I’ve always been a car guy, but the drive got even more serious when I got my driving permit and finally slid behind the wheel of an actual car. A few spins in my sister’s ’95 Dodge Neon had me circling classic car ads in the local paper for cooler options. My father, also a car guy, became my unwilling-but-coerced partner and financier in my hunt for a classic.
First up was a 1961 Chevrolet Impala in Fawn Beige and white I found for sale near my school. It looked for all the world like a grandma’s car that had outlived its welcome in some mid-century modern garage — there was no rust and it still wore plastic seat covers. Asking price was $7,000, which was precisely $6,900 more than I had at the time. My father, aka “The Bank,” liked the car until he opened the hood. The bubbletop’s little 283 only wore one power pack head, which was an easy deal-breaker for him to cite several times as we drove home. It was gone soon after.
I also remember looking at a 1963 Chevy Nova SS in black. Its paint was chalky but all the parts appeared to be there. It was no hot rod, with a six under the hood and an automatic on the floor, but it looked cool and was just on the downhill side of being a driver. Price was $4,000 if I remember right, which was, in 1997, “too expensive for a Nova” according to Mr. Bankroll, who also made a point of harping on first-gen Nova suspensions.
Eventually we ended up spending $1,900 on a ’66 Caprice with bad paint and an undersea-fresh interior because it had a running big block and a 12-bolt rear. In retrospect, I’m glad that’s how things ended up, as regardless of how I viewed the car hunt, we were buying the bones of a project rather than a complete car. Dad knew that. I learned it.
But I still want a 1963 Nova SS and a 1961 Impala. In fact, I tend to gravitate toward them at events these days — specifically if the Nova is black and the Impala is beige. Given the space, time, and funds, they’d be on my short list of must-haves for a collection, all because they were missed connections that I, even if just for a moment, visualized myself owning back when I first saw them. Even today, I can’t seem to shake the visuals.
I don’t think this type of thing is unique — we all have cars we nearly bought and later kicked ourselves for missing. So what cars are on your lists? Did they steer your collections to where they are today? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.