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1970 CHEVROLET Impala- Richard PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Friday, 10 January 2014 00:16

1970 CHEVROLET Impala- Richard


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

70 chev impala richard front

In 1958 the Chevrolet Impala was introduced as a top trim option on the full sized Chevrolet. The following year Impala gained enough popularity to warrant its own series. Throughout the 1960s the Impala was the best selling domestic model in USA. The 1965 version of the Impala was in production with yearly revisions until the end of the 1970 model year. This 'just right' full size car always outsold everyone else.

70 chev impala richard

1970 was the final year that the Impala was built off the platform that was introduced in 1965. In 1971 the Impala was redesigned to look much like a Cadillac. Along with Cadillac looks the Impala also gained superfluous size in the bargain. The 1970 Impala thus enjoys status as the last of the manageable sized Impalas as well as the culmination of a 6 year cycle of quality control. After millions of units built over 6 model years all the bugs were worked out of the Impala lineup.

70 chev impala richard door sticker

This door sticker on this particular Impala informs us that it has a build date of February, 1970. The VIN 164390Sxxxxxx decodes:

1= Chevrolet

64= Impala V8 (63 indicated the 6 cylinder Impalas)

39= 4 Door sport sedan

0= 1970 Model year

S= St. Louis, Missouri final assembly plant

The final 6 digits aren't shown in order to protect owner privacy.

70 chev impala richard driver side

This Impala sport sedan model designation means that this is the high end version of the 4 door bodystyle. The sport sedan is a hardtop model using frameless glass to present a cleaner profile. This Impala adds a vinyl roof to further enhance the looks. It is equipped with power steering, power brakes, power door locks, remote driver's outside rear view mirror, air conditioning, radio, full size hubcaps, automatic transmission and the excellent 350 V8 engine.

70 chev impala richard pass

The story of this Impala is inextricably linked with its long term owner, Richard who is the second owner. Interestingly, both Richard and the Impala entered the world in February. Richard was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the afternoon of Feb 25, 1941. The Impala was built February, 1970 in St. Louis, Missouri. Both Richard and the Impala eventually ended up in Berkeley, California.

Richard has driven this Impala a much greater distance than the first owner. In fact, he has covered 3 or 4 times the distance that the majority of Impalas from this era have ever been driven. Richard also may hold the record for total amount of time spent inside a 1970 Impala. Richard has not only logged many hours behind the wheel but he has also lived in the car for over 15 years. The car has not received major bodywork or interior refurbishment. Richard added an outside rear view mirror to the passenger side of the car and he has kept up regular maintenance but that is all. This is what a car looks like after several 100,000 miles of city daily driving. The car has always been outside in the weather of the Bay Area of California day and night.

70 chev impala richard driver three quarter view

The Impala was shipped to a Concorde, California Chevrolet dealership and has spent its life in the Bay Area. Richard ended up on the West Coast due to the wonderful photos and stories in ARIZONA HIGHWAYS magazine. Richard's Aunt Doris was inspired to move from Minnesota to Arizona through her avid reading of ARIZONA HIGHWAYS. Richard and his parents followed Doris to Phoenix, Arizona after a huge storm ripped through Minnesota in 1952. Following high school in Phoenix, Richard's test score aptitude (98th percentile nation wide) earned him an engineering scholarship.

Richard lived through the 1960s straddling both sides of the cultural landscape. He worked as a weapons system designer for the Navy by day while his evening choir practice brought him into contact with beautiful hippy girls and the anti war movement. By the 1970s Richard was out of weapons research and known as 'The Toymaker' of Berkeley, California.

70 chev impala richard bamboo butterfly aka ski doo

Richard handcrafted wooden propellers which he sold in front of Cody's Bookstore. Twirling the shaft of the propeller and then releasing causes the propeller to fly up and away about 20 feet. This 'Bamboo Butterfly' toy was popular for centuries in China before making its way to Europe in the 1400s. Experimentation begun in the 1700s using the Bamboo Butterfly as inspiration eventually led to the development of helicopters and propeller driven planes.

When the Bamboo Butterfly was marketed as a toy in the USA in 1907 it was named the 'Skidoo'. Richard rekindled interest in the toy at a time when it had been mostly forgotten. In the photo below he demonstrates how the prop flies.

70 chev impala richard sets prop in flight

Richard also crafted and sold copper pipe flutes. These flutes were popular during a weapons ban in occupied Japan following WWII. A martial arts system employed this 'harmless' musical instrument as an effective weapon. The Berkeley, California hippy movement was tuned into anything both obscure and Eastern thus creating a niche market for the flutes. Self employment as a toymaker kept Richard's money situation tight. Richard lived in his truck while his 1961 Thunderbird served as storage for his belongings. See the story of the 1961 Thunderbird in the 20 YEARS PLUS section of this website.

In 1980 Richard's friend wanted to get rid of his 1970 Chevrolet Impala for a token sum. Richard's 1961 Thunderbird had been badly rear ended on the highway and had suffered other traumas. It seemed wise to jump on the opportunity to get a cheap car in good condition. The Thunderbird survived another 35 years because the Impala became Richard's primary daily driver.

Richards' friend had an uneventful first decade with the Impala which he bought new from a Concord, California dealership in 1970. The car was problem free but after 10 years it was time for a new car. Back in this carburetor era of cars it was typical to trade in cars when they were around 2 to 5 years old, so this car was considered to be on its last legs.

Back in 1980 a 10 year old Impala was nothing but a drop in an ocean of Impalas. There were literally millions of Chevrolet Impalas out there. It's hard to imagine now, but Chevrolet Impala was one of the most commonly seen cars on the road. Back then it was inconceivable that a ubiquitous car like the Impala would be ousted by a Japanese car named Camry, but the Camry was building momentum towards dethroning the king of American family cars.

Richard's Impala had traveled about 80,000 or 90,000 miles when Richard bought it. Because there seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of Impalas out there and it was a 4 door there was no real perceived value in the car. Richard paid a mere $200.00 and figured if he got a year of trouble free use out of the car he was doing fine.

35 years later with a total of 429,451 miles Richard is still driving the Impala which shows no sign of dropping. The body is battered from various incidents but it still runs fine. The 4 door hardtop configuration has caused some hassles because the windows don't seal up perfectly anymore. The lack of a post and door frames to contain the glass helps create a clean design but hinders weather sealing after the windows have been rolled up and down several thousand times. This is a problem since Richard is using it as his home and the back seat is piled high with personal papers and photographs.

The high mileage has also taken its toll on the interior. Contrast the driver's door with the passenger door. This is what 400,000 miles of use looks like! The driver's door pull handle pad is completely gone and the top of the door is black from years of use.

70 chev impala richard drivers door panel

The passenger door has seen much less use but it, too is fairly worn. The door pull armrest pad is still mostly intact and the panel shows a lot less wear and tear.

70 chev impala richard passenger door panel

The corner of the brake pedal is not only worn clean but it actually has a concave surface from wear. There is also a hole in the carpet to the right of the accelerator pedal where the driver's right foot rubs on the carpet when the foot is removed from the gas pedal during braking.

70 chev impala richard pedals

Tape is holding the steering wheel together. The constant application of torque to the steering wheel through untold millions of steering corrections over 400,000 miles caused the plastic covering surrounding the wire frame to break apart. Note Richard's old Navy Officer ID tag hanging from the dashboard.

70 chev impala richard interior

The driver's seat has been reduced right down to the bare springs from years of double duty as support over many miles of driving and serving as a bed at night. Towels draped over the disintegrating seats inadequately contain the remnants of the stuffing now free to disgorge. The vinyl covering on the headrest foam is almost completely gone.

70 chev impala richard driver seat

The headliner has almost completely vanished. Over time it began to sag enough that it was obstructing rearward vision. A piece had to be cut off then a new portion began to sag and block vision and the cycle continues until there is no headliner.

70 chev impala richard headliner

This Impala really has led a charmed life when you consider the number of miles it covered before getting into an accident. 15 years into Richard's ownership which marked 25 years of freedom from hits the Impala finally got nailed.

Richard was driving in his own lane when a kid overshot a turn trying to make a hero maneuver in a third generation Firebird realizing too late that he had just turned the wrong way onto a one way street. Richard happened to be driving in the proper direction on that one way street when the Firebird hit the Impala. Pieces of the Firebird sprayed in all directions. Richard saw plastic shards shooting into space. By the time cops made it to the scene the Firebird had vaporized. The Impala sustained a major crunch to the front end fender but this has not impeded its daily driver status. Note that Richard managed to find 75 series tires for the car at a time where all you usually see is super low profile stuff. The Goodyears on the Impala are 225/75R15.

70 chev impala richard front end

After 14 years of daily driving lightning struck again. Richard was making a U-turn in 2009 when a car slammed into the back of the Impala. The fall-out from this accident was a bit more serious. Richard located a muffler shop which welded in a new trailing arm. The body damage was left as is.

Back in Thanksgiving, 1995 someone stole all 4 hubcaps. Richard didn't want to drive around with bare steelies and bought a replacement set. In 2013 someone nicked 2 of those and he had to replace those, too. Otherwise the car has a fortunate history free from theft and vandalism. After all these years Richard still has the original owner's manual.

70 chev impala richard owner manual

The original 350 engine has never been rebuilt. The original radiator survived an astonishing 300,000 plus miles. It finally went out in 2012. The impala also sports a new master cylinder. The engine is in original condition except for a missing heat stove which Richard discovered doing an oil level check soon after a garage performed a tune-up. It seems likely the heat stove was removed to access the spark plugs and the mechanic forgot to re install it.

70 chev impala richard 350

The engine is incredibly dirty but under all that grime it runs smoothly and powerfully. It starts easily and is as reliable as an anvil. The air conditioning unit failed long ago so Richard disconnected the A/C belts to reduce drag on the engine. Thus far Richard has driven the Impala approximately 40 to 50 miles per day most days for the last 35 years. Richard makes his rounds to various fast food locations and coffee shops. Richard networks to sell his toys. In a single day he will patronize several different McDonalds's and several different Starbucks locations. Later in the day he drives out to a Senior Center to use the computers.

70 chev impala richard r

Lately Richard has noticed his gas mileage plummeting down into the 6 MPG range which is costing him a fortune to continue his long distance daily routine.

The engine still runs fine. The poor gas mileage is due to a gas tank leak at the lowest point of the front seam. The sheer volume of gasoline that has passed through that gas tank is incredible to contemplate. If only a tiny percentage of each tank of gas contained water, once you have pumped through sufficient quantities of gas that water which sinks to the bottom of the tank will start to build up. 20 years ago the same thing happened to his 1962 Thunderbird. Richard's explanation of water in the bottom of the tank eventually rusting through included a discussion of chemical chains, solvents and the history of MTBE. Once an engineer, always an engineer!

When Richard's Thunderbird suffered a leaking tank he was a lot younger, 150 pounds lighter and nimble enough to repair the tank himself. This time around with extra weight and age he is trusting the tank repair to a garage. Richard is also at the point now where he is too old to be living in a car. He is trying to organize a grassroots movement to create small guard sheds on the corners of properties. Former street people could live in a tiny shed and earn their keep performing useful services such as yard maintenance or as watchdogs for the property. Richard feels that this would be an economically feasible first step towards getting people reintegrated into society.

70 chev impala richard rear

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 31 March 2015 09:27 )