1963 Chevy Impala a k a 'Old Reliable' by Vern Parker (The Washington Times, 7/5/96)

    Robert Pantaleo was content tooling around Baltimore in his

1993 Mustang GT convertible.  It took him wherever his job as a

senior loss control representative for Harleysville Insurance Co. 


    When he and his wife, Kathy, decided to move to Pennsylvania

they reluctantly let the Mustang go in favor of a

four-wheel-drive sport/utility vehicle.  As they sold the car

Mrs.  Pantaleo assured her husband, "I'll make it up to you."

    True to her word, in the late summer of 1995 she received a

bonus check at work and turning it over to Mr.  Pantaleo, said

"Have fun."

    September 1995 found him at a car show in Carlisle, Pa.,

looking over the used cars.  He came close on a couple of cars,

but then he saw a 1963 Chevrolet Impala two-door hardtop.

    "Do I want a three-speed on the column - again?" he asked


    The answer was yes.

    "The hardtop and 327 V-8 sold me," Mr.  Pantaleo says. 

Besides, it had only been driven 72,000 miles.

    He gave the representative of the owner a deposit and

arranged to pick it up the next weekend in York, Pa.

    Mrs.  Pantaleo had been told what he bought.  She was,

however, apprehensive all week until she drove her husband to

York and she saw it in person.

    He fired up the 250-horsepower V-8 with the single

four-barrel carburetor and easily cruised the 55 miles back to

Baltimore - his mind at ease knowing his wife was right behind.

    That flawless trip home, unfortunately, gave him false

confidence in the car.

    The next weekend he decided to solo and drive several hundred

miles to see an old friend and show off his new old car.

    That trip is where the car earned its name - Old Reliable.

    On the trip Mr.  Pantaleo discovered leaking wheel cylinders,

debris in the fuel line that kept clogging the carburetor jets, a

weak front end and, finally, a broken hand brake cable.

    "In spite of all that," he says, "it got me home."

    Once home the gas tank was replaced as were the fuel lines. 

Four new wheel cylinders were installed along with new brake

lines.  Additionally, the loose front end was rebuilt and new

B.F.  Goodrich tires with a 1-inch white sidewall were installed

on the 119-inch wheelbase car.

    Most of the mechanical work was completed at his neighborhood

Ten Hills Shell station.

    The trouble with improving one part of an old car is that the

remaining parts tend to look shabby.

    "It had some bad body work," Mr.  Pantaleo says, "so I

decided to bite the bullet and get it fixed.

    Before starting he did some research on the car's history and

discovered it had been built in Baltimore and left the factory

wearing a coat of ermine white with a light blue interior.

    It was delivered to the Ammon R.  Smith Chevrolet dealership

in York, Pa., where it was displayed with a base price of $2,774.

This particular Impala was not particularly encumbered by

optional extras.  It did have:

    * TurboFire 327 V-8.............$191.

    * Push-button radio...............$70.

    * Tinted glass......................$38.

    * Front seat belts...................$19.

    The first owner kept the car 23 years and then sold it to an

officer at Andrews Air Force Base.

    Four years later the officer was transferred, so the Impala

ended up being stored.

    In 1995 it was taken out of storage and that's when Mr. 

Pantaleo became the third owner.

    Mr.  Pantaleo stripped the bright work off the car

preparatory to the serious work.  As the paint was stripped off

it was learned the original white car had been repainted red and

then later back to white.  Its fourth paint job matches the

original ermine white.

    Mr.  Pantaleo entrusted his Impala to Bayside Auto Body in

Essex.  As they took the car down they found where previous rust

spots had been replaced with roof flashing covered with plastic

body putty.

    The car is now once more all metal, Mr.  Pantaleo is proud to

report. Additionally he replaced several of the chrome trim

pieces.  He has plans for the car that include replacing other

trim pieces and replating the bumpers.

    He also is going to turn his attention to detailing the

engine compartment and then later the trunk.

    There always seems to be something on an antique car that

needs attention. However, Mr.  Pantaleo is secure in the

knowledge that his 3,390-pound car is well on its way to


    On hot days he slips behind the distinctive Impala steering

wheel (which he has had repainted) and revels in all the chrome

trim around him.

    Although the upholstery and headliner are original, Mr. 

Pantaleo has replaced the blue carpeting.

    When he twists the key in the ignition, the instrumentation

on the dashboard below the 120-mph speedometer comes alive.

    Then he's ready for a fair-weather cruise in Old Reliable.

    He knows it'll get him back home.