1965 Chevrolet Impala: Red Alert

This ’65 Impala SS resides directly at the corner of Hot Rod Avenue and Super Clean drive.

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Story: Will Sabel Courtney

Photography: Patrick Lauder

Back in the sixties, the Chevrolet Impala was settin’ records and making friends like nobody’s business. In ’65, the Imp sold more than a million copies in the U.S.—a one-year sales record that remains unbroken to this very day. The year after, the drop-top Impala became the number-two-selling ’vert in the U.S., with more than 38,000 copies rolling off the line and into customers’ hands.

Today, though, the 1960s lie more than 40 years in the rearview, and these once common whips have become increasingly endangered. In fact, that is part of what drew Manuel Aguilar to this Impala—which isn’t just a ’vert but a Super Sport ’vert. “Those are harder and harder to find,” he says. But while clicking through eBay Motors long enough might result in finding another ’65 Impala SS convertible, it won’t be one like Aguilar’s. One glance is all it takes to realize this Imp is nothing like the rest of the herd.

Well, one look is enough to know this whip is special, but to truly appreciate this SS, a closer inspection is needed. Having traditionally done Dub-style cars in the past, Aguilar decided he wanted to treat the Impala to a cleaner, more hot-rod-inspired appearance. He describes the final product as a fusion of big-wheel style and hot-rod looks, but whatever it’s called, it’s clear that this car was built with care. Those bumpers may look shaved, but they’re not. In fact, both front and rear bumpers are brand-new parts custom made and cut just for this car. “The front bumper was a four-piece, originally; I had it made into a one-piece,” Aguilar says. Likewise, if you ask, he’ll tell you about how he yanked the stock 283 for a 350 crate motor. But the story doesn’t end there: Edelbrock tossed a fuel-injection kit his way, which means not only does this ’65 pack plenty of power, it starts up as easy as any 2012 Chevy Impala.

Aguilar hails from Bakersfield, California, but you might recognize his ride’s rims from a car that’s popular among the Earth-firsters who live in the Hollywood Hills to his south. They’re just like the ones on the six-figure Fisker Karma hybrid favored by celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio—but with a twist. “The Karma [wheel] doesn’t have the lip on it,” he says. “I had them custom made.”

So is this gazelle done evolving? Not a chance. Aguilar picked up the car last July and spent four months building it up for SEMA, but that flurry of work was hardly the end for this ’vert. “It’s never done, y’know?” he says. “There’s always more to do with it.” At the top of the list: pulling out that 350 and dropping in a monster 572 in its place. That would require cutting up the firewall, among other headaches. But considering the time and energy that’s already been put into making this Impala one of the hottest old-school ’verts on the streets, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Aguilar do whatever it takes to keep it at the top of the game.

Spec The Technique:

Year/Make/Model: 1965 Chevrolet Impala SS Convertible

Performance: 350 crate motor with Edelbrock fuel-injection kit; airbag suspension, installed by Shawn at Endless Customs of Bakersfield

Exterior: Eight coats of House of Kolor Blue Blood Red paint; custom billet hood hinges made by Eddie Motorsports; stainless-steel engine compartment plates made by Undercover Innovations; custom-made front and rear bumpers; shaved door handles; chrome trim

Interior: Monaco red leather trim; custom-made door panels; Mercedes-Benz C-Class center console

Ice: Four 6.5-inch MA Audio mids, one 6×9 subwoofer; three Kinetik batteries in hidden compartment

Wheels/Tires: 22-inch Fisker Karma replica wheels, made by Xtream of Bakersfield; Pirelli PZero tires, 245/30/22 front, 285/25/22 rear