Bob Birchmeier's 1959 Chevy Impala Convertible
(from Volume 21, Issue 255)

story by owner Bob Birchmeier, photos by Michael B. Kelly


I was born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan. As a young teen I became interested in Chevys because at the time my two older brothers and father worked at the Pontiac Motor Division, and figured out that Chevys were the game was on. My oldest brother bought a new 1955 Chevy Bel Air 2-door hardtop, my second oldest brother bought a new Bel Air 2-door hardtop with the Corvette motor equipped with dual fours, and my Dad bought a new 1957 Chevy Bel Air 2-door hard top. Not of age to drive, I was recruited to help my brothers work on their cars, from motor to transmissions, rear ends and so on, depending on what they tore up the night before racing on good old Woodward Avenue. After a few years of this I was old enough to drive, so I had my pick of the litter. My first car was a used 1955 Chevy Bel Air 2-door hardtop (go figure) that needed some work, but I still had to get approval first from my Dad....even though it was my own money that I saved from my high paying job of $1.00 per hour before taxes. After much custom work and engine mods I was a heavy cruiser on Woodward Avenue in the late evenings for years.

Next on the agenda was a new 1963 ‘Vette convertible with the fuel injected engine, metallic brakes, 4-speed and no radio. It was built in September of ‘62, with an October delivery and Vin number 618....and I sill own the car today.

In 1969 I started a fiberglass manufacturing business named Diversified Glass Products. I also got married to my wife, Sonja, that I am sad to say passed in 2014. Being self employed then, my cars took a back seat, but I was still very heavy into custom work. We built all the bodies for IROC race cars, from the start to the end of the series. From that recognition we did the Indy car bodies for Penske and Patrick for years. Then it was onto GM Motorsports, for which we built all of the wide body parts for all the Corvette, Camaro, Trans Am, Monza, Buick, Pontiac, Chevy, Oldsmobile and Fiero teams. There were also GTP cars for Corvette and Jag Group 44, Can-Am bodies for Hobart Racing, and many pace cars for PPG. Plus there were show cars for GM, and also movie cars - some being the Knight Rider, Batmobile, Bat Boat and the Duck. Work also included many one-off show cars for Carl Casper, and also one that won the Detroit Riddler Award.

I retired in the 1980’s and we headed south to warmer weather in the mountains of North Carolina. After many years we decided that hotter weather was still needed, so Florida it was. After getting settled in I went to work on my bucket list, which first off included a 1955 Chevy Nomad resto mod. In 2010 one was located in Seattle, so I bought it and did a good amount of work to change it to my taste.

Once the ‘55 Nomad was finished, the bucket list had a 1959 Chevy Impala convertible resto mod at the top. After years of searching I found one I liked in Alabama. Now all the anal work started again, to get the car just how I wanted it. The exterior features black base coat/clear coat paint, which really brings out the distinctive body lines. It is accented with the stainless steel exterior trim, Billet Specialties wheels (18-inch fonts, 20-inch rears), and a black canvas top which is covered in a red top boot when it is down. An Air Ride Technologies air bag suspension system allows the car to sit super low while on display at the car shows, yet be raised to a reasonable ride height for cruising public streets.

Inside a matching Billet specialties steering wheel sits atop a chrome tilt steering column, plus there is an expanse of red leather upholstery with ostrich inserts. Between the 6-way power bucket seats is a custom console with a Kenwood tough-screen audio system, navigation and satellite radio. Rounding out the interior accommodations are white faced gauges, and various billet accessories.

Under the hood resides a 348 motor, which has been bored and stroked to now displace 440 cubic inches, plus fitted with a roller cam and rockers, Edelbrock aluminum heads, dual 4-barrel carbs, finned aluminum valve covers, serpentine belt system, ceramic coated headers, a custom stainless exhaust system by Pypes with electric cutouts, an aluminum radiator, and dual 10-inch electric fans. The 700R4 overdrive automatic transmission is equipped with an electronic console mounted button shifter, plus steering wheel mounted shift paddles. Out back you’ll find a 9-inch Ford rear end with 3.50:1 gears. Items to keep the cruising comfortable include 4-wheel power disc brakes with a hydraulic assist, and an air conditioning system by Vintage Air.

It has been a lot of fun going to the various shows with my ‘55 Nomad and ‘59 Impala convertible, but I have my head back into the bucket list once again for my next car. I guess time will tell what it turns out to be, but I’m sure it will be as much fun from start to finish as all of my previous rides have been! CN