1966 Chevrolet Impala
If you've read any of my other drivel on this mess of a website, you know that I love cars - especially ones that nobody really wants any longer. There is just something about a personal connection made with a car that you're able to bring back to life all on your own and largely based on poor decisions. I'm a sledge hammer mechanic - sort of run things by the seat of my pants, and often have to ask really dumb questions on forums where joe pros lurk who either can give you a helpful hand, or get their jollies off of snarky one liners to let me know what I already know - that I asked a stupid question. Anyhow -
My infatuation with it was immediate. I found it by complete fluke when messing around with Facebook Marketplace, which by the way, is infinitely better than ebay and craigslist. To be brief - I'm a bonafide Impala man. My love for the automobile started with my finding a 66 Impala when I was four years old, when my parents were looking at a dealership for a new car in 1972. In the back row, backed into the treeline was one; and for a fairly new car at the time, it was battered and left for dead as someone's trade in. It was red, devoid of hubcaps - and to me, beautiful; for years my family would laugh at my love for the "red chev". From that day on, my love for the battered and neglected automobile was born - and my pursuit for the perfect 66 Impala began. There are many stories of my own involving 66 Impalas; however, I'll spare any reader of them. There have been many many times, I was on the brink of ownership, but - I never felt that feeling one gets when they find that special one.
When I found this black one, I was stunned. It looked terrible, even by my low standards. Neglected. Abandoned. It was sitting atop a flat bed trailer, with a crazy price tag on it of $2400 - reduced from $2730. No way. I immediately emailed the seller if he would consider a trade for my 58 Plymouth Belvedere 4 door - in much better shape than the Impala, to which he expressed interest. It was clear the seller - who was a really great guy btw, had likely obtained the Impala for cheap, but after determining it was in a condition he didn't want to bother with, was looking to score a little extra cash from an immediate sale. I made arrangements to check it out, which was 320 miles away down on the Jersey Shore. The purpose of my wanting to see it was made under the guise of my need to check it's frame and other maladies that the car may have; however, none of that mattered to me. The real reason I wanted to see it, was because I just wanted to see it. I was sunk - hook, line and sinker. Could have been held together by elmers glue and paper mache - if the car was only good to sit in and pretend, I wanted it.
When I found the home - the Impala was still aboard the flatbed it had been on the day the seller had obtained it, and looked amazing. The seller was a good guy and pretty much outlined what I had already assumed - that he didn't care at all about the car - that is, where it came from or where it would be going (which always gets me psyched). He explained he had several calls about it, but in all cases, the callers wanted the 327 and 3 speed out of it. He told me he would tell them that was fine if you just want the engine and transmission, just come with $2400 and take it along with the car. So.....nobody came. Perfect.
But then - he said something very nonchalantly when I pressed for more about the car's story, containing myself and expressing my question in a way that wouldn't reveal my inner psycho. He told me he had gotten it from the original owner. WHAT?! He told me his brother had bought a Pontiac Grand Am off a guy named Larry in North Arlington, NJ near Queen of Peace Church, which is the area they had grown up. He said when they went to get the Pontiac, they saw the Impala in the driveway in back of the house, hidden from street view (and had only been moved out of the garage recently). Inquiries were made, and Larry decided with his age (75) that he would sell the car - in hopes it would have a good home. So - that is how he got the car. To me, there exists an intrinsic value to a one owner vintage car. Monetarily for sure - which I don't care about AT ALL, but on a personal level. The fact this car was a true one owner, with the opportunity existing to learn of it's REAL history, rather than the elevated and exaggerated ones a buyer usually gets, meant everything to me. She was the one. Absolutely no doubt. After 44 years of peeking in yards and forests, the universe hath delivered.
About a week later, I borrowed a friends truck, rented a UHaul trailer, and with a little help from my cousin, winched via come-along the Plymouth onto the trailer. By 7:00 am the next day, I was on the road.
Fast forward a bit - after some cancellations on my part due to weather, we did eventually meet at a Diner in North Arlington, NJ on Christmas Eve. I didn't tell him, but being an early bird and before meeting up, I did some recon on his home to see where my Impala once lived and plied. In his backyard is a very large cemetery. Using google maps, I was able to determine where his home was relative to the cemetery, and found the garage my Impala sat in for 25 years, untouched. Creepy right? No, not the cemetery.....me.....stalking.
Anyone still reading this? Actually, did anyone even start reading this? Anyhow - I finally met up with Larry. Here he is - the man responsible for ordering this beautiful Impala - and keeping it around all these years. It was apropos that I have him pose next to my newer Impala.
A terrific guy - and an old hod rodder himself. He told me everything he could remember about his time with the car. He said he never did give it a name, and never thought of it as a he or a she, and called it "The Chevy" - but suggested that I call it whatever I like. The only long trip he ever took in the car was a camping trip in the 60's at Angle Pond in New Hampshire and some places in Massachusetts. He told me ordered the car exactly how he wanted it. Black on black. 327/4bbl. He was going to order the 4 speed, but decided on a 3 speed at the suggestion of his then fiance. Factory air conditioning too. The car has a Hurst floor shifter, and he explained that it originally came with a three on the tree shifter on the column, but that during really cold weather, he couldn't get it out of gear, so he put the floor shifter in. He said the trailer hitch on it was to pull a 52 Ford drag car he had to a local race track. He even showed me his first house at 74 Hendel Street in North Arlington where he first took the car home and where he would park it. He gave me loads of parts and wrote down things of interest that I may like to know, which was immensely appreciated. He told me the car never let him down, and that it would always warn him first of any impending issues, except with his wife - and that the car would routinely let her down. When I asked him how she felt about selling the car, he told me he didn't ask her, but that as the car initially went down the street on the trailer, her only comment was "That car always hated me" - then turned, and went back in the house. He told me he never wanted to sell the car, but surmised that with age - 75, comes a time to let go of things, and didn't want to worry about what would happen to the car in the event of....you know. He told me he couldn't sleep for a few days after the car went down the road, but was thrilled I had such an interest in it. I assured him I had an open garage door policy for him - anytime he wanted to see it, touch it, drive it (when it gets to that point) - to feel free.
The car has been parked since 1993 (Inspection sticker still on the windshield). He said it ran fine when he parked it, but that his wife felt the car was too powerful and a deathtrap at that time. So, that was it. In the garage it went. At the time, it was just an old rusty car - no different than if someone today was to park a 1993 Chevy Caprice off to the side.
The following are some more pics of the car on our way home. When I got it home, the angle in my driveway is such that to just free roll a 4,000 pound car off all by myself was risky. I wanted it in the garage - so a good friend of mine, Mike Kollman at Hillside Auto - who is used to my shenanigans with cars, hauled it from his garage to mine for free. Mike and his wife have always treated me so well when it comes to this stuff. I asked Mike if he liked the car; his response: Nope.
So that's the story of The Chevy. And like any good story that you don't want to end, this shall not. It's tough for me to let go of my cars, unless it's someone I know who really really really really want it - and will do something positive to it. This one though - not going anywhere. I've got a lot of work to do on "The Chevy." It's in rough shape - so rough, that nearly every part would need to be replaced if you wanted it to look mint. I'm not interested in mint. I'm interested in passing inspection. Come spring - I shall start. And as crazy/dumb/pointless as this website may be - I hope that some of my adventures in seeking out these cars will someday inspire others to do the same. It's not easy, and it's not hard. Don't regret tomorrow not doing what you can do today. Thanks for reading!