Joe Abrantes' 1961 Chevy Impala SS
(from Volume 19, Issue 243)


Joe Abrantes was born and raised in Massachusetts, and always loved old cars. After living up north for most of his life Joe moved to Florida in 1990, worked as a maintenance supervisor for 9-1/2 years, and retired in 2009. He started buying classic cars to enjoy, but had never built one for himself. With that in mind Joe sold all of his other cars, and went looking for something to restore for himself. While searching the internet he found this 1961 Chevy Impala SS for sale in Canada, bought it, and had it shipped down to his home in Tarpon Springs, Florida. After driving and enjoying it for a year it was time to restore the Impala the way he wanted.

One night, while attending a Friday night cruise-in, he met John Dubois of Mint Restorations in New Port Richey. (Astute readers of our magazine will remember John’s silver and red 1960 Chevy El Camino from the cover and center spread of our Issue 232, which was powered by an LS6 engine). The two of them hit it off, and Joe asked John if he would be willing to take on his 1961 Impala SS project. John said yes, if Joe helped him. Soon the frame-off restoration was underway, and 15 months later the results are what you see here.

At the heart of this hot rod is what drops many people’s jaws when they first get to really check it out....a supercharged LSA engine. It is part of GM’s 4th-generation small block V-8 engine family, and is notorious for its high power output. The engine is used in the 2nd-generation Cadillac CTS-V range of cars, displaces 376 cubic inches (6.2L), and produces 556 horsepower! However, since it was designed for a Cadillac it also has refinement that is rare in the world of high performance, making it smooth and well-balanced - all while delivering breathtaking power. Joe purchased the complete motor brand new from the factory, and at that moment the buildup of his ‘61 Impala SS took on some serious attitude. It was fitted with a set of headers and a snorkel-style intake, and put into an extremely sanitary engine compartment. While still wearing the stock engine cover on top, it has been personalized with an Impala SS emblem where the Cadillac crest would have originally been. A 4L85E automatic transmission is also utilized, with Lokar shifting linkage.

The exterior of the car was kept nice and clean, since they just wanted to accentuate the classic lines of the famous “Bubble Top” body style. Once fully prepped the white paint was flawlessly applied, and contrasted with black inside the car’s flowing side trim. Tinted windows add to the sleek look, as do the Budnik billet rims. Air Ride Technologies’ ShockWave suspension lets the impressive Impala sit low and slinky while on display, yet can be raised up to a safe height for driving duties.

Interior accommodations were the responsibility of Unlimited Designs by Dale VanCuren in Dade City. That consisted of black and gray leather upholstery with cloth inserts and stainless accent trim, a custom console housing the touch screen stereo unit, and lots of billet accent and accessory items. Dakota Digital gauges, chrome tilt steering column, billet steering wheel, and air conditioning round out the stylish and functional cabin of this cool cruiser.

The car was completed just two weeks prior to the NSRA Southeast Nationals in Tampa on October 10th-12th, 2014. That is where we came across the car, and decided to shoot it on site at the Florida State Fairgrounds during the show on Saturday morning. The car continued to wow both fellow car owners and spectators all weekend, and on Sunday was given one of the prestigious awards. There is no doubt this car is awesome, and I’m sure it will be appearing in many national magazines in the future. We’re just glad that we came across it, and Joe let us be the ones to bring it to print first. CN