There's an approach in the numbers-matching musclecar realm known as a "day two" restoration. Rather than aim for assembly line accuracy or dealer showroom condition, a day two resto returns a car to the way it might have appeared several days after purchase, once its buyer had an opportunity to add personal touches like aftermarket wheels, chrome valve covers, or headers and custom exhaust.
With that in mind, one might consider Mike and Gayle Legault's '70 Impala to be a day two custom. That's because much of the low-mileage car appears showroom stock, and its select few visual modifications--namely the fantastic paint--are consistent with what might've been done within days or weeks of its original purchase decades ago.
In truth, Mike, a Belleville, Michigan, painter, acquired and customized the Impala a couple years ago, after owning a string of GM musclecars. "When I decided to build a mild custom, I knew I had to have something different," Mike tells us. "I've always liked the '70 Impala, especially the Custom Coupe and Caprice models with the curved rear glass. I could picture one lowered with wild paint."
The stage was set and a fire started within Mike's imagination. "A search on the Internet showed a garage-kept, 60,000-original-mile Custom Coupe in Utah," Mike continues. Soft yellow with a vinyl top, the car had never been wrecked or repainted. "Within two weeks, the Impala was on its way to Michigan by car hauler."
The first order of business was achieving a proper custom stance, so Air Ride Technologies air springs were installed front and rear, with a 9-gallon tank and dual compressors. Next, Mike called in custom builder Chuck Miller to perform minor body mods like shaving the emblems, door handles, exterior mirrors, and trunk lock, and extending the peak in the decklid. The vinyl top was also stripped off. "It was a shame to tear this car apart, in a way," Mike tells us. "The vinyl top, rubber trim, and emblems were in perfect shape. But I wasn't going to stop now."
Just as a person might do on any 100-point restoration, Mike sent the car's bumpers out to be replated, while visible engine parts and brackets were sent out to be stripped and E-coated, chromed, or powdercoated. "With all the parts sent out, it was time to decide what custom path the Impala would take," Mike says. "Eighteen- and 20-inch wheels are great, but many cars run them today. Wire wheels and candy paint are also stunning, but that has already been done. I decided to build a mild custom that someone would have built back in 1970--lowered, whitewalls, five-spoke wheels, flames, scallops, pinstripes, and, of course, metalflake. The paint had to be the focus point of the car, loud but subtle at the same time."
A 2002 Plymouth Prowler color called Flame Orange Pearl proved to be fitting and somewhat era-correct for the car's main hue. It was accented with House of Kolor Apricot Flake on the roof and within the flames, scallops, and panels, and then everything was buried in PPG clear. Mike Veazey handled the unenviable job of laying down all the orange and red pinstriping to separate and accent the various paint treatments.
During reassembly, the original 250hp 350ci engine was detailed to an original-style appearance, and 15x7-inch Eagle wheels were fitted with General pinstripe whitewalls. The only interior part showing wear was a small portion of the front seat, but both seats were recovered since the CARS Inc. interior kit came only as a set. The door panels, headliner, dash, eight-track AM/FM stereo, and air conditioning are all factory issue. As a finishing touch, Michael had Glory Grills bend up an era-correct tube grille.
Despite being only a few degrees away from a restoration, Michael's Impala has the impact of a more radical ride due to its non-traditional body style and outstanding paint job. "At the Detroit Autorama, I heard someone say the car screams subtle," Michael says. "Just the look I wanted!"