Espanola, located about 25 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is called "The Lowrider Capital of the World." It is also William George's hometown. Growing up exposed to every type of modified vehicle, William acquired the desire to own a customized car long before he acquired the funds. Now, as an adult, he is able to drive cars that were out of reach during his childhood.
Despite the pervasive popularity of lowriders in his town, William didn't grow up dreaming about hopping hydraulic suspensions, skirts, airbrushed graphics, and 13-inch spoked rims. His taste leaned toward customs. Several years ago, after gathering inspiration from local car shows, hot rod and custom magazines, and a few earlier project cars, William fell in love with the '58 Chevy's body style. Finding the right raw material was probably the most challenging part of the project, but a friend who owned a couple of stock '58s eventually found an Impala hardtop and swapped it for William's restored '50 Chevy.
William had plenty of ideas for the car, but his experience as a builder couldn't keep pace with his enthusiasm as an owner, and he conceded that if the car was going to get built the way he really wanted, it would have to be built by a pro. He eventually hooked up with Jamie Johnson at Hot Rod Haven in Albuquerque, who took over the buildup.
After talking to Jamie, we found out the '58 was modified by a previous owner. The EFI-equipped LS6 crate engine from Street & Performance was already in place, and the suspension had been built up but needed redoing. Other modifications, including dummy spots, a Continental kit, and enough cheap bolt-on gewgaws to fill a pile of swap meet milk crates, had to go.
The guys at Hot Rod Haven-Jamie, Jim Johnson, Will Morton, and Andy Barrow-took the car down to the bare metal and redid the whole thing, smoothing the panels, finessing the gaps, modifying the wheelwells, converting the roof's rear contour to a third brake light, and filling the grille opening with bars and teeth from a '59 Corvette. Jamie is friends with legendary custom builder Gene Winfield, who saw the Impala and offered to paint it-on the condition that they section the car 4 inches. Jamie and William declined, but Gene shot the paint anyway. Who else could've blended those multiple tones so well?
The Impala was completed in January, just hours before William had to leave to get to the Grand National Roadster Show. The kid from the lowrider capital is riding high now, enjoying the car he always dreamed about. With that accomplished, William is now talking about finding another '58 he can restore to original condition as a contrasting partner to this outstanding custom.
William GeorgeHernandez, New Mexico1958 Chevy Impala Custom