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Dare to be Different – 1963 Chevrolet Impala SS

2 March 2024

We bet you’ve never seen a ’63 Impala SS quite like the one that has just rolled out the doors of Real Rides.

We bet you’ve never seen a ’63 Impala SS quite like the one that has just rolled out the doors of Real Rides

Words: Marcus Gibson Photos: Strong Style Photo


Remember that 10-day C10 build that we covered a few issues back? You know, the complete resto that the mad dogs from Real Rides undertook in the lead-up to the Repco Kumeu Classic Car and Hot Rod Festival this year? Well, would it surprise you if we said it wasn’t Real Rides’ first Discovery Channel–style rodeo? That honour actually falls on this ’63 Impala SS, which was built — for the most part — in 12 days of fury from a pile of parts leading up to the 2020 Kumeu running. If you’re a regular to the west Auckland show, then you’ll know that Real Rides is always present under the big white tent opposite the show halls, and it always brings something fresh — and by fresh we mean rolled straight out of the booth to the show.

But hang on, this is 2022 — where’s it been hiding all that time? Following the show, the uncompleted SS was rolled into the corner as other projects took priority; many of them have graced these pages, and even more, have not. However, a recent push has finally seen the vision completed. Started in 2019 as a simple paint and panel project for a customer, that is nothing like how it ended up.

The Impala was purchased locally — having been imported from Japan — and, while it was a solid base with great floors and so on, it needed a few repairs, including a new rear quarter replacement. The Real Rides team got busy on it and reached the stage of primer before the owner pulled the pin. He’d come across his dream machine, a Dodge Super Bee, so the incomplete and stripped ’63 needed to find a new home. Much like one of those pet-rescue people who seem to collect and care for all the neighbourhood strays, Kayton’s a sucker for unwanted and abandoned projects, and soon the ’63 was in Real Rides ownership and a completely different vision for the SS was forming.



With Kayton fresh from a trip to the SEMA Show, that vision would not include taking either of the well-travelled routes we traditionally see with these X-frames — either a low-rider or a muscle car. These guys dare to be different, even when working with tight deadlines, so this one would be built in their now-signature pro-touring style.

Arriving back from their Christmas break 12 days before the 2020 Kumeu show, the team rolled the pre-stripped and completely bare ’63 into the workshop as a panelled and primered shell. With all hands on deck, by day two the first coats of PPG Beige were flowing from the gun. While this was happening, all the chrome and stainless trim was being prepped ready for either a coat of PPG satin bronze or the hydro-dipped carbon treatment.


This was a huge job in itself, with booth load after booth load of tiny components needing to be prepped and coated — and that’s not taking into account the modifications that would first need to take place to the front bumper by moulding in a chin spoiler. The rear bumper would receive a large diffuser that exploits the factory bumper lines.

To tie the front and rear bumper extensions together, a pair of lower underskirts was added to the mix — minus the side skirts. The result is an Impala like we’ve never seen before, and certainly one that will stand out wherever it goes — and that is definitely the point with building shop projects like this. It’s the kind of thing that might be hard to sell to a paying customer on paper — but when you’re the one making the calls, you’re only limited by your imagination. Unlike many of the flashy SEMA Show cars from which Kayton drew his inspiration, this is no semi-pro pro-tourer.


A quick look underneath will confirm it’s also been right — by that we mean built to drive. A known weak point in these X-frames once you start throwing power in is the rear top link. This has been upgraded using a Global West four-link kit, which keeps the rear end in place, along with a Global West Panhard kit. Furthermore, the rear has been converted to coilover and, like the front, runs a pair of QA1 single adjustable coilovers. The diff is a 31-spline nine-inch, which runs a Moser nuget with Truetrac gears, and a pair of big ole 14-inch slotted rotors with Wilwood calipers. Up front, it’s much the same, with even larger 15-inch Wilwoods and this time six-pot calipers. Both are the new Wilwood Aero calipers, Wilwood’s latest and greatest forged units, and sit behind 20-inch Varro wheels, measuring nine inches wide up front and a massive 12 inches wide in the rear. That’s a huge piece of meat, especially when wrapped in 325s, but, surprisingly, the stock rear guards took only minimal persuasion to accommodate them.

Why so much effort underneath? That can be explained by popping the bonnet to reveal the boosted 496- cube big block built by Prescott Engines. The four-bolt mains block was prepped for the impending boost with a Scat crank, JE pistons, Scat rods, ARP hardware, and a pair of ported Edelbrock heads. A custom cam was also ground especially for the build — or, more specifically, the blower. The blower install was relatively straightforward, and pushes the boosted air through a Holley 850 boost-referenced carb. While it has not been on the dyno, the estimates put it somewhere around the 900 mark, which is more than enough to blow those 325-wide Continentals off the face of the Earth.


However, this is not the most impressive part of the engine; that is the turnaround by the team and Prescotts. Jason was given a very tight deadline in which to take the boxes of fresh parts and turn them into a boosted big block, delivering the boys an engine on about day nine of the 12-day push. Everything then had to be colour coded with the same PPG satin 28 bronze that you’ll find elsewhere. The engine bay itself was smoothed, deloomed, and had all the unused holes filled before it was coated in the matching body beige. On display at that show back in 2020, the Impala looked like a completed machine. To the untrained eye, it was a completed car, but, sadly — due to those other projects we mentioned earlier — it would be two years before the team could hear the sweet, sweet sound of that big block belt whine. In fact, it wasn’t until the morning of this shoot that Kayton finally got to drive the SS for the first time — or should we say skid it, once he really started putting that ratchet-shifted manualised 4L80 to work.

Kayton’s tenure behind the wheel will be short-lived, as, now that the ’63 is a completed machine, it is off to its new home to make way for whatever presents itself next. The Real Rides boys had better hope that that project isn’t found too late in the year, or we all know what they’ll be doing for the first few weeks back from work in the new year. Who needs made-up TV shows? These boys are doing it for real minus the cameras and fake drama.




This article originally appeared in NZV8 issue No. 205