It isn’t easy keeping a year-round convertible daily driver rust-free in Michigan, but Jan Fultz knows the secret. She was fresh out of school in 1961 and while riding with a friend on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn her attention was drawn to a 1958 Chevrolet Impala convertible parked on a used-car lot. Chevrolet first introduced the Impala in 1958 as a sub-series of the Bel Air model.
Fultz was in the market for her first car so she planned to stop at the car lot on the return trip. Unfortunately, the car was not on the lot when she returned. Luckily, she says, the Chevrolet had not been sold, but had only been moved inside the building for detailing.
Upon closer inspection, the used car proved to be as nice as she first thought it to be. The then three-year-old Impala had been driven 25,000 miles when she purchased it on Oct. 9, 1961.
The convertible was exactly what she wanted. The red/black/silver vinyl upholstery and red carpeting along with the Rio Red dashboard padding contrasted with the Snowcrest White exterior. There’s no power steering, power brakes or power windows. “That means there is less to go wrong,” Fultz observes.
The 250 horsepower developed by the 348-cubic-inch V-8 engine is transferred to the 14-inch rear wheels through the automatic Powerglide transmission.
Soon after acquiring the 1958 Impala the white convertible top was replaced. “I think it cost about $67,” Fultz says, “and that included a new rear window.” The replacement top is still on the car, usually hidden under a red boot.
For the next decade, Fultz drove her white convertible on a daily basis. Her secret to keeping the notorious rust monster at bay was maintaining a clean car 12 months of the year, not an easy task in Michigan. In the winter, she regularly would attach a garden hose to the hot water heater in the basement and thread the hose out the basement window to the driveway. There she could wash road salt and chemicals off her car. She has driven her Impala as far as Florida and Massachusetts and never once has it failed her.
When Fultz got her father’s Chevelle in 1971 she was able to semi-retire her convertible. “It has been used as a show car since 1974,” she says.
When new, the base price for a vehicle like hers was $2,841. The 3,523-pound Impala is loaded with enough optional extras that Fultz guesses the original owner more than likely paid in excess of $4,000.
Although the dual-exhaust pipes exit under the rear bumper, there are two dummy exhaust ports on the sides of the rear fenders. Atop each rear fender is a radio antenna, but only the left one is functional. Style was king in 1958, so the right antenna was strictly for show.
Likewise, only the outboard two parking lights are operational. The inboard pair is not wired to anything, but the four parking lights look nice below the four headlights, the first year Chevrolet had them. The Impala does have two working spotlights. There are two exterior mirrors and two door handle shields.
At the rear of the Impala is a dealer-installed option, Fultz explains. It’s the continental kit, which is locked in place. A hidden lever releases the tire that then tilts away from the car, providing access to the 20-gallon gasoline tank, as well as to the trunk. Inside the trunk is a well on the right side where a spare tire would be if there were not one outside. “The trunk is so big you don’t even know it’s there,” Fultz says.
The 20-gallons of gas are necessary, Fultz says, because her thirsty V-8 returns only 10 miles per gallon. In 1981, a trusted body shop owner suggested that if she was going to keep the car forever she might want to have all the trim removed to verify the condition of the metal behind the metal. Fultz agreed and when all the trim was removed she had the car stripped and resprayed in the original Snowcrest White. Fultz reports that her Impala’s odometer now reads close to 87,000 miles, the most recent miles accumulated near her Howell, Mich., home. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters
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