Story: Evan “Evo” Yates
Photography: Jeff Creech
As we grow older and our lifestyles change, our vehicular tastes evolve just as our fathers’ did when their bright yellow muscle cars with orange flames weren’t practical for the fam anymore. And as life’s limitations are bestowed upon us, some fair-weather car guys bow out of the game—while others simply adapt.
Columbus, Ohio, native James Nutter always had an affinity for the 1964 Chevy Impala, and upon finally purchasing one, he decided to deck it out in full Lowrider charm. But when James grew tired of the bouncy ride down the boulevard, he opted to switch up his approach to better conform to his needs. “When I started building it, I built it as a Lowrider with switches,” explains James. “It was clean but it didn’t drive well, and I wanted something I could put my kids in and ride.” James opted to go the Lowrod route, paying homage to his roots while understanding the need for change. Being a self-made car customizer since the age of 16, James completely dissembled his six-fo’, even separating the frame from the body.
Not that there’s an exact formula, but three significant modifications typically transition a Lowrider to a Lowrod: airbag suspension, fuel-injected motor and larger, staggered wheels. Not to say that James’ goal was to create a Lowrod, but nonetheless, the outcome is worthy of the distinction. He removed the hydraulics for a new suspension, starting from scratch with rack and pinion steering; three-link wishbone rear suspension; and, of course, airbags. Another necessary component to aid James and his family in enjoying the ride was a reliable yet powerful drivetrain. James installed a fuel-injected 5.3-liter LSX engine with a Corvette LS2 intake, painted to match the exterior. “It’s good on gas and it’s a smooth, smooth ride,” proclaims James. “I can reach through the window and turn the key, and it will start without getting in it.” Outside of the bags and the updated drivetrain, the proper set of shoes was the icing on the cake. “I didn’t want to go too big on the wheels,” says James. “I had some 22-inch chrome wheels all the way around, and they looked okay, but I don’t think chrome wheels looked right on that car.” James settled on a set of staggered Raceline billet wheels instead, 20×8.5-inch up front and a healthy 22×11 out back. “I wanted to do as much as I could back there, so I narrowed the rear end and did a little bit of trimming to make it fit,” says James.
As any true custom car owner can relate to, James doesn’t feel that the car is complete, yet he seems content with how his red rod sits today. “I can take this car to any show and get respect anywhere,” says James. “That’s what I like: the mutual respect from everybody.” For six years, James worked tirelessly on his Impala with the help and support of his friends and family. “The hardest part in any long-term project is staying motivated,” he says. “The friends I have made through this process and my family have made it all worth it in the end.”
Spec The Technique:
Year/Make/Model: 1964 Chevrolet Impala
Performance: 5.3L LSX; aluminum heads; Street and Performance pulley system, chromed shorty headers; custom Floyd’s Hotrods motor mounts; cold-air intake with SLP mass air; Viper Red–painted LS2 intake and Corvette covers; 4L60-E transmission; Ford 9-inch rear end shortened with Moser Engineering axles; Auburn Gear posi with 3.89 gears; Unisteer rack and pinion steering; front and rear disc brakes; three-link, wishbone rear suspension; custom exhaust; airbag suspension provided by Cool Cars, with a digital control system installed by James Nutter and Brett Hurst
Exterior: PPG Viper Red paint by Brian Sims
Interior: Custom low-mounted bucket seats; shortened Pontiac rear seats with center console by Shayron Toliver of Sound Investment, covered in red Allante with red gator accents; custom paneling done by Fred Jones of A-Tec Upholstery; billet trim accessories from Clayton Machine Works
Ice: Alpine head unit controlled by Apple iPad; kick panels made by Mike Long of Sound Investment; 6.5-inch Memphis SQ midrange speakers with aluminum dome tweeters; rear deck by Sound Investment with Memphis Sync 6×9-inch speakers and one Mojo 12-inch subwoofer in a custom enclosure; Alpine PDX-4.150 amplifier on the mids and highs, PDX-1.1000 subwoofer; three Kinetic batteries
Wheels/Tires: Raceline Deceptive 5 wheels, 20×8.5 front, 22×11 rear, fully polished; Kumho Ecsta SPT tires, 245/35/20 front, 275/30/22 rear