Car building can often become an odyssey that not only shows what the car is made of, it also shows what the owner is made of as well. In the case of Pete Macias of Ontario, CA and his 1961 Impala Convertible, this is one car that certainly was on the “highway to hell” before finding itself on a “stairway to heaven.” While the taxing build certainly wore out Pete’s pocketbook, it did not wear down his sense of humor. His response to our inquiry as to any interesting stories regarding this build was simply, “Where should I start?” Pete has had several cars over the years, but none that matched the quality of this latest creation. Pete’s previous Lowrider was a 1963 Impala Convertible that was used as the financial means to back this new project. As he began his quest, the car market was slim, as he either found cars that were too much of a project or others that were far too expensive for his budget. After a few weeks of searching, the dust settled and he found a survivor ’61 Impala Convertible that he drove home. Once home, he began to visualize the build and decided that he needed a car that wasn’t going to clash with all the candy painted cars in his car club.

Pete took on the advice of a few friends and shot off to see his friends Frank and Gil Melendez, who took on the task of customizing the car. The car was completely stripped down and put on a rolling chassis in order to be transported during the build-up process. The car was then shipped off to the Candy Connection out in Chatsworth, where Bill Carter and Danny D sprayed the car in several tones of House of Kolor Oriental Blue. The old school paint job was then pinstriped and silver leafed by Walt Prey, which helped to unify the overall design of the car’s exterior.

Once the paint portion of the build was completed, the car was then shipped back to the brothers Frank and Gil, who began the assembly of the car. By this time Frank and Ernie had assembled a rolling chassis that featured a GM Performance crate motor and 700R transmission combo. The candy powder-coated frame was dressed with pinstripes, chrome ABS brakes, and a Flowmaster mandrel bent exhaust kit. The chromed out rolling chassis was also chrome plated by Victor Best Polishing and Plating in Pomona before being reunited with the candy painted body.

When it came time to do the interior, Joe and his team at California Upholstery of Bell Gardens, worked their magic and modernized the interior. The suede and vinyl interior complemented the modern digital gauges from Dakota Digital as well as the chrome Ididit column and billet trim that were added to the Impala. Since this car was gong to be a driver, Pete sent out his car to Mario of Kulture Design, who installed the complete Pioneer sound system. Mario also ran new hardlines to the AH2 hydraulic system which was installed by Frank and Saul. With all the modern accessories this rag-top finally came together.

After a few cookouts and several trips to the store, this one-bolt-at-a-time build finally paid off for Pete, as his highway to hell turned into a stairway to heaven, which he and his family love to take on summer night cruises.

Tech Specs

“Stairway to Heaven”

Owner: Pete Macias

Vehicle: 1961 Impala, convertible

City/State: Ontario, California

Car Club: Lifestyle Los Angeles

Hydraulics: The set up includes two AH2 Hydraulics aluminum blocks, with a Whammy tank powered by four 31 series batteries.

Audio: The Impala has a Complete Pioneer sound system consisting of two subwoofers and four components powered by four amplifiers. This is all controlled through a double din head unit set up to sync with Pete’s iPod or iPhone full of Pete’s favorite Led Zeppelin music.

Engine: The car is powered by a GM performance 350 CID crate motor and 700R combination. Dressed up with Proform Performance parts, Billet Specialties and a serpentine kit ordered through Summit Racing.

Wheels: 13×7 Reverse chrome Zenith Wire Wheels.

Tires: Original Premium Sportway 5.20s.