It almost goes without saying, but this 1961 Chevrolet Impala wasn’t always this good looking. In fact, it wasn’t until Larry Olson of Sioux Falls, SD, got his hands on the car that it even had a V-8 under the hood. But replacing the original six-cylinder with something more suitable for a top tier street machine was only just the beginning. Olson had far greater plans in mind, many of which were drawn from an unexpected, though intriguing, inspiration.
The inspiration stems from Olson’s fondness of the quaint town of Deadwood, which is nestled in the scenic Black Hills of western South Dakota. More specifically, Olson’s fascination with the Wild West outlaws who spent time in the old mining town, as well as their favorite past times of gambling and playing cards are what inspired this beautiful bubble top.
As a successful and established car enthusiast and collector who owns a number of finely built street machines, Larry knew going in what he wanted to accomplish and how the finished project would look. “When I bought the car in Lincoln, NE, it only had 37,000 miles on the original six-cylinder,” Larry explained. “It was in such good condition that when I bought it I knew I wanted to paint it black and do a Wild Bill Hickok theme. Why? Because I like the Deadwood area.”
Shortly after purchasing the car, Olson teamed with Byron Dose of Body Works by Dose in Sioux Falls, SD, to begin the two-year build. Because Olson likes his cars about as low as he can get them, he selected a set of two-inch drop spindles for the front and installed lowering blocks in the rear to achieve his desired ride height. Olson recruited Kevin Bowman of Bowman’s Real Hot Rods in Brandon, SD, with whom he had worked on previous projects, to handle the chassis work.
With the car sitting where Larry wanted it, the focus turned to the drivetrain. The original six-cylinder was pulled in favor of a 400ci small-block Chevrolet V-8 topped with dual fours and dressed with plenty of polished aluminum finned accessories. Behind the underhood eye candy is a GM TH400 automatic transmission, which is operated by an ididit steering column-mounted shifter.
Following the plan Olson had laid out, Dose perfected the body before covering the car with several coats of single stage PPG black paint. A stock grille remains up front and complements the brightwork well.
Having built a number of quality street machines, Larry has formed a solid relationship with one of the best upholstery shops in the country, Recovery Room Hot Rod Interiors in Plattsmouth, NE. Much like they did with his ’66 Chevrolet Nova (Street Thunder, March/April 2009) the folks at Recovery Room masterfully wrapped the interior in bright red leather.
To complement the low stance, Olson selected a set of Billet Specialties “Rat Tail” wheels measuring 18x7- and 20x9-inch front and rear respectively. Visible through the staggered size wheel combination are disc brakes up front and stock drums in the rear, which Olson chose to hide using a set of polished aluminum drum brake covers from So-Cal Speed Shop.
Getting back to his love of Deadwood and the history and lore surrounding its most famous visitors, Olson commissioned talented painter and sculptor Sheldon Hage of Baltic, SD. Hage was tasked with embodying the history-rich town in the form of airbrushed detail work throughout Olson’s bubble top.
Hage’s most notable work is spread across the passenger side dashboard and features three $100 bills, a handful of gaming chips, and two pair of aces and eights, the beginning of the infamous hand Wild Bill Hickok was holding when he was fatally shot at Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood. Hage created another photorealistic scene on the center of the package tray that features two smoking six-shooters, gaming chips, and the complete “dead man’s hand,” riddled with bullet holes. Finally, with the front brake calipers as his canvas, Sheldon adorned each with a smoking six-shooter and a shot-up dead man’s hand.
Considering how many street machines Larry Olson has to his credit and the multitude of friends and experience he has accrued over the years, it’s almost unfair. When Larry saddles up to the table with other enthusiasts, there’s no question he plays with a well stacked hand.