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1963 Impala - Restoration Question

My dad has recently offered to give me his 1963 impala that he has been keeping covered in his garage but hardly drives. It was my older brothers’ car before he was killed in a car accident back in 1988, so needless to say it will always be kept in the family - not for sale. 20 years ago my dad rebuilt the motor, had car painted red (originally white), and had the seats reupholstered with medium-low grade naugahyde. Other than that. everything else is pretty much original factory Chevy and I would say it is in “fair” condition for a 50 year old vehicle. I drive it once or twice a year and it drives great!

My question is this - I want to have this car completely restored (except motor) and modernized. How much work could I get done for $20,000? What about upgrading it to “SS”.

I don’t think that it is possible to get a definitive answer to, “How much work could I get done for $20,000?”, due to the variations in pricing from one area of the country to another, and due to the variations in pricing from, “artisan”, restoration firms to, “Mom & Pop”, operations.

This is sort of like asking, “How much should a suit of clothes cost me”. You can buy a suit at J.C. Penney for…let’s say…$120.00, or you could buy a suit at Brooks Brothers for…let’s say…$600.00, and there would be stores that sell suits for prices in between those two extremes. They will all be very different in terms of the quality of the material and the workmanship, but…they will all be suits.

I think that your best bet is to find the auto restorers in your neck of the woods, and have each of them give you an estimate on restoring the specific parts that are most important to you. Bear in mind that they may suggest things that you hadn’t even thought of, as restoring one part frequently means restoring other (less visible) parts.

As to converting it to an SS model, just bear in mind that this trim variation will conflict with the information in the car’s serial number, thus making it less valuable if one of your descendants decides to sell it at a later date. A totally authentic restored vehicle will be worth more than one that was, “upgraded”, after the fact in order to make it appear to be something that it wasn’t originally.

VDC’s right (except that an expensive suit will be over $1,000). If the body has no rust and you plan to leave the motor as-is, you can get a lot done for $20,000 (or less). When you say modernized, that could include lots of things, starting (for me) with the brakes, then the ignition and carbs (fuel injection?).

First thing I’d do is make a list of everything it needs, followed by everything you want to do. Are you going to do any of the work, or will you have it done?

I’m sure that, while Brooks Brothers has a lot of $1k suits, when they have a sale I could probably find a few in their store for “only” $500-600.

However, since I have been retired for quite a few years, I don’t think that I will do any more shopping there–or anywhere else–for a suit at this point. What I have hanging in my closet is more than adequate for the rare occasions when I do wear a suit, and for my burial.


I agree with @VDCdriver. The best option that I have found when restoring a vehicle is to find a good donor car. I restored a '62 SS Impala using this technique. It saved me a lot of time, effort and money chasing down some very expensive items. A project like this can easily nickel and dime you to death. I used Classic Industries in California for parts that I needed that could be found nowhere else. They were very honest with reasonable prices.

Twenty thousand may not even touch the cost of having full restoration done as that denotes redoing the car from the ground up. There’s also the issue of spending that kind of money and being into it for far more than it’s worth given that it’s non-original and only driven a couple of times a year.

The car drives great now so I’d just say enjoy it. If there were going to be any changes made my recommendation would be to paint the car back to the original white along with any trim and skip the SS part of it.

I am curious. Would the 1963 SS have had the 348 ci 4 barrel, 409 ci with one 4 barrel, or the 409 ci with two 4 barrel engine? Is this a manual 3 speed, manual 4 speed, or a PowerGlide now? One of the problems of building a retro muscle car is getting all the numbers right. If the VIN does not match the factory RPO list, the car will never be viewed as an original example of a factory production i.e. “This car should have a 283 with Power Glide and matching available rear ratio.”

There is something to be said for restoring, driving, and showing a vintage car in factory original stock form. That would include stock seat covers, floor coverings, head liner, dash, radio, engine paint, engine compartment paint, body paint, chrome, etc., etc.

I’m not sure, but I think you could get the SS option with a number of engine/transmission combinations. I’ve seen some pretty ‘weak’ engines in some of those early SS cars.

My first question: what shape is the body and frame in? Any rust, anywhere?

Just doing a “Quality” paint job will consume most of your budget…A VIN check will reveal it’s not a true SS model so that will be loves labor lost…As long as the mechanicals are sound, just drive it and enjoy it…

@Researcher…the 1963 SS had all those engines plus the Z11 427. It must have been a beast at 485-525 horespower. Very few ever made it to production.

I’m pretty sure the '63 SS could even be ordered with a 6 cylinder although the question of why kind of stands out. Most had the 283/327 best as I can recall.
If this one has the 409 or very rare 427 it’s worth a ton and even more reason to put it back to stone original.

Regarding the 6 cylinders, a salvage out west of me has a number of old cars out back and they have a '66 SS 2 DR HT that I went to look over as a project car. That one has an original 6 cylinder in it, go figure.

The SS was a ‘trim kit’ that year, you could get any engine, according to Hagerty:

"History of the 1961-1964 Chevrolet Impala

Another restyled Chevrolet appeared in 1961, the Biscayne/Bel Air/Impala pecking order carried over, and a two-door Impala sedan joined the flagship line. A special package, the Super Sport kit, made big news when it was offered midyear to Impala buyers. Although early brochures announced four-door versions, none of the 453 '61 SS Impalas had more than two doors. Priced at $53.80, the Super Sport kit included spinner wheelcovers, SS badges, a glove box grab bar and a bright floor plate for four-speed models. Various functional options were mandated along with the SS package: among other things, a padded dash and 7,000-rpm tach went inside and a beefed-up suspension went underneath. Only the 348 V-8 or its beefed-up 409-cid big-brother were available beneath the '61 Super Sport Impala’s hood. Impala SS sales soared to nearly 100,000 in 1962, the year the Super Sport package could be combined with any Chevy engine, be it six-cylinder, small-block V-8 or real fine 409. Similar availability continued up through 1964."

Texases is correct, and, as ok4450 observed, SS Impalas of that era could sometimes be found with just the standard stovebolt six. And, it goes without saying that those SS models also came with Chevy’s standard marshmallow lean-o-matic suspension that did not permit any kind of spirited driving. It was merely an appearance package for “poseurs”.

Completely restored and modernized are conflicting terms. No 63 Chevy, unless it came with a 427 is going to be worth the cost of a restoration.

Some people think you shouldn’t “modernize” cars like this, just drive 'em. I completely disagree.

A large part of your decision will be based on who’s doing the work, and how much do they charge an hour. I’m modernizing two mid-sixties Cutlasses. The local purists are aghast, to say the least. Too bad. They’re my cars, I’m never selling them. Ever. So who cares “what they’ll be worth?” I’ll let my sons worry about that when I’m dead. For now, I’m going to convert them and enjoy them.

You can do a lot. Holly & Edelbrock both offer modern fuel injection systems you can bolt on, that use a computer tablet to tune. Fatman fabrications offers a completely modern front suspension system for these cars including rack and pinion and disc brakes. Check it out:

It’s your car, do what you want and enjoy it.

Here’s the disc conversion I just completed on my Convert.

By the way, so far, I’ve done all of my own work.

I don’t have a problem with modernizing a car within reason and not all cars should be modernized.

The thought of altering an original Hemi-Cuda or a Super Duty Pontiac makes me cringe…

That’s the main reason I quit watching the TV show with that butcher Chip Foose. When they took an original, numbers matching mid 60s Corvette out of the garage, dumped the original 327, and dropped in a GM crate motor that was it for me.
That’s not a first or last either.

What would be interesting to know is the tax figure on the 1099 when that Foose value is attached to the car.

I remember that episode. Yeah, that bothered me a little bit too.

An all original numbers matching car is one thing, but the OP stated that this car is no longer original, and in that case, I’ve no problems with modifying it.

My convert was heavily changed before I bought it. It was a roller with no drivetrain, and was set up for a small block Chevy.

If the goal is a restomod driver than disc brakes all around, fuel injection, HEI, will take a few thousand dollars to complete not counting labor. If the OP truly plans to keep it the changes will not matter, but modified cars can be a harder sell to collectors. If possible save the original parts so in the future the new owner can have a chance to put the car back to stock if desired.

I’ve got to agree with OK4450. I like things original but think upgrading brakes, etc. makes sense if you are going to drive it. And what’s the fun in having an old car if you aren’t going to drive it.

I know I told the story before, but I remember when our neighbor bought a brand new 63 Chevy. It was the Bel Aire, mid priced one. He was the kind of guy that needed to check out every detail and make sure he got the best deal he could. He knew how much padding was in the seats of the various models etc. Well he found out that the Impala springs were heavier duty than the Bel Aire, and the only way he would buy one is if they put Impala springs in the back. The Chevy dealer did and it was and still is the only 63 or other Chevy with a rake and the rear end about three inches higher than the front. The car is still around town but under a tarp most of the time. Still has the same springs under it and if I ever get a chance, I’ll clue the owner in on the history. What I remember as a kid though was it had a “cold” light on it that would be on until the engine warmed a little and then went off. Don’t know why I remember seeing that light go off and thinking that was kinda cool.

I mentioned this in another thread where someone was thinking of buying an older Merc. I’ll mention it here too. The OP should seriously consider adding aftermarket seat belts. They even offer belts with a shoulder strap you can retrofit into your car.

Most of the major car clubs have agreed that during judging, no points are deducted if seat belts are added to a car that didn’t originally come with them.

The first federal mandate was in 1968, so the fact that both my '65 and '67 have them meant the original buyers opted for them. I’ve since replaced all of them with new OEM style replacements wtih new webbing as the originals were around 45 years old.