Laura V

The "How's, Why's, and Oh My's!" of my restoration process!!

All my life my Daddy was buying wrecked things, fixing them up, then selling them for profit. I begged him to buy a classic car and restore it with me. Ya' know, a father daughter project. I was raised on a farm, and while there were few things he wouldn't let me do, getting grease under my finger nails was one of them, so it never happened. I carried this desire into my adulthood, and finally found myself in a position to buy one. After much pain staking research, I knew what I wanted: a 1964 Impala SS.Then came the aggressive hunt to find one in my price range. I was just about to give up and make an offer on a Thunderbird, but I did one more internet search. Sure enough, a new listing came up and I made my offer. I bought her sight unseen from a car museum, and had her shipped down from several states up. I'll never forget the thrill of seeing her arrive on that flat bed. I was astonished by how well kept her almost entirely original condition was! Naturally, there was work that needed to be done under the hood, as well as some wiring, etc. which was expected. For instance, I drove her two years without a functioning dash panel. That meant I drove around never knowing how much gas I had, and it was anybody's guess how fast I was going. I couldn't fill her up either, because there was a hole somewhere in the gas tank, and if I put more than a few gallons in, it would leak out of it! Incredibly, I never got a speeding ticket or ran out of gas, never mind blew the thing up. I would just laugh about getting flame throwers as soon as I got that fixed, just to make light of it.

The plan was to restore the car with help from my fiance', but he decided he didn't want to be married anymore after 6 months of marriage. By some miracle, I met a restoration man the DAY divorce papers were signed. The car had been at my mechanics, and like a scene from a movie, he seemingly just came out of nowhere! Having just signed those papers my mood was a little off, and I was mostly wondering why my mechanic was letting a stranger touch it. I'll never forget his opening words to me after the introduction, "Ma'am...I've restored 33 1964 Impalas in my day, I thought I had the only one in this county. Where have you been hiding it?" In fact, I used the car in a publicity photo several months earlier, & his wife brought home a magazine with that picture in it, so he had seen it. He thought I was a random model on a random car in a far away land, and the picture was purchased or something for marketing. Anyway, my mood changed and my immediate response was, "Nice to meet YOU!" and just like that, my life took a turn for the better. See, my dreams of restoring the car were dashed with the divorce. I didn't know where to start on it, and my immediate plans were to sell it. It was an uplifting moment that I'll never forget.

First we took a thorough inventory of what needed to be done. He would walk around it and I would follow, pen and paper in hand, writing down his observations. I'll never forget him shaking his head in disgust, and me saying, "What ?!?! What's wrong with it?!?!" and his reply being, "These tail light screws are not correct to this time period!" That's when I knew that when it came to restoring Impalas, he was intense about it! For about a year, we worked together on the car just fixing things, and replacing parts at random. In exchange, I traded services to his wife from my business. He was restoring one of his own, so every time he would come across a part I needed, he would bring it by and I would squeal with delight. Word got out, and more parts started to appear from other people. It got to the point even mechanics were donating time just to see the project completed! I made the decision early on to keep her as close as possible to original. Almost all the parts are vintage, thanks to his collecting them over the years he had many to spare. Compared to fully restored show cars, she doesn't stand out, but I'm more proud of what's NOT been done to her that what has. How many 1964 Impala's do you see rolling down the road with hubcaps that are original? Not even mine at times as she's thrown a few, but that's a story within itself.

This year she turned 50, I'm in my 8th year of ownership, and my restoration man and his wife are among my closest friends. My favorite part about ownership is sharing her with others. When you have that much love, time, and parts contributed in a restoration, you can't just keep it to yourself. Which isn't to say I toss the keys around. I like to do things that make people laugh with it.For instance, I've got a mannequin named Roxy (who I retired from my business) that usually goes along for the ride. If I'm going to be away for an length of time, I prop her up behind the steering wheel and walk off, as if it's natural. Sometimes I stick fairly close by just to see people's reactions! I've also noticed almost everyone from a certain age up has a story about a 1964 Impala. It thrills me to give them the memory trigger that enables them to relive their memories in that moment.

I often wonder what my Daddy would say about the whole thing if he was here now. My guess is he's up in Heaven, watching me roll on down the road, and he's grinnin'!

14 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Maggie Spencer Sant Monica Ca. July 14, 2014 at 19:13
    Great story go girl......
  • 2
    Larry G Nashville, TN July 17, 2014 at 16:23
    Good job!
  • 3
    Buzzincuzzin Mobile Alabama July 17, 2014 at 17:20
    I've seen the girl and the car out and about. Never met the mannequin though.
  • 4
    john alabama July 18, 2014 at 21:33
    A well written and heartfelt story. The car is absolutely beautiful as well as the lady who wrote it. Thanks for sharing!
  • 5
    David Padgett Mobile, Al. July 18, 2014 at 22:17
    Great story Laura V. Show'er off...;-{)
  • 6
    Kristie Menifee, CA July 18, 2014 at 11:15
    I think your daddy would have loved takin' a ride with you and Roxy :)
  • 7
    Kristie Menifee, CA July 18, 2014 at 11:15
    I think your daddy would have loved takin' a ride with you and Roxy :)
  • 8
    RB STONE Nashville July 18, 2014 at 12:13
    Cool stuff Laura my Dad has done this for years and hits 60 plus car shows a year so I have an appreciation for that....gotta love the old chevy's!! keep rockin! RB
  • 9
    Carl FeraI NY January 28, 2015 at 15:01
    I'm so glad that you followed your dream. I did to. The only difference between you and me is that no matter how much my father was against my purchase of a very good 57 Chevy he ultimately gave in and we worked side by side doing all the mechanical work. He was one heck of a machinist. He balanced and blue printed the engine and it still runs to this day 42 yrs. later. He to is gone now but I know that both of our fathers are smiling now very proud of us.
  • 10
    Bill Fresno , Ca January 28, 2015 at 15:55
    Love your story, I learned how to drive in a 65 impala ss , 4 sp with 327. I tried recently to locate her, but it was scrapped in Va. I settled on a 68 gto 4 sp 400 totally restored car. I do miss the impala for sure!
  • 11
    Dawn lawson Nashville TN January 28, 2015 at 17:30
    Way to go! I have my father's 1978 black knight el camino that I'm restoring! He wouldn't let me work on cars either lol!
  • 12
    gene Mesa, AZ January 28, 2015 at 22:35
    Sweet Ride young lady......the '64's are my faves......ever heard of Impala Bobs in Mesa??
  • 13
    juan ohio January 29, 2015 at 13:19
    I know how laura felt.i found 69 firebird convertible which I always wanted,all in pieces it was supposed to be a restoration with my youngest son after half way through it my grandkids came along and that was the end of it. I sold it and got really blessed I found another 69 firebird in south Carolina same color {hot orange } that I was going to paint the other one.happy ending.congrats laura on ur dream car.i know how u feel.
  • 14
    Jim Benson Arden, NC February 4, 2015 at 21:03
    The 64 Impala is one of my favorite cars of all time. I am happy for you that you found one and that you drive it and enjoy riding in it as it was built to be driven. I know that your dad smiles every time that your fire that bad boy up!!

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