Driv­ing down mem­ory lane in a new Chevy Im­pala

North Penn Life - - ACCENT -

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 msquared35@ya­hoo.com. This col­umn can also be found at www. mont­gomerynews.com.

Outta Leftfield Mike Morsch

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