by Gary on March 6, 2011
There’s a story behind most everybody’s classic Chevy. Why they have that particular year or model. Adventures on the road. Sometimes a few misadventures during the restoration process. So to start off, here’s my story:
My lifelong love affair with cars began with the first car I remember: a 1964 Chevrolet Impala 4-door sedan:
Ermine White over Meadow Green. 283 small block V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor and 195 hp. Powerglide automatic, power steering, power brakes, push-button AM radio, and a special luxury at the time, factory air conditioning.
My parents bought this Impala in December, 1966 when I was six months old. My Mom named her Nellie after Roy Roger’s Jeep.
We had Nellie for 17 years, and like the picture above, she’s in the background of a lot of family photos. She was reliable, comfortable (despite the clear plastic seat covers my Dad installed) and beautiful.
Flash forward to 1982, and I learned to drive in Nellie. The car was so smooth and easy to drive; driving felt like the most natural thing in the world. And I aced the parallel parking portion of my driver’s test. Despite her size, it was easy, because you could see all four corners of the car. I can’t do that with the 2001 Cadillac Seville I drive now.
My Dad sold Nellie with some reluctance in 1984, and I always vowed I’d have another ’64 Impala. It took 15 years, but I finally found the right car at the right time:
The car wasn’t perfect. There was some rust and sloppy applications of Bondo. But it was complete, unmolested and solid mechanically. And it sounded and drove just like I remembered. I was sold within a block. I asked the owner if the car had a name. He said her name was Betty.
Betty is a little bit different from Nellie, but it was just a lucky coincidence that both are Meadow Green. Betty has a 327 V8 with 250-hp and still has the original Rochester 4-barrel carburetor. Like Nellie, Betty has power steering and brakes, the same radio, and most importantly, factory air. And while both are 4-doors, Betty is a hardtop sedan, my favorite body style for these cars.
I’ve restored Betty gradually over the past 12 years. Repainted her and repaired the rust damage in 1999, had the engine rebuilt in 2000 and restored the interior with OEM-style upholstery in 2002. More recently, with high gear failing on the Powerglide, I installed a THM700R4 automatic overdrive last summer. So far, I haven’t seen as much improvement in gas mileage as I had hoped.
I’ve bought many of Betty’s restoration parts from Impala Bob’s. Now, everything works, even the air conditioning and the clock.
Over the past 12 years, I’ve driven Betty about 75,000 miles, and driving her almost always puts a smile on my face. These classic Impalas are such a pleasure to drive, and Betty really does have what Chevrolet advertised as the “Jet-Smooth Ride.”
Earlier this year, Betty was featured in a music video for a local band:
We’d love to hear your Chevy story. You can post in the comments or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures are always welcome.