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
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
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.