Lightning Strikes Twice

Frank McCullough of Belton, South Carolina learned early in life if you have something good, hang on to it and never let it go. This saying really applies to his 1961 Chevrolet Impala convertible that was his very first car when he was only 16 years old and it was only two years old. The story starts with Frank working as a delivery man for Biltmore Dairies when he bought the car from Harvey Rainey a local barber and the original owner for the price of $1,600. Frank drove the car four years before passing the vehicle over to family members who drove it another four years before it ended up parked in the pasture behind the family barn. There the car sat unloved but not forgotten until 2007 when Frank made the decision that his very first car needed to be restored rather than rust away to nothing but a memory of his teenage driving years.

The restoration project on the Chevy turned into a family affair with Frank, his son Kenny and Steve Gurley (Kenny’s father-in-law) all pitching in with hard work and long hours getting the car ready for its rebirth. The project took a little over two years with guys replacing floor pans, repairing damaged quarter panels and painting all of the hard to reach places. The guys reassembled the car and took it over to the pros at the Carolina Rod Shop for the final bodywork and to finish out the car with a fresh paint job in Chrysler White. 

The interior of the car showcases the hard work of the guys with them having installed the Vintage Air a/c & heat system, an Ididit tilt chrome column with an original 1961 steering wheel, a complete set of Dakota Digital gauges, Lokar shifter and a Kenwood stereo with a 6-disc CD changer. The rest of the stock appearing interior is just that except for the 1962 SS Impalas bucket seats. The beautiful upholstery and the rest of the interior were brought to life by Jerry Noone Customs in Piedmont, SC.

The drivetrain of this Chevy is nothing less than a 400 cubic inch small block pumping out over 520 horsepower! Martin Newton of Williamston, SC was the engine builder of choice for this part of the project, and he did himself proud. The motor runs an Edelbrock package of a Thumper series cam with roller rockers & lifters, Edelbrock big valve aluminum heads and a pair of 650cfm Edelbrock carburetors. The outside of the motor looks great with lots of chromed aluminum and a Vintage Air front-runner serpentine belt system. Since Frank was planning on cruising and showing the car the transmission choice was the GM 700R4 matched up with a Eaton Posi-Trac 3.55 gear package. The classic look of the car as a cruiser was maintained when it came to the tires and wheels, 16-inch American Racing wheels mounted with Michelin radials. 

With two years of hard work behind them the Chevy convertible was ready to start making up for all of those years as a pasture car. Frank & Kenny have been hitting the local car shows and cruise nights with the top down and the exhaust cut outs open and showing the folks that lightning can strike twice in one place especially if it is a car that could be known as white lightning.

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