With great handling, compliments...
With great handling, compliments of Hotchkis Performance suspension upgrades, combined with American Racing Torq-Thrust II big ’n’ littles wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber, Joes Impala has a great stance and plenty of attitude.
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.
To bring the power to the...
To bring the power to the party, Joe called on World Products for one of their dyno’d 610hp 540ci big-block Merlin V-8s. Jam-packed with a speed shop full of go-fast goods, including Eagle Rods, Mahle slugs, and Merlin aluminum heads, make the Impala a true street shaker.
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.
Classic styling complemented...
Classic styling complemented by red SS accents gives the stunning white Impala traffic-stopping good looks.
The car was delivered to the Hot Rod Garage and the team wasted no time in getting the project started. Since the original chassis had previously been restored, it was perfect to use as a rock-solid base. Out back the stock rear was replaced with a fresh Currie 9-inch unit packed with 3.73:1 cogs. To enhance the handling capabilities a call was placed to Hotchkis Performance for their rear suspension package, featuring their beefy upper and lower trailing arms as well as their adjustable Panhard bar and all mounting hardware. To balance the mix a Hotchkis Performance sport sway bar and pair of QA1 adjustable coilover shocks were added to finish the combination. To give the car handling like it was attached to rails, a set of Hotchkis Performance tubular upper and lower control arms were combined with their matching sport sway bar, 1-inch dropped springs, and 2-inch dropped Superior spindles to help set the stance. To help navigate the course, a Flaming River power steering box was linked to a Flaming River tilt steering column. Sure it’s easy to go fast, but when the need to stop comes, a Wilwood dual master cylinder pushes fluid through stainless lines to Wilwood 12-inch discs and four-piston calipers mounted at each corner. To set everything rolling nothing sets the pace better than American Racing Torq-Thrust II wheels in 16-inch front and 17-inch rears capped with BFGoodrich rubber.
For the ultimate in comfort,...
For the ultimate in comfort, Dean Alexander of the Hot Rod Garage reworked the stock interior, giving it a whole new look with red Ultraleather, complementing wool carpet, Auto Meter gauges, a vintage Sun tach, and Vintage Air A/C.
With the bottom end of the car set, Joe decided to raise the ferocity of the engine bay to a new level by packing it full of big-block power from World Products with one of their race-engineered Merlin 540ci behemoths. Dyno’d at 610 hp, the cast-iron block was packed with all the right goods. These included an Eagle 4340 forged steel internally balanced crank linked to Eagle rods and Mahle pistons along with a COMP Cams solid flat-tappet cam to set the thump. Merlin aluminum heads breathe deep through an Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap intake capped with a Holley Street Avenger 770-cfm carb while spark comes through an MSD distributor linked to an MSD 6AL box. To dump the spent gases, Sanderson headers link to a Hot Rod Garage–designed 2-1/2-inch exhaust, exhaling through Flowmaster mufflers. Planting the power to the pavement a Tremec TKO-600 five-speed trans moves the gusto through an 11-inch Centerforce clutch to a custom steel driveshaft.
With the body already in nice shape, the Hot Rod Garage focused on dialing in Joe’s business office. Team leader Dean Alexander reworked the stock seat bases and door panels, infusing plenty of custom design and stitched up a decadent interior clad in vivid red Ultraleather accented by complementing red wool carpet. To bring the dash to life an array of Auto Meter dials and a vintage Sun tach keep track of all the vitals while a restored factory steering wheel looks right at home and Vintage Air cools the cabin. The Hot Rod Garage breathed new life into the Impala and Joe wasted no time in taking to the streets to relive the glory days with his latest street shaker, and to us that’s bitchin’!
Remove inner springs during break-in
Always remove inner springs when breaking in a flat-tappet camshaft to ensure a safe break-in process. After spending at least 30 minutes varying the engine rpm periodically from 2,000 to 2,500, put the inner springs back in.
When you set up your EZ-EFI, double-check the throttle body to make sure the linkage is 1:1 front to rear. Improper linkage will cause a stumble during acceleration.
The fluid damper on the fuel gauge must be vented to operate properly on a carbureted system. The gauge will not read correctly otherwise.