Story and photos by John Gunnell
On Oct. 27, 1965, Leonard Stevenson ordered a Tuxedo Black 1966 Impala SS hardtop from McGinnis Chevrolet in Scotland, S.D. Stevenson wanted the car equipped his own way, notably with a red vinyl bucket seat interior and the big 427-cid V-8 and a personalized assortment of factory features, such as a Turbo Hydra-Matic, special front and rear suspension, push-button radio with rear speaker, tinted glass and 14x6-inch wheels.
A hand-written document showing a breakdown of the equipment Stevenson hand picked is in the possession of the car’s current owner, Jody Schmeisser, owner of Pit Pal Products. This document, which is endorsed with Stevenson’s signature, shows he put a cash deposit of $2,000 down on the car he wanted.
“With a deposit like this made back in that day, you can just tell that ordering the specially equipped car was an exciting moment for Len Stevenson,” Schmeisser said. “Lowering a 427 into his car meant that the regular flow of the Chevy assembly line was going to be interrupted, and the black-with-red-interior choice was also a custom-order deal.”
The mid 1960s was one of the best eras for a buyer to order a car just the way he or she wanted it. Unlike today, manufacturers allowed buyers to individually order options, and the list of options was quickly growing. Manufacturers were also anxious to sell cars since 1960-1962 had been relatively lean years for auto sales.
“A car buyer in 1965 could order unusual combinations of luxury, convenience and performance equipment,” Schmeisser explained. “It was possible — and not that expensive — to throw in some excitement under the hood, and some of the equipment combinations were very rare,” Schmeisser said. Chevrolet production records show that only 3,247 full-size Chevys received the L36 code 427-cid V-8 with 390 hp.
Today, Stevenson’s custom-ordered pride and joy is one of several full-size, big-block Chevys in Schmeisser’s collection.
“I have always taken the serious approach and pride in collecting fully documented, numbers-matching 1966 full-size 427 Chevys,” he said. “I eventually started specializing in tracking down hard-to-find parts for them and restoring such cars.”
Schmeisser keeps Stevenson’s car in a climate-controlled environment where it sits next to similar cars. He carefully researches and documents each vehicle because he feels it’s important to keep the chain of ownership intact.
“The car is a complete, numbers-matching factory muscle car that was born with its 427-cid, 390-hp engine,” Schmeisser said. “From the front pulley to the transmission to the cover on the 12-bolt rear end, the car is authentic. I cannot really call this Super Sport a survivor, since it has had a stunning exterior repaint, but otherwise, it would fall in that category.”
Schmeisser said the car’s door jambs still have their original GM paint, as do the inner door structures and inside of the trunk and hood. “I do not have any records of when this car was repainted,” he said, “but although it was refinished at some point in its history, the repaint is really hard to detect.”
The car’s odometer reading of 19,942 miles appears to be correct, according to Schmeisser. “I have documents that show South Dakota used a vehicle safety tag that recorded the mileage each time the car was safety inspected. These show that very few miles were ever put on this car.”
Schmeisser says that he assumes the Super Sport was “always loved and appreciated throughout its life.”
He says it looks, runs and drives like all of its caretakers have all taken care of it over the years.
The interior is in great shape from the color down to its condition. The upholstery and trim are original, and it even has correctly dated seat belts and the small chrome bullets at the end of the seat piping remain. The push-button AM radio comes in loud and clear, and the original elliptical antenna is intact. The center console is perfect without cracks.
The car could pass the South Dakota safety inspection with flying colors even today. For instance, all the bulbs function the way they should, and even though they aren’t used today, the heater and defroster work. Amazingly, all the rubber parts from the A-pillar seals to the door window felts and trunk seals are genuine GM-installed items with a nice skin seal.
All of the bright work on the Impala also remains in excellent original condition. The sheet metal is original with appropriate factory gaps. Original LOF etching identifies the factory window glass, and the car has correctly dated mirrors.
Schmeisser is honest about the Chevy’s minor issues. “The rear trunk lock key is not the original one, the clock doesn’t keep running, the engine coil is not the original one and the air cleaner housing is not the original,” he admits.
According to Schmeisser, his car was assembled in St Louis, Mo., during the third week of November 1965. He has photo-documented the date codes on the car’s assemblies. The car is even a bit of a celebrity outside of Schmeisser’s garage.
“RUST-OLEUM products picked this car to use in their enamel engine paint campaign,” Schmeisser said. “If you go into a Lowes or Home Depot or an auto parts store and see RUST-OLEUM engine paint being promoted, you’ll see photos of this car’s engine.”
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