- The Washington Times - Friday, January 14, 2000

In 1965 Chevrolet offered its Impala Super Sport with a choice of eight different engines ranging from an economical 230-cubic-inch six-cylinder that produced 140 horsepower to a ground-pounding 409-cubic-inch V-8 that generated 400 horsepower.

A baker's dozen of young men in Arlington determined that the Impala was THE car to have. Eventually, each young man acquired one.

Wayne Hager went to the Bob Peck Chevrolet dealership and ordered a black two-door hardtop with a tried and true 327-cubic-inch V-8 set up to deliver 300 horsepower.

He took delivery of his new Impala in September 1965, and has it to this day. He paid $2,895 for the car.

"I took the SS out of the grille the first day I got it," Mr. Hager remembers. He wanted a car with clean, uncluttered lines.

On another day, one project was replacing the stock steel wheels with chrome reversed ones on which were mounted 7.75x14-inch Uniroyal white-sidewall tires.

"We were a wild bunch of kids," Mr. Hager said, recalling the service provided by his four-speed transmission linked to a Positraction rear end during many races years ago of questionable legality.

Three months after getting the car, Mr. Hager tore out the transmission. He had it rebuilt for $10 and had the car back on the road by Christmas of 1965.

Even though it weighs 3,570 pounds, the Impala can get up and go. In stock form, it was potent; however, from the beginning, Mr. Hager was always finding ways to squeeze a few more horsepower from the engine. He says his first modification was a $7 camshaft.

The factory tachometer in the instrument panel is closer to the passenger than to the driver, so Mr. Hager disconnected it and mounted an aftermarket tachometer on the steering column.

For years Mr. Hager spent so much time in his car that he began calling it the "Chevrolet Motel."

This was a car that was, indeed, used and occasionally abused. The owner never took part in the abuse, but others certainly did.

Over the years the sleek Impala has been ventilated by 18 bullet holes, attacked with paving stones and set on fire twice. Each time disaster struck, Mr. Hager brought the car back to pristine condition.

For almost 35 years the car with its 119-inch wheelbase has been driven on a suspension lowered four inches in the front and five inches in the rear.

The always black Impala has been repainted six times and the last time it was in the shop the bumpers were sent off for replating.

The chrome wheels, after two decades of use, were badly pitted so Mr. Hager replaced them with a set of chrome five-spoke Cragar wheels. Stock steel wheels wouldn't look right, Mr. Hager says.

After almost 150,000 miles Mr. Hager pulled the tired original engine and parked it in the corner of the garage where it still rests in retirement after years of faithful service.

The original 327-cubic-inch, 300-horsepower V-8 was replaced by a 350-cubic-inch, 375-horse-power V-8 that disappointed Mr. Hager with its performance. That engine in turn was replaced five years ago by a 454-cubic-inch, 425-horsepower engine.

Are you beginning to detect a pattern here?

As August 1999, approached Mr. Hager performed what he says is his final engine transplant, a fire-breathing 502-cubic-inch, 550-horsepower V-8. A dual-feed Holley carburetor feeds the massive engine. A 3-inch-diameter galvanized exhaust from the manifold on back gives the powerful engine an unfettered way to breathe.

"It's a leakproof car," Mr. Hager said. He explains there is never any fluid dripping from his parked car.

Despite all the alterations Mr. Hager has made to his Chevrolet, it still has an aura of authenticity from the Chevrolet bow-tie emblem stamped on the side mirror to the traditional six taillights.

OK, so the middle two are backup lights. All six lenses sparkle like new because they are. Mr. Hager recently replaced the faded originals with ones he bought 25 years ago.

"I have gone through about a dozen clutches," Mr. Hager said, quickly adding that his son, Wayne, learned to drive in the car.

Besides a couple of family vacation trips to Florida, most of the 176,000 miles registered on the odometer have been put on locally.

"I don't fish and I don't hunt," the veteran Safeway meat cutter said. "I just like to go cruising. There's a lot of history in this car."

The car is a survivor, thanks to Mr. Hager. Sorry to say the other 12 owners' cars have been melted down into appliances or bicycles.

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