Life is one big network; it’s all about who you know, and who knows you. Using this logic, Auto Restorer Richard Lopez has certainly had himself a great life, as he is one well-connected guy. If you’ve been cruisin’ through Lowrider circles for a lifetime or so, you pretty much have no choice but to be linked up with the best of the best. A veteran Lowrider for many years, Richard tooled around with and sold a 1965 Impala Super Sport ragtop before developing this spectacular red ride. Richard lives in Reno, NV, and with the rag long gone; he was itching for another street custom ride to enter into the car show categories. Richard decided to put in a call to Lolystics Car Club member Raj Reddy, whom he asked to help in his search for a workable ’61 Chevy. Soon enough, a dusty, barely recognizable, white Impala was spotted in a field, but there was a catch; Richard couldn’t touch It without paying the owner $2,100.
The idea behind his project ’61 was to move it up into a mild custom category, which was done from the frame up. Good metalwork is crucial for restoring an oldie-but-goodie like this ’61, even though it can go unnoticed once the paint is completed. The underlying bodywork was assisted by his good pal Tony Madera, and after every nook and cranny was addressed, Tony deemed it ready for to be dressed for the prom. Wouldn’t you agree that this radiant red is pure romance at first sight? It’s attractive for a guy calling out to the ladies, in this case, Richard’s gracious wife Denise, and the police seem to also have a love affair with red vehicles, which often scream out to them, “Look at me, I hope your radar gun doesn’t work!” Richard took on the task of sealing off his garage with plastic for the paint process, before enriching the body with a deep luster and giving it a silky gloss. Waiting in the wings for his turn while the paint dried, master pinstriper and pattern creator Armando Serrano of Psychotic Customs, in Reno, NV set his sights on a dazzling design. With the insane strokes of his brush, he touched on the steering wheel, and even patterned-out the fully wrapped x-frame and gas tank.
When it comes to Lowrider interiors, comfort, quality audio, and high quality upholstery helps to separate the great rides from the good rides. Mr. Audie Rich from Audie’s Quality Upholstery out of Reno, NV applied an original Chevy gray vinyl pattern with after-market inserts, seatbelts, carpet flooring, mats, and a custom rear window package tray complete with MB Quartz 51/4″ midrange speakers. Richard himself is also known as an “all-in-one handyman,” and he proved this by mounting the stereo in the ’61’s vintage dashboard. Tuning in to Reno’s best stations is an Alpine AM/FM CD head unit, which is pro-wired to Alpine 4 channel 800-watt and 600-watt 2-channel amplifiers Kicking out the tunes in the ’61 are MB Quart 11/2″ tweeters, mids and JL Audio woofers.
“The motor and frame are new,” Richard says proudly. The compartment speaks for itself, as the nuts and bolts of the engine shine and gleam as much as the exterior of the car does. It’s definitely inspiring to see a comprehensive overview of such masterful engine work, beginning from the top down. The engine build was bolted in by John Figoni of Reno, Nevada. After popping the hood, we found the emblem sitting atop the Edelbrock air filter and 4 bbl. intake carburetor, which were situated over the V-8 block. Also incredibly hypnotizing are the valve covers, which sit over the aluminum heads, Edelbrock water pump, endurashine coating, hosing, and serpentine belt and pulley system. The refined machine sends raw power to the Zenith wheels via a 350 Turbo transmission. Lastly, the polished Magna-Flow exhaust was outfitted by Sid’s Alignment and Brake, while high-quality chroming was handled by ABC Plating out in Reno, NV.
Having great connections always helps in a build, but of course you also need to have the right amount of money and time. Since Richard had both, he tied up the last loose end with magnificent real red vinyl trunk work. After christening the car with the nickname “El Uno,” and giving it the large Impala logo, he finally capped off this amazing build. Even though Richard did most of work himself, the job still took him over three years and $60,000 in dead presidents before it was complete. In the end, however, as any car lover will tell you, “it’s an affair of the heart.”
Owner: Richard Lopez
Vehicle: 1961 Chevrolet Impala
City/State: Reno, Nevada
Club: President, Rollerz Only
Paint: Sherwin Williams Radiant red, applied by Richard himself.
Engine: ’98 Chevrolet Vortec V-8 350 c.i.d. with as 4 bbl. Edlebrock carburetor, aluminum heads.
Interior: original grey vinyl pattern with aftermarket inserts, custom package tray and a pinstriped steering wheel.
Setup: Six, 12-volt Interstate batteries powering 2 Black Magic chrome pumps with 2 Italian Adel Gen dumps. Steel tubing and braided hoses go from the pumps to four, 8-inch cylinder and 23/4 ton springs. Also sharing space in the engine bay are hydraulic cylinders mounted through sealed A-arms.
Wheels: 13×7″ 72-spoke cross laced, red nippled, Zenith wire wheels
Tires: 155/80/13 Firestone Whitewalls