. However, the Impala enticed Americans to fit a new vehicle in their budget. Over 55,989 Impalas were built the first year, which represented 15 percent of Chevrolet’s total production. The Bel Air Impala helped Chevrolet regain the number one production spot, and did so in a recession year. The response was so overwhelming that Chevrolet had to bring the model back in 1959 as a separate model.
The car continued to make strong and lasting impressions in pop culture, from the stylish tail fins of the late ’50s and early ’60s to the bubble tops and high horsepower 409s. This brings us to the 1963 model. Featuring “rectilinear styling,” the ’63 Impalas focused on straight-line movements. While the boxy front end is straight as an arrow, the long, straight deck in the rear is hard to miss. SS models sported chrome borders and the engine choices were the popular 283 and 327 V8s of the time. An optional tach was available, but not many of those were sold. Most hot rodders just added an aftermarket one later.
Robert R. Prechter, Jr., investment analyst, businessman, and social commentator observed in his book The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior that “angular styles sell well in bull markets while rounded lines sell better in bear markets.” Such was the case of the Impala. The US economy was doing well and automobile styles were getting boxier and more rectangular.
“Straight, parallel lines and sharp angles have a definiteness that appeals to people when they are in the mood to solve problems and improve their lives. As the mood rises toward excess, consumers also demand more room, bigger engines, and more sophisticated styling, prompting designers to push the limits of an automobile’s length, width, and height.”
Jason’s Survivor Imp
The Impala was sitting out in a field in Nebraska when Derek Turner discovered the Chevy gradually giving up to nature. Turner bought the car with the intention of restoring it, but like many enthusiasts, there were too many projects and not enough time. Lubken would visit Turner and see the hulk waiting for some care and mention that Turner should sell the car to him. After months of hounding, a deal was made and Lubken was the new owner.
“I set an unrealistic goal of driving the car within a year,” Lubken said. After getting a full dose of reality and taking a complete tally of everything that required work, “I thought, Oh God … what have I gotten myself into?”
Oh God. What have I gotten myself into? – Jason Lubken
Jason’s goal was not to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a show car. He simply wanted to return the car back to roadworthy and reliable condition. “It is a survivor car,” he claims. There are a few upgrades, like the roller cam and valvetrain in the 355 cubic-inch SBC. For the most part, he wanted to keep it old school, and knowing the original engine choices were a 327 or 409, Jason wanted to match the performance as close as practical to the original. It is an “everyman” type of project car and keeping everything within the “everyman” budget meant the rebuilt Gen I SBC was the best choice.
Jason had his hands on everything on his 1963 Impala SS. The small-block engine rebuild, front and rear suspension, drivetrain, body and floor metalwork, exterior glass … pretty much all of it! But he hasn’t been alone in the process. Remember Derek Turner? Not only did he sell the car to Jason, but he has also been there to guide and show him how to build it every step of the way. Impalas just have the ties that bind enthusiasts together.