Most of us admired our high school crushes from afar. Not Bill Saylors. He saw every square inch of his-up close and in great detail. He even got paid to chase tail-so long as it had flat fins and cat eyes.
Yes, even the life of a lube guy could be great at a Chevrolet dealership in 1959, one of the years Bill worked at North Hollywood's Metropolitan Chevrolet, the dealership his dad managed. You could say those cars' influence was profound; soon after he graduated high school, Bill bought one of the first-year El Caminos. He sold it in the mid-'60s, but another Elky he bought a few years ago got him back into the seat of a '59.
Though he parted ways with that one, too, he amassed a flat-fin flotilla in the meantime. With five '59s in his stable-including two Impala sport coupes, a two-door wagon, an exceedingly rare sedan delivery, and a convertible-Bill has every must-have car Chevrolet made that year. Arguably, these two red-hot sisters are the flagships of the fleet.
Part of this duo's honor goes to Jason Pecikonis, owner of Timeless Kustoms. "You hear horror stories about taking a car to a body shop and it takes forever to get anything done," Bill observed. "Jason usually takes about a year on any one of my cars." But, Timeless is more than just a body shop. "The shop does everything-the fabrication and the engines and so on. Jason's got about 10 guys working for him and he's pretty much a perfectionist." The standard, it seems, is mutual. "It took me a long time-probably five years-before he trusted me enough to put together a car for him," Jason recalled.
Though the Impala preceded the wagon by a year or so, the cars are just about identical from a bug's perspective. The Timeless crew stripped both chassis to their bare frames and welded up the seams. Upon powdercoating them, Jason reassembled each chassis with Air Ride Technologies tubular control arms, rear links, and air-ride systems. Both chassis feature Rancho 9000-series adjustable dampers, Hotchkis antiroll bars, and Wilwood disc brakes because, to paraphrase, Bill likes his cars to only look old.
Both cars feature the same electronic overdrive transmissions, but they're from different sources. The engines bear testimony to that. The Impala's trans and matching LS1 engine came from a wrecked '01 Corvette; the wagon's trans and LS3 arrived in a crate. Despite the greater as-delivered output of the LS3, the Impala's LS1 outperforms it by a smidge on account of a Magnuson Magna Charger. Larry Kraszewski (Camarillo Auto Service) tuned both cars with LS Edit.
The Impala was the first full-build Bill entrusted to Jason. "I found this one at the Pomona swap meet," he mused. "I was looking for one that was pretty solid, but as it always goes, they're never quite as nice as you'd think." According to Jason, "It needed quarters, rockers, and trunk floor . . . pretty much everything you could put into a car."
Despite the extreme lower-region reconstruction, the car's body is largely stock. "I like leaving all the door handles on 'em and all the chrome and stainless and grilles," Bill said. In fact, other than removing the false vent above the rear window and shaving the antennas from the fins, the body is entirely restoration-grade. Jason shot the car Viper Red, commissioned Bumpers Unlimited to brighten up the trim, and restrained himself from going any further.
Like the Impala, the wagon looks pretty standard-issue. But it's not-both its 1959 production and its present-day configuration tell that tale. You just have to understand what you're looking at to know the difference.
For starters, a two-door '59 wagon is as close to unique as a production car can get. That year, GM produced 1,436,954 Chevrolets-the most cars in the General's entire fleet for the season. The Impala Sport Coupes like the ones Bill owns represent two of 164,901 made that year. They're not rare, but they're not exactly everywhere, either. The convertible he also owns is one of 72,765, making it a low-production car in its own right.
But, the two-door longroofs Bill has represent two of the 20,760 passenger wagons or sedan deliveries (the latter constituting-and we're being generous-maybe a quarter of that figure). That's 1.5 percent of total production. To put that into context, consider this: If every single '59 Chevrolet existed at one time, you'd have to see nearly 100 of 'em just to see one two-door wagon or delivery.
Beyond its rarity, "That car has a pretty good story," Jason revealed. As it turned out, the wagon belonged to Tony Martinez, owner of Memory Lane, the Wilmington, California, dismantling yard on just about every restorer or builder's speed dial. "I wanted that car from him bad. He had it stored away for the last 10 years. It had the original paint-it was just a bitchin' driver."
Delivery confirmed Jason's estimation: The wagon needed little. Though the car was rare and relatively rust-free (the tin worm had consumed only a ribbon of metal behind the rear wheelwells), it was the package of goodies that came with the car that made it stand out among its exceptional peers. "He (Tony) had that car for a long time, and everything that came into Memory Lane that was decent and for those cars, he took and put it on his car," he added.
There's a rather important distinction that deserves to be mentioned at this point. The two-door longroof cars that Chevrolet made in 1959 were lumped into the Biscayne line-the lowest of the low series that often lacked even dome light switches and clocks. In effect, Tony had transformed the wagon into a higher-series car that existed only in a new-car manager's wish list.
Whereas the car came with the Biscayne's single short fender-to-door spear, this one acquired the full-length Bel Air/El Camino trim. The gutters on the two-door wagons came bare, but this one has the stainless gutter trim exclusive to the Parkwood, Kingswood, and Nomad wagons (the gutter shape is universal among all wagons, whether '59 or '60). More than just the arrowheads from the Bel Air and-higher series cars, these fenders have the extension strips exclusive to the Impala-series cars.
But, you'd have to really be up on your GM wagon trivia to spot the most exclusive trim on the car. In fact, you'd have to look inside to even see it. Within the rear cargo area-the bed, if you will-four sets of stainless cargo strips line the tailgate, floor, and backside of the rear seat. Legend has it they're exclusive to Pontiac Safaris (where these came from), but they may well have come on other higher-line six-passenger wagons, like those from Buick and Oldsmobile. Even if that's the case, they're pretty uncommon due to their very low population.
Allen Wray of Conejo Upholstery trimmed both cars in a combination of synthetic leather and Feintuft (Mercedes-spec) velour carpet. The hardtop sports a set of '63 Impala buckets; the wagon, a pair of Infiniti G-series coupe seats. Between the seats in both cars are similar center consoles, each with panels for the Vintage Air and Air Ride Technologies systems.
Needless to say, these cars aren't exactly what they were in 1959. Then again, neither are the times. Just try negotiating today's roads in a stone-stock car from the middle of the last century. For some reason, they don't go as fast, handle as nimbly, or stop as reliably as we remember.
For that matter, neither is Bill Saylors the schoolboy he was when he wriggled around under his cars when they were brand new. You could say he's graduated to expect more power, better handling, and refined comfort.
Still, memories are hard to escape. "You kind of go back to when you were footloose and fancy free, I would say," he reminisced. "You had a lot of fun in these certain cars and kind of always want another one.
And in Bill's case, it's another. And another, and another
Both cars boast a variant...
Both cars boast a variant of GM's late-model LS-series engine. The Impala runs an LS1, a takeout from an '01 Vette; the wagon, a 6L LS3. As delivered by Turn Key Engine Supply, the wagon's 6.2 churns a more-than-healthy 480 right out of the crate. In stock form, the LS3 trumps the Impala's LS1, but a Magnuson Magna Charger with which the Timeless crew endowed it transforms the smaller 5.7 engine into a 500hp killer. An air-to-water intercooler directly under the Impala's blower plumbs to a heat exchanger mounted ahead of the radiator and condenser. The Impala has an Arizona Speed & Marine accessory drive; the wagon, a Billet Specialties Tru Trac.
Conejo Auto Upholstery's Allen...
Conejo Auto Upholstery's Allen Wray trimmed both cars in matching red synthetic leather and Mercedes-Benz-style Feintuft velour carpets. The Impala's thrones came from a '63 SS; the wagon's, from a late-model Infiniti Sport Coupe. Note how he incorporated into the seat back the wing motif from the original seat design.
Appointing the Impala's cabin...
Appointing the Impala's cabin are a Billet Specialties Chicayne tiller, an ididit column, and Haneline white-face gauges. The brands in the wagon are the same, but the wheel is an older unit.
The center consoles that Allen...
The center consoles that Allen Wray built for both cars house the ride- and climate-control units. The Impala's console houses a Vintage Air Streamline Pro Panel (ProLine Round Streamline louvers in the dash) and the interface for the Air Ride Technologies air springs. The wagon uses a Gen II Fingertip Control and a Level Pro programmable ride height controller.
With a trunk the size of the...
With a trunk the size of the Impala's, there's hardly a need for a wagon or El Camino. Allen Wray trimmed it to match the interior, including the wing motif. As noted in the story, the wagon uses the stainless bed trim from the higher-line six-passenger wagons.