As the owner of Low Life Hydraulics, Rick Burell is a purist at heart and a staple of the lowrider community. For the past 25 years he’s wrenched on some of L.A.’s finest rides—many of them being his own. Aside from his shop, Rick is perhaps best known for his 1963 Impala that he named after famous Dutch painter van Gogh.
The 1963 rag was clean. Finished in dark blue with ghost pearl patterns the Impala landed Rick a 2011 feature in Lowrider. No stranger to the spotlight, that very same car had actually been featured in 2002, prior to its transformation to “Van Gogh.” Yet it still wasn’t enough. After building multiple magazine-worthy cars one would think he’d be tired, but ask any painter or art collector if one piece is enough and they’ll gladly tell you no, which is why he broke out with this 1959 he calls “Picasso.”
Knowing that his next canvas would be a 1959, Rick thought he had a solid lead. His friend in San Diego had a convertible one but after failed negotiation it was clear that he just wasn’t going to let it go, but in passing Rick was offered a 1959 hardtop. Anxious, and determined to get himself a pair of wings, Rick made a verbal agreement to pick it up site unseen. Once he arrived the car wasn’t in the condition he expected. It was disassembled, the body showed heavy signs of weathering, but the fact remained that he had already given his word so he had every intention of keeping it.
With the deal done and the car back home he’d shuffle through all the pieces of the puzzle. One part to the next he’d organize them neatly, and at one point during the tedious process he even considered ditching the project to start on a 1957 Bel Air convertible he had sitting. But the allure of working on a hardtop was something different for him. Rick had already spent most of his life working on convertibles and couldn’t wait to pattern the hardtop, so he carried on with his original plans. “I have an infatuation with patterned tops,” Rick says. “A lot of my predecessors, like Charles Clayton and G of Majestics, had 1959s with roof patterns by Doc, and now it was my time.”
Intent on getting patterns by Doc, he reached out to him and Doc agreed. The only problem was the car needed plenty of prepwork before being dropped off. To begin he had Jorge Robles prep the body and spray it with a candy tangerine paintjob. As the car slowly came together it took a total of two years before it was ready for Doc, but by the time he was ready Doc had fallen ill, so he reached out to Skippy, who in turn did the patterns. Inspired by Chris Elliman art, Rick Munoz airbrushed the murals inside the molded trunk and hood, and once complete he had a 350 dropped in while Ben Median whipped up the interior.
In completed form, the Impala looks more like a piece of lowriding history than it does a weekend cruiser. Its flawless lines and pristine paint would make most tuck it away in the garage, but not Rick. His philosophy is that art should be shared, experienced, and enjoyed. He summed it up best when he said, “Who wants an expensive toy that you can’t play with? Not me. I’d rather get in and enjoy it because seriously why keep it in a trailer when you can let other people admire it as well?”
1959 Chevrolet Impala
Rick “Rock” Burell
350 out of a 1990 Chevy with Billet Specialties valve covers, air cleaner, dress-up kit, water pump, starter, and alternator; Mattson radiator and fan; Edelbrock intake and carburetor; HEI ignition and distributor; Taylor wires; Huggers headers; Hex muffler; Optima yellowtop battery
Molded firewall, trunk, hood, and shaved rain gutter; PPG candy tangerine with pearl patterns on the belly, roof, and trunklid
Ford 9-inch axle; BBC 2 1/2-ton springs; CPP brakes, master cylinder, booster, and molded A-arms; four Low Life Remote pumps, round dumps, Accumax solenoids, LLH blacks, and four batteries
Ciadella interior kit in copper with Dakota Digital gauges and custom center console
Pioneer double-din with two JL Audio amps, eight Infinity 5 1/2-inch speakers, and two 10-inch JL Audio W6 subwoofers
Cross-lace 13×7 Zenith with 155/80-13 Remington tires