Still cruising

If this 1966 Chevrolet Impala could talk, it would have a very interesting story to tell. The classic car rolled off the line at the Lordstown Assembly Plant within the first month of its opening and now is located nearly three hours away near Buffalo, N.Y.

In between, it had stops in northeast Ohio, the Midwest, Florida and a trip across the northern border into Canada.

Jeff Tucker of the Buffalo area loved his original 1966 Chevrolet Impala convertible.

“I was about 17 years old, and I was delivering pizzas at the time,” he said. “I saw a Chevy Impala convertible for sale in a driveway. I bought the car. My dad co-signed the loan for me.

“It was around 1980,” he said. “Those cars were just starting to get a little bit old. They certainly weren’t rare yet because they had made so many of them. I had a girlfriend at the time who is now my wife of 30 years, and she was surprised that I bought such a big car.”

When he was getting married, Tucker said he couldn’t afford a winter vehicle and didn’t want to subject his ’66 convertible to the harsh Buffalo weather, so he sold it.

“It killed me to sell it when I needed the money to settle down and get married, but I am sure that is a story that rings with many a young American male,” said Tucker.

Tucker considers himself to be “a car guy” with a love for classic cars. He kept his eye on them by attending local cruise nights. After purchasing a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, he thought about how much he yearned for his 1966 Chevrolet Impala or “land yacht” as some car enthusiasts call them. He searched casually online for about a year and a half.

“I found two or three of them. One was in Florida. My brother went and took a look at it. You could tell it had been re-worked. It wasn’t original. I was going to spend some money on it, and I had the time, so I kept my search up. I found an advertisement for this car online in Canada. It was way more money than I wanted to spend. Four months later, it was still for sale.”

The owner exchanged photos with Tucker and he asked his brother, Chris, an award-winning Chevrolet Camaro refurbisher, if he thought it was worth pursuing.

“My brother said, ‘Why don’t you give them a call?’ Their sticker price for the car was $42,000. I called them and told them I used to have a car that was Marina Blue with a black top. It was a very similar car,” said Tucker.

The salesman near Montreal, Quebec, told Tucker that the car had all of the original documentation, including the bill of sale, protective plate and was in fantastic shape. So Tucker and a friend, who is also a “car nut,” took an eight-hour trip to see it.

The car had sat in the show room after being purchased at an auction in Florida in 2008.

“When I got to the dealership, there was no question this was the car for me, it was just a question of how much they would come down in price,” he said. “They came down to an acceptable level. so, I bought the car.”

He sold his ’69 Camaro to purchase it.

When he brought the Impala home, he did some investigating. Using the paperwork given to him and books, he looked for original parts.

“Whoever had it over the years took very good care of it. It was painted once, and it has a new top. But aside from brakes, the shocks, new sparkplugs and stuff like that, it’s an original car. Everything is original. It even has the original hubcaps. The convertible top works as if it had just left the factory.”

Tucker explained that the vehicle identification number or VIN ends with the letter “U” after the numerical sequence. This means the car was completed at the Lordstown plant.

The original bill of sale from a dealership in Amherst, Ohio, displays the delivery to the dealership on June 6, 1966. The first Impala rolled off the line at the Lordstown plant on April 28, 1966. The car was a gift from a mother to her son upon his graduation. The original list price was approximately $3,200.

“For its day, it was a very heavily optioned car. It had a rear antenna, electric convertible top, power windows,” said Tucker.

The additions cost $921 to install.

The pristine condition of the car’s body and performance of its engine displays the fine craftsmanship by the workers and pride in the automobiles they produced that have stood the test of time 48 years later.

“It had the original 75,000 miles on it,” Tucker said. “I bought it in 2011. A 1966 to have 75,000 original miles is very low mileage for a classic.”

Today, Tucker uses the Impala mostly for car shows and the occasional drive in sunny weather with the top down, but he would make an exception for the 50th anniversary of the Lordstown Assembly Plant.

“I know that car came out of that plant,” he said. “That plant is going to be 50 years old in 2016. I would be honored to have that car at that plant if they did any kind of ceremony.”