As a kid, Juan was no stranger to being around nice cars. Whereas most kids grow up looking at beat-up daily drivers and mom’s soccer van, Juan’s dad always had something nice—and something custom—sitting in the driveway.
Looking back at his childhood, he remembers cleaning his father’s rides with his brother, but even more profound was how his father kept them involved in the decision-making process—memories forever ingrained in their memory.
But ask Juan about his first memory of lowriding and he’ll be the first to admit that while his dad and uncles were into lowriders, VWs, and mini-trucks, his first vivid recollection of getting hooked into lowriding was when his mom brought home an issue of LOWRIDER magazine. “Once I flipped through the pages of LOWRIDER, it was game over,” Juan exclaims with a grin.
Now whether he got hooked because of the models or the cars is beyond us, but it’s safe to say that regardless of what initially got him hooked, we’re glad that he’s now a part of the family. But what made him decide to get a 1963? Well that all began when he was a teen in the ’90s, and he used to watch his friend’s older brother cruising a convertible 1963. “Every day he would go past our house and all I would wish was that one day I could have one just like it.”
Soon after, he got into the scene with what he could afford and at the time his platform of entry would be a Honda Civic. “I had it dropped with 16-inch gold Daytons and a Candy Red paintjob,” Juan says proudly. But the car would soon become a distant memory as tragedy struck. While deployed to Turkey with the U.S. Air Force in 2001, his brother took the car out and wound up totaling it.
So with no car and an insurance check in the mail, he was glad that his brother was OK, and that’s when he focused his attention on acquiring his dream ride: a 1963 Impala. He found one online in Florida that belonged to a retired Air Force veteran. “I was still overseas and I could only see the car in photos. It looked good so I bought it and had it shipped to New Mexico to my parents house.” After coming back, he realized that the car had a lot of rust, bad bodywork, and plenty of mismatched parts so he began doing minor work just to ensure it was road-ready. Yet as time passed, and his deployments increased, he was soon left with a car that sat in pieces and full disarray.
After parting ways from the Air Force, he and his wife moved back to New Mexico. At the time, Juan figured he would finally have time to work on his Impala, but life had other plans. With no time to work on it, he didn’t want the car sitting and rusting away so regretfully he decided it was time to let his dream go and listed it for sale. Days after listing it, he had a serious offer and that’s when reality—and his better half—kicked in. The same day the buyer was supposed to pick up the car, his wife stepped to the plate and convinced him otherwise. “My wife was emotionally attached to it, and it’s with good reason,” Juan says. “It was our first big purchase as a married couple and because the kids grew up in the back seat of it, I had to back out and cancel the deal.”
After backing out of the deal, the car still sat, and knowing he had no time to work on it, it was under his father’s advice that he wound up sending it to the shop. Yet prior to sending it off, he had to find a shop he could trust and after months of internalizing the idea, he finally pulled the trigger and found The Chevy Shop after seeing their work online..
This is where the second phase of his journey began and after a few months, The Chevy Shop worked their magic and performed all the metalwork. With the body straight and lined up, he was left a bit puzzled as to what color to paint it. “I didn’t want a traditional Chevy color so I began looking high and low for something unique” Juan says. After much deliberation, they started spraying multiple panels and that’s when he found the color that stuck—VW Toffee Brown.
With the car fresh out of the paint booth, it was time to hit the interior. With a few ideas in mind, he decided to give some soft-sided guidance to Bert, but left all the final decisions and motif of the interior to him – and the final decision was to go with Ciadella for dark brown and tan stock pattern.
During the whole build process, Juan kept himself occupied by hunting down a ton of rare and hard-to-find accessories. Among his collection of rare items was the original GM cruise control, A/C, power steering, along with upgraded disc brakes, a 605 steering box, and a TH350 transmission.
As most of you already know, building a lowrider can be a trying testament to your patience and finances. It’s a commitment that breaks many, but for those who make it out, it’s an experience worth its weight in gold. So after patiently waiting 15 years to realize his dreams, he decided that the only way to bless his new ride was to anoint it with the name “Al Fin ’63″—a name that is fitting of the build, and a name that can be worn proudly by this ultraclean and superior 1963.
1963 Chevrolet Impala Convertible
Al Fin ’63
Rebuilt to original 327 with four-barrel Rochester fuel injection
Toffee brown picked out of a newer VW factory color
Shortened stock rearend to accommodate the skirts and wire wheels, added wishbone, and two ViAir compressors with 2.8-gallon air tank
Brown and tan vinyl interior kit by Ciadella
Stock AM/FM radio
13×7 88-spoke all chrome Zenith wrapped in Premium Sportway 5.20s
My wife, Melanie, for her support, my kids, and brother, Eddie, for all their help and ideas. Also a big thanks to Bert and his Chevy Shop crew.