I remember it like it was yesterday, even though I was just a kid. It was the spring of 1985. My father was down at one of the local GM dealerships picking up parts. He was talking it up with a couple of friends who brought their cars in for service. One of them wanted to buy a Porsche 914 in his inventory (remember them?) and their conversation heated up. Which left me to wander around the dealership.

My father knew the owner very well so we were allowed to go wherever we wanted. I wandered over to the service area and spent a few minutes chatting it up with the service advisors and mechanics. When I walked back to the new car showroom - there it was.

It was huge. A red 1972 Impala convertible slowly wallowed into the parking lot. It looked like it had just left the showroom floor. The owner carefully parked it in the far corner of the new car lot and got out. He was a casually dressed gentleman in his early 60's. He seemed to have tears in his eyes. Being the inquisitive type, I asked what was wrong.

He informed me that he was about to trade in his Impala on a new one. He told me that he bought it brand new at this very dealership and felt that the car should have a better fate than being traded in for a $2800 value. Even then I know they were practically stealing the car from him (I used to memorize Blue Book values, Lemon Aid books and automotive journals as a kid). I remember telling myself that there were only 6,456 Impala convertibles made in 1972. He claimed to have put in the newpaper for a month without any takers. Everyone was scared away by the big engine and the poor fuel economy. He really wanted the car to go to someone who would treat it right. I had to ask what kind of engine was in it. He told me that it had a 454. I told him that I was sure my Dad would give him more for it than what the dealership was offering. He told me that he was a busy man and had no time for games. He asked me if I was making this up and I said no I wasn't. I asked him to give me 5 minutes to track down my Dad and bring him to the car before he let the dealership have it for $2800. He agreed. It was a very frantic 5 minutes. I found him and told him everything about the old man with the Impala. He turns to his friend and lowers the price of the 914 by $1200 on the spot. Once he had a confirmed sale on that end, he follows me over to the old man. They proceed to spend about 10 minutes negotiating while going over the car.

What I got by listening in was the car was purchased new when he was in the Navy. He recently retired and needed a newer car that his wife could drive safely. It had only 47,000 miles, was fully loaded and in excellent condition. He had the entire repair and maintenance history in a box in the cavernous trunk. The original spare had never been used. He had the original service manual and the bill of sale. A trailer hitch was on the rear. "I used it to haul my boat" I recall him saying. That's why he needed the big 454. "Look son" he said to me. "When you're old enough to drive this car you'll understand why I kept this car all these years. It's really fun to drive and it rides like a dream. You feel like a king driving it." I thought nothing of it at the time.

They agreed on a price of $4200. The salesman arrived just in time for the conclusion of the sale. He was crushed when he found out he wasn't getting that trade in. He even offered the old man $4500 for it. "Forget it." He said. "Why wouldn't you give me that price in the first place? I'd rather sell it to someone who will care for it and not cheat me. I want to deal with the sales manager." They both ran off in a huff.

My father picked up the car 3 days later. He drove it on and off for years. He became friends with the seller and kept in touch often (turns out he served with his cousin in the Navy). When the seller passed away my father attended his funeral with the Impala. His wife was more than grateful when he offered her a drive in the car. Friends and family said it was the first time she smiled after he passed away. Years passed as my father held on to that car. He didn't drive it often as he had several other cars but he took care of it. Out of the blue he gets a phone call from the original owner's grandson. He wants the car back in his family. My father says no at first. It takes 6 months of constant pestering for my dad to cave in. I can't remember the sale price but I remember it was about $25,000. My dad's schedule was full, so he asked that I drive it out to Vancouver Island and deliver the car. He convinced me by paying me for my time and expenses and covering my airfare home. I was in college and needed the money - I couldnt say no. He also gave me $750 in cash. "That's not spending money by the way" Dad said. "You'll need that for gas. If that's not enough use the gas card." $750 for gas? You've gotta be kidding me. I'll have enough leftover to pocket some myself. I'l drive economically. Yeah......right.

When I picked up the car from storage it looked just as it did the first day I laid eyes on it. I started it up and the 454 roared to life. As I fueled it up it became increasingly obvious that $750 might not go as far as I thought it would. I also recall that the car had not yet reached 60,000 miles. I stopped at my place and loaded up on 8-tracks to listen to on the trip. I threw the top town and hit the highway with some CCR in the deck. It was a memorable trip. While on the trip, the old man's words entered my mind. It WAS a blast to drive and it INDEED drove like a dream. I had a lot of interesting adventures involving many honks and waves from other motorists. I met some beautiful women. I made a few friends along the way. At some points it was so isolated that I felt like I was in a time warp and it could easily have been 1972. I even had an offer of $27,000 from a stockbroker before getting on the Vancouver Island ferry. I called Dad and he said no, a deal is a deal - proceed as planned.

Getting on the ferry was a treat. The Impala's enormous girth made it a challenge. I also had angered several other travellers because they could have put 2 or 3 extra cars on board if they didn't take mine. I was actually confronted a couple of times by tree-hugging hippies who rambled on about how the land yacht I was driving symbolizes the bloated egocentric excess of our country and signalled everything that was wrong with society today. I even got a couple of comments about how dinosaur gas guzzlers like the Impala were polluting our world and it should be crushed. I love a good debate, but I was so relaxed I paid them no mind. I got a lot of thumbs up from the older crowd and the gearheads. I went to check on the car just for 30 seconds and it turned out to be a one hour show and tell session to a lot of interested passengers.

Driving on the island was difficult. The roads are smaller, and I found myself encroaching on the double solid lines. I pulled up to the new owner's driveway. We talked for a while and he dropped me off at my hotel; telling me that he would pick me up and drive me to the airport in 2 days. I spent the time hanging out with friends. Two days passed and he picked me up. Sitting in the passenger seat was the man's grandmother - the original owner's wife. She appeared to be pushing 80 years old now, but seemed to be in good health. I rode in back. Before we parted company the old lady told me she never felt happier now that the car was back. I bid them and the car goodbye, and took my flight home. Now I know why dad couldn't deliver the car himself. He'd have the same gut wrenching feeling in his gut that I did - I didn't want to let it go by the end of the trip. I did feel like a king in that car. I'll miss it.