Restoring a Canadian-Made Impala—and Keeping It Canadian—Is a Challenge

Although showing only about 46,000 miles on the clock Jim Adams rare L72 Canadian-built Impala was in dire straights when he took it to Detroit’s Leigh Scott for a full restoration. Leigh Scott

I’m intrigued by oddball automobiles, cars that are a departure from the ordinary. Machines that are of special interest because they differ from their automotive siblings in significant—though sometimes subtle—ways. The ’66 Chevrolet Impala pictured here is just such a car.

Because this Impala is equipped with Chevrolet’s L72 425-horsepower, 427-cubic-inch big-block engine, it would be a rare and desirable machine even if it was just one of the run of 1856 L72 full-size cars that Chevrolet produced for the U.S. market. But what makes it extremely rare and absolutely fascinating, at least to a fan of unique vehicles, is that it’s one of fewer than than 39 Chevrolets built in Canada with the brand’s top-of-the-line, big-block engine. I say “fewer than” because while a total of 39 L72-equipped ’66 B-body GM cars were built in Canada, several of them were Pontiacs!

Canadian Built L72 Impala front three quarter
Impalas equipped with Chevy’s potent L72 425-horsepower 427-cubic-inch engine are rare in their own right, but Canadian-built cars number fewer than 39. And they differ from their stateside siblings in a number of ways.Paul Stenquist

Now this Canadian-built Chevy wouldn’t be of special interest if it was identical to a similarly-equipped car built stateside. But it’s not. According to Leigh Scott, a Chevy B-body restoration expert and retired General Motors executive, the car is unique in various ways. And over the course of four years that Scott has spent restoring it to showroom-new condition, he documented some of the little things that make it an obstinately different Canadian.

Canadian Built L72 Impala badge
The badge on the Chevy says Impala SS, but in the Canadian order book, this model was designated Chevrolet Impala with a Super Sport trim package.Paul Stenquist
Canadian Built L72 Impala engine
While some of the engine’s external hardware was exclusive to Canada, the engine castings and internals were assembled at GM’s powertrain plant in Tonawanda, New York, so they are identical to U.S.-spec parts.Paul Stenquist

The foreign-born Impala belongs to Jim Adams of Edmonton, Alberta. Adams is a collector of big-block Chevrolets, primarily the rare and powerful L72 models. In addition to the car pictured here, he owns five more, but none is as unique as this car because they were built in the U.S. He told me that the Impala’s original owner ordered the car from a Chevy dealer in Canada, and then drove to the GM Canada factory in Oshawa, Ontario, to pick it up.

A few years later, that first owner died in a motorcycle accident. His Impala apparently sat for a while until another Canadian named Bob Ransom bought it from the estate. At the time, the car had clocked 46,000 miles. At some point, it was repainted silver. Unlike most U.S. L72 Chevrolets, it was not an Impala Super Sport but rather an Impala with SS trim, the top-of-the-line offering in Canada. The Impala Super Sport wasn’t specifically offered north of the border, although the distinction is more a matter of semantics than content.

Ransom eventually decided to sell the car and listed it in Autotrader. Adams saw the listing and called on it, only to learn that a U.S. buyer had already committed. He appealed to Ransom’s patriotism, telling him the car ought to remain in Canada. That worked, and Adams was soon the owner of the rare Impala. It sat in storage for another eight years before Leigh Scott was commissioned to restore it.

Canadian Built L72 Impala body restoration
Scott, a well-known big Chevy expert, had the body stripped in an alkaline dip tank and then electrocoated with primer. Repainted in its original Aztec Bronze, the showroom-new restoration is a treat for the eyes.Leigh Scott
Canadian Built L72 Impala side
Paul Stenquist

Scott is a perfectionist. After completely disassembling the car, he discovered that many components were marked “Made in Canada.” Some of those parts differed from those he had seen on the U.S.-built Impalas he had restored, and many of those parts were in distressed condition. The easy way out would be to replace those with reproductions or new parts that are widely available for U.S.-built Impalas, but that would render the car inauthentic. To both ensure that the car would be restored to showroom condition and to keep it purely Canadian, Scott decided that he would repair and restore those Canadian components.

The L72 427 engine was seized after having been in storage for so many years, but all castings and internal parts were found to be identical to U.S.-spec parts. The engine had originally come straight from GM’s Tonawanda, New York, plant where both Canadian and U.S. engines were built. Thus, only a conventional—but exacting—rebuild was required.

Canadian Built L72 Impala engine bay pre restoration
The 425-horsepower L72 427 was seized and corroded when the car was delivered to Scott.Leigh Scott
Canadian Built L72 Impala engine bay
Scott has the machine work performed at a top Detroit shop but does the final assembly himself. All components are exactly as they were when the car was new.Paul Stenquist

Some of the external engine components, on the other hand, were found to be exclusively Canadian. For example, the ignition coil was in an unpainted aluminum can and was labeled “Delco, Made in Canada.” U.S. spec coils are in steel cans and painted black. Thus, Scott retained the original-equipment coil and polished its aluminum can until it shined like new.

Other components were nearly identical to U.S. parts but were likewise marked “Made in Canada.” Many of these were disassembled, glass beaded, then replated and reassembled to make them as good as new.

Canadian Built L72 Impala rear three quarter
Car owner Jim Adams of Edmonton, Alberta, who owns five L72-equipped Chevys, chose Leigh Scott of Metro Detroit to restore the car. It’s a natural match. Scott has restored 13 full-size big-block-equipped Chevys.Paul Stenquist

Every nut, bolt and washer was removed and catalogued. Scott was surprised to see that no lock washers were used in the Canadian build. Thus the Impala was reassembled without lock washers. The bolts and nuts were not identical to those found on U.S. cars, so when it became apparent that some were missing, Scott asked a Canadian friend to visit a junkyard and retrieve some fasteners from another GM car that had been built at the Oshawa plant.

Although the Impala had been painted silver, it had to be restored to its original Aztec Bronze. And it was Aztec Bronze all over. The firewall of a U.S.-built car would have been sprayed with black paint, but the firewall of this Impala had been painted in body color. Scott surmises that GM Canada did that so they wouldn’t have to set up a different paint system for the firewall.

As he disassembled the car, he saw that the trim plate had been sloppily masked and hit with overspray when the firewall was painted. A photograph of the trim plate was taken before disassembly to record the size and position of the tape lines, so Scott was able to duplicate the original overspray on the restored trim plate when the car was repainted.

That’s called attention to detail, but that’s what Scott is known for. And because he’s restored more than a dozen full-size Chevrolets with big-block powertrains, he knows every inch of those cars, so he was able to discern ways in which the Canadian car differed and preserve those details.

Scott’s restoration process has been documented in a previous Hagerty feature, and suffice it to say that it’s very complete.  The bare body is stripped of everything in a tank of alkaline stripper, then it’s electrocoated with primer. Every piece of the automobile, including the smallest fastener, is made new before reassembly.

“Of all the cars I’ve restored, this was the most challenging,” said Scott. “I could have put U.S. parts on it, but it wouldn’t be original. The owner appreciates that I’ve gone through all this trouble to preserve the car’s Canadian identity.”

Canadian Built L72 Impala front three quarter
Paul Stenquist


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    That is nothing. Try to restore a Canadian Pontiac.

    Some were converted Chevys like the Chevelle that became a Beaumont or a Nova that became a Acadian with Pontiac trim.

    More challenging are cars like a Parisienne 455 SD, Most full size Pontiacs were Pontiac bodies like we have in the states but with Chevy engines. Also the older wide track Pontiacs were not wide track as under the Pontiac body the wheels would stick in several inches as it was a narrower track than the American versions.

    Trim parts and emblems are very hard to find and in completing a full car is a major undertaking.

    I have some Canadian buddies that did an Acadia and showed it at the Pontiac Nationals It was prefect down to the Dog dish correct caps. It was a long hard restoration and meet many issues just finding Canadian specific parts. Add to it the exchange rate it just added to the costs.

    We have 2 Canadian and one US 1959 Pontiac cars in the family (nonrunning projects/parts cars that have been around a long time…).

    The Canadian cars are on Chevy frames & floorpan with inline 6 Chev engines and powerglides. That is why the wide-track isn’t wide. GM was a bit wacky then though, as there are significant body differences between the Canadian 2 door sedan and 2 door hardtop such as different roof heights (so totally different windshields).

    The US spec Bonneville 2dr hardtop is also just bigger. I’m not sure much of the external sheet-metal swaps between the two even though the look related. The Bonneville is stored distant from the others so we haven’t ever got around to a direct side by side.

    The restoration described in the story is quite impressive.

    Sounds to me like hyperv6 is a little bitter that Hagerty hasn’t written an article about “the more challenging Pontiacs”

    “That is nothing”, is what you wrote. Kind of denigrating, no?
    When in fact, it was really something: the attention to detail paid in restoring this rare Cdn ‘66 Impala SS.
    One of their better articles, I dare say.
    You are the one who missed an opportunity to add to what was an interesting article and conversation. Because it’s true what you said about Canadian Pontiacs. Unfortunately, your point just doesn’t resonate after the initial denigration.

    Wow, it takes all kinds. Don’t denigrate the awesome work done to get this car EXACTLY correct. I worked for GM and spent may days in Oshawa on Colonel Sam Drive. They have a uniquely different market that is about 1/8 the US sales. Yes they ran more Chevy engines, partly because Tonawanda was just over the border in Niagara Falls.
    Instead of complaining just do one.

    Never said a word bad about this car. Just pointing out a more involved car.

    FYI I own a Canadian Pontiac. Not much different in mine but a few things.

    People like you are the problem these days, no one can say a word without your type reading negative stuff into it. Grow up a little.

    The sad part of restoring any car is it turns most of them into trailer queens or parked in a building never to be drove again

    The sad part of restoring any car is it turns most of them into trailer queens or parked in a building never to be drove again

    Hyperv6, just a couple of notes about your opening comment. First, we don’t have any such thing as a Parisienne 455SD. Second, your Canadian buddies would have restored an Acadian, not an Acadia. Just wanted to correct those things for those who might take away the wrong information from what you posted. Thanks.

    Calm down, people like you reading negativity into every tiny thing- and getting upset over it- are the real ignorant and rude ones.

    If our friends to the north know of any Canadian L72 Pontiacs, please show us ! I would love to see one !

    One thinks of “1-of-35 or so” cars in terms of coach-built European Luxe vehicles – ’60s Chevy Impalas just don’t readily jump to mind. We learn something new every day! My mom had a ’66 Impala – nothing as rare or impressive as this one, to be sure. Heck it was just an old one-of-a-gazillion made in the U.S. But it was a great car, and it served her well for quite a long time. As I looked through the photos of this build, it brought back good memories of Old Blue. The level of detail that Scott’s shop put into ensuring that this unique car was brought back to original is really amazing (far from “nothing” IMO).

    I once had a Parisienne and pulled into a gas station for a tune up. He asked what was in it and I said a 283. He said no way and bet me the tune. I flipped the hood and there on the valve covers was Pontiac 283. Free tune.

    How about restoring a rare classic convertible and then driving it across Canada from British Columbia to Newfoundland, racing it in Targa Newfoundland, and then driving back through the United States?

    Kurt Penner, co-owner of show-winning performance car builders and restorers Jellybean Autocrafters in Langley, British Columbia, believes cars are meant for driving not just riding in trailers. Kurt and his wife Lu will put that philosophy to the test when they drive their prized 1965 Beaumont Sort Deluxe Convertible from one coast to the other to run in Targa Newfoundland this September.

    The Beaumont is a Canadian built car, one of approximately 400 built as SD convertibles. While it appears mostly stock, they did a number of upgrades like disc brakes, quicker ratio steering and suspension mods to improve drivability and handling. 

    This nearly 60-year-old classic is no trailer queen as it has already logged 290,000 km (180,000 miles) since they bought the car in 1994 and completed a cosmetic restoration. The Penners have enjoyed taking the car on tours.

    “Our goal for being in the Targa is to experience the cross Canada trip in a classic convertible, participate in a really cool event, and beat on the car a bit, and then drive back home via the USA,” says Kurt. “This is one of our primary vehicles we use to demonstrate how reliable a classic car can be.”

    Love that color, and appreciate the attention to detail of the restorer. I’ve never been a fan of the ’65/’66 Impala’s, but this one checks all the right boxes, namely 4 speed and BB. Nice to see the Canada cars getting the spotlight. They are unique. I’m a big Nova fan and Canada built some rare and unique X bodies, as well.

    Growing up in Oshawa, my first recollection of one of the big-block 427’s was a black 2-door post Biscayne with red interior, bench seat. It sat low, and it was the first time i saw a full set of Mickey Thompsons on a car. We would wait to see it cruising up Simcoe St. to the A&W. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring it out often enough!

    This is truly a unique and rare car.Astonishing restoration! I believe Mr Adams owns another 1966 Aztec Bronze L72 Impala Sport Coupe,the very first L72 full-size Chevy delivered in Canada and raced by Dave Drewitt out of Ontario.He also owns an L72 Bel Air wagon and a red L72 four-door Biscayne!

    i have a canadian built 1963 dodge 440/polara convertible they used a plymouth fury dash outside trim is different its a challenge to find correct parts to keep it unique the only one at car shows

    Getting a car that is already sold by invoking partialism is a weasel trick .
    Not the Canadian way.

    But duplicating the factory’s sloppy job of masking the trim plate seems like reproducing inattention. I understand that this is the way this particular car was built – but is it the way it was supposed to be built?

    Yes, details like this are up to the owner and restorer, but I couldn’t have brought myself to do it that way.

    Don’t ever go to an NCRS chapter , regional or national event. “Over-restored” cars lose judging points. The goal is to keep the Corvette as close to factory-original as possible. If the factory oversprayed an item during production, so be it.

    I must meet this chap up in Edmonton. We are indeed long lost brothers and are of the exacting same mindset. I live in Calgary (sorry about that) and live for automotive restorations. I’m a Hagerty client and I’m hoping they can hook us up. Big block Chevrolet’s are my fixation. With any luck we’ll have a lot to talk about. I’m waiting …

    Congratulation on this masterpiece. This level of effort and attention to detail is a great contribution to the preservation of a part of unique and important part North American automotive history. Although OEMs designed cars to be driven until “worn out” or “obsolete”, so they can subsequently sell you a new one, anytime someone is willing to put forth this kind dedication, and special care to save them for posterity in pristine condition, they deserve to be applauded. I think such cars can still be driven sparingly, while others like my classic are primarily drivers, although I would also have some trailer queens if I could afford it. I remind myself that the hobby does and needs to cover the entire spectrum from museum pieces to daily driven classics. This car is somewhere in between, likely closer to the museum end of the spectrum.

    Did it come new with blackwalls? That would be an oddity in ’66 with a highly optioned car. Blackwalls were for stripped fleet cars.

    Beautifully done. I’ve always had a soft spot for the ’66 Chevs, and the ’65 as well. My father had a ’66 four-door with a six automatic, white with red interior. I grew up in Oshawa and the city revolved around ‘The General’! A lot of my friends worked there as well. The attention to detail on this build is insane. Bravo!

    By the way, the DCL on the safety-glass probably stands for Duplate Canada. I grew up two blocks from the factory and my older brother Wayne (since deceased) worked there for a while.

    Thanks for this great article. Brings back so many memories.

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