After having updated the old 60impala.com website a few times, it became apparent that I needed a simpler means to document the restoration of this ’60 Impala. The old site did not allow for a lot of text to be associated with individual progress pictures, so it was starting to look more like a photo gallery than anything else. All things considered, a web log, or “blog” seemed like a good idea. If you have something to say about what you read/see here please leave your comments, they are appreciated!
First a little background on this car. This car has sat in a field in the small town of Harrington, WA for at least the past 20 years, probably more! I’ll have to ask the former owner, it would be interesting to know. It was purchased in 2004 for the tidy sum of $200 for use as a parts car. My dad (Tim Stromberger) was putting together a 1960 Impala Sport Coupe for a customer of his at his shop, Tim’s Hot Rods. A few parts were used from the engine compartment but that’s about it. I sold the grill and a few other small pieces to a friend for his Brookwood station wagon. The car sat for another year before I decided that it should be parted out, selling everything on eBay.
In early 2006, I hired my electrician friend Steve Williams to do all the wiring in my new 30×45 shop. We had discussed various trade idea, such as the labor on painting his truck, but then I had an interesting idea… would Steve be interested in this ’60 Impala? We could restore it in my new shop! Steve was all for it… gives us something constructive to do and we could learn a lot while we are at it.
In Summer 2006 at the Early Ford v8 Club swap meet in Spokane, Wa I purchased a 1960 Biscayne 4-door parts car for $150 that had all those missing pieces we needed. The bad part was that the car was better than 2 hours drive away. Fortunatly Steves dad offered to go with using his truck and trailer to get it. He even donated the fuel for the trip toward our “delinquency” as he called it. The neighbors must have cringed when they saw yet ANOTHER junky car being hauled into my back yard. DOH!
This 1960 Impala Sport Sedan was found in a field in Eastern Washington State. It had been sitting for a good many years. The engine, originally a 283 V8 was long gone, as was the hood and the factory equipped swept back rear antennas. Fortunately the desirable Impala steering wheel was still there, and the windshield and the rear panoramic window are both intact with no cracks. Ideally we would replace the windshield with a fresh one, but remember… we are flat broke! At first inspection, this car has only minor lower rear quarter rust, and a rotted left rear floor pan. The rest of the panels should be savable. The right front fender however is toast!
The first thing we decided to do was to get a head start on repairing rust in the floors. It looks very ugly and depressing, so the sooner we can make it go away the better! The car is rusty in the floor pans on the drivers side, but not on the passenger. This is due to how the car was sitting in the field for many years. The floors on that side were very near the ground while the other side was not. Unfortunatly, the sheet metal that is under the drivers side of the front seat is rusted out also. As far as we know this panel has not been reproduced. Therefore, it’s goona need to be made from scratch! The brace under it is a little questionable too, so we may replace that also.
Since most of the car is pretty solid and straight, we figured we wouldn’t need to replace very much of the quarter panels. The rust is limited to only the lower rear portion. We may attempt to fabricate the patches ourselves to avoid buying a costly reproduction panel. However we won’t compromise quality… so if a home-made patch isn’t good enough, the new panels will be purchased. We are using Picklex-20 and Zero-Rust, a rust-encapsulating paint extensively for the restoration of the chassis. The Zero-Rust comes in a nice semi-flat black, perfect for the chassis final finish. PPG’s DPLF primer will be used as the first coating over bare sheet metal. It will need to be scuffed before any other primers or top-coats are applied.
Stripping the paint off the car will be a lot of work. It ALL has to come off. It is all original paint, and very thin in areas which resulted in surface rust in a few spots, not to mention that every scratch or ding the car received is now a rust pit. All evidence of rust MUST be removed and/or neutralized before being coated with primer or it will come back to ruin the paint job later. Paint stripper doesn’t work too well on this original acrylic lacquer paint. It tends to just make it wet again, without the typical curdling you see when stripping old furniture. Stripping with media blasting or a D.A. (dual action sander) is pretty much the only way to go. Since we can’t afford to have this entire body media blasted, I opted for the D.A. When I get a chance I will roll the car outside and use a portable media blaster to do the tight areas, door jambs, etc since they can’t really be reached with the D.A. and this car is so crusty that doing it any other way just wouldn’t be correct or even practical. This whole project has become quite a big job… the more dismantling that is done, the more crusty rusty nastiness we find!
Just for kicks I installed one of the rear valence panels that I bought through eBay. These suckers are hard to get in good shape, and you gotta pay $$$! Why haven’t these things been reproduced?
When I started to remove the original headliner, this interesting piece of paper fell out. Apparently it is some sort of instruction or ID tag used at the factory. One side shows the Impala Sport Sedan along with an illustration of the dash panel. The other side shows the 4-door station wagon along with the dash panel. Both sides have the word “LEFT” on them… indicating left hand drive perhaps? The dash illustrated is for left hand drive, so… who knows! The small print on one side says “Fisher” along with some numbers, so I guess this is from the Fisher Body plant, which makes sense. The entire body along with the interior pre-installed was delivered from Fisher to the GM assembly line where the rest of the car was assembled.
Well we made the decision to remove the front and rear glass. The rubber seals were in bad shape. Why come all this way to stop short of doing it “right”? No sense in doing a half-ass job, even though the new rear glass seal is almost $200 from Soff Seal! Fortunatly we got the rear glass out without incident. Replacing this EZ-EYE panoramic glass might not be so easy. The front glass will be replaced with new, as will all the side glass.
Steve gutted the doors, and they are pretty complicated with all that junk inside so I sure hope he remembers how they go back together! The two wing window castings are both broken, but I think it may not be a problem when re-assembled. At least, I hope not. It looks like a structural flaw that probably all of these have.
Doors removed and gutted, dash pad stripped off, whats left? 8 bolts holding the body to the frame?
After some consideration, the decision was made to remove the body from the frame. Why come all this way to stop short of doing it “right”? It will be so much easier to work on the frame from the top down instead of bottom up! No dirt in the face and we can get easy access to repair the mounting bracket for the rear upper control arm that is broken away from the frame. Plus installing new brake and gas lines will be easier. Today a new rotisserie was ordered from Autotwirler. I Talked my dad into going halvsies with me on this unit since we’ll use it with his ’40 Ford Coupe and maybe his ’59 Impala Sport Coupe. We opted for the Autotwirler Plus, which comes with the hydraulic jacks to make mounting a body much easier. We also ordered the pneumatic tires so I can roll it out into my gravel driveway. Should be an excellent tool to have around!
Decided to put my coveted 1960 Mercury grill on eBay to get some coins for the project. These grills make a sweet custom touch to ’59 and ’60 Chevys, but I won’t be using it so might as well flip it.
Update: The grill didn’t sell on eBay, but fortunately one of the bidders called me after it was over. He came over and picked it up in person. Sweet, no shipping involved! I spent the money on new floor pans for the drivers side of the car, plus outer rocker panels and two lower rear quarter panels.