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This happens a few times in the "Supernatural" fandom.  Wooed by the sheer awesomeness of the Winchester's slick 1967 black Chevy Impala, a select few start thinking, “What if I owned one?”  Considering you can’t exactly go down to the local dealership and get a 1967 Impala anymore, finding one becomes a journey that involves plenty of leg work, years of stubborn dedication, and tendency to require a constant flow of funds.  Still, despite the odds, a few of the brave will choose to take that plunge.  

Back in the summer of 2012, Max Hagler was looking for a new car, or at least new to him.  He always wanted a classic car, and after stumbling upon “Supernatural” through Netflix during a difficult time in his life, he pretty much decided what car had won his heart.  He started looking online for 1967 Chevy Impala four door models for sale.  Budget was limited, and Max went into this whole process with some naivety, unaware of the challenges of owning a car that’s forty-five plus years old.  

For one, finding 1967 Impala four doors was a very tough task.  They are very rare (2 doors are far more common), so eventually he had to broaden his search.  There wasn’t much difference between a 67 and 68, so when he found a hidden gem for auction on ebay, a 1968 Chevy Impala four door sport sedan with a green exterior and gold interior, he jumped on it, despite not knowing anything about classic cars.  “I bought the '68 off ebay motors sight unseen from an older retired guy and his wife who live in the middle of nowhere (or at least that's what it seems like to someone stuck in LA).”  He may have won the auction, but really had no idea what he was about to get into.

http://collectorcarpricetracker.com/auctions/detail/180948307654/

The auction promised that the car ran fine, but it would need some restoration.  The items listed as needing replacement were interior door panels, the dashboard (it had some cracks), the rubber seals on the doors (something that doesn’t survive the 119 degree heat in Arizona), and the carpets were dirty and needed to be cleaned.  “You see, initially I just thought: 'Ok the car's in good running condition, I'll just have the interior replaced and paint it black'," said Max.  "But taking on a classic car project is *so* much more than that.  It's not a modern car and the internals really are pretty different.”

Once he started digging, Max found that not only is restoration difficult, but things like basic oil changes would be no easy task.   “I even had difficulty finding shops that could work on a classic car (I called a local Chevy dealership's service # to ask how much oil changes would cost - and the service manager said something along the lines of 'we don't have any mechanics who know how to work on a car that old')."  He found going to sites like Lategreatchevy.com would be his source for learning maintenance skills and other valuable information. 

Ever wonder all the work that had to go into the Metallicar when Dean rebuilt her in season two?  Well, it’s an eye opening, very involved process.  Max had hoped that all the work needed on his new classic car would only take a few months, but the age of the car provided too many challenges.  Lucky for him, the guy he bought the car from, Joe, decided that restoring a car would be the ideal project for him as well.  “We started talking about him doing some of the basic work on the car for the cost of parts (he was bored and mainly just spent his days watching TV).  Well a little work turned into a lot.”  

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(The original 327 engine taken from the Impala)

Thanks to all the connections Joe made while looking for parts for the car, he ended up renting a 15,000 square foot brand new shop with bays and started hiring mechanics.  His new business, Rusty Bucket Restorations, grew fast, and soon they were doing 10-15 engine restorations a week.  “He's incredibly busy but he's making money, paying employees, and enjoying the fact that he feels like his life now has purpose again.  Plus, he, his wife, and me are now friends for life.  It's been an amazing experience and both our lives are much richer for it.” 

Once the work on Max’s Impala began, the decision was made that a complete restoration would be best, a rebuild from the frame up.  Any professional knows that a restoration of that size takes anywhere from 18-24 months, average.  With that, Max’s long, arduous journey into the experience of classic car restoration began. 

The Restoration

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The Impala was nicknamed “Black Betty” by Joe, who thought that a car like this should have it’s own theme song.  Having a cool name though didn’t make the process any easier. A lot of important decisions had to be made.  “If someone's putting in a new or rebuilt engine they need to think about things like 'Do I want to put gas into a 45 year old tank that's going to run through my brand new engine?'  - and even more important - 'Do I really want to trust drum brakes to stop the car?'  It's not hard to get one of these things going fast - but getting it to stop where you want is something else entirely.”  

Max started the task of finding all the parts needed for his new car, and he knew it would be a very large task.  “Honestly I think I could go through the entire car part by part and 99% of it is either new or refurbished - so it's a huge project.”

What were some of the tasks that go into an entire rebuild?  “Off the top of my head, new fuel system, new oil system, new brake system, all wires and hoses replaced, new/refurb engine, paint, wheels/tires, interior, gauges, radio (The '68 came stock with an AM radio - and as cool as I think that is I'd really rather listen to music - no CD player though - just got an AM/FM that looks like the classic radio with a small AUX jack to plug in my Ipod - yes I know I'm "douching it up" a bit), shocks/bushings..."

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Max shared a parts list with me and it was huge!  It's mind boggling the amount of detail that goes into rebuilding a car like this.  Each part really added up in expense too.  Plus, there was the rarity of the four door sedan.  “If you want to restore a car with little difficulty it's a lot easier to do a 2 door. If “Supernatural” were real Dean was really lucky when he had access to Bobby's junkyard. Finding parts for a classic 4 door muscle car is a nightmare. Plenty of places still fabricate parts that fit the 2 door versions...but for something like the Impala you have to search around junkyards and ebay auctions for parts. Or if you have the space you can always just find and buy a second impala to use as a parts car.” 

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But finding the right parts was just part of the challenge.  Another big difficulty was getting those parts delivered in a timely manner.  Max spent a lot of time helping Joe hunt down the appropriate parts and a lot of times the parts would be on backorder or delayed in shipping.  Then there was a few times the parts that were delivered were for the wrong type of car, aka receiving parts for the coupe as opposed to the sedan.  Waiting for the right parts resulted in all sorts of delays, like in April 2013, when they were trying to get the frame built.  

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“We've been waiting about 6 weeks for the front disc brake kit (we had reached a point where we were at a virtual standstill without it).  We ordered from Ecklers, who in turn ordered from another supplier - and this other supplier kept assuring them (and us) that the kit was going to ship "in 3 or 4 days".  Well were fed that line for a month.”

Over the next several months putting together the bare bones of the car was a slow, tedious process:  

The frame and body of the old Impala were separated, sand blasted, sanded some more, then painted the trademark black of Sam and Dean’s 1967 baby. 

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Once the frame was ready, the rear disc brakes were installed, then the axles and wheels.

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The front disc brakes went on after the body and frame were put together due to the delivery issue.  

Then there was the engine.  The initial plan was the rebuild the original engine, but Joe  found a 383 Stroker in great condition that would give Black Betty more horsepower.  So the decision was made to do a rebuild on that engine instead.  Later though, in May 2013, Joe got his hands on another 327 engine, and then a 396 engine from an SS model, and that was the engine installed in the car.     

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Here in late May 2013 the rear bumper was installed along with the Chevy logo and two small front windows.  This is where the big difference is between a 1967 and 1968 Impala, the tail lights. 

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Once the new 396 engine went in, the hood and windshield were installed.  He also added new 396 side markers given the new engine.  

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The interiors took a while, for carpets had to be fitted and well as interior door panels.  Come the end of August 2013 Max was still waiting for the muffler to be installed and little things like the drivers side rear view mirror to be done.  

Max also had his heart set on finding Cragar wheels.  Joe surprised him by finding the original Cragar wheels, which were the wheels on the Impala that Leviathan Sam and Dean drove (Remember Dean saying in “Slash Fiction,”  “Those are nice wheels.  I’ll tell you what, when this is over, I’m stealing those rims.”).  They do make a real a difference to the look of the car!  

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(Getting there, but not quite ready yet).  

Coming up in part two, a few more complications, then finally delivery!  Max learns though that even with the car in his possession, the work is far from over. 

Here's a videos of the newly rebuilt engine running too.  Such power!

http://www.thewinchesterfamilybusiness.com/images/video/MaxImpala/CAM00135.mp4



Comments  

cheryl42
# cheryl42 2014-09-09 22:26
My husband restored classic cars also. No muscle cars but they were long tedious projects. The end result is a fabulous payoff but the maintenance never ends. What a great story. Thanks for sharing looking forward to part 2.
LEAH
# LEAH 2014-09-09 23:51
Now that is a labor of love. I admire Max for persevering against all the obstacles . I think he and Joe had a mutually beneficial alliance and that it developed into a friendship is really nice. I enjoyed this and will watch for pt 2. Thanks Alice.
BoGirle
# BoGirle 2015-07-13 18:32
Leah! Glad to see you back. I had to change my login name cause I finally created an actual login and it wouldn't let me have a screen name that was just one letter....

Sooooo glad to see you! um.... read you!

E.
LEAH
# LEAH 2015-07-14 00:49
Hi E! I'm not really back.That post was awhile ago. But I have been following the posts and articles recently. Thank you so much for saying that, E! I am missing being involved here. I will probably stick my toe back in soon. Oh WFB, I just can't quit you :)
BoGirle
# BoGirle 2015-07-14 06:57
HA! I didn't even notice that the post was 10 months ago. Nice to hear from you anyway. I know what you mean. This place is like an addiction. Glad to see you are still around, lurking and reading. Have a great summer!
maximus3311
# maximus3311 2014-09-11 00:07
Alice - just wanted to thank you publicly for all the work you put into this article! It's really awesome :)
Russ
# Russ 2014-09-11 04:58
Cool. Nice ride Max. Bring on part 2.

I was in the same boat, and so was probably everyone else looking for one of these, by considering a '68 model as "close enough". I nearly went that route a few times, but knew in my heart of hearts that if it wasn't a '67, I'd never truly be happy (I liked the rear end/bumper/ligh ts of the 68, but hated the front end/grill. It looks squishy and odd). Glad I made that choice. After a year of searching I found a decent '67 in reasonably good nick for a good price.

Also learned these things were actually released here in Australia. Made the hunt and buying process a little easier.

Because of Supernatural, this car is as popular as it's ever been, and because of that, more are being found and saved than ever before. There a plenty of SPN fans out there finding these cars. A lot have been neglected and need a lot of work, but they are definitely out there. The more saved, the better, as it is one of the best looking cars ever built. A classic in every sense.
Lilah_Kane
# Lilah_Kane 2014-09-11 10:56
Oh my,

I knew that restoring a car takes some effort but that it takes that much and even to find the 67 two doors Impala is almost impossible.
I would have actually have loved to work with my father, brother or husband like that. Fixing a car and learn everything. I think it would be awesome.

Anyway, Supernatural made me fell in love with the Impala as a car model. I am sure it is a treasure when finished. :)

- Lilah
maximus3311
# maximus3311 2014-09-12 09:47
Thanks Russ! I understand completely - loved the front end on the '67 and hated the rear bumper (which I loved on the '68). At one point I even toyed around with the idea of having a '67 front end stuck on the '68 - fortunately came to my senses and realized that butchering a classic like that was probably a bad idea.

At the end of the day I realized I'd be happy with either the '67 or '68 since the lines I really love on the car (especially the sweep behind the rear doors) are present on both.

Since I came to Supernatural while looking at car pics (rather than finding the impala because of Supernatural) getting a '67 wasn't a high priority (although thanks to Supernatural a lot of the design decisions were heavily influenced by Metallicar).

And I'm with you - this show has helped save a lot of gorgeous classic Impalas which are, without a doubt, some of the best looking cars on the road.

Lilah - go for it! It's a long albeit rewarding process and at the end is totally worth it! Just expect constant massive headaches. If you have any questions feel free to drop me a line.
Jack
# Jack 2015-07-13 12:37
Thanks a lot for putting a information in this blog. I really loved it especially the chart attached with car. I am very much eager to make my antiques lights ("http://www.ma rinesalvageanti ques.com/") a vintage look, so that I gift it to my friend’s birthday gift. Great innovation idea. Keep it up man.