Even with all the great hot rods at the Emerald Coast CruiZin’ show, Buddy and Teresa Wyers’ beautiful 1964 Impala stood out. The Chevy’s clean lines, perfect stance, and stunning paint job drew me to it immediately. When the Wyers told me the story behind the car, I knew it was perfect for Garage Hot Rods.
Buddy and Teresa have made the trip from their home in Mississippi to Panama City Beach, Florida many times. They’ve vacationed in PCB, and they’ve attended the CruiZin’ show for several years at both the spring show, where we talked, and the fall event.
Buddy turns most of the wrenches on the Impala – he did all the mechanical work on the car himself – but Teresa also had a big role to play in them owning the Chevy. To start our conversation, she told me how the decision on which car to buy came about.
“He was going to buy a Plymouth Road Runner,” she said. “But I told him I wanted a ‘64 Chevy because when Buddy and I got married, that’s what he had. It had a three speed on the column and he taught me how to drive it. That was our first car.”
How could Buddy say no when Teresa’s got such a fond memory of their first Impala? The Wyers have been married for 48 years, so I bet it was an easy decision to go with a Chevy. And Teresa even got to name the car, which they call Skyler.
About three years ago Buddy was ready to go hot rodding, and he saw the Impala for sale on Facebook. The owner wasn’t too far away in Dothan, Alabama. He and Buddy talked on the phone a few times, and then arranged to meet when the Wyers were heading down to Panama City Beach for vacation.
When we pulled up in his house,” Buddy told me, “he had the doors, hood, and trunk open and the carpet pulled back.” Buddy gave the Impala a good inspection, but, he said,“I didn’t have to look at it long.”
He left a down payment, and he and Teresa continued on to Florida for their vacation. As soon as they got back home, Buddy and his friend Joe Owen grabbed a car hauler trailer and a truck and went down to pick up the Impala.
Side note: It turned out to be a fruitful transaction for the guy in Dothan. He owned several hot rods, including three ‘57 Chevys, and wanted to sell most of them. While Buddy was picking up the Impala, Joe started looking at a blue ‘57 Chevy. He bought the ‘57 shortly after Buddy bought the Impala, and had it at the CruiZin’ show near the Wyers. That’s Joe’s Tri Five on the left in the picture below.
When I saw the “before” pictures of what the Impala looked like, all I could say was “Wow!” It has been completely transformed inside and out. As Teresa very accurately said, “It didn’t look like this when we got it.”
Buddy said the car was driveable. But it needed a lot of work.
The first thing he did was strip the car down as far as he could both inside and out. One of Buddy’s next steps was to use his DeWalt grinder to clean up the floor pans. When he did, he noticed some pin holes in the foot wells. Buddy wasn’t going to have any pin holes in his Impala.
With his oldest son Trinity (who runs his own automotive electric shop), they cut out only the sections of the floor pans that had the holes. Buddy told me he did this for two reasons: The first reason was that the rest of the floor was in great shape. “Like new,” Buddy said. And the second reason was to keep as much structural rigidity in the Impala as possible.
Then Buddy ordered the replacement sections he needed from Classic Industries. He and Trinity measured and cut the pieces they needed, overlapping the original floor by about an inch all around. Trinity is a very good welder, and he ran the beads for the replacement floor sections.
But Buddy knows that even with the best welder in the world, it’s possible to still have some pin holes in the bead. So, to make sure there were no holes, he ground the welds down, wire brushed about an inch on both sides of the beads, and then laid a layer of fiberglass over the welds. “That way,” Buddy told me, “we’d be sure there wouldn’t be any leaks.” That’s a pretty clever idea that I hadn’t heard of before.
With the floor taken care of, Buddy went under the hood. The Impala was equipped from the factory with a 327 and a three-on-the-tree manual transmission. The previous owner had swapped out the 327 because it was smoking and “ran like a sewing machine” Buddy said. He had replaced it with a 350 that is still powering the Chevy.
Buddy’s upgraded the 350 with a 600 CFM Holley four-barrel, hi-rise aluminum intake manifold. and a completely new electronic ignition system. It’s got ceramic shorty headers feeding into a straight through dual exhaust system with 2 3/4″ pipes.
There’s a new radiator keeping the SBC cool. There weren’t any overheating problems with the original radiator, but Buddy could see a little bit of rust in the coolant and he wanted to head off any future problems. A complete set of new hoses and belts make sure of that as well.
Buddy swapped out the three-speed for a Muncie 4-speed. He said the trans swap was very straightforward – something he really likes about small block Chevys. He’s using a stock GM clutch. The Muncie is driving the factory rear end, which is stock except for the pinion seal that’s been replaced. (Buddy still has the factory three-speed, and the original 327, and the original radiator.)
The rear end is mounted on the factory leaf springs, but Buddy said the coil spring front suspension was worn out. He’s completely reworked it, including installing tubular A-arms. The brakes have been reworked, but they are still manual drum brakes for all four wheels. “You have to kind of stand on it,” Buddy told me.
The factory manual steering is also still in use, although Buddy did try to upgrade that. He installed a complete power steering kit last fall. It seemed to work well at first, but then it got squirrelly at speeds over 30 mph. Buddy messed with it all winter, including several calls with the vendor. Together they determined Buddy had installed it correctly, but there was something wrong with one or more components. Buddy thinks it was probably the steering box.
There was a lot of work involved, but Buddy had a great hot rodding perspective about it. “When you fool with old cars, you’re going to have that,” he said. And the vendor was really good about trying to help solve the problem, and then completely refunding the cost of the system.
About three weeks before the CruiZin’ show, Buddy re-installed the factory manual steering. “It drives great,” he said.
A set of Ridler 695 wheels complete the great stance on the Impala. Buddy has always liked the Ridlers, and a year before he got the Chevy, he saw a vendor selling them for a good price at a car show in the Smoky Mountains. He took a picture of the wheels and the price tag.
When Buddy got the Impala he knew he wanted the 695s and he contacted that vendor. After Buddy explained he would like those wheels at that price, the vendor said, “I’ll tell you what: you send me the picture with the price and we’ll see what we can do.” Buddy sent the picture immediately and less than 15 minutes later the vendor called back and they struck a deal for that same price, plus shipping.
Buddy wanted 8” wide wheels up front and he went with the vendor’s suggestion of 10″ wide rear wheels. They have 225/45 tires and 255/45 tires mounted on them. Buddy’s still happy with his choice. “I absolutely love them,” he told me.
In true Garage Hot Rods fashion, Buddy did all the mechanical work on the Chevy in his 20’ by 20’ garage at his home. “It’s just big enough to fit the car in,” he told me.
The most eye-catching changes to the Impala are the paint and the exterior, both of which were completed by shops in Vernon, Alabama, by Kenny Long (upholstery) and Jason Moore (paint).
Jason took all of the Impala’s body parts off for painting: hood, trunk, and doors included. It was stripped down to bare metal, and then he applied the Viper Red paint. Many of the chrome trim pieces have been replaced with new parts from Classic Industries. As you can see, the results are stunning.
When it came time to upgrade the interior, Teresa told Kenny she was a little worried about how it would come off. “I told him I don’t know about doing it all in red,” she said, “because the red on the inside needs to match the red on the outside.” But Teresa loves how everything turned out. “He matched it perfectly,” she said.
Buddy replaced the stock bench seat with buckets from Classic Industries and installed a custom steering wheel. Kenny took care of everything else. A custom-made center console contains a touch screen monitor and some gauges. (But one gauge that’s not in the Chevy is a tachometer. Buddy shifts by ear.) All the door and window handles are new.
Kenny sketched a few different custom designs for the door panels and the rear package shelf and let Buddy and Teresa pick the ones they liked. He also suggested a white headliner to break up all the red inside. When Buddy didn’t say anything in reply, Kenny correctly figured out that Buddy did not want a white headliner. And that worked out well for both of them. Buddy told me, “After he got it all done, he loved it.”
I loved hearing about the history Buddy and Teresa have with 1964 Impalas. It was his first car. It was the car he was driving when they met. Buddy wanted to do some hot rodding on his original Impala, but with three kids at home, he couldn’t afford it back then.
“When I got this,” he told me, “I knew what I wanted. I just hoped it would turn out good – and it did.”
It most certainly did.
Click here to see the photos of the Wyers’ Impala