“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
- Dart 588 cu. in. big block Chevy
- CNC-ported Brodix cylinder heads
- Callies crankshaft
- Oliver billet steel connecting rods
- Wiseco custom pistons
- Total Seal piston rings
- Custom solid roller 4/7 swap camshaft (.937″ int./.898″ exh.)
- Titanium intake/Inconel® exhaust valves
- Jesel shaft rocker arms
- Biondo Racing fabricated aluminum valve covers
- Moroso drive mandrel, pulleys, billet oil pump, and aluminum oil pan
- COMP Cams® belt camshaft drive
- ATI Super Damper
- Machining by Minor’s Performance Machine, Lordstown, Ohio
Induction & Fuel
- Profiler tunnel ram intake manifold
- Dual 2,100 cfm Holley Terminator billet throttle bodies with mechanical fuel injection and belt-driven fuel pump
- Custom fuel cell
Ignition & Electrical
- MSD front-mount belt driven distributor, crank trigger, 7AL-2 ignition box, and Pro Power HVH II ignition coil
- Moroso Ultra 40 Series ignition wires
- PowerMaster XS starter and 16V alternator
- Painless Performance wiring harness and fused switch panel
- Custom headers with 2-1/4″ primaries
- Dynatech 4″ collectors
- Ceramic coating done by New Image Powder Coating, Struthers, Ohio
- TH-400 by Vickers Performance Transmission, Alliance, Ohio
- J.W. Performance Ultra-Bell bellhousing
- BTE Racing reverse manual valve body with trans-brake
- B&M Magnum Grip Pro Stick shifter
- 6,000 rpm stall converter by QuickDraw Converters, Killbuck, Ohio
- Meziere billet flexplate
- ATI Performance catch can
- Custom carbon fiber driveshaft
- Competition Engineering fabricated 9″ housing with back brace
- Strange Engineering center, spool, gun-drilled axles, and 4.57:1 ring and pinion
Suspension & Steering
- Custom front A-arm/4-link rear
- AFCO Big Gun shocks
- Hyperco Hypercoil springs
- Rhodes Race Cars 2″ splined anti-roll bar
- Custom manual rack and pinion
- Wilwood 4-piston brake calipers
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.