How do you improve on Detroit’s ’59 Impala Bel-Air sedan? Hand it over to Boyd Coddington Garage and turn it into a Ghetto Princess two-seat roadster worthy of the old Impala brand. Just to make things more interesting, the Coddington Garage built a hand fabricated ’59 matching motorcycle.
After we tracked down his Chevy, and pried it at no small expense from a reluctant owner whose nephew had once worked at the Coddington shop, the first item on the agenda was stripping it down. The old roof was swapped with a clean roadster profile that involved replacing the rear seating area with a sleek aluminum tonneau, created in-house. The crew also had to fabricate small detail items, such as new trim for the eight individual, computer-controlled ignition coils, cranking out 700 horsepower and delivering 610 ft lb of torque through a push button electronic automatic transmission. For all that muscle, though, it’s that green color that grabs you when you first meet up with this reborn Bel-Air along with its street chopper sidekick. On the car, the paint plays off beautifully against a tan leather interior by Gabe Lopez. Given the Chevy’s ostentatious – style and its new incarnation as a lowrider roadster, anyone could be excused for expecting a less than impressive take on seats, dash, tops of the doors, while the windshield trim carne from an original ’59 Impala convertible.
The overall stance was improved, too, as the Chevy was dropped lowrider style. The bottom point on the modified frame is only 3 -1/2 inches from the ground, which meant that no component could hang lower. The exhaust was channeled through the frame and bolted in place, rather than hung, the geometry of the rear portion of the chassis had to be altered to allow tire clearance.
Appearance alone, of course, never makes a Coddington hot rod. The lowrider’s new muscle we chose was an M&R 496 ci, 700 hp big-block Chevy.
Rocky Walker, the project client, wanted the Chevy and its matching bike to make their debut at Camp Pendleton, California, for a detachment of Marines headed for Iraq, and that’s just what we did. The unveiling was great, Boyd said afterward. “You’d think it’d get old after a while, but it seems like everyone gets to be a bit better. Especially the one today those troops were so excited and so pumped up, it was just a wonderful feeling.”
|Ghetto Princess Build Sheet|
|BODY:||1959 Chevrolet Bel-Air 2-door sedan|
|ENGINE:||M&R Engines Chevrolet 496 ci, 700 hp|
|TRANSMISSION:||Dr. Evil Turbo 400 electronic pushbutton|
|WHEELS:||Boyd Coddington Wheels, Junkyard Dog; 17" front and 18" rear|
|REAR END:||9" Ford by Currie Electric|
|FRONT SUSPENSION:||Art Morrison tubular arm independent; rack-and-pinion steering|
|BRAKES:||4-wheel Wildwood disc|