Part 2: 1963 Chevy Impala Wagon Build Project

1963 Impala restoration project.

Continued from Part 1

This is a story about an American classic that was acquired, rebuilt, and restored. Republished with permission from Neal Hartman. Captions, photos, and story are primarily by his father, Mark Hartman.


June 1st, 2010:

So, the other day, the guy that is doing the restomods on my wagon e-mailed me these pictures for all of you to see. The dark colored 1969 Vette is the same one he has had for decades…it’s also the same car I blew my 1968 Firebird vert up racing in Galesburg back in 1974…before I met Neal’s mom. The other Vette, a 1976, is his wife’s toy.

Also, you’ll see some pictures of a 1926 Ford Model T that he recently restored.

Now you know…the wagon is in good hands.


Rick’s Vette:

A customers 1926 Ford Model T. Was waiting to be finished before the wagon could go down.




June 3rd, 2010:

Got some new pictures of the wagon in the early stages of disassemble. According to Rick, the car is in pretty good shape considering it’s pushing close to 50 years old…almost as old as me.

Anyway, just some pictures of the rear cargo area, rear bumper area, tailgate and front end.
It’s all I have for now.


June 5th, 2010:

The one thing that has not been talked about yet is the reason I spent so much time looking for this car.

In 1963 my father, James, bought a brand new one for his family. At that time I was 7 years old, and a new car was a big deal. It was the first car that he let me drive too. So as you can see this is a big thing to me.

The car was the same 936 Ermine white outside and the same 842 blue inside, 6 passenger wagon like I now own. My hope was to have the car bought before he passed away, but his time here on Earth was up shortly after I got the car.

No disrespect at all intended, but for me, the car will look stock in and out…the drive train only exception, as the sleeper will awaken!

The inside should look like this, but with a bench seat and column shift and the Dakot Digital dash because the LT1 and 4L60E trans would not hook up to the stock dash.

This is what the back end of the car looks like with the hidden luggage compartment. This isn’t my car either.

I thank you for your thoughts and opinions. That is what makes this country so great, we all have the right to think for ourselves. So again thank you and PLEASE keep reading.

And, also, thank you to my late father for the love of cars.


June 6th, 2010

Well, after some digging, I found a picture of my dad’s wagon. Can’t remember the year, maybe around 1966, but here it is.

I am standing closest to the rear door with my one brother Eric and my cousin Kevin.


And this is the 68 Firebird vert I had back around mid-1973. The Mustang belonged to my other brother Scott, he’s the one standing next to the mustang.


June 15th, 2010

Well girls and boys, Rick has been busy on the old wagon. I have been talking to him and the word is that all the glass but the windshield is out, the interior is out. All the moldings and drip rails are gone. The front fenders are off. As soon as he has time to breathe a bit, he said he would tease us with some bawdy pictures of the old girl striped down some. I am having a hard time finding the tires I want for the car. Does anyone know who has tires in the sizes 255x60x15 for the front and 275x60x15 for the rear. The rims will be Chevy Rally 7” and 8” for the old school look that I’m shooting for.


June 17th, 2010

Ok kids, here is where the fun comes in. I’m asking for your help in choosing the right tires for the Chevy Rallies. In the front will be 15 x 7 and in the rear 15 x 8. The color is argent and there will be stainless steel trim rings and the disc brake caps. The back spacing is not set yet as Rick and I have not talked about it. We need to measure everything to get the offset just right.
But please let me know your thoughts. REMEMBER, this has to be able to drive from coast to coast in all but winter weather. G.O.B. gets finial judgment.


June 20th, 2010

I know that this thread is centered around cars and all, but for this entry I would like to change it just a tad. Today I want to ask the Supreme Being to pass on to my Father a “Happy Fathers Day” as this is the first one without him for me. I hope he and my mom are watching the wagon build with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts. I know we all have lost someone in our lives and it hurts, so today may they be smiling down at you, and you feel a warm glow. May you all have peace this day and I’m sorry it is so late.


June 22nd, 2010

Got an update for you, but it’s not for the car…

Just to change things up a touch, we had some rain Friday night (June 18, 2010) and the wife woke me at 3A.M. CST to tell me we had some water in the garage. I called the contractor that built it and he came to pump us out a second time. The first was back in May on the 14th after a heavy storm.

Well here are some pictures I took at 7am.

I sure am glad that the car is down at Rick’s shop instead of here in the garage where the water was.


I really hope this rain lets up soon. This is just plain bonkers.


June 23rd, 2010

The work has started and the pipe is tied in to the city storm drain. They started at the street and are working back toward the backyard. They made it as far as the A/C unit beside the house before another storm hit and had to stop. With any luck and God willing they will be done Thursday night.


July 1st, 2010

I have some photos from the other “old dude” who is doing the work. Not a lot to explain as the pictures pretty much speak for themselves. The floors look good for it’s age. Maybe, even with all the little headaches this car has given me, it was/is worth the money spent so far. Well, I at least hope so. Photos are arranged by date, from newest to oldest.




July 5th, 2010

Got some more pictures for all of you.

Just some random shots of the engine bay work Rick is doing. He going to try and see if he can re-locate the ECU inside the cab instead of having it mounted on the firewall as it was before. Something to do with things possibly not working right if the length of wire isn’t right…



July 7th, 2010

Hey, kids!

Just got an e-mail from Rick. New pictures and some words from Automobile Artist.


Some more progress shots.

Tell the pups on the build thread, to notice how everything is marked, prior to dis-assembly , so when assembly time comes you are not scratching your head wondering where everything went!!!!!

AHH!! The wisdom of old age….

Don’t need to respond as I know you are busy this week.

Motor in pics is completely disconnected, and will stay on frame until body is lifted. As soon as I get the wiring and dash out, I will lift the body and put on the rotisserie.

The OLD DUDE!!!!!!



June 8th, 2010:

This thing has really started snowballing.

To give you yet another update…the body is off the frame and all that remains is an engine, frame, suspension and exhaust…plus a few minor tidbits.

And, another message from Rick.


The USS Going Broke, Has officially been gutted, dry-docked, and ready for the beginning of retrofit.

OLD MAN from Missouri

Don’t let that “OLD MAN from Missouri” bit fool ya. He’s actually from Illinois. I know this to be true. He just resides in Missouri now…

Oh, and Neal…not bad for an “Old dude” right? Kids these days. Where did I go wrong. Hey, anyone have a time machine to take me back about 16 years ago so I can beat the snot outta my kid on his 18th birthday? DAMN…

One other thing, son…Rick says he can’t wait to meet you this summer when you come home. Something about showing you “just how old this old dude is.”

Enjoy, youngsters!



July 12th, 2010:

First off, Neal talked to Rick on the phone the other day and asked if he had any pictures of the Corvette from back in the day. (Yes, he’s owned the car for more than 30 years.) Lo-and-behold, he did. So, he sent them my way and now I offer them up to you. Rick’s not too sure when the photos were taken, but sometime between 1976-1980 would be a safe bet. Oh, and by the way, would you believe this car used to be a convertible? He did everything himself.

Yeah…Rick’s that good.


And, now on to the Impala.

Got this e-mail and a few pictures earlier today.


Some pics of frame and motor after degrease and hot bath.

Frame looks excellent, and is very rust free and in very good shape. Motor cleaned up good (didn’t wash front ((OptiSpark)). Didn’t want to get wet.)

Will call tonight.


Here’s where she’s at now.


Well, all. It’s been a beast of a day and I am off to the land of snoozies. Have a good one.


July 20th, 2010:

Hey all!

Sorry it’s been so long since my last update. With work and getting ready for the boy to come home from Japan, haven’t had a whole lot of “me time”. But, I got a bit now, so I thought I’d hit you up with a couple different updates on the ole girl from our good buddy Rick.

So, the first update was from Friday of last week.


Some more pics of Wagon. Hooray!!!!! The nasty part is almost done.

This is the result of 3 days of soaking under-body, with diesel fuel to soften undercoat and road tar, then using a propane torch and a scraper, to heat and remove it. Very hard dirty work. The deeper I get into this car the better it looks. The under-body is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. Absolutely NO RUST. Incredible, for as old as this car is, and that will save you $$ !!!

Dad must have been looking out for YOU, when you found this VERY NICE OLE GAL.

Talk to you soon,


And this was from earlier today:


Here are some pictures to show you the body and frame work I will need to do. Very little work since the car is in such good shape. Just a matter of doing.

I looked closely at the right rear hub and I can see why it is leaking, as the seal looks beat up! Someone installed poorly. It could be fixed…inexpensively verses replaced…your call, though. As of now I believe you still want to use Chevy hubs? Let me know.

I am getting the info together for the air bags for rear, as I will need soon, along with the rear suspension bushings. Have you found a source for the rear bushings? Let me know about that, too.




August 19th, 2010:

I know it’s been a while, but with preparing for Neal and the family coming home, I didn’t have a lot of time to get stuff updated, and also, Rick had been busy with some other things.

BUT…I do have some fairly recent photos for you. I will set them up below.

There were some issues with the rear of the frame that had to be addressed. So, Rick, being the welding/body guru that he is, took the time to repair a specific part. I can’t go into a whole lot of detail, but a patch had to be welded into the rear of the frame.

I had also purchased some new air bags for the rear suspension as well as rear lower control arms.

Here are some progress photos from July 30th through August 16th.

Getting the patch set:

Patch welded in:

Grinding down the welds to smooth out the patch:

The new panhard bar is adjustable and the air lines will be routed up to the fuel tank door to fill without getting under the car to fill.

As you can see the air bags are in, as are the new rear trailing arms and the back half of the frame is done. The new tires and wheels have been ordered from Coker Tire. Corvette Rallye 15×8 with 275/60R15 in the rear and 15×7 245/60R15 in the front, BF Goodrich T/A’s.

Next, we see the LT-1 engine sitting on a palate so Rick can get started prepping the front end for any repairs that may need to be done.

Front half before…

Front half after…
With the tubular upper A-arms and all new bushings for upper and lower A-arms. There is a 1” sway bar to replace the stock one. The bushings are polyurethane.

Also, may have an issue with the engine and A/C pump. The issue is, that the hoses for the A/C lines running to the pump will have interference from the motor mount on the left bank of the engine. So, we are looking at fabricating a bracket (or if a company makes a relocation bracket) to put the A/C pump on the upper right bank of the engine for hose clearance. Could be interesting.

Well, that’s all I have for now. Talk at ya the next update.

Continued in Part 3

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