Bud Grimm purchased his beautiful 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS brand new off the dealer lot. One of the fondest memories he has involving the Chevy is that he drove his baby girl Delaney home from the hospital in it. Later this month, Delaney and her husband will be driving away from their wedding in the very same Impala.
Bud got his SS from Meadows Motors Chevrolet in Manchester, Georgia. His boss at that time owned the dealership, and Bud was able to get the Impala for just $200 over dealer cost. He’s owned it ever since.
“This was the last year for the Corvette drivetrain in the full-size body,” Bud told me. His Impala has a 5.7L, 16 valve small block LT1, a 4L60E four-speed overdrive automatic transmission, Posi traction rear, and four wheel disc brakes.
Of course, Bud’s done some hot rodding on the Chevy. An improved cold air intake system helps the sequential port fuel injection system breathe in. A set of headers and straight through dual exhaust let the V8 breathe out.
The exhaust system is from Ed Hamburger’s Street Legal Performance and is completely polished. By Bud.
“I spent about 27 hours polishing that exhaust system myself,” he told me. “I couldn’t see putting it on without it being polished.”
The engine also sports some custom fuel injector covers that feature the flag logo from the 1958 Impala, the first year of the car. “That was the first one ever made,” Bud said, “and this is the last rear wheel drive model.” The engine also has a set of one-off Mooneyes finned valve covers. The covers had to be machined and re-welded to clearance the alternator.
Bud swapped out the stock 3.08 gears in the rear for a steeper 3.73 gear. The rear end is turned by a 4″ carbon fiber driveshaft and held in place by Metco Motorsports control arms and a huge 1.5″ Herb Adams solid rear sway bar.
The engine computer has been reprogrammed to help make more power and to adjust the shift points on the transmission. A set of Boyd Coddington Smoothie II wheels finish off the Impala perfectly.
Bud’s Impala is one of the JM Signature Series SS models that were designed by GM’s legendary engineer Jon Moss. Not only is Bud’s a JM Signature Series car, it’s also got JM’s signature. Really.
“I met him at a car show,” Bud told me. “It was an Impala meet – 200 Impalas showed up.” Bud had a paint pen with him, and got Moss to sign his Impala on the inside of the trunk and in the engine compartment.
You’d probably guess that the JM Signature cars were fully loaded. And you’d be right. “These cars only came fully loaded,” Bud said. In this case, that means a full leather interior, power steering and power brakes, air conditioning, and an AM/FM/CD stereo. Bud’s still enjoying all of the factory luxuries.
The Impala SS was only available in three colors: ‘Bad to the Bone’ black, dark cherry metallic, and gray green metallic. But, as Bud told me, “Everyone knows the black was the fastest color.”
Bud put a few custom touches of his own on the exterior of his SS. The red stripes are not vinyl – they are painted. Bud had a retired aircraft painter from Delta airlines do the work. After laying out the stripes and painting them, he applied six coats of clear coat to keep them protected.
The stainless-steel Impala side scripts pop almost as much as the stripes. Bud told me the factory scripts were the same color as the car. He had a set laser cut and polished to make them stand out beautifully.
The Impala is driven frequently. It has 55,000 miles on it. But Bud takes good care of it too. “It’s never been hit,” he said. “It’s never been scratched. It’s never been dinged. I probably haven’t driven it in the rain in 15 years and it’s never been driven in the snow.”
With the performance tweaks and custom touches Bud has completed, his Impala is a great representative of the seventh, and last rear wheel drive generation of the iconic Chevrolet nameplate. And his fellow Impala owners recognized this at the Georgia Super Sport Impala Team (GASSIT) show.
At the same show where Bud had Jon Moss sign his car, Bud won the award for Best Exterior and Paint. It was a close decision between two Impalas and the judges were at a loss on how to decide. Jon Moss suggested that they count the bugs in the grills on each car and whoever had the least amount would take first place. Bud won first place by 7 bugs! He didn’t have any.
It was easy to tell how important his family is to Bud. He’s very excited that his daughter will be driving the Impala away from her wedding. But it’s also easy to tell that Bud’s a hot rodder. He had one more story to tell me about taking his daughter home from the hospital.
“When my daughter came home from the hospital, she and my wife were waiting at the curb in a wheelchair when I came to pick them up,” Bud said. “Some of the maintenance guys from the hospital came up and said they loved the car. So I started talking to them. They wanted to see the engine, so I lifted the hood. Finally, my wife said ‘Can we take our daughter home please?’”
Hey. That’s just how hot rodders are.
Update: Bud emailed me to say: “The wedding went off without a hitch and the Happy Couple roared off into their new life in the Impala.”
John Moss photos courtesy of Bud Grimm
Other photos by GHR
Click here to see the photos of Bud’s Impala