In the mortgage business it’s always about the “Benjamins.” That’s the case for Manuel Molina, who if he doesn’t sell any house notes can’t provide for his family as well as spend money on his toys. The 34-year-old Fullerton, California, resident has always had a love for old cars, which may be why he decided to build one more.

Manuel knew that his latest creation would leave him broke as his 14-month project would take on a life of its own. This ’61 Chevy Impala hardtop was supposed to be a quick put-together car while Manuel took his time building a ’58 Impala. But the ’61 was placed on the back burner when Manuel realized that the ’58 was almost done. Only after the ’58 was finished did Manuel turn his full attention to his frame-off ’61 project.

After acquiring the car from a seller in Alabama, the ’61 was shipped to Gordo at Auto Restylers in Paramount, California, who stripped the car down. Gordo sent the Impala X-frame to Moses Hydraulics in Paramount, where Moses himself did a mild wrap for reinforcing. The partial wrapping would enable the ’61 to handle the two-pump hydraulics setup which consists of a whammy pump and a shared oil tank providing fluid for three Adex square dumps that control the height of the suspension. The setup was installed by Miguel Martinez and Brent Reese of AMC Hydraulics of Orange, California. The A-arms and trailing arms were molded smooth by Frankie and Gordo of Auto Restylers. Other suspension upgrades included a new 605 gearbox. The frame was also powdercoated to match the exterior of the car by Auto Restylers.

A new 350-c.i.d. crate engine was worked on and dropped in by fellow Brown Pride C.C. member Joe Hernandez, and was painted in a copper color and accessorized with Billet Specialties aluminum brackets, valve covers and pulleys. For carburetion, they used an Edelbrock polished intake and carburetor which allows the car to run better than new. To cool off the engine compartment, the new radiator received a chrome Wizard electric fan setup. A new set of mufflers were installed at Harbor Muffler in San Pedro, California.

The ’61 Chevy sheet metal was painted at D&J Auto Body in Fullerton, where Oscar Valadez takes credit for the flawless two-stage paint job. The copper-colored DuPont finish was latter rubbed out to a mirror finish. With the paint done, the body was taken back to Auto Restylers where they put the body back onto the frame. They also lined up the fenders and bolted on most of the refinished trim done by Caesar’s Plating in Wilmington, California. The car was shipped to the Bowtie Connection in San Pedro where it would receive a new interior. The CARS, Inc. interior kit was stitched on by Bowtie Connection master stitcher Freddy to ensure an OG factory look.

While the car was at Bowtie Connection, John Kennedy and his crew fine-tuned the miscellaneous items that had to be fixed or finished. Mike, Huey and Sal finished up the final touches on the factory options before shipping the car home, including having the windows installed and adjusted by Mark “The Glass Man” Luna. The ’61 was then returned to Gordo for a cool sound system installation.

We asked Manuel how he came up with the name for his ride and he replied that since the car cost him a pretty penny to build he named it “61 Cents.” Rumor has it that he’ll be building another classic ride soon. We’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out, but Manuel has raised expectations sky high, since in addition to this ’61, he’s also the owner of the current Traditional of the Year, the “Lay Low ’58” Impala convertible, which he proudly displays next to 61 Cents.

’61 Cents
Owner: Manuel Molina
Vehicle: ’61 Chevrolet Impala hardtop
City/State: Fullerton, California
Club: Brown Pride C.C.
Engine: GM 350-c.i.d. crate with Billet accessories.
Setup: One aluminum whammy pump, three Adex square dumps, 8-inch (front) and 10-inch (rear) cylinders, six Trojan batteries, four switches
Tires: P155/80-R13 Bridgestone
Wheels: 13×7 reverse Dayton