Cali Cruiser – Bret Ervin’s 1963 Impala Wagon
Station wagons have evolved from being simply parts cars to serious hot rod material through the decades. A custom long-roof Cadillac even won the coveted 2019 Ridler Award! Wagons simply make great cruisers and can really stand out at events, which is exactly how Bret Ervin’s 1963 Impala wagon nabbed our Fuel Curve Pick at the Goodguys 33rd West Coast Nationals this past summer.
As if the brilliant PPG white and charcoal highlights weren’t enough to grab your attention, the ground-scrapping stance, amazing red interior, and smoothed mile-long body lines certainly should. There’s a lot of metal to massage on a wagon, but The Hot Rod Shop in Sacramento, CA dove deep into the Impala and the results, as you can see, are stellar.
The four door handles were shaved, as was the tailgate. The quarters were modified as well as both bumpers, the front being opened to accept more air into the radiator. The custom grille and bumpers were coated in a cast gray finish while the rest of the body was treated to a glowing white with the exception of the tail panel and hood, which received the charcoal flavor.
Under the hood is an exercise in minimalism as the only items hanging off the smoothed firewall are the master cylinder and wiper motor. Everything has been filled, smoothed and coated with a satin finish to push your eye directly to the LS1 with its distinctive valve covers and intake cowl. Output of the 5.7-liter engine has been boosted thanks to a grind from Comp Cams, while an AutoTrend EFI harness and custom tune control the fuel, timing and shift points of the 4L60E trans.
The bold red leather interior, crafted by Roman’s Upholstery, is a striking contrast to the exterior. Like the firewall, the dash was smoothed and filled before the gauges were updated with a Dakota Digital VHX package. Between the leather-wrapped factory Impala SS bucket seats is a Lokar shifter nestled in a custom console and the column is topped with a Budnik steering wheel.
The original chassis also received modern upgrades in the way of Global West control arms, trailing arms and steering upgrades. Air springs are controlled through an AccuAir system to achieve just the right stance. A set of 14- and 12-inch Wilwood rotors are tasked with slowing the 20- and 22-inch Rushforth Whiplash wheels and Dunlop tread.
Bret’s 1963 Impala wagon is ready for the long haul with room for family, friends and even their luggage, thanks to a rack stretched across the roof. It’s time for a road trip!
Photos by John Jackson