NOVEMBER 3, 2011: 1961 CHEVY IMPALA-THREE GENERATIONS…ONE CLASSIC CAR

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The 1961 Chevrolet Impala 2-door hardtop has spiked in value over the last few years.

 

The “Bubbletop”, as it’s affectionately known, caught a wave in the last ten years and since then it’s risen in value faster than Greece’s national debt.

 

Tanya Sweet owns a 61 Chevy Impala and thanks to an incredible family legacy, she has affixed her own value on the car-priceless.

 

Her grandfather bought the car “from a hippie” in the late 1960s to use as a daily driver. Later on Tanya’s mom took over the Impala in high school right after she learned to drive and earned her driver’s license behind the wheel of this classic Chevy.

 

Her mom has less than fond memories of the old Impala. She thought it was old and ugly in high school plus she had to tie the Chevy to a tree every time she parked it because the e-brake didn’t work. She was a typical high school girl with all the attendant insecurities so tying up the car like a horse to a hitching post battered her ego.

 

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Eventually Tanya’s mom gave the car back and her grandfather set out on a long and arduous restoration journey with the 61 Impala. He enlisted aid from Tanya’s mother and grandmother and as she admitted, “they did all the dirty work taking it apart and he put it back together”.

 

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Tanya’s grandfather passed away in 1996 and a few years later the car left the family for the first time in over 30 years when her uncle sold the car. After that the car traded hands 6 or 7 times and resided in areas nearly a thousand miles apart during that period.

 

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Tanya reported “every time a new owner bought it the car got a little better because they worked on it”. The transfer in ownership was nearly an annual event until Mel , (Tanya’s husband) decided to celebrate Christmas with a big surprise-Tanya would get the Impala back in the family.

 

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Mel did some serious detective work via forums and his own connections within the old car hobby and eventually tracked down the latest owner. This wasn’t exactly a Walt Disney ending because he refused to sell the car. That’s when Car Guy Karma kicked in- 3 days later the guy had found the ‘55 Chevy of his dreams and Mel had his prized Christmas present for his wife.

 

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There was some subterfuge-Mel hid the Impala out at a friend’s place until Christmas and as Tanya admitted, “he had to lie to me the whole way about his trips to get the car but it was really worth it”.

 

Now Tanya fights a constant battle to keep this vintage Chevy stock. Currently it’s running the factory 283 2 speed Powerglide but Mel would love to jam a monster big block in the car plus he hates the standard whitewall tires and original wheel covers on this pristine 1961 Impala.

 

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Tanya would love to upgrade the manual steering to make the car more civilized in parking lots but she knows that if she sends Mel out to do the job the next time she lifts the hood she’ll be staring at a 454 cubic inch monster.That’s a tradeoff.

 

Tanya is extremely happy that the family legacy is literally back in the family and she concedes that her mother “likes the car again”.

 

Now that the park brake works…

 

Jerry Sutherland

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Copyright 2011

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