1961 Chevrolet Impala Convertible – America’s Most Wanted

Don't give up till you rise to the hop

Gary Smith had come across this ’61 Impala when he came in contact with an old friend from junior high school. He purchased the ride with ease, but immediately began giving it a total makeover, starting with repainting the entire body. Gary had it in his mind that he wanted this car to be an extreme lowrider, from hitting major height with hydraulics to cruising the streets low with grace, power, and reliability.

The guys who are usually into seriously hopping their car with a hefty hydraulic setup typically don’t drive their car on a regular basis and usually put it on a trailer to move it from event to event. Not Gary! He never uses a trailer and regularly drives it with his family right by his side.

To get this ’61 to that kind of level, Gary built the frame himself. Gary remembers going through the early design stages, wanting the rearend in the stock location so that it would be a sleeper at the hop-offs, appearing to be in a regular low stance. Once the rear was locked up high with the 28-inch cylinders, it would be a whole other story! The entire frame of the Impala was reinforced with 1/2-inch steel to prevent any flexing in the body. “I modified and broke two car lifts trying to bend the metal just right,” Gary says.

With all the extra metal added to the frame, everyone told Gary it was going to be too heavy and it just wouldn’t work. Gary continued on regardless, trusting the scope of his own work. His wife and kids helped him put the car back on the frame. He installed the total hydraulic setup and ended up snapping axles like crazy. That’s when he knew he had to get a little help. He called upon his friend, Moses, to build him some unbreakable axles and extra large bearings.

When it came to the powerplant, Gary wanted a reliable but powerful motor to push the heavy Impala from location to location. He built up a motor with high torque that had plenty of power to go. Gary also installed four-wheel disc brakes so there was also plenty of power to stop!

Gary thanks his wife and kids for their help and support, and he thanks his fellow club members for their help, especially with those late-night hours in the garage!

Tech Specs

Vehicle Year/Make/Model: 1961 Chevy Impala Convertible

Vehicle Nickname: America’s Most Wanted

Owner: Gary Smith

City/State: West Valley, Utah

Club: Hu$tler$ Car Club

Engine: 1974 Chevy 383 V-8 built by Gary himself

Body/Paint: NPR Imports in Centerville, Utah, laid down a basecoat with lots of clear to seal in the eye-catching red color scheme. Los Designs in West Valley, Utah, did his fine-line pinstriping and Legends, also in West Valley, sprayed detailed airbrushed murals on the dash and trunk. Art by Alex in North Salt Lake City added his talents of airbrushed murals to the sides of the Impala. Salt Lake Chrome in Salt Lake City, took care of the chrome plating.

Suspension: Gary installed the two-piston pump by Black Magic Hydraulics. 8-inch cylinders sit up front and whopping 28-inch cylinders sit in the rear. A total of four hydraulic pumps, three dumps, 18 solenoids, and 14 batteries round out this impressive suspension system.

Wheels/Tires: 13×7 Daytons were custom ordered through 801 Wheels of Salt Lake City / Firestone 155/80/13 whitewall tires

Interior: Tom Paul of Salt Lake City did up the upholstery in an original Impala design and a red and white color scheme

Sound System: Gary, a man of many talents, installed the audio system consisting of a JVC head unit, Fosgate amplifier, and Fosgate tweeter and mid-range speakers