Growing up in Chicago, Ron Malinowski was on a roll. He lived on a gravel road, and his older cousin was in the Army Air Corps. When his cousin came to visit, he’d be in his ’50 Merc convertible, and his buddy would often follow along in his chopped ’47. The two friends would park at the end of the gravel on the pavement, and walk up to Ron’s house. The sight of the customs carefully cared for at the side of the road left an impression, and when the owner of the ’47, which had been built in California with a Carson top, had to sell it, the custom became Ron’s first car – his high school car.
Having a true California custom in high school put him on the map with the local car guys in the blossoming scene. This would be the first of many cool cars. As the drag racing wave hit the Chicago area, going “low and slow” soon gave way to speed and thrills. Friend’s cars, like a brand new dual quad-equipped ’57 Corvette, gave Ron the fever through the late ’50s, and when guys like Smokey Yunick and Don Nicholson rolled into town with their big factory cars that “cleaned house” on the race tracks, it was clear that winners could be bought right off the showroom floor.
In 1961, Ron went down to his local Chevy dealership and started checking boxes to build his dream Bel Air, a brand new 1962 in Nassau Blue with a 327. He was at the ripe old age of 20 and doing pretty well. However, this was also the time he was starting a family, and the announcement of a forthcoming baby presented him with a sudden change of plans. Unable to afford both, he decided to cancel his Bel Air order and do the right thing.
The years rolled by and Ron raised a family, including a son, Ron, Jr., who shares his love of hot-rodding. Ron now lives in Boerne, Texas, and currently owns a ’31 Ford truck and a ’40 Ford and his son enjoys a ’65 Chevy pickup. Ron remarried after his first wife passed away, and it was his second wife’s urging that brought him to “the one that got away.”
“I was looking on eBay and ran across this car,” he says. “Other than it being an Impala rather than a Bel Air, it was close to the way I’d ordered mine – same Nassau Blue with a 327 and everything. When I showed it to her and reminded her of the one I couldn’t afford when I was 20, she said, ‘You can afford it now, you should get it.’ And after thinking about, I did just that.”
The car was part of a collection that was being sold off. It had been treated to a complete body-off restoration in Colorado and came with a full build book documenting the work. Save for a little rust in the quarter panel and a door, it was as solid as they can get. Ron says he bought it without going out to look at it. “I told the guy, you’re a car guy,” Ron said. “If I fly all the way out there and look at it, what would I be disappointed in? And he said, ‘to be honest, the clock doesn’t work.’ And I laughed and said I thought that wasn’t enough to be a deal breaker, and that I’d buy it.”
When it arrived, the man had told the truth – the car was nearly perfect. Ron is a fan of always “buying the best car you can start with,” and in doing that he was able to skip the months of restoration work and concentrate on making suitable changes to his new Impala. “The wheels and tires were the skinny originals,” he said. “It also had an antenna that leaned over that I wasn’t crazy about. So I brought it to my son, Ron, Jr., in Houston for a little shop time.”
The first order of business was to upgrade the front brake drums to discs. Ron, Jr. then installed a full RideTech air suspension to dial the ride height in, and they replaced the skinny steel wheels and bias-plies with a set of 18- and 20-inch Billet Specialties wheels wrapped in redline tires from Diamondback Classics.
To keep cool in the Texas heat, they added a Vintage Air package and a new aluminum radiator without disturbing the 327. Most recently, Ron had the Hot Rod Garage in Boerne, Texas, upgrade the steering column to a chromed one from ididit, and topped it with a new 15-inch ’59 Impala-style steering wheel, color-keyed to match the blue bench seat interior, for a finishing touch.
At the young age of 75, Ron is finally cruising in his Nassau Blue dream ’62 that he wanted all those years ago. One has to think that this car should get to be enjoyed a little more, as his original car would’ve probably been drag-raced and discarded for something faster as time went on. Maybe there is value in waiting until the time is right to enjoy the ride after all.
Photography by Todd Ryden