Michigan collector buys the last of the Impalas by Jeanne Graham (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 12/10/97)




   It began in 1932 when he was just 4 years old and walking the

mile to Houghton Lake Public School.



   "This lady had bought a brand-new '32 Chevrolet coupe," said

M.G."Pinky" Randall.  "I fell in love with that car on my way to

school.



   It was a blue coupe with yellow wheels and flash fenders.  I

would go to school an hour early just to look at that car."



   Randall bought that car years later when he and his wife,

Joyce, married.



   The year: 1948.  The price: $30.



   "I knew I couldn't afford it," Randall said yesterday in a

telephone conversation from Houghton Lake, Mich.



   Friday, Randall, 69, and his wife will be in Arlington to add

one more car to their ever-growing and exclusively Chevrolet

collection - the last Chevrolet Impala SS to be built by GM.



   The Arlington plant will stop building large sedans this week

to begin final retooling on a $264 million conversion to truck

and sport utility vehicle production.



   The last Impala will have a dark cherry metallic finish and

gray interior and will be shipped to Houghton Lake, where Randall

will pick it up at a local auto dealership.



   The Chevy Impala was the hot car of the 1960s, according to

Impala aficionados.  The SS designation stands for Super Sport,

and the vehicle was reintroduced in 1994 with a Corvette engine

and a high-performance suspension system.



   The last official Impala SS will be vehicle No. 46 in

Randall's collection, which includes a gray 1914 Baby Grand

touring sedan, a blue 1930 Roadster pickup and a green 1969

Corvair convertible.



   Randall's favorite is the 1914 Baby Grand.



   "That's because it was a huge car and the only one like it,"

he said.  "But I'd hate to part with any of them."



   Randall also collects memorabilia such as posters, jewelry,

mugs and toy cars.



   In 1947, for example, customers who bought Chevrolets received

banks in the design of the cars they bought.  Randall has the

collection.



   "They call me Mr. Chevy," he said.



   But no Ford paraphernalia?



   "We don't use the F-word," Randall said with a chuckle.



   Randall still lives in the community where he was born -

Houghton Lake, a small town about 180 miles north of Detroit. 

Randall and his older brother, both redheads, were called "Big

Red" and "Little Red" in elementary school.



   "That got people confused," Randall said.  "Then the janitor

started calling us red and pink, and the name stuck."



   Each summer, Houghton's population of 10,000 grows sixfold

because its location on Michigan's largest inland lake makes it a

popular resort destination.  There were 5 inches of snow on the

ground yesterday.  The one local movie theater does show

first-run movies - this week's feature is Arnold Schwarzenegger

in Jingle All the Way.



   Although she has never seen Randall's collection, resident

Rose Evans, 77, said she hears "it's fabulous."



   Evans said she has known Randall since 1951, when she owned a

small grocery store and he worked for the food company that

supplied her store.



   Now Evans is secretary of the Houghton Lake Chamber of

Commerce.



   Evans said Randall is active in civic activities and was one

of the original organizers of the town's largest annual event -

the Tip-up Town U.S.A. festival, which will be in its 47th year

in January.



   That is an ice-fishing festival with children's games and

Ferris wheel rides and draws about 45,000 visitors over two

winter weekends when local business owners are in dire need of

customers.



   "Pink had something to do with it right from the beginning,"

she said.  "He was just a young kid then, but his name came up

constantly."



   Although no longer involved in the grocery business, Randall

still owns and runs a local shopping center called Pinky's Plaza,

she said.



   Do residents of this small community find Randall's Chevrolet

collection unusual or weird?



   "They know Pink, and they don't think it's strange at all,"

she said.



   Tom Hamp, editor of The Houghton Lake Resorter, the local

newspaper, said he has known Randall since 1961.



   "If it's got Chevrolet on it, Pinky has at least one of them,"

Hamp said.  "Pinky's a character, a practical joker.  He loves a

good time and loves to laugh."



   Hamp said Randall is also a great resource for Chevrolet.



   "If they need something for an ad campaign, an old logo, they

know Pinky will have it," Hamp said.  "He's a historian for

Chevrolet.  He's probably their best nonpaid employee."



   A May 1995 article in the Detroit Free Press about GM's plans

to convert the Arlington plant to truck production alerted

Randall to the potential end of the Impala SS line.



   "I read between the lines," he said, and immediately wrote a

letter to Chevrolet General Manager Jim Perkins requesting the

opportunity to acquire the last Impala.



   Chevrolet officials told Randall to select a dealership he

wanted to work with, and Randall arranged to buy the vehicle,

which lists for about $26,000, through a Houghton Lake auto

dealer.



   "He gave it to me at a real good price," Randall said.