(first posted 6/19/2016) I knew the 1967 OHC-6 Tempest wasn’t long for my world when she could barely make it up the east bound ramp of the Verrazano Bridge heading home from a week of consulting and programming at Bell Labs. The engine was making hollow popping sounds and even on the flat Belt Parkway it wouldn’t go over 25 mph.
After nine hard years, no rust at all, a few dents, over 100,000 miles, no major repairs, original OHC timing belt, and nothing more in it than tune ups and wear items like tire and batteries and one accelerator pump, I determined even before I got home that it would not be prudent to put any money into the car.
Sorry old pal, time to put you down.
The Tempest and I had a history together, indeed longer than my first marriage, but this was business. Its replacement would be anything I could get quickly and at a reasonable cost. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, big, small, fast, slow, any color, any make, any model, domestic or foreign.
Well, maybe something with A/C. That would be nice.
At that time I was working with Steve (who had been with me at Grumman), Jim, and Jack to build a Mark IV consulting business for Informatics Inc. Jack was our manager and Steve, Jim, and I were the three senior technical consultants charged with finding new business, delivering it, keeping it with follow-on contracts, and expanding our ranks with additional qualified personnel.
It was an exciting and busy time for me. Business was good and we had a backlog of new work at hourly rates approaching three times what Cobol consultants were charging.
Even if I found a car that Saturday, I couldn’t get it registered and insured that quickly, so I made arrangements for a rental car for Sunday night and drove the ailing and wheezing Tempest slowly into Hempstead Long Island where a bunch of new and used car dealers were located. I hoped it would not take too long; I wanted to see my son Chris that weekend.
It wasn’t love at first sight, but it met all the mature business-like check boxes I thought I would need.
A 1972 Chevrolet Impala four door pillared sedan. With A/C.
My manager Jack had a 1974 Impala with a padded roof that he thought was neat, but the 1972 was probably a better car because it was just before American cars became saddled with emission controlling “stuff” that took away performance and added engine complications and maintenance misery.
And the 1974 models (above) did not look as good as the 1972s. The 1974’s bumpers were too big; the whole thing looked like a 1972 with the mumps. And, being two years older, the 1972 was less expensive.
I never fully understood the appeal of a padded roof. But I never mentioned this prejudice to my mother who LOVED her brougham-ized suicide door, padded landau roof T-Bird, and who tolerated no dissent about her opinions.
I liked the clean lines of the 1972, especially the squared off nose and big grill divided by the simple bumper. The front of the hood had a vague coffin nose look to it, nicer to my eyes than later model years.
This Impala had the 350 cu. in. 2 barrel V8 and generated 165 HP at 4,000 rpm and 280 lbs. ft. at 2,400 rpm. The transmission was a three speed Hydra-Matic. The whole combination felt big, heavy, comfortable, and fast, not necessarily in that order.
Jack’s 1974 model generated only 145 HP. I believe that was the beginning of the malaise era of automobiles.
During the test drive the big brown Impala had a minor motor miss of some sort; it seemed electrical in nature. I told the salesman I’ll buy it next Saturday if he gets rid of the miss. A deal was struck and that repair requirement was put into writing on the order. “I have a trade in” I said. “I know” he replied “we all heard you drive in; I’ll give you 100 dollars.”
Next Saturday I test drove the Impala and it ran beautifully. I paid the dealer, looked back one last time at the Tempest, thought a bit about what it and I had been through, the dreams I had at the time that car was new, and where we all were now.
As John Lennon wrote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
I drove off in my new-to-me car.
It was a brown car with brown vinyl seats, brown carpet, and a [mostly] brown dashboard.
At that time I was living during the week at a Howard Johnson’s motel near Bell Labs in Piscataway. Bell Labs was the kind of company that would never hire me as an employee; they took only the best of the best college grads and then put them through a Masters program at nearby Rutgers while on the payroll. These highly qualified people were called MTS (Members of the Technical Staff).
While I worked hard at college and did OK, being a “best of the best” was never in the cards for me.
These MTS’ could also use Bell Lab’s mainframes for their Rutgers class work. That was quite a benefit; mainframe time was expensive if you had to pay for it.
I loved the work environment at Bell Labs, my co-workers were very smart, management was young and technically savvy, and the fact they were paying Informatics an outrageous hourly rate for my efforts helped me rebuild my self esteem after the disaster of my failed marriage and subsequent, and hopefully temporary, impoverishment.
The above photo is my actual COAL taken at Johnson Park near Rutgers one summer evening as I had an alfresco dinner (takeout deli sandwich) and watched horses doing trotting practice on the nearby track.
I bought a bike rack that fit on the trunk of the Impala and a bike for Chris and one for me and we would ride together on weekends. In the above photo Chris is riding his new, almost too big bike, past the Impala that is parked in the same spot as the Duster in a photo from an earlier COAL.
My parents still had the old post-war 27 foot wooden Elco cabin cruiser and Chris and I helped my father work on it in the spring in preparation for the Memorial Day blessing of the fleet. Replacing sections of soft wood and keeping that old boat seaworthy was becoming harder as my father became older and less able to keep up with it.
We had long ago given up keeping the varnished topsides and bright work intact and had resorted to the old boating trick of using paint instead. With the topsides white, we determined the hull looked better in a darker color. First we painted the hull gray. My mother didn’t like it, so we repainted it black and brought the white down to the hull trim rail. She liked that.
Painting the hull twice within just a few days was a lot of work, but Doc knew it was worth doing. Making his wife happy was a top priority. They did have disagreements, but those disagreements were picked with care.
My parents were married for 58 years until my mother died in the early 1990s. Both of them knew a lot more about managing and maintaining a marriage than their kids ever did.
It was still my job to do the water line (among other duties). In the above photo Doc proudly stands next to the twice-painted Elco ready for a mid-May launch and another season of cruising the southern coast of Long Island. Clearly, I had cheated a bit on the front of the waterline using the spray rail to expand it a bit and help keep the line straight. Fortunately, it passed the first mate’s muster.
I still like the smooth curving lines of that boat. The old six cylinder Chris Craft engine rusted to destruction dumping its oil into the bilge and Doc found a used 273 cu. in. Chrysler V8 converted to marine duty. With half the weight and almost twice the horsepower of the old L head six, it was too fast for Doc’s comfort. He only opened it up a few times, like when some “young jerk in a fiberglass whatis” tried to pass us too close to starboard.
It was just an old wooden boat, but it was a whole lot quicker than it looked.
Back at work Jack, Steve, Jim, and I were feeling like we had the technical world in the palm of our hands. Our Mark IV consulting group had grown to about 24 people and we had another manager reporting to Jack on the West Coast using our business blueprint to open a home based California office. We were bringing in 2 million dollars of high margin business a year for Informatics and were still growing.
I moved from Long Island to a rental apartment on East 29th Street in Manhattan NYC. At first I kept the Impala at either my parent’s or my sister’s home, whoever would benefit from having an extra car on-site. I’d take the train out to Long Island, pick up Chris and then drive back into the city for the weekend.
Chris loved NYC. I’d walk to Central Park, with Chris on a skate board holding my arm, and we’d go through all the sections of the park. We especially liked the model yacht basin at 72nd street with the radio-controlled sailboats, and Chris was fond of the many hot dog, hamburger, and ice cream vendors nearby. Me too!
Life was starting to take on a rosier glow. I paid off the last of the debts related to the divorce and did two things to establish my new life. I applied for an American Express Card (my card reads member since 75) and I took a subscription to the New Yorker Magazine. Both continue to this day.
AMEX gave me a charge card when no one else would, and I appreciated that to no end.
The New Yorker magazine continues to be a message of joy and fascination, and great cartoons that appears weekly in my mailbox. It is the best bedtime reading material I know of, because when I drop off to sleep, it doesn’t hit me in the nose and wake me up like a hard cover book would.
But (and you are expecting this, no?) dark clouds started to gather around early 1976 when Informatics acquired a relatively large coding consulting company called PMI (Programming Methods Inc.). PMI was a Cobol body shop, what we snooty high priced Mark IV consultants would call quick, fast, dirty, and cheap Cobol programming services by the hour.
We saw these PMI people and their management as what the Waco Kid would call “… the common clay of the new west”.
You know, morons.
It was déjà vu all over again (thank you Yogi Berra) when Jack, Steve. Jim and I were called into a fancy PMI conference room on a very high floor of the Time Life building in Rockefeller Center with great views, and addressed rather crudely by two PMI “managers” who seemed to be trying very hard to look mean, important, and dismissive, all at the same time.
Not exactly verbatim, (nor close to what Steve, Chuck, and I heard from Grumman Management a few years earlier) the PMI manager said to us: “ I know you guys think you’re hot shot, high priced computer wizards, but we’re in charge of all Informatics consulting services now and as soon as your current Mark IV contracts finish up, all of you, and we mean all of you, will go out on the first job you are qualified to do, Cobol, Mark IV, Fortran, Autocoder, we don’t care. Any time, any place; get ready to travel. Here are copies of our expense regulations.”
These guys were clearly of the “Let-them-know-who’s-boss” school of management.
But Jack, Steve, Jim, and I all thought these guys also seemed a bit nervous.
What happened next may not be famous history, but one of the founders of Informatics got it pretty much right when, many years later, he was interviewed by Luanne Johnson of the Computer History Museum for an oral history project. Francis Wagner knew Informatics should not have put our Mark IV team under PMI, but they did it anyway over his objections. For those interested, here is the link. It’s pretty dry stuff; the relevant part starts on page 11. The late Francis Wagner was right.
Back in the PMI conference room we were in shock; I don’t think we said anything. We left the Time Life building and went to a nearby Japanese restaurant, and over some good dead fish we started a new software services company.
Within a year we had more business than we could handle and a strong backlog, and most of the Mark IV consultants that were on our Informatics team were now on our own team, including the West Coast manager and his growing staff.
We opened offices in Ridgewood NJ, California, Plano Texas, and Nashua New Hampshire.
It was hard work and we loved almost every hard working second of it.
Many of our biggest customers came to us through recommendations by Informatics. After all, we were helping them sell their flagship software product.
I wanted the Impala closer to me so I could get to non-Manhattan customers, so I rented a monthly parking spot two short blocks north of my apartment at the Red Ball Garage on 31st street.
Sound familiar? The Red Ball Garage was the starting point of the first Cannonball Run in 1971, which ran from New York City to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, CA. These gratuitous photos, paragraph, and the web link below are the only ways I will ever get a Lamborghini into one of my CC COALs. And that smiling blond in the red jump suit as well.
I’ll wait here while you watch the movie’s great opening scenes and listen to the sweet sound of that bewinged black Lamborghini Countach.
You have just seen the best part of that movie.
On some projects, I reverse commuted from Manhattan to NJ. One would think that was easy considering the traffic was all going in the opposite direction. But the Lincoln Tunnel often only had one of the six tubes going west in the morning and east in the evening, so it wasn’t as quick as I had expected.
On some frigid winter mornings I’d walk to the Red Ball Garage, give the attendant my ID number, and I’d hear the cold shuddering car shaking on the carburetor choke step-up on the car elevator as it came down to street level. I’d get in, turn the heater on full, and hope it would warm up quickly. Sometimes at the first red light at Lexington Ave, I’d be crunched down in the seat waiting for warmth to come and I’d hear a tap tap tap on the passenger window. It was street walkers looking for business. And I thought I had it hard, waiting for the Impala’s heat to come up. They were wearing miniskirts and high heels!
Equally bad, just before I got to the entrance road to the Lincoln Tunnel, I would pass a church on the right where many homeless souls were waiting in a long cold line for breakfast at a local church.
It was and still is a tough, hard world, and these cold early morning sights just outside the right passenger window of the Impala made that point very effectively.
One issue with the Impala was that water got into the rear window seals and leaked into the trunk. Based on the number of similar GM four doors from that era that had visible sealant around the rear window trim, this issue was not unique to my car. After hearing water sloshing in the lower trunk behind the rear wheels, I removed the rubber plugs on both sides to let it drain out. It wasn’t a great solution, but at least the trunk dried out a bit. Until the next rain storm of course.
I do recall one weekend with this big brown car. A friend of a friend had gotten us a [near-the beach] house in Amagansett Long Island, near East Hampton for the weekend and just a short walk to Asparagus Beach. My date for this trip was Irina, also a friend of a friend. That’s how things worked in New York City in 1977; no Match.com, and certainly no Tinder. Friends of friends.
Irina had long straight silver-ash hair and looked like a Greenwich Village hippy who made earrings out of feathers and sea shells, but as soon as she spoke you knew she wasn’t from anywhere around here. Irina was from Czechoslovakia and had come to the United States by way of Canada. She was pretty, tall, athletic looking, and an expert skier. She had a wonderful accent with those endearing conversational pauses as she wrinkled her brow to determine the right English word.
One Friday evening Irina, her friend Martina (who worked for our consulting company), and three others met at my apartment, got the Impala out of the Red Ball Garage, and headed east on the Long Island Expressway. This was a big deal for me; I was not accustomed to planning a weekend in the Hamptons. That was upper crust country, a whole lot beyond my comfort level.
Because I was the one with the car, Irina and I went to the local supermarket early the next morning with a long shopping list. I was studying the list, filling the cart, checking things off, when Irina started yelling and jumping up and down and running with her arms in the air towards a woman doing the same thing at the other end of the aisle.
The other woman was also speaking Czech, but she looked much more like a New Yorker than most New Yorkers. Her male companion, a tall, thin, brown haired pleasant looking man followed her to where she and Irina were hugging, talking, and laughing; I came up with the shopping cart. Irina introduced me to her friend Ivana, and Ivana’s husband Donald. They were newly married.
I knew who Donald was; his recent wedding to Ivana had been big high society news in NYC. It didn’t seem that Donald and I had much in common to talk about, so we both stood politely and silently nearby and watched with some pleasure the excitement and happiness of the two dear re-united friends. After a while, Irina and Ivana exchanged phone numbers, addresses, and hugs and we went our separate ways.
Donald has gained some weight since then, and gone through two more marriages. But he has done quite well for himself in the mean time. I don’t think he has been in many supermarkets recently.
Back at work Steve (remember Steve, one of my partners at the software company) told me his wife’s car had died and asked if I was interested in selling him the big brown Impala. He thought it would be a safer car than the smaller Valiant he was still driving and that he could get it cheap. He was right on both counts.
I sold the Impala to Steve and started using rentals from the Red Ball Garage.
I was fond of the new Ford Fairmont that was popular in rental fleets those days, especially the ones with the 302 V8. It was almost like driving a sports car, or a Mustang.
Chris loved it when I would pick him up at his home in a 302 Fairmont and leave a black strip of rubber as we left.
Ok, I could be an a$$hole sometimes. Nobody’s perfect.
Speaking of sports car, my next COAL is a real beauty.
It took a while to climb out of the psychological, social, parental, and financial hole of the divorce, but it now seemed like things were steadily getting better. And better.
Maybe I could even try to relax a little.
Mom and Doc loved Glen Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, the Dorsey Brothers, … and on and on. They would put on old records, have their martinis, and dance before dinner.
It’s 2016 and they have been gone a long time. This was their music. Sometimes I feel that I can turn back time for just a few minutes by listening to something like this and remember them dancing.
I would say THIS is the best part of Cannonball Run
FWIU the Red Ball was where Car and Driver kept their press cars for many years until they moved to Ann Arbor.
Not to be the guy to correct your English, but the proper sentence reads:
“I would say that THESE are the best parts of Cannonball Run.”
Catherine Bach was the best part of Cannonball Run 2.
FTW11!1′!1!1!!!!! So glad to read things started to work out.
This series is best read with a good Shiraz.
Long time New Yorker subscriber myself. Nearly always read the fiction first if it is any good. (Sometimes I just cannot get into the story.)
Since brown Impala was sold to a friend I am guessing it performed OK with no major issues.
When it comes to cars, no one can accuse you of having a “type” – this series is going all over the map. But that is good, it makes it more exciting than if you had simply owned updated versions of the same car over and over.
A reason COALs from me would be rather boring — too many of the same (or similar) cars.
Always had a sweet spot for ’72 Impalas and Caprices. Dad came within inches of buying a 2 door Caprice with the 400 V8, but backed out at the very last second. He was afraid the doors would sag after a few years. I still imagine myself behind the wheel of that car just as I was just getting my driver license.
Instead, Dad got a ’74 Mercury Comet with the 302 V8. Slow as hell, and the interlock would act up often. My job was to prop the hood and press the Interlock button to the get the car started. After that experience, he bought Asian cars for the next 20 years.
Of this generation of B bodies, my favorite would be the 75-76 Buick Electra with the square headlamps.
Ah the 1974 cars with their seatbelt interlock. They say more people were outraged about the interlock in their 1974 cars then were angry about the Watergate issue of the year before.
But Watergate was still very much going on, both when the 1974 models were introduced and when the interlock regulation was overturned. The Senate hearings were in summer 1973; the “Saturday night massacre” (firing of Archibald Cox, etc.) was fall 1973 (along with Agnew’s resignation and the ascent of Gerald Ford); the House impeachment hearings were summer 1974, months after everyone brought their ’74s back to the dealer to have their interlock circuits defeated.
Nevertheless, I favour the 1974 Chevrolets as the best looking of the full-size Chevrolet cars of the 1970’s.
Bypassing that stupid 1974 seat belt interlock in Chryslers was easier. On both my Plymouth Valiant Custom and my brother’s Gold Duster, all that had to be done was to disconnect a plug under the driver’s seat.
Why not simply but the belt on.?. Ok ” door open” and ” key left in ignition ” were nanny state over kill.
As someone who has always worn seat belts, even put them in an old VW bug lacking them, no. No. Nein. Never. I start the engine, then buckle up. I also disconnect ignition buzzers too. My car, not theirs.
I knew it worked in mine, when it was new. Was sorry it didn’t. To me it is part of the package.
My wish for a thing to change is the all time too low headrests. Never understood why almost all US cars have too low headrests, except cars with bucket seats.
Because they were cheap and complied with the letter of a thoughtlessly-written regulation (Not its intent, though).
My Grandfather had a ’72 Biscayne…it was only the 2nd of 2 cars I remember him owning (previous was a ’63 Ford Fairlane)….I think he mostly borrowed cars (or took the bus?) before that. He bought it new, I think at Lispi Chevrolet on route
It was a medium blue, and a stripper, it had the 350/turbo hydromatic, with just heater and AM radio…I remember the car had the “symbolic” labels on the radio and other controls (not just english label) with a symbol of headlight on the light switch, similar on radio controls, etc…I had never seen those before on a car. Also I remember the back seat seemed very low (I was used to my Dad’s fullsized Ford Wagon…It drove similarly, pretty wallowy…as my Mom would say “it drove like a boat”)
It eventually went to my Uncle who had it awhile, and then…I never saw it again…I did get to drive it once after my Grandfather had died, I was on vacation with my parents and my Grandmother, and we were trying to drop in on one of my Grandmother’s brothers (she came from a family of 8 siblings)…it was a nice spring day, I’m not sure why I was driving (my Dad knew the roads way better than I do, and I wasn’t too familiar with the area)…we were out in the country driving from Wilkes-Barre south…we stopped at the Effort Diner for lunch…we never did see her brother (I think he was out, we talked to his wife)…but it was a nice memory of my Grandmother, who passed away a few years later (27 years ago).
Another great read…love the speedo that goes up to 200 mph!
Trump: fantastic anecdote…love reading about people when they were still pretty much just people
Dating: I still use the friends of friends method in general in NYC. The online thing works for some, I stay with the tried and true. Could certainly relate to the weekend trip and spending the prior evening at the grocery store being the “one with the car”!
Malaise: I’ve got a ’75 Olds 98 with a 455 engine that puts out 190 HP…I’d say it’s somewhere in between a dog and a rocket. Nice passing, but 0-60 no better than 10+ seconds. I’m sure it was worse when it still had catalytic converters…so I imagine a ’72 somewhat lighter Caprice having some real pep. I like it!
It seems you’ve moved past a stagnant bend in the river of life at this point in the story. Starting your own firm is a big step…one I’m not yet confident enough to take but am building a groundwork….
Excellent read again. Thanks and Happy Father’s day.
That speedo must be in km/h. Can’t think of any production car of that era that was capable of doing 200 mph.
Since it was mentioned in the COAL, the Lamborghini from Cannonball Run, perhaps. ?
Wow, what an article, thank you. My family has been in the New York City Area since the 1920s since the Red Revolution kept my great grandparents from going back to Russia. My Grandma grew up in Good Spring Harbor and had many stories to tell. The mid-1960s to the early 1990s sure we’re rough on NYC and I have heard many stories. Here is another random sighting of Donald Trump.
I don’t want this series to end !
Slow as hell? My parents had a ’72 Comet 4-door LDO that I thought was rather zippy. Maybe the big bumpers and 2 extra years of smog gear slowed it down?
+1 I had a 72 Maverick LDO with the 302 from new. The car had a lot of faults but being slow as hell was not one of them – good acceleration for the time.
In order to reach any speed with my Dads ’74 Comet with the V8, the following was necessary:
1) prop hood and press Interlock button (mentioned above)
2) crank engine excessively to get started
3) overcome stalling when accelerating for the first 10 minutes
4) overcome vapor lock when re-starting the car when warm (see #2 above)
5) overcome hesitation when merging with traffic or accelerating from a stop light
6) call son (me) for battery jump at grocery store due to excessive cranking (see #2 & #4 above).
7) call son (me) to pick up angry Mom & pissed-off Dad on highway due to stalling (see #2 thru #6 above).
It doesn’t matter how big the engine is, if it don’t run, it ain’t fast!!
For a man who would keep a car for 10 years at a time, Dad ditched the Comet in less than 2 years and purchased Asian models for the next 20 years.
Wow…an appropriate post for me to see on Father’s Day!
My dad had a company car very similar to this: A 1972 Impala in Golden Brown (code 57). There’s a slight metallic gold flake in that paint, and when it was new (or well polished) it gave off a nice glow.
The first car I was allowed to wash, I learned the importance of not allowing the soapy water to dry on the paint, as well as the need to rinse thoroughly.
The Impala was almost the same color as my ’04 Titan. Copper is it’s official name, has metallic in it that really lightens up and sparkles in the sunlight, and looks like a much darker brown in cloudy weather. Only used for 2 years, so pretty rare. I like it, and the Chevy’s color looks good as well.
I have about 200 CD’s inherited from my parents, mom passed 2010 and dad in 2013. Besides all the big bands as your parents had, Englebert Humperdinck, Tom Jones, Simon and Garfunkel, Johnny Mathis, Streisand, Dean Martin, Nat and Natalie King Cole, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Jackie Gleason, Ink Spots, Lettermen, Kenny G, Linda Ronstadt, Mills Brothers, various light jazz and assorted easy listening and a few others.
Cool you met the Trump card that will allow Hillary to be elected.
Really enjoying you stories, happy Fathers Day.
Photographed today at the Georgetown car show – small world eh! This one had a beige interior
front view. She had some rust , er – patina on her, but still in very good shape for this part of the world.
Of the 1971-76 big Chevys, I also like best the styling of the 1972s,
I bought a 1977 Chevy Impala sedan that was 8 years old with over 100K miles. It was a good car overall, but it leaked badly around both the windshield and backlite. Water would pool in the right rear footwell. I was unsuccessful with my homemade attempts to fix the leaks with bathtub caulking.
‘Of the 1971-76 big Chevys, I also like best the styling of the 1972s”
Me too! I’ll take a Custom Coupe or a convertible, although I’d avoid the brown. A proper ’70s green, however, would do fine.
+2… Of this generation, the ’72 is my favorite, but if I had one and ever had to replace the back bumper, I’d install one from a ’73 as I like its taillights better. With the previous generation, I’d have to go with the ’68. Big custom coupe or convertible in both cases for me.
I am greatly enjoying reading your COAL series as it mixes life with cars .
I remember the ’71 full size Chevies fondly , great cars (apart from the leaks , squeaks and endless rattles) . IIRC ’71 was the very first year of the damned E.G.R. valve and it caused all manner of off idle flat spots . stalling when cold so on and so forth .
Thankfully The General knew this and thoughtfully made the valve with a sheet metal top cover so whacking it smartly with a 32 oz. ball peen hammer *instantly* disabled it leaving you with a real stormer .
Sadly , some Dealers (I’ve forgotten the name of the Los Angeles Dealer on North Figueroa that got caught with the entire PDI Lot full of modified cars and was fined $10,000 per car , nearly bankrupting them) got caught , others only smacked the E.G.R. valve after the Customer came screaming back with complaints .
I await the next fun installment of your story .
“I remember the ’71 full size Chevies fondly , great cars (apart from the leaks , squeaks and endless rattles) . IIRC ’71 was the very first year of the damned E.G.R. valve and it caused all manner of off idle flat spots . stalling when cold so on and so forth .”
I was a Chevrolet mechanic at a dealership from ’72 to ’74 and I can say with certainty that ’73 was the first year for the EGR valve, not ’71. That was the biggest contributor to the horsepower decrease from 165 net in ’72 to 145 net in ’73 for the base 350 engine.
If you had a ’71 with an EGR valve, it wasn’t the original engine and/or intake manifold.
Thanx for the correction .
As I said , it was long ago and California tended to get that crappy power robbing smog stuff before anyone else did .
To defeat the primitive EGR of the, all that was necessary was to plug the vacuum line leading to it. Take the smog pump off and toss it in the trash.
No real reason to ditch the secondary air injection (“smog”) pump. It takes no discernible power to turn, it does a good job of reducing the amount of unburnt hydrocarbons in the exhaust, and removing it often means having to rig up a makeshift new belt routing.
Actually Can.Knuck. , all most dealer Mechanics did back then was to *smack* the top part of the E.G.R. valve with a ball peen hammer, the dent you made disabled the system .
OI remember when the California A.Q.M.D. came once and checked all the new 1972 Chevies in the pre delivery lot, everyone had this done and they were fined $10,000 per car……
E.G.R. can be tweaked so it never opens until the car is going at good road speed and the engine RPM’s are up…
A.I.R. systems that burned valves, gulp valves that failed, I remember all that crap, I still have to keep it functioning plus more on a 1979 Dodge D200 ..
Many, if not most, of the problems were because they half assed them. EGR when done properly, works fine. Progressive action and not at either idle or full throttle. Air injection and burned valves, yes, absolutely. Because they didn’t use valve seats they just ground the cast iron head.
If it doesn’t work when it’s done as a crappy job, blame the crappy job, not the technology. You can screw up anything if you do it wrong.
Absolutely right. The US automakers’ approach to emission controls in the early-mid 1970s were at least as much about trying to touch off a popular rebellion against auto regulation as they were about squeaking the cars past their type-approval tests so they could be offered for first sale. Same goes for the seat belts, the bumpers, and much of the rest of it.
I like the ’71 Caprice most of all. ’73 Impala is a close second because it simply repeated the design up front, albeit with a bigger bumper. ’72 Impala looks like something is missing, I can’t put my finger on it.
Another good installment. I remember getting a couple of rental versions of this car when on vacation with Dad in 1972. I agree that the 72 was the most attractive of the run. But I always hated the black instrument panel and steering wheel that Chevy gave you no matter your interior color. Others must have agreed with me because they soon changed that.
My Mom was a programmer at Bell Labs, but she left to follow my father’s academic career away from Princeton and to have my sister and me. She hardly seems resentful for giving it up at all, most of the time.
According to sales figures posted in Collectible Automobile, the ’72 big Chevy had the highest #’s of the 71-76 generation. While the ’73 model year was a boom year for US cars, Impala/Caprice had inter-showroom competition, the newly styled Monte Carlo.
’71 was hampered by the long UAW strike. The 74’s came out 2 weeks before OPEC embargo, and the 75’s were hurt by recession.
But, the full size Chevy was #1 seller for 71-75. Even though ’76 was a comeback year, the Old Cutlass line outsold Chevy’s tanks.
Immensely enjoying this series. The way the stories focus not just on the car, but on your life as they go along, really makes this feel more like an auto-biography (to borrow one of Paul’s terms) than the standard COAL. I also enjoy hearing about your work, as I’m in the computer field myself (though not a programmer).
Glad to hear that things began to go right for you during the Impala’s tenure and looking forward to next week’s installment!
I don’t recall what year the car was (except early 70’s), but I rode in a coupe version of this car that had a 6-cylinder 3-speed stick.
I’ve never seen another one since. And it may have been a Biscayne rather than an Impala.
My mom’s ’69 Country Squire was replaced by a 1972 Kingswood in this same all brown color.
Ours had a 400 CID w/ trailer package, ps, pb, at, ac, 3rd row seat and attractive deluxe wheel covers. It was a pretty good car and survived 3 of 4 children learning to drive (oldest sister rear ended a car and bashed in the radiator, middle sister gunned it in a fit of anger and backed into a telephone pole dead center (claimed it was in her blind spot), I never had cause to damage it) before being donated to charity.
One interesting defect this car had was that there were plastic pockets behind which one could tuck the detachable shoulder straps. These were moulded out of a black plastic and then painted brown to match the interior. While still in warranty, the paint began to delaminates and flake off; the dealer replaced them with ugly unpainted black ones (the only piece of black trim in the interior besides the belts.). Since my dad was an insurance man, he insisted we all use our belts. So I asked my dad if I could remove the unneeded pockets and he let me.
A common failure point for these cars was the padded energy absorbing dashboard made by the olsonite corporation. In cold climates, the foam sub layer and the surface became stiff and brittle. Bumping the lower left most corner next to the drivers door guaranteed that it would crack or break open exposing the dark grey foam and making the car start to look shabby.
Another cold weather failure point was the plush foam rubber, around the frameless door glass, with a smooth skin surface, door to body seals. If one failed to keep these lubed, and moisture got between the seal and the glass,, the door was impossible to open without yanking it. In doing so, the seal would tear and would remain stuck to the adjoining glass until it warmed up, thereafter falling off and creating wind noise and water leak paths (how the GM engineers missed this in their cold weather development amazes me.). Of course this happened well out of warranty.
At the same time, my dad received a 350 CI black over dark green metallic with green interior Impala Custom 2-door hardtop from his employer.
A year later, after being broadsided and totaled by a driver who ran a red light, the 2 door was replaced by a white with green interior Bel Air wagon (strange car, the bright work around the Windows was painted white to make the car look more like a stripper.)
By the way I like the 200 kph Canadian speedometer in the example pic in the story.
There’s a similar car for sale on Craigslist right now in Bangor, PA in case anyone’s interested:
Says it’s an Impala with the 6. Intriguing.
Regarding the leaking window seals, when GM went to the glue in glass for some 1964 models, they used Butyl rubber. They finally went with Urethane sometimes in 1974-5. The Butyl would turn hard, crack, crumble, even with garaged cars. This bad design ruined thousands of GM cars for years as the windshields and rear glass would leak and the water would rust out floors, trunks, and anything else it contacted. Virtually every GM car that is survived to now, has to have these glass’s removed and the sealant replaced with Urethane. Big job, can entail rust repair and much scrubbing and cleaning, but it has to be done.
My 1974 Caprice didn’t leak, neither did my 1973 Cadillac. I did, though, start my ownership of that one by having the windshield replaced with the current glue in 1986.
My 1975 Mercury Montego MX coupe (1980) leaked big time from the top of the windshield. So did my 1974 Ford Ranchero GT (1983-84). Honestly cannot remember this about my 1986 Mercury Grand Marquis (1996-1998). Didn’t drive it much in bad weather, but my current 1975 Continental Mark IV (2002 – now) is leaking from the top right side of the windshield onto the legs of unfortunate passengers. It is also leaking into the trunk from below the right side rear window, but I believe that is due to the vinyl roof issue and the fact that water gets stuck below the window and can get away by evaporation only. We thought about installing drainage pipes in my non-vinyl top 1973 Cadillac, but didn’t get to do it.