When Brad Wheeler met his now-wife Crystal, he soon found out just how big of a Wizard of Oz fan she was. “Every holiday she would watch the film with her grandmother,” Brad tells LR. “Once her grandmother died the film became not only a hobby but a brand collection for her.” During that time Brad was also in the process of building a 1976 Chevrolet Impala. We all know that a happy wife equal a happy life, so he incorporated a Wizard of Oz theme to give them a communal project they could both enjoy.
Originally, Brad wanted a modest and clean paintjob but his ideas and creativity soon took over. He found custom painter Mike Ratley from Mike’s Rod and Kustom, and before long the Chevy was on a trailer for the six-hour trek. Once the Impala arrived, Mike and his team started removing the emblems, side trim, vinyl top, and welding the holes shut.
Mike began the paint process by resin flaking the car with 3 pounds of Tropical Glitz Platinum flake in three different sizes. The patterns were next, sprayed with a mixture of House of Kolor blues and teals with fades, lace, water drops, splatter, thumbprints, leopard prints, and other hidden effects. Ghost blue pearl was subtly added to accentuate the colors, the sides were done with spun silver leafing and graphics in leaf with patterns wrapping through the ‘jambs and pinstripe throughout the Chevy. Prior to topping it off with House of Kolor clear, master painter Phillip Heston laid down the Wizard of Oz murals.
Once the exterior was perfected, Mike turned his attention to the suspension. A two-pump whammy tank setup was installed and mounted to a floating 1.25 round tube frame hovering over a full sheetmetal trunk interior painted and flaked to match. Blue LED lighting was added to illuminate the trunk. A High Hitter Hydraulics adjustable chrome four-link was added to the rear, along with 3-ton precut coils with the axle being narrowed a total of 4 inches. Underhood, Mike pulled the motor and transmission and resealed them with new gaskets, and prior to assembly flaked and candied everything Cobalt Blue.
Inside, John Shaffer wrapped everything in durable blue vinyl with silver stitching. The dashboard was shaved along with the door panels, while the rear package tray was hand-built from sheetmetal. A chrome ididit tilt steering column was installed with a custom-made steering wheel from Krazy Kutting. All dash knobs, rearview mirror, door strikers, doorjamb vents, gas, brake, e-brake pedals, and doorsill plates were swapped out for Sandman Designs billet parts.
Once Mike returned the Chevy to Brad and Crystal they were amazed by the talent and creativity of Mike and his hard-working team. Brad wishes to thank his beautiful wife Crystal for every bit of support and understanding during the 13-month build. And a special thanks go to their two boys, Trevor and Trent, currently in the military.
1976 Chevrolet Impala
Return to Oz
Brad & Crystal Wheeler
Des Moines, IA
Low Obsession Low Rider
350 flaked and candied Cobalt Blue, stainless headers, flaked patterned mini Cadillac air cleaner, Edelbrock 600-cfm carburetor with Billet Specialties polished aluminum serpentine front runner setup, aluminum 3 Core radiator with custom built fan shroud, 14-inch Derale electric fan, custom-built dual 2-inch straight pipe exhaust with fishtail tips
Tropical Glitz Platinum Flake in three sizes, House of Kolor Tru Blue Pearl, Kandy patterns, Cobalt Blue, Oriental Blue, Teal, House of Kolor USC01 clearcoat done by Mike Ratley of Mike’s Rod and Kustom, murals by Phillip Heston, silver leaf and Oriental Blue candied leafing, billet grille backlit with blue LEDs, blue LED lights in trunk, blue LED halo headlights, shaved side moldings and emblems
Chrome A-arms and four-link, axle narrowed 2 inches per side, two-pump whammy tank with stainless hardlines on floating rack, 10-inch cylinders in front and 12-inch in rear, four Duracell 48V to front and 36V batteries
Recovered front and rear seats, upper door panels and headliner, all interior parts smoothed and painted, custom sheetmetal package tray, shaved heat vents, controls and radio, painted Tru Blue Pearl, Dakota Digital gauge cluster, custom-built steering wheel by Krazy Kutting, Sandman Designs billet gas, brake, e-brake pedals, door strikers, doorjamb vents, rearview mirror, doorsill plates, and dash knobs
14×7 custom iodized blue twisted spokes, P175/70R14 radial whitewalls
Crystal, Trevor, Trent, Mike Ratley, John Shaffer, Phillip Heston, club Low Obsession; Kyle Redus from Midwest Supershow