TV host and former NASCAR champion crew chief Ray Evernham had an opportunity to realize a lifelong dream at the 2016 SEMA Show on November 1—unveiling the holy grail of hot rods, a car that he pursued for more than 40 years—the 1958 Chevy Impala featured in American Graffiti in front of hundreds of guests.
Evernham was joined by Candy Clark, who played Debbie in the movie, along with car restorer Dan Baker and Michael Carr, President, North America, and Jim Muse, Sales Director, North America, both with Axalta Coating Systems, which partnered with Evernham on the restoration project. The legendary car was unveiled at Axalta’s booth.
“When I was a teenager growing up in New Jersey, this car represented everything that was cool about America’s car culture—independence, coming of age, freedom and enjoying your life with your buddies,” said Evernham. “This car has been on my dream list forever. To now own it and unveil the preservation of this incredible piece of American history is truly an honour. To me, it’s like preserving the ‘Mona Lisa’.”
“To save this car for future generations, we had to go back 44 years to its original movie condition,” noted Evernham. “It really was a forensic preservation. We completely took it apart, catalogued every piece and then repaired those pieces. Every piece of chrome was straightened and re-chromed. The emblems were re-chromed as well. The nuts and bolts were re-plated. The interior was entirely disassembled, cleaned and reinstalled. Everything we took off went back on the car. Even the rear tires are original.”
Using Axalta’s Cromax ChromaPremier, Evernham also replaced the paint and famous red striping on the vehicle to make it look exactly like it did in the movie.
“The paint was more than 40 years old and hadn’t been maintained,” Evernham explained. “If it were left unprotected for much longer, the car would have just been bare metal. We digitized and made detailed templates of the striping for exact duplication and placement. Axalta was even able to recreate the exact paint colours, so we returned this car to the condition that moviegoers have seen for years.”
Following the debut, Evernham plans to show the car at a range of car shows across the country. The restoration will appear in an upcoming season of “AmeriCarna” on Discovery Velocity.