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’65 NASCAR Impala: A Barn-to-Track Story

Hard to believe it now, but there was a time when regular Joes could drive a Chevy off the lot and straight into NASCAR. In 1965, with the help of friends, Roy Mayne did just that. His Impala SS was campaigned in 14 Grand National Races, then quietly garaged. Fast-forward to June, 2010. The car surfaces on Ebay, and as the gavel falls, Shaun Coleman readies his own team of friends.

I recently had a chance to talk with Shaun about his life in cars, that special ’65, and the whirlwind restoration that would take it from barn to track in 30 days.

IMG: Tell us about yourself, Shaun. Always been a car guy?

Shaun Coleman

SC: I’ve been a car guy since I was very young. Some of my earliest memories are working under a car with my dad, handing him tools, at around age 4 or 5.

I began my racing career 9 years ago, running in NASA HPDE events at Sears Point and Laguna Seca, with my then-new 2001 BMW M3 street car. I gradually became more addicted to the sport, as we all do, and eventually built a dedicated race car to run with the BMW Car Club of America. For various reasons, including the cost of trying to turn a tired old 1997 M3 into a reliable race car, I decided to change racing venues and purchased a purpose-built vintage race car (the logic being, if I’m going to spend the money it might as well be on something which appreciates in value)!

I had always been interested in old Trans-Am cars from the 80s and 90s, and started a quest to find a vintage IMSA GTO or SCCA Trans-Am car to buy. The first vintage race car I purchased was a 1991 GT1 Oldsmobile Cutlass. To my surprise, it had quite a bit of history. I spent 2 years restoring that car (and other Kelly American Challenge race cars) to have fun with and help promote this amazing, almost forgotten racing series.

My very first restoration project (and second vintage race car I purchased) was a 1972 BMW 2002 B-Sedan race car that raced in the early 70s. I raced it only a few times and I ended up selling it to a guy in Japan who races it today in historic events throughout Asia.

IMG: As a guy with varied interests and taste in race cars, what was it about this particular ’65 Impala that spoke to you?

SC: In addition to my interest in old sports cars, I’ve always been into NASCAR stock cars. I restored (and raced for a few years) an early-90s Ford T-Bird NASCAR, which Derek Cope once drove. After restoring and driving this NASCAR, which was far from a “stock-car”, I longed for a true “stock-car” from the 1960s. Something which was close to what you could buy in a showroom at the time.

My quest lasted almost 2 years. I found a few potential restoration projects, but nothing which fit the bill. Randomly this summer I was searching Ebay, browsing old race cars, and came across a 1965 Impala Grand National Stock Car. It had been in a barn in Georgia for nearly 40 years, and still had the original paint on it! The first photo I saw was of its original number “46” on the door and the driver’s name, “Roy Mayne” on the roof. I immediately began searching the web to see if I could find a photo of the car racing back in the day. I was quickly able to verify the cars authenticity.

The car’s unmolested condition and the fact that it was owned and driven by a privateer (something which is nearly impossible to do today in NASCAR) really spoke to me. Finding unrestored 1960s stock cars is extremely rare. But finding one which still has its original paint, hand-lettered numbers, and even the original electrical tape still clinging to the steering wheel is unheard of!

Roy Mayne's '65 Impala SS, as-found in a Georgia garage.

IMG: What an enormous undertaking! How did you research the project? Did Roy Mayne’s friends and family play a role? Did you discover anything interesting or surprising about the car’s history?

Roy Mayne with the Impala.

SC: I started my research on the web, looking for anything “Roy Mayne” related. That led me to two instrumental websites. Randy Ayer’s NASCAR Modeling Forum – a website devoted to folks who create incredibly accurate NASCAR models. This turned out to be a treasure trove of information, not only about Roy Mayne but about the car itself, as many NASCAR experts frequent the site. Folks there were critical to the restoration of the car. One of the members even created an amazing painting of my car which I have today.

Another site, which put me in direct contact with Veronica Mayne (Roy’s daughter), was Racers Reunion, a social networking site devoted to connecting fans and racers from yesteryear. Veronica was a huge help during the restoration, both in providing original photos of her Dad and the car, and also in giving me some the rich history of her father and his passion for racing.

Some of the most interesting things I found out were about Roy. He was a fighter pilot in the US Air force. After coming back from a tour in Vietnam, Roy decided to go racing with his good friend and fellow fighter pilot Wayne Smith, and his other friend Tom Hunter. The US Air force gave special permission for Roy to race at NASCAR events. Roy and the car were used in several Air force promotional photos and articles for recruitment.

Number 46 charges down the track in the 1965 Dixie 400.

IMG: The Impala was pulled from the garage of Wayne Smith, the friend of Roy Mayne’s you just mentioned. Did he have a hard time letting it go? What’s been his reaction to the restoration?

SC: I think Wayne did have a hard time letting the car go. He had intended to restore it for many years, but unfortunately never got around to it. When I purchased the car I assured him it was going to a good home and would be restored with the utmost care.

On-track at Daytona in 1967.

Wayne and I spoke almost daily during the restoration. He followed its progress as many people did on my website, and he would send me emails saying things like, “Wow! I can’t believe how quickly you are moving on the car. It would have taken me a month to do what you have done in a week”.

He is really happy about how the car turned out, and I know he lived vicariously through us as we restored her.

IMG: Stock cars in the 60’s were different from what you see today. They were often driven right off the lot and into a garage for race prep. What were some interesting modifications you encountered during the restoration?

SC: We found a lot of neat and interesting innovations… From the welding of extra strips of steel onto the frame, to welding rebar onto the upper a-arms. We also found an early form of a fuel cell… Basically putting an old ’57 Buick gas tank in a metal box in the trunk! We discovered that the rear end and spindles of the car came from Rex White’s 1963 Impala, right down to the 6-lug wheels and hubs. The rear end was an early 4link design, something my crew chief and I didn’t even know existed in those days.

We found some neat photos of Roy and Tom building the car in Roy’s driveway, bending the roll cage by hand using an exhaust tube bender (we were able to see this in the cage today).

We also found that the original 3M electrical tape, with which Roy spent 2 hours wrapping the steering wheel, was still intact! Veronica remembers her dad doing this to the car. We were able to preserve it and it’s on there to this day.

IMG: Some drivers back then were known to “stretch” the rules a bit. Richard Petty once said, “You’d cheat on 15 things and do two or three things that’s very obvious. NASCAR’d catch the obvious ones. You got through with what you wanted to get through with.” Any evidence of shenanigans on the Impala as you found it?

SC: The car was amazingly stock. It even had the original door panels still in it when it arrived. We didn’t find any evidence of cheating on the car. If anything, they could have removed some weight! It weighed over 4,800lbs with me in the car… well over the limit allowed by NASCAR. From what we could tell, Roy and Tom bought the car straight from the dealership and went home, put a cage in it, and went racing!

As the story goes Roy and Tom went to Tom’s relative’s Chevy dealership in early 1965 (Hunter Chevrolet in Hendersonville, North Carolina), and purchased the car right from the showroom floor. A 1965 Impala SS, 289, 4-speed in Evening Orchid. It also had the rare Radio and Heater delete options.

Tom and Roy took the car home that day and began stripping it down. They took out the motor, transmission, suspension and spindles sold them back to the dealership and used the money to purchase those components from Rex White off of his 1963 Impala.

IMG: What were the biggest challenges you faced? What gave you the most personal statisfaction?

SC: The biggest challenge we faced was time. We took a project which would normally take a year or more to do, and compressed it into 30 days! Getting parts in time was probably the hardest thing. Luckily we were able to restore most of the mechanical components, but trim pieces and other things which needed to be restored or bought new took the longest time. We literally worked 18-20 hour days leading up to the Monterey Historics. We worked all the way up until that Thursday, when we did the finishing touches on the car and corner-weighted it (with me sleeping in it) at 4am. We loaded the car up at 6am and drove it to the track. We had no testing on it and only a few hours on the motor before I went to Friday practice!

The most satisfying moment for me was pulling onto pregrid at Monterey for our Friday practice. I could almost feel Roy with me in the car. It was a very special thing to drive that car onto the track for the first time in over 40 years.

Restored chassis shows some of the strength modifications that were made.

Phil Manning restored the lettering by hand.

Doors, wearing Number 46 again.

427ci built true to Roy Mayne's original, and also to NASCAR specs.

The '65, back in its stock Evening Orchid, nears completion.

The payoff... Sitting proudly on the concrete at Monterey.

IMG: I enjoyed following the Impala restoration online. Thanks for sharing this cool build with the world! Any inside info on the next project we can look forward to from your garage?

SC: I’m currently restoring a 1972 Mercury Cougar which was driven by Harry Jefferson and David Pearson in NASCAR here on the west coast, as well as the 1983 Championship Kelly American Challenge Camaro driven by Craig Carter. Both should keep me busy for a while and will be documented on the web for folks to follow, like the Impala project. I’m always on the lookout for another project though. Call it an addiction but I’m a softy for old race cars.

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19 Comments

  1. Tim Willard says:

    Great story Mike. I saw the car on TV during the broadcast of the Monterey Vintage Race. Good restoration work by Shaun and his crew!

  2. Thanks Tim! It was a lot of fun to do — looking forward to driving her again in feb at sears point, need some more seat time in the car —

    shaun

  3. What an awesome restoration! I’m blown away by the amount of attention to detail you used every step of the way. Well done.

  4. Excellent restoration, really cool color, and an even better story. Thank you for sharing with us and for preserving such a neat piece of history!

  5. @Dustin, thanks! The color is a one year 1965 only color called Evening Orchid — making this car pretty rare indeed even as a street car. 289 SS 4 speed in evening orchid with radio and heater delete…

    shaun

  6. ..283 correction, have ford on the mind 🙂

  7. My dream car is a 1965 Impala SS convertible in evening orchid. I found your project online last year and enjoyed reading about it and watching the YouTube start up at the garage and at the track. That’s quite a rumble. I really admire the work you’ve done. Good luck as you continue to show and race that classic.

    • I love the 1965, too… such a radical departure from the ’64s (of which I owned one), but retains the round taillights and side-by-side headlights that scream “Impala”. It was kinda downhill for the cars after that, in my opinion.

  8. Cool, just read up on this, thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi, I had the 66 Impala SS and it was great however, curious aboy Roay Mayne. I was at Shaw AFB and I remember seeing Roy in a cameo shot in Elvis’s move I think Speedway. You said Roy was a fighter pikot in Nam did he become an officer at a later date? He was as I remember an enlisted man and we were not pilots. His picture is a Staff Sgt. Nice job on the chevy looks great. Gus Hall YSAF retired M/Sgt North Carolina

  10. Typ Os sorry Roy Movie And USAF.

  11. WOW, INCREDIBLE JOB!

    I love to see vintage nascars restored propperly and their unique histories, great artical!

    My dad is an old U.S.A.F. vet, he’ll love this.

    Just wondering how rare a dealer original ’65 chevy with a 289 ford in it is?

  12. Yes , I know a friend that help on that car back in the 60″s and 70″s

    Bobby Russell Russell Tire North Carolina

  13. michael s says:

    I’m building a 1/24th scale of this car,is it possible to get more build pics of the car…

  14. real car guy says:

    would question the authenticity of this restoration

    though the car purchased may have been authentic,would investigate the facts of this restoration,being a real car guy,would investigate the body may not be the original body of the car,and funny the fact of the shop in campbell,ca doing much of the work was not mentioned any where in the process of the restoration,yet picts of the car show it in their shop

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