JULY 2024: 1971 CHEVROLET IMPALA TWO-DOOR HARDTOP—A REAL-LIFE JIM ROCKFORD BROKEN-NOSE CAR

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If you watched ‘The Rockford Files’ in the 1970s you were guaranteed to see Jim Rockford running from what he called broken-nose hoods (bad guys) in a car chase.

The broken-nose guys all chased Rockford in giant 70s land yachts like this 1971 Chevrolet two-door hardtop because that’s how hoods rolled on the ‘Rockford Files’.

He found this four-owner Impala and knew it would be a welcome addition to his garage. It has 88,000 miles on it now–and every owner protected the Impala from nasty winter weather. The car was painted once, and the finish is holding up well thanks to their foresight.

The interior is original on the Impala, so it shows wear, but it’s still intact. There’s a cassette player in the car so Steve’s Impala had cutting-edge technology back in ’71 because most cars were AM radio-equipped 53 years ago. A big step-up would be the FM radio and/or an 8-track stereo.  

The Impala came with a 350 four-barrel Chevy small block under the hood so that’s a bulletproof combination. The four-barrel started acting up, so Steve replaced it with a Chinese knock-off carburetor. He admits he was playing the odds with a Chinese carburetor, because most car guys admit they’re a last resort for parts.

Steve also upgraded the ignition system because he believes it makes the car more reliable with a hotter spark. The car didn’t have a passenger side mirror, so Steve added one because it makes the changing lanes experience less of an adventure. Steve has a few long-distance runs planned so he’s thinking about replacing the springs because “they’re a little soft”—in his opinion.

This is a barebones car. There are no power windows, seats, or air conditioning because an Impala was a mid-range car, so the invoice had to be under certain number. The original owner wanted something a little more stylish—but within a budget.     

This experiment has worked out so far because the replacement carb has worked flawlessly. Steve is so happy he calls his car the ‘China Clipper’. Everything is a roll of the dice with old cars, but Steve has played the carburetor game like a riverboat gambler—and won.

These cars were built for the open road and Steve describes the experience behind the wheel of his Impala as “floating”–not driving. Steve likes to drive the Impala because he’s a climb-in-and-drive guy—not a park-it-in-the-garage guy.

There’s a 1960 license plate on the Impala, even though it’s a ’71. Steve has a simple explanation—it was his dad’s plate. That was the same one his dad used on his 1960 Plymouth, so the connection is obvious.

Steve has one mission with this Impala. He wants to park it in front of the original owner’s house—the one when the Impala was brand new.

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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