Bagged, Top 60 1964 Chev Impala wagon

Gavin Knight's Chevy Impala wagon has been over 20 years in the making, resulting in an impossibly cool, Summernats Top 60 cruiser

Photographers: Mitch Hemming

When Gavin Knight bought his 1964 Chevy Impala wagon as an optimistic 21-year-old back in July 2000, he already had ambitions of taking it to Street Machine Summernats. “When we brought it home, I asked Dad if we could get it done for Summernats, and he replied, ‘Which one?’ I said, ‘The one in six months!’” Gavin laughs.

First published in the December 2023 issue of Street Machine

That would’ve been Summernats 14. But, as with many car projects, timelines blew out, and two decades would pass before the Chev finally graced the Elite Hall at Australia’s biggest car festival. “The quick tidy-up job I had planned blew out to a full-on resto,” Gavin admits, “because once you touch one thing, you just end up doing the rest.”

Prior to the Chev coming into his life, Gavin had been playing with early Commodores. But his mate’s ’67 Impala wagon sparked something in him, and he began to lust after his own slice of American longroof goodness. “I found this ’64 in The Trading Post, and it hadn’t been regoed since 1988,” he says. “It’s a factory right-hand-drive, Canadian-built car that we believe has been in the country since new.”

Gavin stripped the car down in his driveway, even going so far as to remove the body for its make-over. “We had the body sand-blasted and found a few swiss-cheese panels,” he says. “So, being a panel beater, Dad fixed those up at work with his colleagues, and I rebuilt the chassis at home.”

The car followed Gavin’s father around at various panel shops for several years, slowly getting worked on in the background. But as he grew older, Gavin’s Dad had to down tools, so the wagon’s progress stalled until roughly 2016.

Not wanting to wait any longer, Gavin got in touch with Chris and the team at Seven82Motors on the Gold Coast to get the car finished. “He had built his own ’63 Impala wagon previously, so it was a perfect fit for the car,” Gavin says. “I wanted to keep it mostly factory with a modern touch – just make it a really neat cruiser.”

As a result, the team chose not to reinvent the wheel in the powertrain department. The original 283 was replaced with a 380hp-rated 350 small-block crate motor, which was treated to a new cam and top end. A 2400rpm converter was specced by Seven82Motors to match the cam, but the Powerglide transmission and diff are the original (albeit rebuilt) items. “I wasn’t overly interested in doing an LS or anything like that; I just think the look and style of the small-block matches the car better,” Gavin explains.

Style is what this car is all about. As much as Gavin has largely kept it original, there are small touches throughout that set it apart. You’ll find custom engraving on the air cleaner, sill plates, headlight surrounds, boot latch and various other parts of the interior. The rear door handles have also been shaved, along with the badges and side mouldings. The bumpers are now one-piece, and the ride height is set by a pair of Air Ride airbags in the rear.

The Impala was finally completed in 2021, making its debut at the Sydney Hot Rod & Custom show in May that year. It scored second place in the Top Wagon/Van category, before making back-to-back appearances in the Elite Hall at Summernats, placing in the Top 60 at ’Nats 34 and 35. “That was so surreal having it in the Elite Hall with the best of the best at Summernats – a dream come true,” says Gavin.

While you might assume a show car built to this level would spend most of its day hidden under a cover, that’s far from the truth for this ’64. “I get it out all the time,” Gavin says. “I’ve taken it to Yank Tanks at Yatala, Cooly Rocks On and the Harrigan’s show; it’s built as a cruiser. We spent 20 years building it, so you better bet I’m going to use it and enjoy it now!”


Paint:Seascape Aqua Mica and Light Silver Metallic roof
Brand:350ci small-block Chev
Induction:Edelbrock Performer
Carby:Edelbrock 650 Thunder
Heads:Edelbrock E-Street
Camshaft:COMP hydraulic-roller
Fuel system:Mechanical pump
Cooling:Aussie Desert Cooler radiator
Exhaust:Polished stainless, 2.5in system
Diff: Standard
Front:King lowered springs, KYB shocks
Rear:Air Ride airbags
Brakes:Wilwood discs (f), standard drums (r)
Master cylinder:Wilwood
Rims:REV Classic Rally; 20×8 (f), 20×9.5 (r)
Rubber:Rotalla 245/35R20 (f), Winrun 275/30R20 (r)

Harry Awad, Paul Cable and Chris Johnson for the bodywork; Geoff at GC Restoration; Owen at Cronulla Car Sound; Chris Langtry and Adrian Woodley at Seven82Motors; Biggie Scrolls; Nathan at Glass 4 Classics; Carl Mills and Alan Locke for the stainless metalwork; good mates Joe, Anthony and Rob; my wife Tiffany; my dad Dennis