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.