As builders, often times we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to build that perfect ride. Sometimes the stakes are raised even more, when the car is a gift for someone else, or a dedication to a loved one. Imagine trying to build a car that would make your whole neighborhood proud? Well, that’s exactly what John Hardy set out to accomplish with this amazing 1961 Chevy Impala. This would prove to be the ultimate test, as John grew up in the Grape Street neighborhood of Watts, CA; certainly a tough crowd to please.
John got started off on the right foot, as he purchased the ’61 from his friend and legendary Lowrider, “V-Max,” the owner of Norco, CA’s Ultimate Hydraulics shop. After successfully working with V-Max in the past on a couple of builds, John knew he could trust the legend with this new project as well. The ’61 was sitting in the back of V-max’s shop collecting dust, but John and V-Max got down to business in order to turn it into a surefire street hopper. Initially, the build was a standard, two-pump set up, but after seeing how the build was coming along, John had a change of heart and decided to make it a full-blown street and show car. V-Max and Tee sat down with John and planned out the entire build, and discussed everything from the choice of upholstery, engine, and hydraulic set up. John knew that for the future he envisioned for the car, everything on it needed to be rebuilt, added new, or completely restored, so he cut no corners in turning the Impala into the eye-catcher you see before you today.
V-Max and Tee started the build by tearing everything out from the Impala to prep it for paint. The car was then delivered to James Kay from Custom Car Enterprises. John wanted his car to represent his Grape Street neighborhood to the fullest, so he knew that the car needed to be purple. After looking at a few samples, he decided to go with a rich purple accented with grey tones. Before the ’61 was cleared, the car was handed over to Mata from San Bernardino to add the pinstripes and silver leafing. For the finishing touches, the car was given to Artistic Air’s own Earn, out in Orange County Earn to add custom airbrushed graveyard, gangster, prison and Grape Vines themes in between the side moldings to commemorate both the fallen street soldiers and the ones doing time.
Once the exterior was complete, it was time to move on to the undercarriage, where the X Frame was fully reinforced and powder coated to match the car. The A-Arms and trailing arms were also molded, and the brake system was upgraded to 9 inch Ford disk brakes.
The interior of the ’61 had to be up to par with the rest of the car, so Brad from Ultimate Hydraulics took on the extensive task. First, he built a custom center console and added a purple Digital Dash. The carper was replaced with a custom purple, while the seats were reupholstered with purple leather and grey suede inserts. The grey suede inserts had custom Chevy Flags and the Impala emblem embossed into the seats, while the convertible top was adorned with embossed Grape Vines.
John knew that he wanted a Lowrider that had some horsepower, so he told V-Max to swap out the original engine with an ’06 Chevy Corvette LS2 engine. After the engine compartment was painted, the engine was set into place. The LS2 engine had some modifications added to it, including a polished intake manifold, headers, radiator, reservoirs, painted dust guards, custom Air Filter, Flextube Hoses, upgraded CPP break buster, and chrome alternator, water pump, polished pulleys and A/C Compressors.
The trunk and set up was built by V-Max and Tee. They decided on a simple two pump setup with custom purple leather enclosures. The setup includes two pumps, eight batteries, three square dumps, parker hoses, and six switches.
Finally, after eight months of constantly working on the project and juggling other shop projects, T-Max and Tee were done with the ’61 Impala, dubbed “Grape Vine.” Grape Vine was a build for the ages, as it was meant to be driven in the streets and become an award winner at the shows. It has definitely accomplished both, as not only is the Boulevard on fire about this great machine, it also was taken to compete in the LRM Vegas Super Show, where it took home 3rd Place in the Full Custom category and won many other specialty awards. John would like to thank Jordan Downs, his family, Ultimate Riders, the Creator, his daughter, Laila Hardy and all the street soldiers holding it down doing time.
Owner: John Hardy
Vehicle: 1961 Chevy Impala
City/State: Memphis, TN
Car Club: Ultimate Riders
Engine/Drivetrain: ’06 LS2 Corvette motor custom painted. Polished pulleys, intake manifold, headers, and compressors. 700 R4 Transmission.
Paint/Body: Purple candy painted by James Kay. Silver leaf and pinstriped by Mata. Murals by Earn from Artistic Air in Orange County.
Setup: Two Ultimate Competition Pump setup with square dumps and 8 batteries.
Interior: Purple leather and Grey Suede inserts with custom embossed Chevy Impala emblems. Custom painted center council and interior accessories with a Dakota Purple Digital dash.
Sound System: Brad Rogers installed an Alpine head with Kicker woofers and is powered by Alpine amps.
Wheels: Dayton’s 14X7
Tires: Mileage Masters 175/70 R14