Car of the Week: 1964 Chevrolet Impala SS Sport coupe

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Once stolen and now loved, ’64 Chevy gets a second chance

Story and photos by John Gunnell

Car of the Week 2020
 The owner of the Chevy bought several grilles that all had the same dent before he found one that was like new.

The owner of the Chevy bought several grilles that all had the same dent before he found one that was like new.

Mrs. Ford Leggett received her 1974 Christmas present a little bit early. The Jackson (Mississippi) Police Department recovered her stolen 1964 Chevrolet two-door hardtop on Dec. 15, 1974, at 1800 hours (6 p.m.). The car was found at Ridgeway and Albermarle Road, but Officer F.M. Byrd (No. 124) did not find anyone there to arrest. In fact, Case No. 74-43246 was most likely never solved, but at least it had a happy ending.

Today, Mrs. Ford Leggett’s recovered Impala SS Sport Coupe is owned by Jim Cina of New London, Wis. He found the police recovery tag inside the car, under the carpets, when he restored it. Cina thought it was funny that a woman named Ford drove a Chevy, but has been unable to learn anything more about when the car was stolen.

 This car’s original tail lamps — Impala and Impala SS models had two on each side plus a backup lamp — were replaced with reproductions that have the Chevy bow tie emblem on them, outlined in white.

This car’s original tail lamps — Impala and Impala SS models had two on each side plus a backup lamp — were replaced with reproductions that have the Chevy bow tie emblem on them, outlined in white.

Somehow the car made its way to Iola, Wis., where a man entered it in the first auction held during the Iola Old Car Show. A man from Spencer, Wis., bought it. Ten years ago, the same man brought it to the Iola car corral to sell. Cina walked to the car corral area 17 times to look the car over. He then put down a $100 deposit and later drove to Spencer to pick up the car.

“It was originally a Mississippi and Texas car,” Cina said. “When I bought it, the general condition was like it is now, except for the paint.” Cina re-sprayed the car’s white paint about eight years ago. He also replaced the grille and some of the trim.

“I removed all the trim from the car before painting it,” Cina said. “The original grille had a dent and I found several others, but they all had the same dent. Then I found the undented grille that’s on the car today.” He also bought a few reproduction parts for the car, such as the “Impala SS” plate on the right-hand side of the deck lid, which came from a swap meet vendor. “I don’t know who made that part, but it was perfect,” said Cina. “However, it was a bit on the high side as far as price.”

 This police recovery tag was found under the carpets while the Impala SS was being restored.

This police recovery tag was found under the carpets while the Impala SS was being restored.

In addition to painting the Super Sport, Cina installed a new exhaust system, replaced the springs, put in new power steering and added tail lamp lenses with the Chevy “bow-tie” emblem outlined in white. He also had the front bucket seats reupholstered.

“I wanted the car because it brought back memories,” Cina explained. “I had a ’64 Chevy when I was young, but it was a 300-hp car with a four-speed transmission. This one had a dent in the passenger side and it was right where the wheel well is. That made it hard to access for the repair, but I got it done. I also replaced the original 283-cid V-8 with the 350 that’s in it today. It runs good and sounds great with the thick exhausts.”

Cina says that efforts to contact Mrs. Ford Leggett of Jackson, Miss., have been unsuccessful thus far. “I have the recovery tag with her name on it, but so far I have not been able to get in touch with her, which I’d love to do,” he said. “I’d like to hear about how the car was stolen, whether any damage was done to it during the theft and how long she kept the car after it was returned by the police.”

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