As summer draws to a close, I’m saddened to see the days become shorter, but I’m also thankful to see the temperatures begin dropping. This has certainly been one of the hottest summers on record for most of the Northern Hemisphere, with Boston in particular experiencing its warmest average July on record. The nights have been especially warm as well, something helped by what’s known as urban heat island effect, whereby the abundance of concrete, steel, and other building materials radiate the heat they absorb during the daytime at night, thus keeping the city pretty sweltering even under the cover of darkness.
One of those such hot August nights recently led to this unexpected sighting. Especially as it is a 1971, I couldn’t help but think of Neil Diamond’s 1972 live album Hot August Night. Featuring many of his greatest hits, including 1969’s Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, of which “It was a hot August night” happens to be the opening lyrics to.
Now I may be the last person one would expect to be a Neil Diamond fan, but his music I hold near and dear to my heart. When I was a young child, prior to entering elementary school, my weekdays were spent in the care of my loving grandparents, with a lot of time riding around in the backseat of his Oldsmobile. If he wasn’t listening to the Howie Carr Show or her the Irish Hit Parade, they were playing one of their Neil Diamond cassette tapes.
While this 1971 Chevrolet Impala convertible is no 1990s fullsize Oldsmobile, big old American cars in general are very rare in Boston. As one gets out into more rural areas, sure, they’re here and there in small numbers. Yet as for “interesting” cars I see in the city, they’re usually ’80s or ’90s imports, or one of the growing number of modern ultra-luxury or supercars owned by Boston’s large number of wealthy professionals or international college students.
Rare is also how one should describe the 1971 Impala convertible, as for after all, Chevrolet produced only 4,576 examples among some 427,000 total Impalas. Convertibles, while always somewhat of an exclusive bodystyle, faced a sharp downturn in sales by the 1970s, spurred by the onset of ever-stringent crash-safety and rollover concerns, the growing prevalence of vehicle air conditioning, and general changes in consumer tastes.
The fifth generation Impala convertible lasted just two years, elevated to the premier Caprice line in 1973 through 1975, the final year of fullsize convertibles from GM excluding the Cadillac Eldorado. In the words of Neil, “Pack up the babies, And grab the old ladies, And everyone goes…”
Photographed on Gloucester Street in Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts – August 2019