The 1950s was probably the decade that saw the most changes ever in the automotive industry. Think about the '50 Chevy or Ford and what each manufacturer was offering by 1959. The introduction of overhead V-8s, wraparound windshields-even curved windshields, come to think of it-power steering, reliable automatic transmissions, improved safety features, not to mention bigger, wider, longer jet-age styling. In addition to these improvements, during the last two years of the decade Chevrolet had to overcome the iconic Tri-Five years, with the '55-57 models sharing a common body structure and chassis.
The '58 Del Ray, Biscayne, Bel Air, and Impala models were the result, an all-new body on a brand-new chassis dubbed the Safety Girder frame. This one-year body style, with its semi-gullwing rear fins, bridged the gap between the vertical fins of the '57 and the full gullwing excess of the '59. The sheer size of the '58, and especially the sleek styling of the two-door Impala hardtop, with its roof-mounted dummy air scoop and triple taillights, lent itself perfectly to the mild custom treatment so popular by the end of the '50s. Mild lowering, shaved of some trim and handles, and with wild paint, the '58 Chevy, along with the similar full-size models from Buick and Oldsmobile, made custom cars accessible to those who otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford, or even desire, the radical full customs of just a few years previously.
Sam Dekruyf, now a dairy owner in Palm Desert, California, was 17 when he owned a '58 Impala very similar to the one seen here, in the '60s. But this isn't that car, nor did Sam build it as a clone. In fact, not only did he not build it, he didn't even know it was being built! For two-and-a-half years his son-in-law, Peter Bouma, worked with Steve Stanford, RD Performance, C&S Auto & Truck, Burton's Classics, Corona Customs, Pete Santini, and others to re-create Sam's old cruiser, while bringing it up to date with four-wheel disc brakes, an alternator, air conditioning, modern stereo, and electronic ignition, yet retaining the original 348 and two-speed, cast-iron Powerglide. Both of course were rebuilt, the engine now bored to 409 ci, filled with performance parts, and topped with a Tri-power induction setup under a stock but chromed, air cleaner.
According to the painter of the '58, Pete Santini, "The original request to Steve Stanford from Bouma was for a retro-looking car that would be user-friendly for Sam, and it was intended to be Candy Green with white "Watson-ish" panels, but after Danny at Corona Customs did the bodywork and painted the jambs Pearl White, I made the call to change it to a Pearl White body, with Candy Green panels and Pearl Mint Green accents, and a green 'flake roof."
Sam not only didn't know the '58 was being built, but didn't know it was to be his when he first saw it. "I was with my family at a country club, enjoying a glass of wine, when the valet pulled the car around within our sight. I was amazed to see a '58 in such fantastic condition, and called Peter [Bouma] over to come look at this car that was so similar to, and brought back memories of, my first one." Stunned at the level of detail that took the car he'd owned 40 years previously to another level, he continued, "After pointing out all the features on it, as well as the personalized license plate, Peter told me it was his gift to me. It was such a special gift, not just because it resembled my original '58, but because of the time and effort that he'd put into rebuilding it."