Ray Evernham’s passion for cars began with the 1958 Chevrolet Impala from the movie titled American Graffiti. The former NASCAR champion crew chief/TV host had been following the car for quite some time now, and has finally acquired it. His next feat is to give it a full restoration and then to preserve it.
“When I was a teenager growing up in New Jersey, this car represented everything that was cool about America’s car culture – independence, coming of age, freedom and enjoying your life with your buddies,” said Evernham. “This car has been on my dream list forever. To now own it and lead the preservation of this incredible piece of American history is truly an honor. To me, it’s like preserving the ‘Mona Lisa’.”
Evernham is teaming up with Axalta Coating Systems, sponsor of NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., to restore the Impala. The match-up is quite favorable, as it Axalta is a leader in the coating systems industry (read: a paint specialist). With the Cromax and ChromaPremier products, the Impala’s white paint and red striping will look as good as new.
“To save this car for future generations, we have to go back 42 years to its original movie condition,” noted Evernham. “It really is a forensic preservation. We have to completely take it apart, catalog every piece and then repair those pieces. Every piece of chrome will be straightened and re-chromed. The emblems will be re-chromed as well. The nuts and bolts will be re-plated. The interior has been entirely disassembled, cleaned and will be reinstalled. Everything we took off is going back on the car. Even the rear tires are original.”
The Impala will be unveiled at the 2016 SEMA convention in Las Vegas starting on November 1, and the restoration will be featured in the next season of “AmeriCarna” on Velocity. After that, Evernham plans to take it to a whole range of auto shows around the U.S. of A.