1964 Chevrolet Impala – The Lady in Red

Howard Gribble and Starlite Rod & Kustom Recreate Bloody Mary

Several years ago we profiled automotive historian Howard Gribble in our Lowrider Originals column. He was out there documenting an unfolding lowrider scene because major automotive publications at that time weren’t really paying them much attention. Had it not been for his efforts, much of the styles, names, cars, and techniques of that era would be nothing more than memories, rumors, and hearsay today. You can check out a great deal of his work under the Flickr name “Kid Deuce.”

One car in particular that became relatively well known in California’s South Bay area and on the local show circuit in the late ’60s was a ’64 Impala owned by Allen Duke. The car went through several iterations including a two-tone blue enamel paint scheme, and later a purple pearl with fuchsia flake and lace patterns. It traveled under the name “High but Low” until it was wrecked. Upon being repaired, its third and last-known guise was in a brilliant red candy with pearl undertones adorned with silver metalflake on the top and sides accented with cobweb patterns. Its new name – Bloody Mary.

After a few years, several transactions, and a changing car world both in publication and build style, Bloody Mary was lost to time. Like Ed Roth’s Mysterion or James Dean’s Porsche Spyder, its current whereabouts are unknown. Since Howard had lots of photos of the car and a sentimental attachment to the original he decided to recreate it as faithfully as possible. As a native of Torrance, California, it was a bit fortuitous that Howard cross paths with the guys at Starlite Rod & Kustom, also located in the area, to take on the project. Actually Starlite had already been a fan of Howard’s work and built cars based on photos he’d taken so it couldn’t have been a better partnership.

Allen, the original owner, also got involved, consulting on details to replicate it accurately. In fact, he found a car belonging to an East Coast promoter and pinstriper to serve as a suitable platform for the new version. Between that and the collection of photos Howard had amassed of the first one, work began to bring this beauty back into existence. The car came with a 327, same as the original, but was converted from a four-speed to an automatic to match the first version…and be easier to drive. It’s all pushing fumes through 22-inch glasspacks and Bellflower tips like it was back then.

To make things a little more practical, modern components were used for the hydros, including two Kool Aid pumps, four dumps, two solenoids, and two Yellow Top Optima batteries. Six-inch cylinders in the front with 8-inchers in the back all running with hardlined hoses keep the juice running smoothly. Howard recalls that the original had earlier aircraft-type pumps and all ran off a single battery.

Body mods correctly replicate the original with laser-straight lines, a tube grille by Glory Grills, dual frenched antennas, a chromed cowl vent, and shaved emblems and door handles. Stevenson Paint & Supply in Carson, California, provided the materials for Starlite to pull off that vivid red with a blend of persimmons candy, primo red, and red pearls. The top and center panels were shod in a silver base with small and coarse flakes and black pigment was added for the webbing effect. It took several tries to get it right. Different products and techniques were attempted along with Allen’s guidance to get six months’ worth of work to where it needed to be. The results are flawless.

Eddie & Son in Bellflower, California, brought back the button-tufted pearl white Naugahyde that the original car had. The interior’s brightwork includes a chrome gauge cluster, glovebox, and column. The stock-appearing radio was updated with a modern version from Antique Automobile Radio and connected to four 6×9 speakers. A 45-rpm record player and color bar also resides in the interior, and although Howard has a vintage tape player like the first version had, it has not been installed yet. And yes, who could forget to add the 14×7 Astro Supremes?

The finished homage to the first Bloody Mary debuted in late 2014 and has already claimed Second Place in the Custom Lowrider category at the 2015 Grand National Roadster Show. A job well done goes out to as Starlite Rod & Kustom and Allen Duke to bring this historic lady in red back to life. Allen was thrilled to see his past honored so well and we’re sure he’ll be asking Howard to drive the car as often as possible to relive his youth, but we really can’t blame him.

Tech Specs

Vehicle Year/Make/Model: 1964 Chevrolet Impala

Vehicle Nickname: Bloody Mary

Owner: Howard Gribble

City/State: Torrance, CA

Club: Autoholics

Engine: 327 V-8 and 700-R4 trans

Body/Paint: Frenched antennas, tube grille, chrome cowl vent, shaved emblems and door handles. Custom blend of persimmons candy, primo red, and red pearls. Silver base with flake and black pigment for the webbing effect on top and sides. Work by Starlite Rod & Kustom, Torrance, CA.

Suspension: Two Kool Aid pumps, four dumps, two solenoids, and two Yellow Top Optima batteries. Six-inch cylinders front, 8-inch back, hardlined plumbing.

Interior: White naugahyde, chrome gauge cluster, glovebox, and column. Upholstery by Eddie & Son, Bellflower, CA.

Sound System: Antique Automobile Radio head unit, four 6x9s, 45-rpm record player

Wheels/Tires: 14×7 Astro Supremes / Hankook Optimos 185/75R14