Morning Drive – Gary Goodguy’s 1958 Chevy Bel Air Impala
The 1958 Chevy Bel Air Impala is a unicorn of sorts. They’re rare in that they were only produced for one year and were one of the last GM vehicles designed by the legendary Harley Earl. They were a stark departure from the finned and fabulous ’57 models. They really didn’t even have fins. Instead, Earl implemented an “alcove” above the taillights giving them a very distinct look. These alcoves almost resemble a flipped-upside-down fin.
The third gen Impala was also GM’s first foray into what would become the venerable big block Chevy. One of the engine options was a 348c.i. 5.7 liter V8 with peculiar “scalloped” valve covers. You could order them with a single four bbl carb or “three two’s” for maximum output. Some Chevy purists refer to them as the “W” motor. This engine combination was the forerunner to the famed 409.
CJ and I were having coffee one morning here at Fuel Curve headquarters and decided we needed a little fresh air after days’ worth of cramming on the site. One of the benefits of sharing an office with the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association is being able to “borrow” classic cars from the Meadors family collection. We settled on the late Gary Meadors’ black 1958 two door hard top Bel Air and wound up out at Shadow Cliffs Recreation Area near our Pleasanton offices.
As we cruised past a pre-school, the kids started jumping up and down and pointing. Its amazing the emotion these old cars bring out in people of all ages.
Gary bought this car in the early 2000s out of Fresno, just a stone’s throw from where he grew up. The previous owner ran a body shop so naturally the paint work was spot-on. It retains its factory 348c.i. single carb engine as well as its all original interior. Unique to these models was the recessed valley between the rear seats with the Impala logo shining bright.
Once Gary got it he went with his tried and true method of lowering it…cutting the coils! As usual, he nailed it. Most all of Gary’s cars rolled on Boyd Coddington wheels and these 17-inch “Bonneville” style rollers are spot on for the big car. A Wilwood BBK with red calipers nicely upgrades the stock binders.
Meadors also liked hi-amp stereos, Vintage Air, and overdrive transmissions. This beauty checks all those boxes. Also, every one of his vehicles had a cup holder-floating console for convenience. Meadors drove the wheels off every car in his collection and the Bel Air was no different. As you can see by the crusted old bugs jammed in the radiator fins, this baby logged countless road miles.
It’s reliable as the day is long. Just plug in the trickle charger between rides and she’s good to go. “She needs to get out a little more so I’m glad you boys got her out this morning,” Goodguys President Marc Meadors said when he saw us pulling out of the parking lot.
All things considered, it was a great way to spend a spring morning.