“When you see one of these big X-frame cars hook and hold the wheels in the air for 100 feet at the dragstrip, you begin to understand why people like them.”
This statement came from Marty Stromberger of Stromberger Performance in Spokane, Washington. If you read the “Turbo Guys” story in the Dec. ’11 issue, you know all about the brutal street cars that are coming out of the Pacific Northwest courtesy of Marty’s shop. We showed you a lot of boosted, crazy, 9-second street machines in that issue, with the exception of this ’63 Impala. This one’s a little different.
The wheelstanding Impala got Marty interested in these cars, but it was car owner Les Boudewyns who brought his ’63 Impala into the shop for some work. “Les had a 9-second ’67 Chevelle that was too race oriented to be a daily driver, so the Impala project was born,” says Marty. “We wanted to build a fast cruiser that makes good power and is still easy to drive.”
The car was purchased new in 1963 by Les’ father and only driven seven months before it was sold to his son. Les ended up using the car as his daily driver from 1964 to 1985, taking frequent trips from Spokane to Seattle towing a 27-foot enclosed trailer. In that time, the original brown-and-tan paint combo gave way to Porsche Indian Red (twice) before getting its current Viper Red paintjob. It’s received four different transmissions and three different engines, including a PAW 400 small-block with ported heads and a Torker intake that was state of the art in 1991. The time had come to either buy a new car or rebuild this one, again. Les was sick of the waves from a paint stripping accident in the ’90s, and LS power had him intrigued. He went to Marty for help.
Even though these guys are seemingly cutting edge with their style of cars, they are just starting to play with LS engines. That changed when they came across a low-mileage 5.3L in a local wrecking yard for $900. Marty, along with Marshall Shaw and Erick McCarthy from SMC Customs, laid the pipe work for a single 76mm turbo from GodSpeed. “We set the wastegate at 10 pounds, so it probably only makes 500 hp,” Marty says. “It also only has a 3-inch downpipe, which limits it to 750 total horsepower.” The relatively small pipe was a result of the X-frame design and its space limitations. The upside to the X-frame design is the comfort and handling. “It’s one of the nicest cars I’ve ever driven,” Marty says. “In terms of ride quality and power, it’s a lot more like a sports car than you might think. The car is much more than the sum of its parts.”
For now, the car is as close to a garage queen as you’ll see from these guys, but since it’s the favorite hot rod car to hop in and drive, it always manages to get out on the road. “Eventually we will turn it up and run race gas and make 600 at the wheels . . . but not yet.”
Who: Les Boudewyn
What: ’63 Chevy Impala
Where: Spokane, Washington. Home of turbos.
Engine: The 5.3L V8 is from a wrecked Silverado with 48,000 miles. It was purchased for $900 as a long- block from Spalding’s Auto parts, a local Spokane wrecking yard. Also purchased was a truck front-accessory drive, an alternator, and a power steering pump that plugs into an ’87 Buick Grand National power-steering box that was swapped in during the ’80s. The cam is a single- pattern hydraulic roller from Texas Speed with 228 degrees of duration at 0.050 and 0.588 lift
EFI: The fuel-injection system is not that complicated. Marty used the stock GM computer with a custom wiring harness from Fuel Injection Connection to get it running and tuned it with HPTuners software. Marty basically wipes the transmission and other nonessential controls and tunes the A/F and timing maps for the boost he wants. Since this engine isn’t about maximum power, the injectors are relatively small at 48 lb/hr. This ensures proper fuel control at light throttle and idle. The intake is an Edelbrock Victor Jr. with Edelbrock fuel rails, and the polished elbow is a low-profile LS design from IntakeElbows.com. The MAF is from a 6.0L truck engine, and the throttle-body can be found on any GM truck. Everything is fed with a Summit Racing inline fuel pump.
Transmission: For longevity in a heavy, turbocharged car, Marty chose to use a TH400 instead of a modern overdrive. This is possible because the rearend gear is only a 3.08:1 instead of something more radical. The turbo guys have found that you don’t need a lot of rear gear to get sideways when you have boost. Another interesting feature is the torque converter, a tight 2,300-rpm TCI converter designed for circle track racing. According to Marty, short-track racers don’t want a lot of flywheel weight and want something tight to get off the corner. The $387 TCI converter does all that and doesn’t cost a fortune.
Rearend: No one thought the 8.2-inch 10-bolt would live past the first day, so it was switched to an 8.5 10-bolt out of a ’73 Nova almost immediately. Both the Nova and the Impala use a housing that is 60 inches wide. You just need to reweld all the brackets.
Suspension: Everyone we talked to loved the way the car rides. The secret is a pair of big, 20-year-old, mystery-brand sway bars front and rear. Otherwise, it is stock.
Wheels/Tires: The wheels are 17x7 (4-inch back) and 17x8 (5-inch back) American Racing TorqThrust Ds that have been painted black, and the tires are Nexen N3000s from eBay. The sizes are 215/50ZR17 and 275/50ZR17 rear. “They smoke when you punch it,” Marty says.
Paint and Body: This was an amateur restoration driver before it was stripped for a repaint. Les and Cory Gilbert from CG Customs block-sanded the car and added the Viper Red paint.
Interior: The brown interior was swapped for black years ago. It was still in good shape, so it was saved and reinstalled after the car was painted. The shifter is from ShiftWorx, and the gauge is from Aero Force. It scrolls through all the vital parameters from the stock GM computer.
Thanks to: SMC Customs for the mandrel-bent exhaust, CG Customs for the paint and body, and Stromberger Performance for putting it all together.