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by Bill Braun

Staff Writer

on December 19, 2013
This classic ā€™59 Impala gets custom lighting and a powerful audio system. Radio not included.

Some cars are just born to be customized. Walk around any car show, you’ll notice that people buy rides like the Impala for one reason: to make them their own.

Some love adding air bags, slamming the frame to the ground. Some change the engine, giving it that lion-esque roar to send shivers down your spine. Still more Impala owners add a stereo system, letting the tunes set the mood.

Some do all three.

As with many of our custom installations, we are given a degree of flexibility. We’re told to keep certain parts of the car factory, while others parts (like the trunk) offered little in the way of instruction or limitation.

“Just make it cool” is one of the best phrases to hear, and it’s one that happens often. It means “I trust you to do it right. Impress me.”

The Impala came with a mix of creative freedom and a few specific requests…

“Highlight the air bags.”

“Keep the interior theme consistent with the trunk.”

“Make it loud.”

 “Oh – and don’t use a radio.”

 We just smiled as we looked at each other, eager to get to work.

The Installation

Creating such a customized look is a labor of love. The first step is always the most arduous - the heavy lifting. Remove every inch of carpeting. Move the compressor to the rear quarter panel. Rewire the alternator. Run a few inch-thick power cables the length of the Impala’s massive 17-foot frame. Run more wire to the speakers. As with any custom install, the basics get done right for a strong “skeleton.”

Now it’s time to get creative. As in most cars that age, the factory speaker location is in the center of the dash. That was fine half a century ago, but audio has evolved since then.

Frank moved the front speaker location to the kick panels, creating a custom set of fiberglass forms, then installing a set of Focal P165 V30 component speakers. This gave the sound quality a huge bump, but didn’t alter the factory look of the dash. A set of Focal IC 130 coaxial speakers were added to the back, completing that part of the installation.

Next was the trunk. Using a pair of Kicker’s legendary 10” L7 Solobaric subwoofers, an enclosure was made. The Impala is a convertible, so the box had to be small enough to allow the canvas roof to fold in it's factory space. Once this feat of engineering was done, it was powered with a JL Audio XD1000/1v2, delivering 500 watts to each sub.

Matching the materials was vital here. After getting a spot-on match to the seat insert material, Frank (in Pacific Stereo’s custom shop) got matching vinyl for the trunk panels, combining the seat material with it to make a one of a kind trim around the edge of the trunk and side enclosures.

Next the front and rear speakers had to be powered. A JL Audio XD400/4 was chosen to match the sub amp’s look and power. To highlight the amps, an enclosure was made around the amp rack, then mounted in the trunk. A Plexiglass cover was incorporated into the front of the amp rack with custom etching. Finally, white LED’s were used to create a halo effect around the amps.

The airbag pump was given the same treatment, with a custom enclosure and Plexiglass etching and LED’s. “Gotta show off the shine” Frank said. We couldn’t agree more.

The subwoofer enclosure and trunk lid were given their own Plexiglass and LED sets, completing the theme in the back of the Impala.

The final touch was a new center console. After forming it into the contours of the Impala, Frank added the two Dakota Digital air pressure gauges to the console, designed to monitor the airbag system. He then added a custom remote controlled motor, which attaches to an iPad Mini. The iPad retracts into the console, hiding it from view when not being used.

To increase the sound quality, a JL Audio CL-RLC line driver and volume control was added to the console. To control the bass levels a JL Audio HD-RLC was attached directly to the XD1000/1v2 amplifier. Both knobs were mounted in the console to easily control the audio.

The Result

This Impala is an excellent example of “the best of both worlds.” Beautiful custom materials are integrated into a cohesive theme, giving you a sense that the car was built with a plan in mind.

It’s also proof positive that when all the bases are covered, using only the best products (and the best craftsmen to install it), the result is an Impala that looks, sounds and performs it's best. It’s an absolute stunner of a ride.

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