Gary Leidich’s brother and brother-in-law could see through the dust and dirt of the grimy 1963 Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe sitting in a field in Pierce, Nebraska, in September 2013. The Impala was one of 50 unsold Chevrolets still on MSO that had been collected by Ray Lambrecht, who operated Lambrecht Chevrolet from a tiny dealership in that small Nebraska town. When Lambrecht had unsold cars and trucks leftover at the model year changeover, he kept them for himself, and the unsold vehicles became like his children.
In 2013, Ray Lambrecht finally decided to sell those unsold Chevrolets and his 450 or so trade-ins. Due to the size of his collection, and a building that collapsed over part of the collection, Lambrecht couldn’t store them all inside. Precious few were kept inside his tiny Nebraska dealership, and the Ember Red and white 1963 Impala was one that Lambrecht kept near and dear. However, decades of dust had dulled the exterior of the Impala, but opening the door revealed a pristine red interior and, more importantly, an astronomically low 11.4 miles on the Chevy’s odometer.
Leidich’s brother called him from the auction and said the Impala looked pretty good, so Leidich logged onto his computer from his northeast Ohio home and bid on the Impala. His bid of $97,500 was enough to take home the Impala, making it the second highest price paid at VanDerBrink Auctions‘ sale of Lambrecht’s collection.
Once the Impala arrived at Leidich’s home, he set to work cleaning the Impala and making it run again.
“Our basic strategy was to do as little as possible — no wrench marks, if possible,” Leidich said.
By Nov. 1, 2013, Leidich had the Impala’s four-barrel Turbo-Fire 327 V-8 running on the original oil, and the brake system rebuilt to make it stop. By the beginning of 2014, the outside had been detailed. “It took about three passes with a buffing machine, but it cleaned up very nicely,” he said. The interior just needed minor cleaning to look new again.
While reviving the Impala, Leidich took photos of his progress and documented the factory features of the Impala that are quickly wiped away by road miles. For the Impala restorer, we’ve included some of the details Leidich uncovered while cleaning his Impala, as well as a few of our “before” photos taken during the auction.
The complete story of the Impala’s revival is featured in the Dec. 18 issue of Old Cars Weekly. However, the following images should be very helpful to the Impala restorer with authenticity in mind.
Old Cars‘ go-to guide for Chevy facts and figures is the Standard Catalog of Chevrolet
1963 Impala Sport Coupe inside Lambrecht Chevrolet in Pierce, Nebraska, in 2013.
1963 Impala Sport Coupe at the sale of the Ray Lambrecht Collection the day before the sale in Pierce, Nebraska, in 2013.
After Leidich’s Impala was cleaned up, he displayed at a GM dealership in Janesville, Wisconsin, the city in which the car was built.
A rear view of the 1963 Impala the day before the VanDerBrink Auctions sale of the Lambrecht Collection.
A rear view of the cleaned-up Impala.
A before shot showing the dirt that accumulated over the decades.
The rear end of the Impala looking new again after months of cleaning.
Leidich protected markings with tape during the detailing process. Note the amount of dirt that had to be cleaned from the cowl!
The window sticker of Leidich’s 11.4-mile Impala remains affixed to the driver’s side rear quarter window.
The Manufacturers Statement of Origin (MSO) for the 1963 Impala. Since Ray Lambrecht was a Chevrolet dealer, he never titled the unsold cars in his collection. When they were sold, they were still on the MSO and the buyer became the first titled owner.
The 300-hp Turbo-Fire 327 V-8 engine as it appeared at the sale. Note the radiator cap is not the type usually found on 1963 Chevrolet passenger cars – it is a truck unit probably installed when the factory ran out of passenger car units to keep the assembly line moving.
The 11.4 mile Impala’s 327 engine purred again after it was hand-cranked. Owner Gary Leidich also sprayed oil into the cylinders to lubricate it before the initial start-up.
The 1963 Impala’s original air element remains in place; note the markings.
Detail of the unrestored air cleaner (breather).
Along with the original oil, the Impala is still running with its original oil filter!
Leidich carefully cleaned the plug wires without damaging the print on each wire.
After the wires were cleaned, they were reinstalled. Leidich found one plug wire with a 1962 date code – the factory probably installed this leftover because it used whatever was on hand to push cars along the assembly line as quickly as possible.
Leidich learned from former GM employees who assembled Chevrolets in GM’s Janesville, Wis., plant that the “Red” notation on the firewall indicated the interior color to be installed in the car.
The number “37” is found all over the car to denote the last two digits of the VIN; assembly line workers used this number to match the build sheets to the car to determine the configuration of the car coming down the line.
The number “37” is also found underneath, but the rear end. Also note the additional paint marks on the chassis.
The rear end tag; note the finish to the rear axle case.
A yellow stripe marks the rear springs of the 1963 Impala.
Here’s what original brake shoes and hardware looks like on a 1963 Chevrolet Impala.
The factory wasn’t perfect; here, a clamp was not attached through the bolt also used to secure a wire.
Detail shot of the floor pans of the 1963 Impala.
Passenger floor pan detail. Note the pattern of the paint spray.
Note the finishes on the under body and fuel tank filler.
The mark appears to be located on the front chassis cross member, beneath the engine. Perhaps the “PG8” represents the Powerglide behind the 8-cylinder (327) of this 1963 Impala — but that’s just a guess.
The front carpet and one of the never-installed wheel covers were in the car’s trunk, along with the original spare. The other four tires are also original.
Note the spray pattern to the paint inside the trunk, around the passenger side hinge.
The interior of the 11-mile 1963 Impala while it was offered at the VanDerBrink Auctions sale of the Lambrecht collection. Note the shipping plastic remained on the front seat. Also, the front carpet was left in the trunk, which allowed it to remain cherry.
A little cleaning and installation of the front carpet brought the car looking new inside, too.