XFIRE82

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...........In my earlier story about my 58 Impala car #1 , I mentioned that in the
same place that I picked up that car I also seen a 58 Impala convertible out in a
pothole in the field but left it behind . This is the story about that car.
In the fall of 1975 I bought a 58 Impala hardtop down in Beechy
Saskatchewan ( car #1 story ). The owner had a bunch of cars but all were mostly
Ford family
and chev's he didn't care for. He also showed me a rough 58 convertible
out in the field . It sat in a pothole that filled with water every
spring. The car looked like it hit a pole dead smack center. It was a
old 60's custom job. The body was dechromed, had a 394 Olds and
automatic in it, shaved trunk lid , custom flat lens tail lights and a front seat I
think
was maybe 56 Buick. Terribly weathered and just a poor reflection of what
once was a gorgeous car. He wanted $50 for it , I said no. I was so
happy I was dragging home the hardtop for $650 that the convertible was
just not in my " some day " line of thinking ( yet ). I did up the
hardtop quickly and was driving my dream car. But after getting
involved in car shows in 1978 I kinda got the bug to build something new
and better. Since I knew 58's well ( learned to drive in one ) , I
wondered if that convertible was still sitting down there in Beechy. I
had some parts cars now and thought I could maybe build the ragtop. I
gave Jim a call in 1979 and yes he still had the 58 sitting there. Like
who wanted a 58 back then except me ? It wasn't a 5-6-7 and my 58
hardtop sometimes got laughed at in the shows cause it wasn't the so
popular 5-6-7's that filled the shows . Another friend of mine had a
very nice 60 Impala hardtop ( 427 ) that also toured the shows and I
told Pete one time, some day our cars won't get laughed at. Anyways,
Jim said he wanted $100 now for the 58 rag and wanted to keep the 394
and tranny. Hmmm, that is twice as much now and no
motor/tranny........OK , I agreed and went back down the 3 hour trip
one way. He had the car ready to go , and now I had my '76 GMC 454 and
a trailer so no worries pulling with a towbar and a 63 ford 1/2 ton like
I did with the first 58. I got it home and there it sat for a few years
as I gathered parts. My plan was to build a full custom , I wanted a
show car that was different and combined originality with old school
custom tricks.
In 1983 I started the 4 year project. I only work on stuff in the
winter time so I spent many many long days and nights in the shop. I'll
never forget the first day I tried to get it into the shop. I'm dragging
it from the prairie out back and the rear end won't turn, what the heck ?
it turned before ?? Well after I get it in the shop and lift it up on
the hoist, I find the rear end is frozen solid....ahh !! makes sense now,
the car sat in water every spring so the diff filled up and now it froze .

The car from factory was a black on black 283 powerglide , 3 piece
bumper car and had american tags on it. Brackets were mickymouse welded
in front to hold the Olds 394, a hole was torched in the hump for a stick
shift , the front hit a pole and was caved in but the frame looked ok.
Surprisingly the only real rust was the front floors and trunk floor.
There were alot of little dents on the car, a few bullet holes, and mud everywhere.
The body was dechromed and every molding hole was filled with window screen behind
and mud on top. I wanted all the chrome back on cause the 58 had nice
stainless I thought. If I remember right there were over a hundred holes
I had to open up. The front sheet metal was shot so I used better stuff
from other parts cars. With a feather edger I stripped the body down to
the steel . I wanted some old school custom tricks so my plan included
shaving the door handles and trunk lid. In the bottom of rear quarters I
frenched in 54 Buick port holes to simulate exhaust outlets. On top of
the left rear fender I tunnelled in twin aerials. All these body mods
were a challenge for me cause I never did this before, so I was very slow
at it. Plus I only had a acetylene torch to weld with so a rag and cold
pail of water was used alot to prevent warping, but I did it somehow.
The front floors I replaced with one from a parts car and the trunk pan I
made up as I didn't have a good one. I think that first year all I did
was do bodywork. I'm not good enough to paint so I left the final
blocking and paint for a good friend of mine which was done much later
down the road. I restored the frame, replace the complete diff ,
installed a factory style power steering ram system and changed the front
spindles and drums to a 62 pontiac , so I had the bottom pretty well
done.
I had a small block 350 from a truck so that is what I decided to use in
front of a original cast powerglide. I rebuilt the 350 myself including
grinding the valves. The good tranny I had was out of a 58 with a 6 cyl
so it didn't bolt up, but I had a junked V8 tranny so I swapped out the
bell housing. I wanted stick shift so plan was using 66 chev buckets
but console had to be narrow cause of room, so a 64 chev was perfect and
I always liked the T-bar shifter. Making the linkage was not easy as the
way the arm is on a cast glide it took some figuring to make it work.
The car came with 6 custom made flat red lenses but I thought old school
59 Cadillac would look better and actually the caddy bezels fit nicely in
the 58 housing so I matched them up. I wanted a different grill too.
After looking through old hotrod magazines I seen a popular choice back
then was 50's Desoto or 53-54 chev. Desoto parts I did not have or even
had access to around here. But after looking at a 53 chev car, I could
tell the " V " angle looked about same as the 58, only the 53 was much
narrower. So I found enough from 4 '53 grills to extend to the width I
needed , plus use 9 bullets. It turned out perfect. The trunk
solenoid was easy to do but the doors I wanted a unique secure entry
system and not just hide a button in a molding or someplace on the body
to open the doors. I only filled the door handles but left the lock
location. What I did was use the electric tail gate window lock from a 59
pontiac wagon. It looks excactly like a door lock and it fit in the hole
perfect. But what is neat is that I wired it so that when you turn to
the right it opens the drivers door, turn to the left and " click " it
open the passenger door. So I had a stock looking lock on the outside
with the magic and security I wanted. On the console I mounted a power
window switch so toggle it right then pass door opens, toggle left and
drivers opens. I also removed the inside door handles and arm rests and installed
65 Wildcat pull handles.
The body moldings I gathered over the years from parts cars. Majority is
stainless steel. I spent alot of time pick and file trying to get them
straight, then polish the supreme out of them. The top I installed
myself and it turned out very good . My mom sewed the seat covers and I
made up the dash ,door panels and cut the carpet out of a house type shag. I
also had most stuff under the hood chrome plated including the inner
fender wells and rad support.
In the winter of 86 the car was ready to paint . A friend just
setup a paint booth on the farm and this was going to be the first
paint job. To much details to explain , but Acklands gave the wrong
filters for the booth doors, and with the maybe too much air moving
through the place and heat, the filters broke down and we got a
million tiny specs of fibre in the paint, it wasn't dust but filter
crap. Man all that work for nothing. I had no time to strip it now, so
the car sat till next winter. It was then decided to just block it
till all the nibs were gone and just compound the Dupont Acrylic enamel.
I put the car together and it was ready for its first car show, Draggins in
Saskatoon Easter weekend
1987, the provinces biggest indoor show. So what was to happen now ?
Would my 58 get laughed at and me get thumbs down for wrecking a
valuable car ? I had a decent display also to go with the corner spot
I was given. Well when I pulled in that evening to setup, immediately
the car drew alot of attention from just the guys there. The car was
new and never seen before and totally different to the norm of the
times. 2 days of showing and I could not believe the response. The
before and after pictures, the fact I did almost all the work myself, I
stood there and answered all questions to the public, and honest only
about $3500 to build, people just loved it and no one laughed. Come
award time I was shocked. The car won 5 trophies. Best Custom in the
show, Best Engine , Best Interior , 3rd for my Display, and the
hardest one to win anywhere - The Peoples Choice Award. I was in my
glory. I did a few more shows in the province that year and did well
in all of them.
But the story doesn't end yet. The following winter I get another idea
to change the car even more. Why touch a fresh car , but I just had to
do it. You see I originally only wanted a show car, not a driver. My
driver was the 58 hardtop which I used alot back then. But I wanted the
Rag to blow the competition away, and same time show guys that you don't
have to spend mega dollars to look good , and bring back some of the old
school tricks that alot of young guys never seen other than in
magazines. So my plan had 3 changes to make. 1 : swap the diff for a
3:36 posi so that I can put that factory dash plaque on the glove box
that says POSITRACTION . 2 : I had a factory continental kit on a
parts car so that might look OK between those 6 caddy lights . 3 : pull
the 350 and stick in the optional 348 tripower. So The diff was easy
to do. The coni-kit I had totally chromed and bolted that on. It is
kinda ugly but maybe not so bad, but it is a factory option and not a
repro kit , rare as can be and the 59 caddy lights work well with it.
I had just recently pulled the dressed up 348 tripower out of my
American Graffitti look alike, so it was going to replace the 350 small
block. Guys I never even took off the hood in the car. I took out the
grill and removed the chrome rad support and radiator. The 350 came out
and the 348 went in no problem, so never had to worry about scratching
the hood or fenders or aligning anything. The 348 looks very much at
home in the 58.
So next spring is first show in Saskatchewan again, Draggins
Saskatoon 1988. They moved it to the new Sask Place, wow, big with
2 levels , twice as many cars. Well guys who seen my car last year
expected same car , but were blown away especially by the motor swap. I usually
spend alot of time talking to people answering questions about the car. But the most
interesting one was this guy comes and looks at my before and after picture display,
and says you know what ? , this was his car long time ago. The green custom job
with the Olds 394 was his. It was really rough he said when he sold it for 24 beer
!!!! , it drove away and he never seen it. We both laughed and I now had some
history of the car. The car showed well again winning awards and the best of them
was that it won People's Choice again. It was the first car in the 26
year history of Draggins Shows that the same car won 2 years in a
row. I took it to every show in Saskatchewan that year, and yes it
was trailered as the only time I ever drove it was once a 1/4 mile
during assembly to see if the tranny I touched would shift, on off
the trailer at shows and in my yard.
But on May 26/27 1990 also had a special Car Show in Lloyminster
Alberta. It was
called RagTop Revival, a show only for topless cars. It didn't matter
if it was a model A roadster or a Cadillac, it had to be a
convertible type car. The event was recognized by the Guiness book
of World Records as there was never such a car show held in North
America. Since it was the first of its kind then no record could be
broken but it is documented by them . First place People's Choice award was given
by the
owner of Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, who was a huge car collector
himself and if you ever been there then you may of seen all the cars
up top in the hotel. The prize was a 3 day trip all paid and stay at
Imperial Palace. It was in May , seeding time for us farmers, but
I just wanted this one chance in my life to give it a shot at winning
the top prize, so I took the few days off and dragged the 58 RAG to
Lloyd . Man were there some outstanding and rare cars there from
all decades going back to 1912. There was even another 58 chev
red and white like mine only his was stock original. Anyone could of
won , but it was the people's votes who come to view all the cars
that would decide what captured their eye. I don't think my heart
ever pounded so hard waiting in the suspense of the last award to be
given out. They called out the red 58 Impala and my name, I was
stunned and very honored. Got a Vegas trip , a huge trophy and some
Guiness Record paperwork souvinirs.
In October 1990 the 58 RAG was featured in the Impala News magazine which
was published by the National Impala Association.
The car is equipped today as follows : 348 tripower 10-1 bored 060
come from a 59 Elcamino Las Vegas junkyard ( $100 ) , cast powerglide,
factory3:36 posi , ps, pb, other factory options : litter bag, tissue
dispenser, hand held spot light , autronic eye, rear speaker, traffic
light viewer, windshield washers, continental kit, electric clock , ash
tray and courtesy lights , engine splash shields. Door handles and
trunk shaved, electric opened only. 54 Buick port holes ( 4 ) , twin tunnelled
aerials one power one dummy, 59 Cadillac tail lights, 68 Dodge red round marker
lights in the doors, 66 Impala buckets driver side 4 way power, 64
Impala console , 45 rpm underdash record player , GM dash compass ,
trunk and underhood lights , 70 Chrysler cruise control , custom 53
chev grill , 62 pontiac drums/spindles , dual fender mirrors,
day/night mirror with map light, inside door arm rests and handles
removed , 65 Wildcat pull handles on doors, lake pipes , detailed trunk , lots of
chroming including fender wells, 5 gauges installed in firewall, Cragar SS 14x7 with
spinners, T-3's, dagger handles on interior air vents , old bullet
style purple lights shining on windshield, headlight visors, and
probably a few more things I can't all remember already.
Sorry I don't have better pictures of the car to show here. I just
scanned the old 110 and 35MM ones when I built and showed it . Now
you'll say this next part is weird but it is true. Since completed back in 1987 I have
never driven the car other than on off the trailer and in my yard here
on the farm. The top I folded all the way down only once to see how it
worked. The 348 has 600 miles that I drove in the Graffitti car. It
hasn't been out of the garage in many years, last car show I did with
it I think was in the 90's ?? Like I first said at the beginning,
I wanted and built a show car, and that is what I did, had my days of
glory and honestly spent about $5K total now in building it not counting the
thousands of hours I put into it. I quit showing years ago , it was
alot of work doing it with the 4 58 Impala's that I toured with since
1978. But maybe someday I'll take this 58 RAG out, fold down the top,
pull out on the pavement and see what I missed !!






















 
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R

RockyPM

Amazing Story XFire82! That's an accomplishment and well deserved win! Beautiful cars all around thanks for sharing the story!
 

XFIRE82

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...here's some pics of another one I did up as a Lawn Ornament. It was a stripped and rolled Implala hardtop. Rusted so bad that the firewall leaned back into the front seat area, I had to prop it up and weld in supports acros the door opening, then fit in doors. I cut the roof off , welded on a windshield frame from a 4 door , put a complete front clip on it, moldings , old mags , painted it outside on a hot day and it looks not bad from far, almost looks like a real ragtop.









 

CCO

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kudos for a great job on the vert. Simply beautiful.

C.
 

nascar03

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Outstanding!!

Graham
 

buckhorn76

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love the 58's. :D
 
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My Bother had a 58 Impala that we dropped a 409 into, Very nice car.
 

Riley P

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Great pictures and a fantastic story to go with it!

My only question is with the Guinness World Record. If they have no previous knowledge of an event and they require something measureable (hey, why not the number of cars attending :D), I don't understand how it can't be a record. It almost sounds like you need a previous record to break to get into the record book.
 

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