- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2001

Just because Chris Lapp is the director of nuclear energy and environmental analysis for International Capital Strategies Inc., doesn't mean everything in his life has to be nuclear powered.
Early in 1999 Mr. Lapp, an admitted old car aficionado, began looking for a 1958 Chevrolet Impala in decent condition. The idea of resurrecting a basket case held no appeal for him.
After searching for almost a year Mr. Lapp discovered that elusive first-year Impala.
"The Impala was rescued and restored in Arkansas from a solid Southern car," Mr. Lapp says.
It was a fully-restored Rio red sport coupe with the distinctive rooftop faux vent above the rear window. In addition, under the hood, the Chevrolet had the original 348-cubic-inch, 315-horsepower, V-8 engine capped with a trio of two-barrel carburetors.
He bought the car in August 1999, sight unseen, and arranged to have it trucked to Virginia from Florida, where a broker had it after restoration.
"I decided to purchase a mostly restored Impala since I had experience at restoring other antique automobiles," Mr. Lapp explained.
"The car was delivered to me from Florida at the Fort Washington Marina, where I was bringing in my motor yacht for service work. Just as I pulled up to the dock, I saw a bright tomato soup red '58 Impala backing out of a covered trailer.
"While driving the car home during rush hour traffic I noticed it was overheating. Apparently, the previous owner used a four-blade fan suitable for a small-block engine instead of the five-blade fan required for the big-block engine. That was an easy fix."
Although cosmetically the 1958 Impala is nearly perfect, the technical aspects of the mechanics needed some work.
A stickler for details, nurtured in his work with the nuclear industry, Mr. Lapp set to work:
Intake manifold.
Valve covers.
Carburetors.
Drive train.
Suspension.
Replating.
Exhaust.
Cooling.
Brakes.
Wiring.
Tires.
The Impala is loaded with authentic accessories including the dual radio antenna, the left one strictly for show on the rear fender.
Another extra-cost extra is the set of three-prong fake knockoff wheel covers.
Dummy spotlights were a favorite accessory when this car was new. Remarkably, this car features the real deal and not just one, but a matched pair.
A rare accessory on any 1958 Impala is the faux exhaust port mounted on the rear fender to the rear of the rear wheel well. The answer to why anyone wanted to give the illusion that the exhaust was exiting through the side of the rear fender is lost in the shroud of time.
"The car is a lot of fun," Mr. Lapp says with a nod to the outrageous equipment, optional and otherwise. What could be more practical than hanging a couple of hundred pounds of continental kit a couple of feet behind the original rear bumper?" It made sense to a lot of style-conscious motorists in the 1950s.
Although not a factory original continental kit, Mr. Lapp's Impala sports one of the many aftermarket models. Not only does it shift a lot of weight to the rear, it makes access to the truck awkward and inhibits refueling since the gas cap is hidden behind the spare tire. Without the continental kit the car weighs 3,459-pounds.
Even so, the optimistic speedometer tops out at 120 mph, and that is with a two-speed Powerglide transmission under the floorboards. The shift pattern of the transmission mimics that of most modern cars from the left: park, reverse, neutral, drive, low.
While seated behind the two-tone steering wheel with a full horn ring, the guide prism is prominent atop the faraway dashboard, easing the chore of looking for direction from overhead traffic lights.
Cruising the boulevards is more enjoyable with music from the AM push-button radio with a single rear-seat speaker.
Mr. Lapp has driven his 43-year-old Impala only about 1,500 miles since it was delivered to him. When new, the car had a base price of $2,693 which translates to each mile of happiness being a real bargain.

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