Just the Facts
Owner: Gil Losi
Some folks don't work well under pressure but, remember, it's only under pressure that you can get a diamond from a lump of coal. Gil Losi, who has owned some memorable cars (with a handful of them being featured in this magazine), recently went all out with his latest endeavor, a 1961 Chevy Impala equipped with some of the best stuff available, and powered by a twin-turbo 540-inch beast capable of 2,000 hp.
Following illustrations by Alan Childers, Steve Cook Creations fab’d the center console an
At 73 years old, Gil has been involved with hot rodding since his early days (more than 50 years ago) when he bought a 1949 Ford in 1956 and slammed it on the ground. It seems the "sickness" has been with him ever since. Over the years Gil , who lives in Murrieta, California, has relied on a handful of talented builders to take his dreams and create amazing vehicles, and this particular ride features the handiwork of Steve Cook Creations in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
A few years back, when Cook was working on another of Gil's cars, Gil saw the 1961 being worked on at Cook's shop. When the Chevy's owner wound up needing to sell the project before it was completed, Gil stepped in and bought the bubbletop.
Another trademark of Gil's rides is his attraction to cars that—how you say?—lack a certain attractiveness. Tackling a 1956 Plymouth, 1967 Rivi, a 1960 Ford, and a 1954 Merc in past builds, Gil usually wants to bring something out of the car's lines that very few people can see. The 1961 bubbletop is a popular car by anyone's standards, so in that respect choosing one to build could be viewed as a safe bet, but Gil was going to make sure it was unlike any other bubbletop out there, and without over-the-top concepts. For some, the "in-your-face" look is an easy way to build a car, but that isn't Gil's style. After Gil teamed up with Cook and one of his employees, Alan Chiders, to talk about how the car should look, Alan sat down and turned out some illustrations to show everyone the direction the car would eventually take.
Cook started the build with an Art Morrison chassis. A 9-inch Ford (with 31-spline axles and a Detroit Locker) was set up with an Art Morrison four-link and a Panhard bar, and RideTech 'bag suspension was used on each corner, as were Baer six-piston brake calipers. A Tilton NASCAR-type master cylinder was also installed, which works with the machined pedal assembly fab'd by Clayton Machine. You need big wheels for a big car, and Cook rounded up a set of Billet Specialties 18x8 and 20x12 wheels shod in Yokohama 225/45ZR18 and 295/40ZR20 rubber.
Billet Specialties wheels are on each corner, as are six-piston Baer brakes. The 18x8 and
If you happen to walk by Gil's Chevy when the hood is up, you might not realize what's going on in the engine compartment. Cook's did such a good job hiding the motor it almost becomes secondary to the rest of the car. But once you click the key, drop it into gear, and stand on the pedal, you soon understand the engine is what this car is all about.
Mike Moran of Moran Racing Engines (MRE), in Taylor, Michigan, did the machine work on the Dart Big M block, which has all the elements you'd want in a performance engine: four-bolt mains, extra-thick cylinder walls, improved oiling system, and so on. Moran used a Bryant crank, Oliver Racing Parts rods, JE pistons, and a custom MRE billet camshaft to end up with a 540-inch short-block.
From there, ported and polished MRE heads equipped with Manley stainless steel valves and Jesel rockers were added, as was a Meziere water pump, a Ron Davis radiator and intercooler, a Billet Specialties 140-amp alternator, and a SPAL fan. The big-block is fed by computer-controlled BigStuff3 EFI system with twin GT47, 80mm turbos along with HKS 60mm wastegates.
The black and red leather was expertly stitched and installed by Gabe Lopez’s Street Rod C
Ignition is handled by MSD and both Steve Cook and Rodney Derbin came up with the unique header and exhaust system required for this car. A 4L80E transmission was also custom-built by MRE for this engine, and it was installed with a shifter from Lokar and a driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline.
Subtle is hard to achieve, especially when modifying an iconic body type like the bubbletop Chevy. But when nothing looks out of place, even though a ton of work has been done, that's when you know you've achieved that higher level. The more you look at Gil's Chevy, you can see what Steve Cook was able to do. Front and rear roll and belly pans were created, as was a rear spoiler that blends into the trunklid. The body has been channeled, and new floors and a custom firewall created. The hood, deck, and door handles were all shaved, and the three-piece bumpers were made into one-piece, without visible bumper bolts, and tucked in close to the body. Functioning air vents were added to the hood (for the turbo) and a complete engine enclosure only allows certain areas of the engine to be viewed, inviting the onlooker to take a closer inspection.
Steve Cook Creations also did the body prep and paint, making everything laser straight before spraying the big car in Triple Black paint from Dupont. Lil' Louie of Red Lizard Molding Company in San Bernardino, California, created all of the car's trim pieces, including the side trim, which was made from a single piece of brass that was hand filed to perfection and then chromed at Jon Wright's Custom Chrome Plating in Grafton, Ohio.
Looks like it belongs in a fighter jet, doesn’t it? The twin-turbo 540 built by Mike Moran
For many of the cars Gil has had built, there has been only one name he has turned to for an interior: Gabe Lopez from Gabe's Street Rod Custom Interior. Working around the integral rollcage built by Cook's Rodney Derbin, Gabe's was able to stitch a custom interior out of black and red leather and cover the highly modified Cerullo bucket seats, door panels, and headliner while using a weave and leather combination for the carpet.
Up on the 1959 Chevy dash, a graphite insert holds Dakota Digital gauges and controls for the Vintage Air A/C system. Steve Cook installed the Kicker-based stereo system and a one-off billet aluminum steering wheel from Billet Specialties tops everything off.
In a world of one-upsmanship, some folks might end up sounding like comedian Jon Lovitz's character "The Liar" when talking about the performance of their car's engine. "Oh sure," they might say, "Why just the other day the right bank of this V-8 was putting out a thous...a mill...I mean a trillion horsepower and I didn't even have the squeeze on!" But Motor City Speed in Michigan's Commerce Township has an impressive dyno (set up with a 3,000-gallon cooling tank) and they had a chance to put the MRE-built engine through its paces. Motor City's runsheet tells the tale: at the peak range of the test (at 5,500 rpm) Gil's twin-turbo 540 was able to produce 2,015 hp with 26.1 pounds of boost. Now you know why the car got its nickname: "Under Pressure"!