Jason Lubken is an established and celebrated car photographer whose work shows his great appreciation for car design and storytelling. No matter the subject or setting, Jason has always made an effort to be evocative and nostalgic with his photos. He gained an entirely new appreciation for cars when he decided to build his own.
It all started when Jason’s friend Derek rescued a scrapped ‘63 Chevy Impala. The moment Jason saw it, he was determined to rescue it from the hands of time and bring it back to life with the help of his friends. In just a year, Jason was able to take it on the road and achieve his goal with a brand new outlook and appreciation of retro cars.
Read Jason’s story below and visit the rest of Speedway Motors’ Employee Rides series here.
The heart of this story is not just about another old car getting put back on the road or the sequence of events that made it possible. Yes – it takes passion, hard work, and dedication, but throughout life, you meet a lot of friends, and in the process, you figure out how to hold on to the good ones. Every part of this car will always be a token of that positivity.
What truly puts this car back on the road is having a support system willing to help get it there. I don’t just mean buddies willing to help bolt parts together in the wee hours of the night. Zach Raddatz not only fronted me half the money to buy the car and engine components, he blueprinted and assembled a reliable 400hp small block Chevy. Derek Turner, one of the most talented enthusiast builders I know, sold me the car. He turned around and showed me how to build it every step of the way.
It takes time too. It’s taking 8hr long road trips on work nights to score a bumper and fenders or spending your entire Sunday at an auction or swap meet. Similar stories go on and on.The point is, I have never been involved in something that has the same power to connect people. Project cars carry on memories forever, they will also reinforce your relationships, and teach you how to value hard work. Good photography can do the same thing. This Impala has the same sentiment a good photograph does. Every part has a story, a place, and a time. Every time I fire the engine there is more than just the sound. At some point in its life, this factory Ember Red 4-speed Impala SS had been wrecked badly enough to twist the frame beyond repair. The remains were stripped and it was left for dead. It was just a shell. When Derek saw it, he saw something more than most could.
He dragged it home and started building a new frame to roll under it. He has always had an affinity for lowered Chevys, which is why he started the chassis work with drop springs and spindles. He rebuilt the rear end with stock 3:36 gears. The rest of the frame was powder coated and equipped with all new bushings, ball joints, and a disc/drum brake setup. About the time he finished the chassis work, somehow, I talked him into selling me the project. He had no reason to sell it other than the kindness of his heart. A handshake later, he not only sold me the car but helped patch up the underbody before it went on the new frame. It was close to 2-months of cutting, grinding, and welding before it was ready to meet the frame again.
My vision for the car has always been simple. Get it on the road again, keep it old school, drivable, and reliable. It doesn’t need to be cool because of some particular wheel and tire combo, interior, or anything else. This car is cool because it’s survived and for now I want to keep the scars that came along with that. Every part of getting to drive the car came in small triumphs. The day the body met the frame, and the day I saw the bright newly painted sbc motor and transmission dropped in. New wiring, figuring out the driveline, brake and fuel plumbing, cooling system, etc. etc.
It has taken nearly 2-years of small triumphs… Until finally the day came when the Impala moved under its own power again. All of the exhausting nights, weekends, and mornings melt away as if it didn’t matter and you’re left with the reminder that you are a part of what made this moment possible.