Kenny Williams’ 1961 Chevy Impala
What happens when a custom motorcycle builder decides to build himself a custom car? Good things happen – such as becoming a finalist for Vintage Air Custom Rod of the Year! At least that’s what happened when Kenny Williams debuted his 1961 Impala at the Griot’s Garage North Carolina Nationals.
Kenny has earned many accolades and awards for his custom baggers and bike builds through his shop, KW Customs, but he’s yearned to build a hot rod for years (a closet custom rod fan trapped in a custom bike world!). A few years ago, he convinced his good friend Don Lee to sell him a ’61 Impala which was promptly blown apart and carefully reconstructed and customized by Kenny.
The toenail-scrapping stance and scorching PPG red paint immediately grab your attention but then you start to see the details. Kenny created one-piece bumpers and pulled them in tight to the body. Kindig-it door handles were added, and all the trim was machined smooth and received a subtle, satin silver finish.
A 416c.i. LS engine, assembled by Kenny’s pal Ryan Robinson at RPM Motorsports, produces over 900 horsepower thanks to a little boost from the Whipple supercharger. The engine is framed by custom-formed inner fenders, a smooth firewall, and a balanced air intake system hiding the Griffin cooling system.
All of that power runs through a hardcore Lenco four-speed trans which is shifted through four levers hand-crafted by Dale Torsell, who also machined a lot of other detail parts. Kenny created the custom dash assembly which secures a Holley Dominator flat screen of instruments and the RideTech suspension controls. The gray leather seats and door panels were stitched by Tracy Weaver of the Recovery Room while a Vintage Air system monitors the interior environment.
The original X-frame was retained though heavily modified with RideTech control arms, sway bars, and of course a set of ShockWaves to control the stance. A Moser 9-inch rearend is stuffed with 3.73 gears and massive Wilwood calipers and rotors are in place to slow the 20- and 22-inch Hot Rods by Boyd wheels.
The kicker here is that Kenny had planned to debut the 1961 Impala at the 2020 Raleigh event, but when it was canceled, he parked the car, threw a cover over it, and waited out the Covid storm until 2021. His friends questioned his patience, but in the end his planned worked out and he’s now a finalist for the Vintage Air Custom Rod of the Year – with his first build!
Photos by Todd Ryden