Does anyone want to display one-of-a-kind 1963 Chevy Impala?

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Anna Marie Lux
Wednesday, August 13, 2014

JANESVILLE--Local workers built the hardtop coupe destined for an easy life more than 50 years ago this month.

The ember red Impala with white top and whitewall tires rolled off the assembly line Aug. 3, 1963, at Janesville's General Motors plant.

Chevy's best-selling auto in the United States at the time boasted 250 horses under the hood.

So it's a mystery why a car meant to burn up the miles sat unsold in a Nebraska dealer's showroom for five decades.

Gary Leidich of Painesville, Ohio, last year at an auction bought the sleek beauty with 11 miles on the odometer. He is the first registered owner.

“It's all original,” Gary said. “Not restored. The interior is incredible. The seats were still covered with factory plastic when we bought it.”

The retired utility executive loves cars. He also enjoys sharing them.

Gary wants to bring the Impala to Janesville. But he needs a venue to display it, preferably indoors at a hotel or convention center.

“We want to do this because we think the workers who built the car will have a good time seeing it,” Gary said.

He and his brother David are willing to trailer the Impala at their expense.

Christine Rebout of the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is aware of Gary's offer and has reached out to people about the car. So far, no one has committed to showcasing it, she said.

The Leidich brothers selectively display the one-of-a-kind vehicle, which included a visit to the GM National in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, this year.

A video and a book of photos documenting clean up and waxing of the Impala are part of the display.

“People have criticized the car because they think we repainted it,” Gary said. “We have done no exterior work on the car. It is still in showroom condition.”

They decided to make the Impala operable but have done minimal work under the hood. They replaced an eroded radiator core, cleaned the carburetor, rebuilt the fuel pump and re-sleeved the master cylinder and brake cylinders.

“There are no new or re-manufactured engine parts,” Gary said.

In 1963, the car's retail price was $3,254, medium-priced by today's standards. Gary said it is hard to tell what it is worth today.

“A nicely restored '63 Chevy is in the $30,000 range,” he said, “but this vehicle is different.”

Since buying the Impala, Gary has put only 200 feet or so on the odometer by trailering the car everywhere. At some point, he may donate it to a museum.

The car is in perfect condition because it has done nothing but stand inside the Lambrecht Chevrolet dealership all these years.

In 2013, the dealer auctioned off 500 cars, many of them new. For decades, he had parked them behind the business or indoors.

“There was a row of pickup trucks with the stickers still in the windows and trees growing through them,” Gary said. “My brother went to the auction to pick up parts for cars we are restoring.”

When David saw the '63 Impala, he couldn't believe its remarkable condition. He alerted Gary, who bought the symbol of GM's glory days.

“The car is absolutely gorgeous,” Gary said. “We enjoy people's reactions to it. We just want to share it with the public.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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