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62′ Chevy Impala “Can’t Touch This”

JIM SMART April 22, 2022 All Feature Vehicles

Bobby Mahoney rescued this clown ’62 impala from a North Dakota ditch

Life is a series of the darnedest experiences. Southern Californian Bobby Mahoney certainly had his pick of rust-free early ’60s Impala hardtops from here on the West Coast and the great Southwest. Yet he made the decision to rescue this ’62 from a frozen ravine on the Great Plains of North Dakota, 1,500 miles away. It surely must have been fate that saved this extraordinary Bow Tie ride from ruin.

The wheels make the ride: Raceline Jaded 5 wheels all around in 18 x 8 inches front and 20 x 12 inches aft, wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza Run Flat skins in 245/35/18 front and 315/35/20 rear. Rolling stock is surely about good looks, but it’s also about real function. These steamroller treads hold the road like super glue because there’s so much contact patch. They handle; they hold the road; and they hook up with real aggressiveness when Bobby stabs the throttle and the twin turbos begin to hiss and whistle. When torque tips its hat, the 355-ci Chevy Donovan makes positive G-forces unseen by those vintage 409 fat-blocks. But make no mistake, Bobby’s 355 got its inspiration from the legendary 409. It wasn’t only going to keep up with the 409; it was going to beat it.
Head on, Bobby’s Impala hints at what’s on the other side of the radiator. This is the intercooler, which works hand in hand with a pair of Precision 67mm turbochargers. Bobby admits he considered GM’s LSX engine until he fell into a Donovan Chevy block, which works well for just about anyone. He could have stroked this Donovan mill in excess of 400 ci but didn’t see the need. With intercooled turbocharging and a wealth of power on tap, 400-plus inches would have been more than he needed. Bobby learned early on that bigger isn’t always better. Keeping displacement well within the limits of a 350 Donovan block taught him plenty about power. It’s all in what you do with the power you have that counts, not necessarily how much power you have.

“After getting my Impala home and placing it in the garage, the entire floor pan, both quarter panels, both front fenders and both doors were replaced,” Bobby recalls. “The rest of the car was taken down to bare steel where it sat like that as I began chassis work.” For Bobby, memories of this period are bittersweet because his wife, Corinne, gave birth to twin boys and spare time to work on the car went to zero. Bobby tackled his Impala in sound bites, “twelve seconds here, forty-seven seconds there…” he comments. Although Bobby didn’t get to spend much time in the garage, taking care of twin baby boys allowed him time to think, dream and plan.

“BOBBY WAS GOING TO BUILD A CLASSIC IMPALA LIKE NOTHING ELSE THE GOLDEN STATE HAD EVER SEEN.”

When it comes to classic Chevys, few can beat the emotional rush of the 1962-63 Impala roofline and its faux convertible styling. It was undoubtedly the first really sexy Chevy of the ’60s with its arrowhead-slicing-thewind demeanor. It had broad-shouldered quarter panels, a huge trunk, considerable room inside, a panoramic windshield view, and plenty of chrome to go around. Bobby took the Impala’s slippery lines and made them even slipperier with just the right balance of trim and paint color. “Looking back at my car building project, there were hurdles, trials and errors,” Bobby recalls, “and there were great ideas and bad ideas, but in the end, the car has been great fun to drive and feels better than a lot of new cars.”

Bobby was going to build a classic Impala like nothing else the Golden State had ever seen. “I set my sights on finding a power plant for my Impala ride,” Bobby reflects, “I considered a new LSX, then learned a buddy of mine was selling his virgin Chevy 350 Donovan block with a steel billet crank.” Bobby took delivery of the Donovan block and sent it off to Vidal’s Polishing for a little shine work. He contacted Tony Mamo at Air Flow Research (AFR) and filled Tony in on his plan. When Tony learned exactly what Bobby wanted to do in terms of a boosted induction, he set Bobby up with 195cc competition ported heads. By the time JGM Engineering finished with this engine, it was an unbelievable mill ready for a real demonstration of power.

They say beauty is only skin deep but Bobby’s Impala hardtop makes liars out of all of us because this is beauty that goes right to the bone with a powder-coated chassis in gloss black, CPP 14-inch discs in front and 13-inch in back, and Ridetech’s new Fox coil-over suspension system for improved ride and low stance. Bobby credits John Meadows at Ridetech for enabling him to get the ride height and quality he wanted. “Probably the most challenging aspect of this project was overcoming believing the car hated me,” Bobby laments, “I was convinced she was happy living in a ravine and was mad I had disrupted her final resting place.” He adds “’Paula’ has been a very challenging project, yet no regrets considering the outcome.”
You may wonder what inspired Bobby to go turbo instead of building a stroked small-block or outsized big-block, “Once it was determined we were building a boosted piece, I contacted Josh Deeds at Deed Performance in Chatsworth, California, because he is an expert in turbocharged engines,” Bobby tells us, “After spending many hours picking his brain and telling him the kind of power I wanted, he pointed me in the right direction. “My uncle, John Villegas, helped me assemble the engine. [Then] I outfitted it per Josh’s suggestions with Big Stuff Three injection, 67 millimeter turbos, a custom intercooler, 120 pound-hour injectors, throttle body, and the rest of it to make Paula rumble.” Bobby delivers a lot of credit and thanks to his wife Corinne and his twin boys Brandon and Tyler for their patience and support throughout.

FRAME: Black powder coat

SUSPENSION: Moser Ford 9-inch with 35-spline axles and 3.50:1 gears, Ridetech Fox coil-overs, CPP disc brakes front and rear

WHEELS: Raceline Jaded five-spoke, front 18 x 8-inch; rear 20 x 12-inch

TIRES: Bridgestone Potenza, front 245/35-18; rear 315/35-20

ENGINE: Donovan aluminum block 355-ci small-block, Velasco steel billet crankshaft, Manley H-beam rods, SRP forged pistons, AFR 195cc competition heads, custom-ground hydraulic roller cam, Hogan custom sheet metal intake manifold, Accufab throttle body, 120 lb-hr injectors, twin precision 67mm turbochargers, twin precision 46mm waste gates, duo 35 blow-off valves, custom intercooler, MSD pro billet ignition, Spin Tech mufflers, Jones Racing front dress

TRANSMISSION: Turbo 400 transmission, Wenco driveshaft

BODY AND PAINT COLOR: Toyota Prius Blue, Acura Pearl White roof, Ring Brothers hood pins, custom HID headlights and LED taillights, custom billet grille

INTERIOR: Custom seats and Interior by Al’s Boat Shop, Dakota Digital instrumentation


A version of this article first appeared in the Spring 2014 print issue of Maximum Drive 

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