Michael Frotten’s LT4 Supercharged 1965 Chevy Impala SS

Impala SS With Supercar Performance

By Chuck Vranas   –   Photography By the Author

Looking back at history, it’s easy to see that Chevrolet’s designers hit a homerun when it came to the fourth generation (1965-70) of the Impala, especially with the refreshingly elegant body lines of the sports coupe and convertible. The model was so good that the manufacturer’s all-time annual industry sales records were smashed with over 1 million units sold in the U.S. alone. Add in details like their exclusive, new, full-perimeter frame with coil suspension as well as choices of inline six cylinder, small block, or big block V8s and it’s easy to see why it was a hit among consumers and hot rodders alike. The stunning 1965 Impala SS convertible owned by Michael Frotten of Charlotte, North Carolina, is a perfect example of a full size performance car fusing its factory pedigree with modern-day technology.

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03 The 1965 Impala SS a car that embodies the spirit of Chevrolet

Michael’s 1965 Impala SS showcases a perfect timeline through well-over two decades of ownership, seeing it move from a factory hop-up with not one but two revisions of its driveline and chassis over the years. In bringing it to the next level each time, he used industry-leading performance parts to deliver cutting-edge handling, braking, and acceleration. Looking back to the start, Michael recalls the afternoon in where he first saw the bone-stock Regal Red SS convertible parked on the streets of Jacksonville, Florida. Totally taken by the originality of the car and knowing that Chevrolet only produced a small quantity of them (27,000 units being a handful looking at the total production numbers) he left a calling card on the windshield asking the owner to get back to him if it was ever for sale. Miraculously, 18 months later he received a call from the owner who told him it was a rust-free, numbers-matching big-block car and that he was ready to let it go. Without wasting any time, the deal was made, swapping cash for keys, bringing it to a new home.

Read More: The Legacy of Walker Radiator Works Continues

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05 The Dutchman Independent Rear Suspension assembly pack of the Impala SS

The excitement of ownership ran full throttle for the first two years with the 396ci V8 engine providing plenty of top-down enjoyment, however it left Michael wanting more in the power and handling departments. With a personal history dating back to his first car, a 1967 GTO, purchased with paper route money and rebuilding the engine all before he even had a license, he was more than ready to tear down the car and commence its first rebirth. After separating the body from the stock chassis he made performance suspension and brake revisions along with replacing the rear end and fabricating fresh mounts for a 502ci big block crate engine from Chevrolet Performance linked to a TH400 transmission. From there the body and frame were sent off to Harbor Auto Restoration in Rockledge, Florida, to first blast and paint the frame satin black. Once the roller was returned, the team focused on stripping the original factory paint, revealing perfect rust-free sheet metal. They then finessed the steel to perfection, set all the gaps, and laid down a flawless coating of PPG Blue Mist metallic, bringing it all to life.

06 The powerful 6 2L LT4 engine of the Impala SS the most powerful offering for a production car in Chevrolet history

When it came time for the business office, the factory dash was packed with new Dakota Digital VHX dials showcasing a black alloy background while a Prism-series D-shaped Billet Specialties steering wheel carves the course through a tilt ididit steering column and Vintage Air adds a cool breeze. For plenty of comfort on the long haul, Michael contacted Jeffrey Phipps Custom in Palm Beach to stitch the threads, which included fabricating a flowing front to rear console complemented by custom bucket seats wrapped in a combination of black leather and matching Ultrasuede. The team also wrapped the dash pad, crafted unique side panels, and completed the job with wool carpeting and a fresh convertible top. The completed car was then enjoyed for the next few years with Michael laying down plenty of miles until the itch for even more performance knocked on the door.

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09 When it’s time to drop anchor an ABS Power Brake master cylinder provides stopping power

Ready to make the final revisions, Michael wanted to bring the Impala to a supercar level in the handling, braking, and driveline departments. With both the body and interior still in impeccable shape, it allowed him to specifically focus on the guts of the car. The first stop in the upgrades focused on selecting a new base, which led him to Rothspeed in Milton, Vermont, to check out their performance Independent Rear Suspension chassis offerings. Shop owner Scott Roth designed a custom frame utilizing their exclusive fabricated 2×4-inch steel frame rails with integrated internal X-rail design at all suspension mounting points. In back, a Dutchman Independent Rear Suspension assembly pack features their aluminum Ford-style 9 inch rear end, Strange Pro Nodular Iron third member with 3.73 gears, Wavetrac differential, and 35-spline chromoly 4340 CV shafts. It’s suspended in place by a combination of Rothspeed-fabricated steel anti-flex upper and lower control arms linked to matching billet spindles along with single-adjustable JRI coilover shocks with remote reservoirs, Hyperco springs, and a 1.25-inch splined sway bar.

Read More: Classy Oldsmobile 442 Looks, With Modern LS Power

11 Moroso radiator overflow tank

Up front you’ll find matching Rothspeed-fabricated steel anti-flex upper and lower control arms combined with billet spindles, single-adjustable JRi coilover shocks with remote reservoirs, Hyperco springs, and a 1.25-inch splined sway bar all working through Detroit Speed power rack-and-pinion steering. When it’s time to drop anchor, an ABS Power Brake master cylinder pushes fluid through NiCopp lines to Wilwood brake kit including 14-inch Superlite 6R drilled-and-slotted discs with six-piston forged calipers in front matched to 13-inch Superlite 4R rears with drilled-and-slotted, discs and four-piston forged calipers. Linking it all to the street you’ll find a set of Throttle-Series Schott wheels, sized 19×10 front and 19×11 rear, wearing Michelin Pilot Sport tires P275/30R19 and P305/30/19, respectively. The Auto Shoppe was then enlisted to paint and refit the new chassis as well as fabricate an updated transmission tunnel to accommodate the upcoming LS swap.

13 The 1965 Impala SS a classic car with modern performance enhancements

For plenty of punch underhood, Michael chose one of Chevrolet Performance’s ultimate crate engines. Direct from the heart of the Corvette C7 Z06, the 6.2L LT4 engine is the most powerful offering for a production car in Chevrolet history. Starting with a cast-aluminum block featuring six-bolt, cross-bolted main caps, it’s packed with a modern speed shop full of go fast parts, including a forged steel crank linked to matching forged powdered-metal rods capped by forged aluminum pistons getting bumped by a hydraulic roller cam. Up top, a set of A356T6 Rotocast aluminum cylinder heads, as cast, with 65.5cc chambers make seamless power especially when matched to a 1.7L Eaton R1740 TVS Supercharger with direct-injection and 87mm throttle body. A factory coil-pack ignition lights the fire with exhaust flowing through a set of factory stainless headers to a 3-inch stainless custom exhaust with Borla mufflers all by Procision Industries of Taunton, Massachusetts. Additional cool bits include a Holley Accessory drive, DeWitts radiator, and cold air intake by Procision Industries. To move the goods, a GM 8L90E transmission connects to a custom driveshaft by Precision Shaft Technologies. It’s all good for a tire-scorching 640 hp on command. The car was then rewired by Rothspeed using Chevrolet Performance controllers as well as custom harnesses. Finally, Procision gets the nod for dialing it all in and setting the final tune.

Read More: GM A-Body Coilover Conversion Guide

20 The Throttle Series Schott wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport tires of the Impala SS

Michael tells us that the biggest thrill of driving the latest rendition of the Impala is in “making a full size car perform as it shouldn’t by giving it the handling and ferocity of a Z06 Corvette,” and we couldn’t agree more! MR

 

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Michael Frotten’s LT4 Supercharged 1965 Chevy Impala SS.

mr october 2023 2

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