As with most who grew up in or around the lowrider scene, your dreams are typically larger than the money in your bank. And things were no different for our next featured guest, Jesse Coria.
Growing up around the scene, he had always envisioned his dream build to be a 1961 Impala. Yet rather than wait for the perfect moment and the right amount of cash, he took to the streets and started by working on a G-body. “At the time, I didn’t have any resources or the money to build what I wanted,” Jesse says, so throughout the years he built multiple cars and each time they turned out better than the last. With a goal to one day build himself a 1961 Impala convertible, he was constantly on the search, and the one thing he knew was that he’d have to start with something that needed a lot of work.
One day while surfing the ‘Net he spotted the shell of 1961 convertible for $11,000. It was a barnyard find with not too much history behind it, but nonetheless Jesse saw a vehicle that would serve as the perfect start for his build. With the deal done, the transporter dropped off the rag and Jesse was in for a big surprise. Aside from the rust, he found a bigger problem. The car didn’t have floors, a trunk, motor, or a transmission and right then and there he knew that restoring the 1961 wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
He began asking around to see who would be able to restore the shell, and all fingers pointed to The Chevy Shop. “I made contact with Bert at The Chevy Shop and he agreed to take on the project.” After three months Bert and his crew removed all the rust, ironed out all the kinks, and laid down a pearl paintjob that spanned from the belly on up. Shortly after getting the pristine shell back, Jesse was ready to take his build to the next level and that’s when tragedy struck and he was forced to put the project on hold. Due to health and financial issues within the family, at one point he thought about selling the car to help out, but listened to the insistence of his girlfriend, Gina, who told him to put it away and not sell it. “If it wasn’t for her I probably wouldn’t have the car anymore,” Jesse says.
After a few years’ hiatus, Jesse was ready to continue the restoration process, and at that point the car was shipped off to Oklahoma where it met another unexpected hibernation period. The car sat for two years without any work being done, and that’s when his close friend (and fellow club member) Bobby Garza stepped up and drove out to pick up the car. Once in Garza’s possession he took the car to Texas to have the build restarted.
The car was dropped off with the Leal brothers. With no interior, motor, or a frame, Jesse flew out to discuss the details of the build and with specific instructions the Leal brothers went straight to work by acquiring a frame, molding it, customizing the interior, assembling the car, and having artist Lokey leaf and ‘stripe the car. From there Jesse purchased a plethora of parts that included a 396 big-block, gravity-fed pumps from Hoppo’s, and a set of Zeniths from Freaky Tales. With all the parts in his possession he had them shipped off to Texas and that’s when the final stages of the restoration was completed in just two months—just in time to be debuted at the Vegas Super Show.
With the car in its final stages there was a big rush to finish the car in a couple of months because Jesse’s mother had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. “My mother is my biggest believer, and even when I didn’t believe in myself she pushed me forward. She wanted to see me reach my dream of completing and competing my dream car, but all the while the doctors didn’t give her much hope to live to see the day.” Multiple doctors advised her against the surgery, as they feared she would die on the operating table, but his mother didn’t lose hope and went ahead with the surgery.
“Seeing my car get new life while at the same time seeing my mom battling for her’s was one of the toughest times for me.” A few days before the Vegas Show, Jesse’s mother went in for surgery and came out of it with the procedure being a success.
After years away, the 1961 finally came home the same time that his mother came home from the hospital. To see both back home made this struggle all worth it and Jesse says, “I really have to thank Bobby Garza because he really pushed for the car to get done in time, in case the unthinkable happened; and my girl Gina because she stuck with me when I lost it all and I got it all back,” Jesse explains. “There isn’t a lot of hope for a lot of us who come from the streets. We aren’t supposed to succeed in life but this car is my personal proof that as long as you don’t give up hope you can succeed no matter what cards you’re dealt.”
1961 Chevrolet Impala Convertible
Overnight Celebrity 2
Jesse “Chuch” Coria
West Covina, CA
Big-block 396 out of a 1966 Impala SS with a Spectre Performance oval air filter, ball milled valve covers, Edelbrock manifold/carburetor, flex-a-hose, ARP bolts, aluminum radiator with an electric fan, and Eddie Motorsport hinges
Axalta Lemon Sunset Pearl paintjob with ‘striping by Lokey Calderon and murals by Rick Munos
Shortened, chromed, and engraved rearend with a fully wrapped and molded frame; CPP master cylinder and chrome molded and engraved A-arms; two Hoppo’s gravity-fed pump setup
Custom interior with four bucket seats and a center console wrapped in ultra leather in hide color by Leal Brothers and installed by Phillip Flores, Billet CPP steering wheel, ididit chrome/tilt steering column, and a Dakota Digital gauges
Pioneer double-din monitor deck with DB Pro Audio mids, subwoofers, and amps
13×7 chrome Zenith wire wheels with 5.20 Premium Sportway tires