Chevrolet played a pivotal role in defining the classic era of American muscle cars, and Jerry Erickson is trying to keep that spirit alive in the Wheat City.
For the last decade or so, the Brandon resident has been attempting to give his regular 1967 Chevrolet Impala (a full-size car) the look and feel of a high-performance vehicle under the Super Sport performance package.
More specifically, Erickson is using his Impala to clone a Super Sport 427, with all the aesthetics and horsepower that entails.
The retired Manitoba Hydro worker showed the Sun his progress this past Monday on a windy afternoon in Brandon’s south-west end.
Erickson started off by popping the hood of the bright-red car to reveal its 454-cubic-inch engine, which has the same block as a 427 and represents a massive upgrade from the Impala’s original 327 model.
The 65-year-old was also keen to highlight the unique badging that identifies this car as a Super Sport 427, including the signature "SS" logo on its grille and trunk area.
While obtaining vintage badges like this is normally a struggle for classic car owners, due to their scarcity in circulation, Erickson said he managed to acquire them all in one place.
"I walked into this little shop in the north part of Winnipeg, and this guy had almost everything I was looking for," he said on Monday. "I just lucked out. Most people have to search for years before they find it all."
Erickson’s love for vintage vehicles dates back to his childhood, when he was fully immersed in the heyday of classic Ford, Dodge and Chevy muscle cars in the 1960s; an era that is foreign to a lot of modern gear heads.
"Nowadays, with electronics and everything, you can tweak it to get all the horsepower you want," he said. "But back then, you had to know your business if you wanted to get a little bit more out of it."
Erickson said he learned the tricks of the trade from his father and uncle, who helped him develop the skills and know-how he would need to complete these complex automotive projects in the future.
"I restored a ‘49 Ford truck, and I did some work on a few other cars along the way," he said. "When my kids were little and the finances were low, I sold those projects for money. But I won’t part with the Impala. This one’s a keeper."
Even though Erickson originally purchased the Impala in approximately 2006, he didn’t start giving it SS427 features until several years later, getting inspiration from a similar project he saw online.
While he loves the way his Impala looks right now, he said there’s still a long way to go before the cloning is complete. This process includes installing some bucket seats in the front, improving its suspension and giving the body a second coat of paint for the first time in more than 20 years.
However, Erickson warns this kind of project is not for impatient motorists or those who are short on cash, since he has already sunk $32,000 into the Impala during the last decade.
"You’re never really done. There’s always some little thing you want to do to it," he said. "My wife fondly refers to the car as a money pit."
But Erickson said all these concerns melt away when he finally gets the Impala out on the road, where he can enjoy the car’s special features such as its mean acceleration and 700r4 transmission.
"It’s got a TCI kit in it … and when you step on it, it shifts gears real fast and hard so that there’s no slippage, and it feels like your head is going through the back window."
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson
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