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Chevy's optional (and rare) wire spoke wheel covers sported a new design for '64. The cool spinners were banned after 1966 ostensibly to protect pedestrians (you'd think if a pedestrian was that close to a car, something else would hurt him —-- and probably worse —-- than a hubcap spinner. We can probably attribute this twisted bit of safety conehead logic to Ralph Nader, who also unfairly maligned the unique Chevy Corvair.

I found the original factory build sheet, along with the owner's manual in the glove box, still in the original plastic envelope from the Chevrolet dealer. I also recreated the factory window sticker. You can download a .pdf version here.

Although I wasn't sure until I brought her home, Betty does fit in my garage, which she shares with Pugsley, my 1999 Honda Accord EX coupe.

The flags emblem on the front fender indicates Betty has a 327 engine. Betty's 327 V-8 has a 4-barrel carburetor and puts out 250 horsepower with 350 lbs./ft. of torque. This is the original engine; the numbers from the build sheet match the serial number on the engine block. '64 Impalas equipped with the 283 V-8 had just the V badge without the flags. Six cylinder models had no badge, while 409-equipped cars had the flags and a 409 badge.

Air conditioning was still a rare —-- and expensive —-- option on most cars in the early '60s, so Chevy advertised that my Impala was so equipped. When I bought Betty, one of the first things I repaired was the air conditioning, since it's an absolute neccesity in Arizona. Unfortunately, I made the mistage of converting it to R-134a refrigerant. With all the glass, a big interior, and just three small dash vents, it just barely adequate (even with 48-degree air coming out of the vents). So in June, 2003, I converted the system back to Freon®, and now, the air coming out of the vents is in the 38-42-degree range, which makes a big difference. Moving to Oregon also helped, but on a rare, 100-degree day, Betty's A/C still cooled the interior nicely.

Minor Accident
We had a minor accident in May, 2000. On our way to meet up with the local chapter of the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America for a cruise, a doofus-driven Cavalier tried to cross four lanes of traffic, cut into our lane, then stopped halfway in our lane when I hit the brakes and the horn. We plowed right into her, but the only damage was to the grille, grille molding, and hood molding, plus a chip of paint taken out by the Cavalier's shattered taillight lens. I found a decent grille at Hidden Valley Auto Parts, and C.A.R.S. Inc. supplied the moldings. Auto Body World in Gilbert, AZ did the repairs in about a week.

Our dog Max loves to ride in Betty. This picture was taken after a rest stop on our way to Tucson. Max got to ride up front because Samantha and my mom were following in my Honda; my mother has both a sister and brother in Tucson, so she had my car to use for a couple of days visiting them.

License Plates
When I bought Betty, she was still sporting her original California black & gold license plates. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I got of them. When I went to register her in Arizona, the lady at the DMV, who could have easily been a real-life version of Patty or Selma (Marge's sisters on The Simpsons), handed me a screwdriver and pointedly said, "both plates." In Arizona, I had a set of copper Historic Vehicle plates, but the equivalent plate in Oregon is nothing special.

However, Oregon is one of several states that allow what are known as "Year of Manufacture" plates for classic cars. Then I learned that from 1961-64, Oregon's license plates featured the slogan "Pacific Wonderland." After making some inquiries at a couple of Oregon car shows, I got in touch with a license plate collector in Portland who had thousands of old license plates. For $200, I had a pair of my own Pacific Wonderland plates in pristine condition, complete with a 1964 expiration sticker (so they had only been on a car for a year). Not cheap, but as worth it.

Betty Turns 40!

Because Betty's build sheet was still in the glovebox when I bought her, I know the day she was built: November 4, 1963. I always drive her on her birthday, as well as the anniversary of the day I bought her, February 19. Forty is considered a milestone birthday, and since not that many cars ever reach that milestone, I decided to celebrate with a birthday cake. When I ordered the cake, I took in a picture and asked them to draw the car with frosting. What they didn't tell me was how big a full sheet cake is (most birthday cakes are actually quarter sheet cakes). So I was surprised when I saw how big the cake was. It did fit in Betty's big trunk, but I needed help to get it out of the car and into the office. So when I got to work, I asked for some help, and everybody came out to the parking lot and sang "Happy Birthday" to Betty! Among my family and friends, the opinion on this episode was about evenly split between "really cool" and "totally nuts." I think it's a little bit of both, although I freely admit to being nuts about my car.

Wedding Coach

A few days before our friends Keith and Rachel got married, they asked us if I would drive them in Betty from the church to Keith's parent's house for the reception. So long as there was no shoe polish or silly string involved and nothing got on the paint, I agreed. I didn't have time to find a chauffer's cap, but I did dress in black for the occasion. Samantha and the wedding party did a great job of decorating, and although I put the cans in the trunk before getting on the freeway, a good number of the decorations survived the 20-mile drive. It was fun to give our friends a special ride their first time together as husband and wife.

I'm not into tattoos, but I've always said if I were to get one, it would be of the Impala logo. I found out from a friend that you can print temporary tattoos on an inkjet printer, so I made my own and wear them to car shows (I also wore one when I last visited my parents just to see how they would react; they were relieved to learn it was temporary). I found Inkjet Tattoo Transfer paper at Office Max. Want a set for yourself? Download a .pdf of my Impala Tattoo Sheet.
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