April 24, 2009


My bike commute brings me past this old row of small storage garages deep in West Philly. Once last week I caught a very quick glimpse of the grill and headlights of a classic Chevy. So when I rode by bright and early this morning and saw this fella working on the same car I had to stop.

The owner’s name is Franklin and he’s originally from South Carolina. He was kind enough to fill me in on this beauty. Sure enough, it’s a 1971 Chevy Impala with a 454 cu. inch big block in it; I didn’t even know they put those monsters in Impalas. He’s restored it with true-to-original vinyl top, all new interior, paint, etc. He had the engine torn apart this morning and said he’d have it pulled out by the end of the day and put back together by June. Sounds like he works a bit faster than I do.

Anyway, I gave him the address of this here site and told him to let me know when it’s finished. Told him I’d take some nice pics of it if he promised to give me a ride.

Reason being, I had almost the identical car and I still dream about it, I swear, every other night. Damn I miss that thing. It was great. I was 16 and saved up $1,500 working at the pharmacy. It was a 1970, but a Southern car so it was mint. All original. It had, no lie, the largest trunk ever produced. One time in high school, I shit you not, I snuck two full-size coolers full of beer and two friends into the drive-in with it.
[Tangent: one time, same drive-in, (now a WalMart) true story, my buddy brought his little brother with him. Kids under 15 were half-price or free or something. When the ticket-taker questioned whether he was really under 15 he replied “Of course. You wanna see my license?”. “Nah, I believe you. Go ahead.” said the cashier.]

I also had it all through college. One time I fit six kegs in it (or was it 5? Could’ve even been 7), 3 in the trunk, 2 in the back seat. It was my “summer” car; I also had a “winter” car- a Chevette. Seriously- how did I afford such an extravagant lifestyle making $3.15 an hour??

Anyway, I had that car for years and when I moved to Philly I stored it in my old man’s barn. The mice had a good time with it. I’d come home and drive it around a bit. The heater blew mouse crap-smell since all the vents were stuffed with nests.
Finally my Dad had to make room for more of his junk (he recently inherited my Grandfather’s 1935 Chevy by the way) so I had to sell it about 10 years ago.


I have better pictures of it than this one but this hangs in my office next to my computer.
Darn I miss that thing. Did I say that already?

Let me know when yours is done, Franklin!

Friends, I urge you to share your favorite memories of my Chevy in the Comments section below. Kim, Sarah, Tracy- the time the cops got us for underage drinking, or the time I found 3 bucks at the drive thru window and threw it out the window cuz Kim claimed it was hers? Lee? The time Bufu tried to nail a sign with my brand new riot stuck and broke it in half?



  1. Ah, the Impala. Many fine memories were borne in that car. Yes, I was there the night that we were flying down Center Road and US-23 when Bufu was leaning out the window, yelling in some unintelligible language (he was always speaking in faux-Arabic, mocking our mutual boss Akram Narshi, the owner of the local Big Boy where he and I bussed tables together on the weekend). Bufu did indeed break an “indestructible” Cocobolo police nightstick on what I recall was a MDOT sawhorse with a blinking yellow light. “Mack-a-da-ro-rishi Alla Ackbar!” WHAM! (stares at nightstick nub) “WTF?”

    That car was thr transportation sequel to the famed Blue Canoe, your mom’s big blue station wagon. We gave many a lawn jobs to the teachers and administrators at our high school that we didn’t like. I recall Niel McPhee chasing us one night after we backed the Canoe up to his front porch and let the 455 in that 7,000 pound tank do all his landscaping.

    But I digress….that Impala did indeed have the world’s largest trunk. We’d regularly smuggle four people into the drive-in in that thing, then wait for the drive-in Nazis to go inside for coffee before we emptied everyone out. Hey, it was like three bucks to get into the drive-in, and three bucks was a twelve pack of domestic beer back then….

    Thanks for the memories.

  2. From Duberville:

    I always felt really bad about accidentally tearing up the rear flooring carpet behind the drivers seat.

    You wouldn’t think that standing up and pissing out the window while speeding northbound on I-75 after a Pine Knob concert could cause so much damage.

    After a full day of beer drinking and Huey Lewis, I just couldn’t hold it any longer.

    I think Dick Powell did replace the rear carpeting years later, but I always felt guilty for tearing it that one drunken evening.

  3. From Blanca:

    OMG! The summer car, the wind. I soooooo remember it. The debates (all about getting it ready, the gas, the oil, “boy loves car thing”, girl so not, but pretending to be interested, etc……..), The smooth ride. The trip we took outside of Traverse City for the BIG DILL weekend were Jeff sucked my toes. Fetish of his! But also HOW many Lamda Chi’s can you put in the back seat?”

  4. My buddy Bill at work used to work at the GM plant in Delaware where they are currently building Pontiacs. His brother still works there. He’s all up in arms about GM and how they messed everything up, how they’re killing off the Pontiac brand, etc:
    He’s really hot under the collar about GM.

    Then he told me his own funny story about an old Chevy of his so I have to share it:

    He’s a bit older than me but when he was in high school he bought a baby blue ’63 Chevy for 100 bucks. One day it got stolen from his high school parking lot. A few months later he got a call from the police; said they found it. He brought the necessary paperwork and picked it up, expecting it to be trashed. He was delighted to find it had a brand new beautiful black paint job and a trunk FULL of mechanics tools- about $1,000 worth, some of which he still has to this day!

  5. The memories in that Impala are more numerous than the space. My favorite (and my father’s) is when I had the little party in high school that turned into about 60 people, beer cans piled 8′ high in the kitchen and Joel Idoni running around the house with my mom’s Dustbuster…calling himself the %@&%#buster to all the kissing couples. Now to get to the Impala, upon your arrival you had decided to park in my dad’s pole barn (his version of a garage)because you were concerned about it getting hit as people pulled in & out of the driveway. Long story short you came in & proceed to drink to the point of needing to sleep and you choose my waterbed. Just as you reached slumber my parents walked in early and the first words out of my Mom & Dad’s mouth were “Why is Matt’s car parked in the garage & who is that boy sleeping in your bed?” little did they realize you were one in the same!

    I also vividly recall babysitting in downtown Fenton in a little house off North Road on a Friday night. Just as I put the kid back to bed in walk Matthew Graydon, Sarah, Tracy…you all show up after just getting an MIP in the Impala from some Fenton cop…I honestly think it was Don Merrill but I’m not certain.

    Also yes the darn $3.00 at the drive thru!!! 🙂

    Someone needs to give the play-by-play of the pontoon we sunk on Silver Lake…has little to do with the Impala except we drove it to Roussel’s house, but what an experience that was!

  6. Hi,
    I also have fond memories of my 71 Impala convertible, I sold because i had found a 68SS conv and I had to have it. My best friend bought the 71 so I got to see it from time to time. Well the 68 rebuilt by me and soon after I was taking it to car shows. The car was seen by a son loving lady that made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The 68 was gone and soon after I was able to buy a 69SS convertible from him to which I still own. My best friend got into some trouble and I have gotten the 71 back. You can see the pics of both cars at http://www.phaylanx.net and click on Fernandos tab. There’s nothing like dropping the top down and cruising down the street reliving or making new memories!

    • Nice rides. Makes me miss my Impala even more…


  7. […] high school buddies Jeff and Wally into skipping an entire day of school and driving with me in my 1970 Chevy an hour and a half to downtown Detroit to tour the historic brewery before the wrecking ball hit. […]

  8. I also have a 1971 Impala with the ls5 454.Does anybody know just how many were made with the 454? also where i cam find a grill?

    • Is your 71 impala with the 454 big block engine a convertible or hardtop? If it’s convertible, how much cash would it take for you to part with it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: