Kelly Wallington's LS1-powered '59 Chevy drives like a dream and is dripping with style

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

EVER since she was a kid, Kelly Wallington has only had eyes for one car: a ’59 Chev. “I’d go to car shows with my dad and brother and I’d point to ’59 Chevs telling them: ‘That’s what I want!’” she remembers. Even though her friends would tell her the ’59 is the ugly duckling, Kelly stuck to her guns, eventually securing the sterling Impala you see here. “I love it – you just can’t beat the shape,” she says. She’s got a point!

59 Chevy Impala Coupe 4 NwSweet Impala, Kelly! Had it long?

I’ve owned it for four years. It’s left-hand drive, a Tennessee car. The paint looks like it hasn’t been touched and it’s all original trim. At some shows people see the fins and think it’s a Cadillac! I have to tell them it’s a Chev.

59 Chevy Impala Coupe 9 NwWhat’s it running?

My fiancé, Jade, added a disc-brake front end a month ago. The trans is a T350 with 2800rpm converter and the original diff. It had a 454ci big-block up until a few months ago, when we replaced it with an LS1. I’d always wanted the big-block and never thought I’d take it out, but it used heaps of fuel.

59 Chevy Impala Coupe 1 NwIs the LS1 much less thirsty?

It goes better now and the economy is great. Jade bought the motor second-hand, then he and our mate Morgan Smith pulled it down and freshened it up with a mild cam and head work. Morgan and the guys from Automotive Performance Specialists in Frankston have really helped us out with it. Now it’s like new.

59 Chevy Impala Coupe 7 NwAnd the car’s also had a ’bag treatment?

Yeah, about three years ago Jade added the Air Ride suspension. He’s fitted it to other cars before, so it was a fairly straightforward mod. At the moment it’s running the original rims and caps, though I do run lowrider wires at times, too.

59 Chevy Impala Coupe 6 NwAnd this is your wedding car?

Yes, by the time this mag is out we will have got married! Dad and I will arrive in my car, while the rest of the wedding party will arrive in my dad’s and brother’s ’63 Impalas. For me it’s a big deal to go to my wedding in my own car.

59 Chevy Impala Coupe 5 NwWhat’s in store for the ’59 after the nuptials?

Well I never, ever want to sell it! At some stage it will get a full re-spray and all new trim, but obviously it’s a massive job being such a big car. Especially as when you do the paint you then need to do all the chrome and moulds. But I am really happy with the engine as it goes well and is reliable. We drive it everywhere.

59 Chevy Impala Coupe 8 NwWho do you want to thank?

Jade for the heaps of hours he’s put in. Also, Morgan for the LS1 work and my brother Matt for the engine bay. A lot of people have come to help out in the garage; I could write a list a mile long. Thanks!