Survivor! Kyle Severin Transformed a Low-Mile ’59 Impala Resto Into a Classy Mild Custom
How cool would it be to build a mild custom vintage car like they did in the ’50s and ’60s, when the cars were new enough you didn’t need to worry about rust repair, complete mechanical rebuilds or body refinishing. Instead, you just focused on making the car cooler.
That’s the experience Kyle Severin has had with this ’59 Impala. He started with what you might call an “enhanced” survivor – a partially-restored, low-mileage cruiser that came out of a private collection that was being liquidated following the owner’s death.
“My brother and I flew down to Florida to see the car in person,” Kyle says. “The car was a 51,000-mile, semi-restored car with a (supposedly) 348, tri-power, and a four-speed. The mechanic that was helping sell the cars took us on a ride and was throwing the car around quite a bit and didn’t hesitate to bang the gears on the four-speed! It made for a fun ride! Must have been a good sales tactic, since I was hooked after that.
“We negotiated, and I had the car shipped home to Minnesota,” Kyle continues. “It arrived and was backed right off the trailer into the garage to do some minor modifications for the fall until I had time to take it apart over the winter. Within a week of having the car I lowered it, put straight pipes on it, installed the chrome reverse and wide whites, and piled on 1,100 miles in five weeks before winter hit.”
Kyle dove in deeper over that first winter, focusing on mechanical upgrades. “I was told it had a 348; found out after pulling the engine and running casting numbers it was a passenger car 340hp 409 with Ross forged pistons, Isky cam, and roller rockers,” Kyle says. Nice surprise! Kyle added a Holley Sniper EFI system, PML finned aluminum valve covers, and a Tremec five-speed for better highway cruising.
Kyle had the benefit of starting with a 51,000-mile, partially restored Impala for his mild custom project. The clean survivor starting point simplified the build process, but Kyle has still logged hundreds of hours updating the chassis, installing a fuel injection and five-speed, and having the body mildly customized (shaved hood and side emblems) and interior updated. Here’s a peek at his starting point and progress.
The chassis updates included dropped spindles, CPP disc brakes, a 605 power steering box, RideTech tubular rear trailing arms, Slam Specialties air springs, Hotchkis sway bars, and RideTech shocks. “The work took every weekend solid for about five months to get it where I wanted it by spring, including a few extra vacation days to build the custom stainless exhaust,” Kyle says.
Kyle believes the car was repainted about 30 years ago as part of an earlier restoration. He wanted to smooth the car out a little more, though, which included shaving the hood lettering and the Impala scripts inside the quarter panel trim “Macik’s Paintin’ Place [Hector, Minnesota] was able to bodywork and blend the hood perfectly, as well as re-shoot the white in white pearl after shaving,” Kyle says. They also buffed the entire car.
Kyle refined the inside by having Weber’s Custom Interiors in Alexandria, Minnesota build custom under-dash panels, kick panels, package tray, and trunk panels using original-style Ciadella materials. He also installed a Vintage Air system, Dakota Digital VHX gauges, and a hidden Bluetooth stereo for more comfortable and enjoyable cruising.
The result is a clean, mild custom cruiser without the pain of a prolonged ground-up build. “I have enjoyed the entire modification process since it allowed me to keep it on the road for the cruising season and then take it apart to complete upgrades over the winter,” Kyle says. “With the exception of paint work and upholstery during the second winter, all the work on the car was completed by myself, my dad, and my brother. It’s always been a family affair to be in the garage on weekends.
“Also, I am grateful for my wife being supportive of being in the garage a lot and hoping I can pass the fun and enjoyment onto my 2½-year-old daughter,” Kyle says. “There will always be more to do to the car over the coming years since I’ve been told cars are never done, they just evolve.”
Photos courtesy Kyle Severin