Randy Denchfield was a student at Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest when he bought his first car, a slightly used 1962 Chevrolet Impala SS convertible.
For a brief time he thoroughly enjoyed the Honduras-maroon car with its 327-cubic-inch V-8 engine mated to a manual transmission with a four-on-the-floor shifter. The convertible with an all-black interior and a white top had been a special-order car from Chevy Chase Chevrolet with a unique color combination and options. Then came his draft notification. "I was forced to sell the car before going overseas," he recalls.
After his discharge, other cars unsuccessfully tried to fill the void left by that 1962 Impala. "About 20 years ago," Mr. Denchfield says, "I started looking for a '62 Chevy with the same color and options as my first Impala."
The search was frustrating because, he says, "Each time I found a convertible SS for sale, it's been an automatic and rarely Honduras maroon."
With his entire family involved, the hunt continued. Mr. Denchfield's daughter, Robyn, saw a car on the Internet with all of the same options that her father was seeking. The Chevrolet was coming up for auction in Auburn, Ind., over the Labor Day weekend. "My son, Ryan, and I went to Auburn with the sole purpose of bidding on this car," Mr. Denchfield says.
Mr. Denchfield submitted the winning bid and later told the dealer who sold the car that he had one like it 40 years ago. In response he said, "I probably could have gotten another $10,000 from you, right?"
"Probably," Mr. Denchfield agreed.
The second owner, who had done a frame-off restoration, told Mr. Denchfield that it was restored to the condition it was in when it left the factory and that the 102,000 miles on the odometer was correct.
When new, the 3,560-pound full-size Chevrolet carried a base price of $3,026 and rode on a 119-inch wheelbase. A trucking company agreed to deliver the car the 600 miles to Denchfield's Chevy Chase home in three days. He nervously awaited his car for more than two weeks.
After delivery, close examination showed that this Impala was not identical to his first one. His first one had a white top whereas the second one has a black top. Additionally, the first one had a vacuum trunk release inside the glove compartment, a feature lacking on the second one. The second one does have something the original one did not — power steering. "I appreciate the power steering and now wear the optional seat belts," Mr. Denchfield says. He also is not upset about the radio antenna being located on the right rear fender instead of the right front fender.
When he purchased the car, it was wearing rear fender skirts, but Mr. Denchfield quickly removed them, preferring open rear wheel wells to better exhibit the full wheel covers featuring fake knock-off hubs and bias-ply tires.
The only surprise Mr. Denchfield experienced was the clutch, which didn't feel right to him so he had a new clutch installed.
Mr. Denchfield points out that 1962 was the first full production year of the Super Sport option and the first year of the 327-cubic-inch V-8 engine. He doesn't miss not having an outside mirror on the right side because he says, "99 per cent of the time I'll have the top down anyway." Then he will have unrestricted visibility. A black boot secured by 26 snaps covers the top when it is in the lowered position.
He plans to attend his 40th high school class reunion in June by driving the Chevrolet just like the one he used to drive to school.
Seated behind the two-spoke steering wheel, Mr. Denchfield says, "With the sporty mufflers, the car sounds great as you go through the gears. I love to run the engine up just to hear it back down." Each time he does so, a few more years seem to be lifted from his shoulders.
"We don't have to grow up," he is quick to remind anyone who doesn't appreciate or understand his particular brand of road therapy.
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