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This Woman Still Drives Her 1971 High-School Graduation Gift '59 Chevy Impala Convertible

Launched as a trim level for the Bel Air of ’58, the Impala progressed to model status one year later, spawning one of America’s most famous nameplates in its entire recorded piston history. The 64-year-old Chevy is the only American automobile to surpass one million units sold during a year (it did it twice, in ’65 and ‘66).
1959 Chevrolet Impala 25 photos
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala1959 Chevrolet Impala
The first year for the full-grown Impala is 1959 when almost half a million of them began their great motoring migration in the United States. Out of the 493,753 units assembled, one has a nice story to tell – and it’s been written continuously since June 17, 1971.

That’s when a young man from Turlock, California, got married (let’s call him Gary because that’s his name). The groom had two particularities: a first-year Chevrolet Impala in his garage and a loving sister (Gloria) in Wisconsin. The car was in a non-running state when the family reunited on the West Coast to attend the holy matrimony ceremony.

However, Gary’s father made him a deal: he would get the car in exchange for a one-dollar bill. Father and son shook hands on it, and that’s the beginning of this story. The groom’s sister was graduating high school that year. The father worked his wrench-turning magic on the ill Impala and got it on her wheels again.

1959 Chevrolet Impala
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
The car was deemed road trip worthy, and the father and daughter drove the Impala back home from California. Talk about seeing the USA in a Chevrolet… Once back in Wisconsin, the Chevy-healing dad offered his daughter – Gloria – the best graduation present: this White and Blue 1959 Chevrolet Impala.

The lady kept the automobile to this day and is not afraid to take it out for regular drives. The odometer reads 18,000 miles (29,000 kilometers) in the video shot in early July in Iola, Wisconsin, at the old car show (that’s the event’s website name).

The lovely lady didn’t tell whether it’s the actual mileage or if the odometer has rolled over, but it doesn’t matter. The car looks impeccable, and the slight modifications the owner has made put a touch of personal style on the drop-top Chevy.

1959 Chevrolet Impala
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
Nothing fancy or outstanding: the original door handles have been replaced with artistic replicas sporting an intricate engraving. And the two Playboy bunnies on the console (glued there in ‘71) only make this Impala more distinct.

At least, that’s the owner’s opinion, but her daughter finds it embarrassing. Not the add-ons, the whole car, when she accompanies her mother (Gloria, the Impala’s caretaker) for a drive and people yell to them, `Is that a ’59?`

You bet it is – and the good one, for that: a 348 cubic-inch V8 sits between the front wheels, original and unmolested, still mated to its authentic factory-installed two-speed PowerGlide automatic transmission. The other options for the gearbox consisted of a three-speed TurboGlide (not the most reliable variant, from a mechanical standpoint), and two manuals: a four-speed and two three-speeds (a close-ratio, and an overdrive).

1959 Chevrolet Impala
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
We don’t know the car’s history before 1971 (Gloria’s brother, Gary, had it for four years before she got it), but the current owner claims a hard-to-beat record. In the past 52 years, she only had to replace the motor assembly for the soft top in 2022.

The crossed flags emblem on the hood is the best indicator of the car’s business end, which is all about the 348 cubic-inch (5.7 liters) big-block engine. The motor served as the top of the range for Chevy in 1959 (it was eventually dethroned in 1961 by the 409 CID / 6.7-liter V8) and came in various configurations and states of tune, offering six different power options, between 250 hp and 315 hp (253 PS and 319 PS).

As far as acknowledgments go, the car deserves them all – and its owner of 52 years, for supreme stewardship. A humdinger time capsule that turns heads and makes friends instantly – even if an Impala is anything but rare, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Particularly one in this condition and status – the car could probably daily with ease, and its engine patina is solid proof of its active lifestyle.

1959 Chevrolet Impala
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
The original generator/power steering pump combo in the engine bay was discontinued after the 1959 model year. Another feature – a far more visible, this time – of the ’59 Impala are the unmistakable cat eyes taillights, with vertical metal strips separating the lamps.

The hood ornament Gloria points to when opening the engine bay lid is a subtle indicator of the car’s powertrain. The big “V” under the twin flags means a 348 CID V8, and the single V – without the banners – reveals a 283 V8 (4.6 liters) small-block. A barren hood was reserved for the entry-level, fuel-saving inline-six with 235 cubes (3.9 liters).

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About the author: Razvan Calin
Razvan Calin profile photo

After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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