“Pronking” is the term used to describe the characteristic stiff-legged leaps impalas make when they spot a threat lurking in the savannah. Simply put, it’s a show of athleticism to deter predators from chasing them: the chance of success is low, so don’t bother trying.

John Deak’s 1962 Impala SS sends the same message standing still.

side profile view of a 1962 chevy impala drag race car
(Image/Summit Racing – Todd Biss Productions)

The evolution of this car can be traced back to a different Impala. “I had another 1962 Impala SS that I bought and built when I was in high school,” says John. “It got to the point where it would need extensive work to go faster and be safe. It was a really nice car, so I started fresh.”

rear view of a 1962 chevy impala drag race car
(Image/Summit Racing – Todd Biss Productions)

Not wanting to cut up his current ride, John began searching for a new vehicle to take down the quarter-mile. “I wasn’t really looking for another Impala, but it just so happened that my friends had one available,” says John. “It was pretty rough—just an ugly body with no floor pans, no inner rockers, and rusty quarter panels. But it was exactly what I wanted.” He bought the car and trailered it home from Pennsylvania on New Year’s Day, 2006. The car was cut up and disassembled by that evening.

rusted cut inner fender of a 1962 chevy impala restoration project
(Image/John Deak)

Alongside his late father, Jim, John got to work transforming this heartless husk into a quarter-mile carnivore. According to John, the duo tackled the project using the “divide and conquer” method. “My dad was excellent at bodywork and paint; my passion is engine building and making horsepower,” he says.

man checking crank endplay in a race engine block
(Image/John Deak)

Multiple revisions and endless tweaks have resulted in the Impala’s current configuration: John suggests he’s rebuilt the car three times over. The car has seen three engines, starting with a 476 cubic inch big block Chevy, then a 505. In its current form, the Impala’s engine bay packs a 588-inch Dart Big M Pro Series Chevy big block that inhales through a pair of Holley Terminator throttle bodies and is fed a diet of methanol via a mechanical injection system from Ron’s Fuel Injection. The air/fuel mix flows through a hand-ported Profiler tunnel ram intake into a pair of CNC-ported Brodix Headhunter cylinder heads.

race engine under the hood of a 1962 chevy impala drag car
(Image/Summit Racing – Todd Biss Productions)

John called on Bullet Cams to custom-grind a solid roller 4-7 firing order swap camshaft to his specifications. Up top, the heads feature Jesel Pro Series 1.8 ratio shaft-mounted rocker arms actuating custom 2.4″ titanium intake valves and 1.85″ Inconel® exhaust valves with PSI Max Life valve springs.

At the heart of it all is a stout rotating assembly. A 4.375″ stroke Callies Magnum crankshaft swings an octet of Oliver billet steel connecting rods wearing Wiseco custom pistons, delivering a volume-squashing 16.2:1 compression ratio. Together, this combo brings over 1,100 horsepower to the party.

All that power is sent to the ground through a Quick Draw 9″, 6,000 rpm stall torque converter spinning a TH-400 transmission built by Vickers Performance. A PST carbon fiber driveshaft transfers the torque to a Competition Engineering fabricated 9″ housing packed with Strange 4.57:1 gears and gun-drilled 40-spline axles.

man welding frame & floor support in a 1962 impala drag car
(Image/John Deak)

John also leveraged his expertise when it came to setting up the chassis. He modified the factory front frame rails and installed new 2″ x 3″ frame rails that run from the firewall all the way to the back of the car. This skeleton provides the foundation for Hypercoil springs over AFCO Big Gun shocks at all four corners. Tubular upper and lower control arms keep the Hoosiers in line up front and a 4-link pushes them into the Earth out back. A custom rack and pinion steering setup keeps the beast travelling in the intended direction.

welding k-member on a 1962 chevy impala drag car project
(Image/John Deak)

Of course, the impressive athletic ability of this Impala was deserving of an exterior to match. Enter John’s father, Jim—as well as assisting with the construction of the NHRA-certified roll cage, Jim performed some metalwork magic to repair the big, rotten body and adapt it to its new bones.

rear steel fender & metalwork on a 1962 impala project car
(Image/John Deak)

The fuel door and rocker panel moldings have been removed and smoothed over, and the rear wheel openings were stretched 3-1/2″ to accommodate the big bolognas. Fiberglass flew in the creation of the lightweight hood, trunk, and dash insert. Jim also put in the time and patience required to bring out the best of the Nissan Sunset Red Pearl Metallic paint. According to John, “It wasn’t built to be a show car,” but he could’ve fooled us!

man painting a 1962 chevy impala drag car
(Image/John Deak)

John took the Impala to Thompson Raceway Park (now Kuhnle Motorsports Park) in Thompson, Ohio for its inaugural shakedown. Two trouble-free passes were enough to convince him to take a crack at “Pinks All Out” (a TV series that pits groups of closely-matched racers against each other, tournament-style) just two days later at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

1962 chevy impala drag car in pits at a dragstrip
(Image/John Deak)

In the quest for speed, the car continues to evolve. “It’s always under revision,” says John, “It’s been through a couple different rear ends, driveshafts, engines, shocks, front control arms…”. As you read this, a new ignition system and beadlocks have found their way onto John’s steed! What was once a run-down boulevard cruiser has been transformed into a savage drag strip bruiser, and as John hunts for hundredths of seconds, it’s obvious that there’s no pronking necessary for this Impala: the prey has clearly turned predator.

Check out the Fast Specs and photos from throughout the build below!

1962 Chevrolet Impala SS Fast Specs

Owner: John Deak

Engine & Transmission


Induction & Fuel

Ignition & Electrical






  • Modified stock front frame rails with 2″ x 3″ tube rails from firewall
  • Custom mild steel roll cage

Rear End

Suspension & Steering


Wheels & Tires

  • American Racing TrakStar, 15″ x 4″ (front)
  • Sander Engineering 750 series, 15″ x 14″ (rear)
  • Hoosier 27″ x 4.5″-15 (front)/32″ x 14.5″-15 (rear)

Paint & Body

  • Nissan Sunset Red Pearl Metallic/Bright White basecoat
  • Custom fiberglass front end, hood, trunk lid, and rear bumper
  • Custom polycarbonate front/side/rear windows
  • Rear wheel openings stretched 3-1/2″
  • Paint and bodywork by Jim Deak


  • Kirkey Pro Drag seats
  • Custom fiberglass dashboard
  • AutoMeter Ultra Lite gauges
  • Custom tin work and removable transmission tunnel
  • Upholstery by J’s Upholstery, Edinburg, Ohio

Special Thanks to: Jim and Cindy Deak, Rick Siciliano, Andrew Williamson, Chuck Strom, Joe Smith, Jim and Valerie McCombs, John Michael, Kenny Thomas (KTRE), Kenny Slaughter, Andy Sollers, Shawn Minor, R.H. Cox, Dion Vickers, Jason Brock, Darrel Rice, and everyone else who has helped me keep this car going.


rear trunk view of a 1962 chevy impala restoration project
(Image/John Deak)
interior of a 1962 chevy impala restoration project
(Image/John Deak)
cut frame section inside a 1962 impala race car project
(Image/John Deak)
man welding chassis inside a 1962 impala race car
(Image/John Deak)
1962 impala race car project in a garage shop
(Image/John Deak)
man welding roll cage into a vintage race car
(Image/John Deak)
rear 4 link suspension on a 1962 impala drag car project
(Image/John Deak)
rear body panel removed on a 1962 chevy impala drag car project
(Image/John Deak)
custom raw fiberglass hood for a 1962 chevy impala
(Image/John Deak)
custom fiberglass gauge cluster for a 1962 chevy impala
(Image/John Deak)
1962 chevy impala restoration project in garage
(Image/John Deak)
rear bumper in primer on 1962 chevy impala restoration
(Image/John Deak)
roll cage going into a 1962 impala drag car project
(Image/John Deak)
welding floor pans in a 1962 impala drag car project
(Image/John Deak)
assembling rear tubs and floor on a 1962 impala drag car project
(Image/John Deak)
1962 impala drag car with front cowl removed
(Image/John Deak)
1962 Chevy Impala Drag Car Cockpit Under Construction
(Image/John Deak)
1962 Chevrolet Impala SS drag car, front 3/4
(Image/Summit Racing – Todd Biss Productions)

While a passion for Mopar muscle ignited his love of all things motorsport, Dominic has since fueled the flames by adopting a Honda VFR and a pair of Fiat Spiders. When those are parked, he takes to the virtual track for some sim racing, especially at Laguna Seca (his “home track” since the Playstation 2).