You young guns eyeball this ark carefully. It comes from a time when cars were cars, when they had a face and an identity of their own. Dig it. About 1/2-mile long. The girth of a pregnant hippo. More space inside it than a Suburban. Made the Chevelle look like a peanut. It was the epitome of the American Dream, like driving your living room . . . with a liquid- fuel-guzzling rocket under the hood. Politically correct (a term not yet invented when this car was built)? Not a snowball's chance in Hell.
All of this occurred before Shaun Dove took his first breath. Luckily for him, his father had The Bug and a photo album of all his four-wheeled mistresses. Shaun the stripling says: "One car that always stood out in the picture book he kept was an Impala SS that he had new in 1965. I always said that one day I would build a similar car, and after many years and lots of other projects, I ran into a red '65 that brought those memories back."
The car had a nice body, good paint, and only 96,000 on the clock. The motor didn't run, but the owner thought it was still solid and possibly a numbers-matching piece. Shaun proceeded with the deal, thinking that he would change out the garbage-truck engine anyway. He discovered that he'd indeed bought a numbers-matching four-speed, 4.11 Posi car with rare factory options such as the tilt/telescoping steering column, dual-face AM/FM radio, and in-dash tachometer. Since the new 396ci Porcupine (aka Rat Motor) engine had just become available, only about 2,200 409s found their way into '65 model-year vehicles, very few of which were SS Impala four-speed cars.
"Knowing this," says Shaun, "I decided to change direction and rebuild the 409 and to keep the car much closer to its era appearance. I enlisted builder Dave West to do the motor with the idea that I wanted to drive it. As such, I replaced the Muncie with a Richmond five-speed and installed four-wheel disc brakes. The original suspension was sagging, so I had Super Rides by Jordan set it up with Air Ride Technologies airbags and install a Hotchkis rear suspension."
That Shaun didn't have to touch the body (or even repaint it) literally accelerated the project by years. Within 18 months after he'd brought the '09 home, it was ready to vulcanize tarmac. He puts about 3,000 miles on it every year and has become very popular on the SoCal weekend show and cruise circuit. "I am always amazed at the attention this car gets, and I love to see people shocked by the 409! The car is completely different from what I planned, but it still has that classic charm I remember from my dad's photo album."
With the value of his ride ascending, it would have been lunacy to modify the components of the stock engine, which was originally designed for medium-duty truck applications. Right off, Shaun stashed the originals and sourced some '64 heads and an intake manifold, delivering them to Bob McKray to address the major shortcoming of the original engine, mainly its inability to breathe deeply. McKray is known for his head-porting acumen, especially on vintage iron. In a nod toward period correctness, Shaun dropped in a magneto ignition and replaced the wizened factory Carters with a brace of modern Edelbrock four-barrel carbs.
The Impala's gravity and bearing are especially evident when its rockers are nearly touching the ground and those vintage-look American Torq-Thrusts aptly define its corners. It's the epitome of Detroit Iron.