Tuesday, 09 October 2012 14:19

An Alabama Four-Door Hard Top on 22s Arrives in Portland

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Right after the week-long Hot August Nights and before the also-week-long Monterey events, I decided to buy a classic car. Maybe the collective buzz in the car-world ether inspired me. All I know is I found the car I wanted in Huntsville, AL. One hitch: I live in Portland, OR, 2,500 miles away.

I'd been looking for a 1967 Impala four-door hard top for a long time, but you know how the story goes: When I had money I couldn’t find a car I liked, and when I found the car I liked I didn’t have the money.

Why did I want a four door? Well, it needed to be a four-door hard top, not a sedan. Something about the pillarless bodystyle and the idea of cruising with all four windows down has always just appealed to me. This one was bright red with a black vinyl top, 327, factory a/c, and Powerglide. The listing stated “engine runs very smooth. Everything original on inside.”

Couldn’t you find one closer, Chad? What, they don’t have those around here? You went where? Everybody had a question or snarky comment when I told them what I did. Sure, there were some cars closer — but in this price range they either weren’t running, needed serious rust repair or suffered from any number of other reasons to pass on them. And it seemed like the perfect moment for an adventure.

So I hopped on three planes Friday night (Portland to Las Vegas, to Houston, to Huntsville) and was there the following Saturday morning.

Boy, am I glad I checked it out in person. The pictures were shiny and appealing, but an in-person review gave me ammo to talk the guy down a grand from asking price. There was the usual rust in front fenders (and only there, thankfully), the headliner sagged, the cloth upholstery in the back was ripped and the front bench had an incorrect vinyl cover. The wheels were 22s, and the car didn’t stop worth a darn. The real stinger was an active hornets’ nest between the two driver’s-side doors.

When news of my purchase reached the office, Publisher Martin asked if I was going to drive to Monterey from there. No, I told him. I wanted to get there in one piece.

After paying for the car, I made arrangements for shipping and caught my return flight home, just in time to hook back up with the ACC crew and make the 12-hour drive south to Monterey. A week later, we were back in Portland, and I was there when my car rolled off the trailer.

I drove it over to the house of Editor Jim Pickering’s dad for some assistance and an air compressor. We replaced the terrible 22-inch donk wheels with a set of red and chrome 15-inch Rally wheels. Brake work was also part of the agenda. When we tore into them, we discovered leaking wheel cylinders, nearly worn-through rubber lines and fluid that could have been mistaken for chocolate milk. (To our surprise, the shoes were fairly new and so were a few of the suspension components.) So after hunting down the parts on Labor Day — I was impressed by the number of auto stores that were open — all was fixed. We even broke into the trunk, as the key was lost long ago.

All in, it was $2,800 for the car, $1,200 for shipping (thank you Dependable Auto Shippers) and $900 for booking the flights a few hours before departure. Planned work over the winter includes redoing the seats and headliner, and installing a two-inch-drop power-disc conversion and all new weatherstripping. We’ll see what other  inspiration I get from the collector-car ether.

What about you? Do you have any fun car-buying stories?

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