Driving down memory lane in a new Chevy Impala
On warm summer nights in 1971, I would ask my dad for his car keys. I couldn’t drive because I was only 12 years old.
But I was old enough to know that when I put the key in the ignition and turned it forward, that would engage the battery, which allowed me to listen to ballgames on the radio.
For some reason, heading out to the driveway and turning on the car radio was the only way that a kid growing up in central Illinois could pick up radio station KDKA out of Pittsburgh. See, I was a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, another rarity in central Illinois since most the kids I knew were either fans of the Chicago Cubs or the St. Louis Cardinals. But my favorite team was a whole bunch of miles and a few states away, and I was as pleased as a baseballcard collecting youngster FRuOG EH ZKHn , fiJuUHG out that I could listen to my favorite team on the car radio.
I would roll down both the front driver’s side and passenger side windows, then stretch out across the car’s front bench seat and hang my feet out the passenger side window, letting the humid summer breezes tickle my toes while the voice of Pirates announcer Bob Prince would fade in and out as the strength of the radio signal faded in and out.
My dad’s car was a hunter green Chevy Impala.
Four years later, at age 16, I learned to drive. By this time, my dad had another car, and I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel for one very big reason: It meant that I could actually go on car dates with my best girl.
This was a time, in the mid1970s, when seat-belt safety was not emphasized, and what made getting a driver’s license the epitome of cool in that era — at least for me — was the “best girl” part of driving.
On dates, my girlfriend at the time — her name was Teresa — would ignore the seat belt and slide all the way over on the bench seat and sit next to me while I was driving, windows down, her long hair pushed by the breeze brushing up against my shoulder. I wasn’t listening to the ballgames anymore by that time, but the sweet harmonies of the Beach Boys, cranked up on the radio. It was perfect. And my dad’s car then was a blue Chevy Impala.
I listened to ballgames in an ,PSDOD. 7KH fiUVW FDU , OHDUnHG WR GULvH ZDV Dn ,PSDOD. 7KH fiUVW car date I ever took was in an Impala.
But since the end of the 1970s when my dad stopped buying Chevys, I hadn’t so much as even ridden in an Impala. Until last week. My friend Dave Peterson, the Grand Poobah at Bryner Chevrolet in Jenkintown, had sent me an email asking if I was interested in a promotion that Chevy was having that involved local dealers inviting media types to travel to the Pocono Raceway for the unveiling of the 2014 Impala.
Now even though I have those wonderful memories of my early Impala days, I’m not a car guy at all. My only concern when it comes to my vehicle is from a transportation standpoint. Does it reliably and consistently get me where I want to go when I want to go there? For the most part, I don’t get the attraction of cars, and the finHU SRLnWV RI DuWRPRELOHV UHDOOy don’t appeal to me.
Consequently, I’m not into NASCAR and had never even considered attending an event at Pocono Raceway because nothing about it appeals to me.
And then Dave informed me that the big cheeses at Chevy had planned, as part of this media blitz, to allow the mopey journalists in attendance to do “hot laps” on the track at Pocono in the new Impalas.
Whoa. Now that appeals to me.
Not only that, but each of us could have our very own 2014 Chevy Impala to test dive back to our local dealership. Unfortunately, we would not be allowed to keep the cars, which to me was a seriously overlooked detail in the planning of this media event.
But what a unique experience for a non-car guy such as myself. When would I ever get a chance to drive really fast on a real racetrack and then take what amounts to a two-hour test drive in a brand spanking new car? How cool is that?
Of course, if one wants to hear Mother Nature laugh, all one has to do is announce upcoming plans. The day we converged on the Pocono Raceway, it was raining buckets. And buckets. And more buckets.
Naturally, nobody was allowed on the track in those conditions. 5DWfinN 0RWKHU 1DWuUH. FRU UREbing me of a unique experience, I will forever spit in her eye when I get the chance.
The Chevy folks made the best of it, though, despite the disappointing weather. We got a tour of the garage. We got to ride in some really big Chevy Silverado trucks through some performance demonstrations. And we got to meet some high muckety-mucks from Chevy, most notably Jim Campbell, vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. Nice guy. I told him my “best girl/ bench seat” story, and he seemed to like it.
During the tour, we got a glimpse of NASCAR driver Mark Martin. I didn’t know who he was. We also got a glimpse of NASCAR driver Carl Edwards. I didn’t know who he was either. As an astute observer noted, that was OK, they probably didn’t know who I was.
And I did get to drive a 2014 Chevy Impala back to Bryner Chevrolet, although Mother Nature was poking at me the whole two hours from the raceway back to Jenkintown, continuing to rain buckets on my parade.
As a mini-review from a non-car guy, it was not a particularly pleasant ride in the challenging weather conditions, but the new Impala handled the rain-soaked roads beautifully. And it has plenty of space for a widebody like myself. In short, it’s a sweet ride.
It’s not my father’s Impala. But for a few hours in my mind, I was back in the 1970s, windows rolled down, radio turned up and my best girl sitting next to me on that bench seat.
Mike Morsch is executive editor of Montgomery Media and author of the book, “Dancing in My Underwear: The Soundtrack of My Life.” He can be reached by calling 215-542-0200, ext. 415 or by email at email@example.com. This column can also be found at www. montgomerynews.com.
Outta Leftfield Mike Morsch