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Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Favorite Baby

1963 Chevrolet Impala SS
One shouldn’t play favorites, but of all the ones I had, my favorite had to be my 1963 Impala Super Sport (SS).  It’s hard to believe that I owned it the least amount of time of all the cars I owned growing up.
I envied the previous owner for about 18 months before the opportunity to purchase it presented itself.  As luck would have it, the car belong to the boss’s son.  The young man was a junior in high school when I first met him.  He had a beautiful car, a beautiful girlfriend and daddy big bucks for his daddy.  The young man was a hard worker and he earned his father’s respect, so he wasn’t your typical spoiled rich kid. 
He was a year older than I was and we often worked side by side at his father’s tire store.  This was at a time when Les Schwab was not yet in our area, and the tire store may as well have been the blueprint for a future Les Schwab (established in 1952) tire store.  I only make a comparison so that you can picture the type of quality of business this store was.  Not only did it serve a number of small communities but it also served a very large (hundreds of square miles of farm land).  This young man and I together with other coworkers, traveled long distances to provide field service to wheat combine tires.
Servicing a flat wheat combine tire is a full day chore.  The tires are the size of a house, and are filled with saline solution to add weight and traction. Standard practice when repairing a flat is that you need to first empty the solution from the tire, make the repair and then re-fill the tire with the saline solution.  Any cuts or abrasions on your hands will feel the sting of the liquid when it comes in contact.  Sharing this kind of working experience builds a bond between people especially young people with not much else in common.
The young man had solid prepaid plans to attend a special, and expensive university after graduation, and his girlfriend was going to be attending the same university with him.  He loved his car, I am sure as much as he loved his girlfriend.  Just prior to the weekend he could always be found getting his beautiful 1963 Chevrolet Impala SS into showroom condition before going anywhere with his girlfriend by his side.
Three months prior to graduation, he approached me with a serious concern visible on his face.  He explained to me that his parents had developed long range plans for his future, and that he was about to let them down.  As it turned out his girlfriend was pregnant, and he had not yet told his and/or her parents.  Despite the pregnancy he wanted to attend the university as planned, but it would have to be as a married couple.  He asked me if I would consider buying his car from him.  Providing that his talk with his and her parents went as he thought it might.  I’m not sure that he knew how old I was, but I didn’t tell him I was going to have to ask my mother to help me get the financing for this two year old car.
Have you ever caught yourself saying to your parents, if you just help me make this happen I’ll never ask for anything else again?  Yup, that was me. That car drove like it was an extension of my body.  All I had to do was think that I wanted to pass the car or truck in front of me on a two-lane highway and the front end of the car actually lifted like a speed boat.  This particular car had a rare 409 V-8 425hp (at 6,000 RPM) engine, dual four-barrel intake, and a Powerglide Automatic Transmission mounted on the floor console.  The reason I didn’t keep it very long was the size engine combination with the dual four-barrel carburetors. 
Every time I stomped the accelerator to pass a vehicle or just show-off, I could picture a small replica of the gasoline station attendant under the hood feeding the carburetors from a 5 gallon gas can.  The suction sound made by the carburetors when operating at full performance was a thing of beauty.  Unfortunately as the odometer needle was climbing the fuel gage needle was dropping equally fast.  I knew that I couldn’t afford to feed the beast, and yet while the control was all up to me, my lead foot was out of control.  A beautiful and rare machine like that was real easy to sell back then; today the beauty would bring in around 80K or more.  While I had an impulsive side to my personality in the early years, my sensible side has always prevailed (sooner or later).  When I think about all the cars I’ve owned, I always think about the one that I really couldn’t afford.  The best is yet to come…

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