"I was looking specifically for one after seeing a picture in a book once,"says Minnesota's Norm Fey of his '33 Chrysler Imperial. But that's only the beginning of a story whose lesson is that perseverance pays!
Norm placed a want ad in Hemmings Motor News for six months without so much as a single phone call, and was about to give up when his wife, Ethlyn, convinced him to run the ad one more month. Norm owes his wife big-time because a gentleman called from Seattle and said he was retiring and wanted to cash in his entire collection of 50-plus cars. After getting the description, Norm couldn't think about anything else. Within a day he did what any die-hard enthusiast would do-asked a friend to loan him his trailer and ride shot gun with him for 35 hours each way to pick up a car he'd never seen in the dead of winter. "We got stuck on the side of the road in South Dakota for a couple of hours on the way out because of a blizzard. But I didn't want any of that guy's buddies in Seattle thinking about what a great deal it was and then buying it from him!" says Norm.
What he brought home was, naturally, a near-basket case, but for what Norm wanted to do, it was the perfect starting point. "The sheetmetal was absolutely beautiful," he says. "But everything else was terrible-the glass, the rubber, the interior-everything was shot." A street rodder can't ask for a better starting point.
After determining what he did and did not need from the original car, he placed another ad in Hemmings to sell all of the un-needed stuff. About a dozen very disgruntled restorers called. After a fair amount of chastising, a man from Syracuse, New York, named Stan Marcum bought all the parts from Norm. Surprisingly, a lasting friendship was formed, and the two continue to talk regularly.
Most of the purists blew a gasket when they learned that the future of Norm's '33 Imperial held a 2-inch top chop, a narrowed Dana 60 filled with 4.10 gears and suspended by a four link suspension, and a Heidt's stainless steel Mustang II front suspension with Wilwood discs and calipers all around. What restorer wouldn't cringe at 31x18.5 Mickey Thompsons on Boyd's Wheels stuffed under the rear fenders to replace the too tall/too skinny gennies?
A custom Rootlieb hood, hidden door hinges and shaved handles rounded out the custom body work, all performed by Midwest Paint & Body in Hull, Iowa. After the welds cooled, the car was covered in Chrysler Maserati White. The interior sports enough beige leather to reskin a herd of cows, a steering wheel out of a '91 New Yorker (complete with air bag), VDO gauges, a power sunroof and seven power windows, including the back glass.
Tucked between the frame rails is, perhaps, the final insult to the Pre WWII restoration crowd: 426 cubic inches of '69-vintage fuel-injected Hemi. As if that's not enough, a healthy dose of nitrous is on tap to raise the output to right around 700 horses. Backing this monster is a 727 trans fitted with a 2,800 stall converter.
Norm puts over 1,000 miles a year on the Imperial, which doesn't seem all that impressive until you consider the abbreviated driving season for which Minnesota is known. But what's even more impressive is that, not counting "winter" vehicles, the Imperial vies for garage space and road time with 17 other vehicles belonging to Norm, his wife, and their three kids.
Among the mostly Chrysler inventory is another '33 Imperial, this one a two door. We can hear the rumblings already.