When Joe Casillas bought his 1963 Impala SS 13 years ago, it was in hundreds of pieces. Because it was a numbers-matching 409 car, though, he decided that the tricky task of rebuilding what someone else disassembled would be worth the effort.
“It is always harder to put a car back together when someone else took it apart,” Joe says. “I just took my time and did my research. The good thing was that most of the original parts were there.”
The previous owner had taken the rust-free car apart and media-blasted the body, so Joe knew he was getting clean metal. Chevrolet produced more than 832,000 Impalas in the 1963 model year, including almost 17,000 409-powered cars. Three horsepower options were offered: 340, 400 and 425.
One historic note about the 1963 engine offerings was the production of two versions of a 427ci big block. The Z11 option was a larger displacement version of the 409 block. It was reportedly developed for drag racing and an estimated 57 were produced. The famous “mystery motor” was the Mark II 427, the engine design that birthed the iconic big-block Chevy power plants, from 396 to 454 versions.
The crew at Benny’s Auto Body in San Diego performed their magic on the previously stripped sheet metal, repairing the areas that needed attention and aligning everything with show-quality precision. The body was treated to a fresh coat of Monaco Blue paint, as well as freshly polished and plated brightwork.
The blue interior features bucket seats and a console that surrounds the shifter. The stock dash features a push-button AM radio as well as the optional dash-mounted tachometer. The interior restoration was handled by Armando’s pholstery in Santee, California.
One of challenges Joe says he faced while restoring the Impala was the never-ending search for NOS parts. His advice to anyone doing a thorough restoration: “Start buying the hard-to-get parts earlier.”
In the modern era of clones and tributes to ’60s high-performance cars, Joe’s 409 Impala SS is the real deal. And that’s something to be proud of.