Growing up in Gisborne, Justin Ferris would hang around a group of like-minded guys, all sharing an appreciation for cars. While Justin and his mates would go through the usual line-up of Japanese and European vehicles, Justin was really always destined to want some American iron. With a dad who always owned Harley Davidsons and American cars, Justin spent a lot of time going with his dad to hot rod shows, as well as making a few trips to America for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
“In 2000, I was an 18-year-old working in vehicle import-export in Osaka, Japan. There’s a place there called ‘American-mura’, or American Village, with American clothes, food, culture, everything — that’s where I saw my first ‘real’ low-riders cruising in a group,” Justin says. “For me, the one that really stood out was a ’91 Cadillac with a chromed undercarriage doing a big three-wheel down the street. That car was what made me want a low-rider.
“After I returned to New Zealand in 2002, I went through a few vehicles, and eventually ended up purchasing a 2006 Harley Davidson, which I built into a low-rider style of bike — which they call a Vicla in the USA — with Air Ride shocks, sounds, fishtail pipes, the works. That was the start,” Justin recalls.
What Justin really wanted, though, was a car to build into his vision of a low-rider, but, with so many candidates, making a decision was easier said than done.
“So many cool selections made it hard to decide, but I always came back to the ’67 Impala fastback — the Dub City ’67 Impala model I’ve had on my dresser since 2005 helped!”
However, after a year of searching with no results, Justin was easily convinced by fellow members of the Carnales car club to look a little closer to home.
“Fergus Hope and Lauren Hill from Peninsula Panel and Paint in Whangamata had this ’67 Impala coupe sitting in the garage, but, with the state it was in, I just couldn’t envisage the end result,” Justin says.
Fortunately, Justin’s mates could, and knew that the car could be built into a perfect, real-deal low-rider. It started out as a virtually rust-free Arizona car, with only one tiny spot of rust, in the rear driver’s side wheel well.
“It was pretty much rust free when it came into the country, but it had a sweet layer of dust on it by the time I got it,” Justin laughs. “It pretty much sat in Fergus and Lauren’s garage for around three years after they got it.”
So began the process of building the Impala from bucket to beauty, with the aim of either a classic low-rider — black, with a black vinyl roof — or a ’70s low-rider style, with lace and candy paint. For Ferg, it could only ever be done “the right way” — patterns and candy it would be!
This meant a big job lay ahead of Ferg and his Peninsula Panel and Paint team, before Ferg could even consider picking up a sanding block or spray gun. Sifting through all the photos Justin emailed him, Ferg had to come up with a paint job that would look tasteful as well as command a double take. With this brief, it was decided that it should be business up front and party out back — to grab people’s attention when the Impala was driving away, with an abundance of custom paintwork following its big hips and smooth roofline.
The Impala sailed through compliance, and the team could finally begin the countless hours of elbow grease required, blocking and sanding the Impala’s body back to smooth perfection.
Inside, the ratty Mexican-spec interior was tidied up, with a Caprice upholstery kit used to give a touch of period-correct class to the standard Impala interior. Of course, Justin’s goal of a ’70s theme meant the interior would benefit from a range of cool additions — check out the retro Sony portable TV with matching Sony bunny-ear antennae, sourced from the Pomona Swap Meet in California, perfectly accenting the ’70s colour bar connected to the head unit. The rear Venetian blinds are obligatory, and the Carnales club plaque visible between them gives a vibe that’s nearly synonymous with summer days, Californian boulevards, and smooth funk beats.
With the completion of the team’s efforts on the panelwork, the fun part could begin. Justin played apprentice to the master, as Ferg commenced a ‘mask, spray, unmask, repeat’ process to finish the incredible custom paintwork meticulously. Through the use of carefully selected ’70s-style lace and doilies, a truly incredible finish has resulted.
“After a couple weeks, I drove down from Auckland to check the Impala out, as the clear coat had been laid down and most of the car was back together. I was lost for words. It exceeded all my expectations, looking even better than I could have imagined,” said Justin.
It really is an amazing paint job, and one that must be seen in person to be truly appreciated — the lines and detailing are absolutely perfect, and have been intricately laid down to best work with the flowing lines of the Impala’s body. As well as looking so good, it’s a perfect match for the subtle theme of the car. At night, the car looks like a black Impala, but, under light, it comes alive as a shimmering fusion of red, plum, and purple hues — the kind of paint job that doesn’t jump out at you, but makes you feel a sense of intrigue and a desire for a closer look to find out just what makes it so special.
Of course, while the paint is one of the key factors in making a ‘proper’ low-rider, another involves the slightly less glamorous side of the car. With the Impala all finished inside and out, now came time to put in work underneath. Although Justin was initially hesitant about installing hydraulic suspension in the Impala, all it took was a drive behind the wheel of fellow Carnales member Kenny Harrison’s LVVTA-certified Camaro low-rider to convince him otherwise.
The Impala was entrusted to Chris Harrison at Valley Custom in Cambridge, where it was to receive the ever-important hydraulic suspension over Christmas. With a deadline of the Kumeu Classic Car and Hot Rod Festival and the V 4&Rotary Air Ride and Lowrider Nationals in January 2015, time was of the essence. Chris got the job done in record time, and to an incredible standard, with the Impala flying through certification, allowing Justin to drive it wherever he wishes.
He does drive it, too, and — in case you were wondering — it’s a civilized and comfortable cruiser to drive long distance; Justin frequently drives from Auckland to Whangamata and Hamilton, with no complaints at all. Sure, the 327ci small block and two-speed Powerglide gearbox don’t endow the Impala with blistering performance, but it goes well enough not to be a pain — plus, it perfectly fits the low-rider’s ‘low and slow’ ethos.
It’s not just a dream car in Justin’s eyes, either — at this year’s V 4&Rotary Air Ride and Lowrider Nationals, it took out the trophies for Best Custom Paint and Best Lowrider Overall, as well as winning Best Paint at the V 4&Rotary Ardmore Showdown and People’s Choice at the Meguiar’s Charity Cruise.
These awards confirm that, despite its extremely subtle nature, the build has been done right.
“Future plans include finishing off the boot, tarting up the engine bay with some chrome and billet, and installing a retro air-conditioning kit, but for now I’m enjoying driving it low and slow, with my tunes playing loud,” Justin states — and, if you’ve been fortunate enough to see this amazing machine, you’d be hard-pressed to say that you’d do any different.
Vehicle: 1967 Chev Impala coupe
- Engine: 327ci small-block Chev, roller rockers, Edelbrock intake manifold, Edelbrock carburettor
- Driveline: GM Powerglide two-speed automatic transmission, stock diff
- Suspension: 24V Hoppo’s two-pump hydraulic front and rear suspension
- Brakes: Factory drum brakes
- Wheels/Tyres: 14×7-inch Cragar SS wheels, 175/70R14 Hankook tyres; also alternates between Dayton 88-spoke 13-inch wire wheels and 14-inch Impala steel wheels with factory ’67 Impala hubcaps
- Exterior: ’67 Caprice tail lights, sequential relays, ’67 Impala fender overriders, ’62 Impala twin AM/FM antenna, retro Sony TV rabbit-ear antenna, House of Kolor Kandy Red with House of Kolor FX Metajuls, ‘So Fine’ window pinstriping
- Interior: Factory Impala bench seats, ’67 Impala tissue holder, ’70s-style disco colour bar, retro Sony portable TV, Impala interior kit, Venetian blinds, Pioneer DVD head unit, Alpine Type R 6.5-inch speakers, Alpine Type R 6x9s, Alpine four-channel amp, Alpine PDX Mono amp, twin 10-inch Cerwin Vega Pro Series subs
- Performance: Low and slow!
This article was originally published in NZV8 Issue No. 127. You can pick up a digital copy or a print copy of the magazine below: