There are plenty of rodders who have experienced the evolution of hop-ups hitting the streets since the early ’50s. They have the ability to look back on the days gone by with fond memories of how street shakers earned their reputation as some of the meanest gas burners to tear across the tarmac.

Joe Horisk of Wilmington, Delaware, grew up in an area known as Prices Corner during the early ’50s at a time when plenty of teenagers in his neighborhood were swapping nasty V-8s into their early coupes and roadsters in their driveways. It was a time when Joe and his friends, who were still a few years short of getting their licenses to drive, were building soapbox derby cars as they studied their local idols with hopes and dreams of their own.

It wasn’t long till Joe dragged home his first piece of Detroit iron in the form of a weathered ’40 Ford coupe, which he spent plenty of afternoons wrenching on to complete the installation of a Ford Flathead V-8/60. That was all it took to launch him into the world of automotive high performance as he cruised the local ’strip between Chuck Wagon Drive-Ins and made late night runs down Kirkwood Highway.

A few years later his first new car would come in the form of a ’61 Chevy Impala equipped with a 348ci mill linked to a four-speed. In the early ’60s he owned an auto salvage business, which opened up plenty of opportunities to obtain some of the latest performance goods as they made their way through his gates. A pivotal point in his hot rod fascination came when Martin Sheen tore across screens in the made-for-TV movie The California Kid at the wheel of Pete Chapouris’ legendary ’34 Ford coupe.

As the years passed Joe continued to work within the automotive industry, owning a number of auto salvage auctions. Time has a way of passing by you in a flash, and while he managed to own cutting-edge new models, he always recalled his youthful days and the first new car he had. After visiting various large-scale outdoor rodding events a few years ago, he came across a clean mildly modified ’61 Impala bubbletop, which tugged at his memories. After talking with the owner to see if it was for sale, a deal was made and he drove the car back to Wilmington to decide its fate.

While he enjoyed putting its healthy 348ci Tri-power–fed mill through its paces, he yearned for the thunder of an evil big-block V-8 combined with razor-sharp handling and a world-class interior. Attending a number of local car shows and talking with various car owners, the name Ray Bartlett and the Hot Rod Garage in Denton, Maryland, kept coming up as the person to meet with to address the updates he was looking to infuse into the Impala. Joe met with Bartlett and went over his ideas. The pair shared the same vision for bringing an already-perfect design from Detroit to the next level by retaining its original concept and enhancing the details.