For a rag-tag group of car and truck fans around Flint, MI, there’s a long-standing tradition to get together on Thursday night for some car talk.
The cast of characters and the exact location can change from week to week.
Sometimes there’s pizza and cold beverages, and sometimes there’s a game on a radio, but it’s always in someone’s garage. This weekly tradition has produced some amazing builders with remarkable project cars, including Joshua Adams and his bubble-topped 1961 Chevrolet Impala.
“As a kid, I used to watch through the back window of a garage owned by a gentleman named Dennis Pelky as he built and painted cars,” Adams said.
He was eventually swept up into the Garage Night scene, learning to wrench beside his friends under the watchful eyes of the older members. They traded skills, tools, and favors to help each other with projects. For Adams, that included a 1992 Camaro and an air-bagged 1989 Chevy pickup.
Josh Adams’ dad, Gary, also liked cars, but he loved one above the rest.
“All he ever talked about was this 1961 Impala Sport Coupe he owned,” Adams said. “The way he described it, I guess I fell in love with it, too.”
(Josh even had the car tattooed on his forearm.)
So, when the opportunity arose on a rainy day in 2008, Josh sold a 1955 Chevy pickup and drove from Flint to Columbus, OH to get an Impala of his own.
It didn’t run, and a lot of the parts were in the back seat, but it had that beautiful round roof.
Adams trailered it over to his parents’ modest two-car garage, where he and his dad started to figure some things out.
That’s where the Garage Night scene comes in.
Over the next four years, Josh’s friends would stop by the garage on Thursday nights and pitch in.
Everyone had their own specialties, so they were able to tackle fabrication, body and paint, drivetrain, wiring, and even the air suspension without much outside assistance.
“I wanted to maintain the classic lines of the car,” Adams said, “but give it a smoothed-out California look. I also wanted to bring it into the 21st century with some upgrades like the sequential LED turn signals and the custom dual intake. I even got the color—Dark Tarnished Silver—from a 2009 Impala.”
When he acquired the car, it had a worn out 283 under the hood, and he didn’t have a specific plan for replacing it. Fortunately, early in the project, an amazing opportunity presented itself.
“My friend’s brother is an engine builder,” Adams said. “He had built this overbored 428 for his brother-in-law, but the brother-in-law backed out at the last minute, so he had this great engine just sitting around. I just bought it and dropped it in!”
Together, the regulars of the Thursday night group have brought home countless trophies, and Josh Adams is no exception.
“My favorite thing, though,” he said, “is to get home from a long trip for work, put my daughters in the back seat, and go cruising for ice cream!”
Frame: Stock “X” frame with boxed factory trailing arms, restored by owner
Suspension: Air suspension with Firestone air bags, 2″ drop spindles, extra banana arm to make a factory-style four-link
Brakes: Factory drums rear, Classic Performance Parts discs front
Engine and Transmission
Engine Block: Chevy 428 with .060” overbore
Rotating Assembly: Lunati Voodoo camshaft (276˚/284˚ duration), roller rocker arms
Induction: Quick Fuel 750 carburetor with custom low-profile air cleaner, Edelbrock Performer intake manifold
Ignition: GM HEI distributor, mini starter, Haywire wiring harness
Other Modifications: SPAL dual 11” electric fans
Exhaust: Sanderson block hugger headers, Dynatech mufflers
Transmission: GM TH400 transmission, TransGo shift kit, 2,800 rpm stall torque converter, Hurst Pro-Matic shifter
Assembly By: Dick Esch, Dale Pelky, and Patrick Monaghan
Paint Color: PPG 9116 Dark Tarnished Silver (from 2009 Chevy Impala)
Paint By: Dennis Pelky
Modifications: Shaved door handles and trim, billet grille, smoothed firewall, sequential taillights
Gauges: Classic Instruments V8 Red Steelie series
Upholstery: Nu-Red faux leather
Upholstery By: Custom door panels and trunk by Gary Alumbaugh, seat and headliner by Bones Lonesway
Other modifications: Front seats from a Pontiac Sunfire, re-padded stock rear seats, dash from 1959 Impala
“I’d like to thank my parents from letting me take up space in their garage to build one of my dream cars. Thanks to all my friends for the support and help along the way to help make this build possible. Hopefully we’ll help each other with many more projects over the years. Lastly, thanks to my two little girls Riley Lynn and Harper Mae, for understanding when dad spend so much time in the garage and being cool with it!” — Josh Adams