Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cars in Yards: Crushed dream cars, Corvette, Impala convertible lost to storm damage

Being a muscle car owner is much like being “Treasure Keeper.” Think of all the traps and downfalls you are always up against to maintain your collectible car in pristine condition. From the beginning of ownership in the late-1960s, you paid heavily for ultra cool options besides the big engine, like disc brakes and a convertible top. Then you had to deal with with large insurance premiums and government-mandated, smog equipment. You hung on to your gas-guzzler through the oil embargo even when fuel was hard to find and you could barely afford it. Years later your dedication paid off, as your friends and neighbors envy the original classic muscle car housed in your garage. You are a winner. You are a visionary, preserving and investing in automotive history. Life is great. Until...

A mid-seventies Corvette and a 1968 Impala convertible rest beneath this wreckage caused by a storm many months ago.

The trees come tumbling down
Look at this disaster scene I found in west Alabama. There is no way a car could be under the mangled shed. Only there's not one, but two cars under the shed covered by debris left by a storm. Two classic cars, a 1968 Impala convertible and a mid-1970s Corvette, were crushed by falling trees. It also appeared like no one was in a hurry to remove them from the carnage. 

The top of the 1968 Impala convertible is crushed under fallen trees and tin. With over a million cars built on this Chevy's big car platform in 1968 (Biscayne, Bel-Air, Impala and Caprice), only 24,730 were convertibles. That's about 2% of the total build. That’s the numbers I like!

Life happens
"Easy does it, careful with the car," you say. Somehow you evade fate and protect your treasure from millions of potential accidents over several decades as you drive alongside knuckleheads on the highway. You cringe at the idea of parking your car in a parking lot with countless, careless door-openers. "No door-dings, no, sir!" 
  Then, you have the elements to deal with. Rain verses convertible top. The rain usually wins, so you only drive your convertible on sunny days. Then you have the classic case of snow-plus-ice, equals salt on the road. That means certain death of metal. "Harsh sunshine, no!" The chrome-eating, paint-baking sunshine. 
  Through it all, you carefully maintain your “treasure” for future generations to enjoy. You may even add another classic to the collection somewhere down the way. I’m not talking a mini-van. I mean an impractical, world-class, fuel-guzzling, sports car like a Corvette. It too survives many years of potential automotive disasters such as teenagers, prom nights and insurance sales people, you would swear do not want you to have these cars. So what do you do to protect these classics from such dangers? You could build a separate garage to house them. That would be a great idea! Well, that’s what this unfortunate guy thought too. The shelter was no match for these giant trees.

Notice the Impala’s Chevy Rally wheel is not body color like the Corvette, it is finished in a polished aluminum look, although the wheel is steel. Also notice the “short” center cap as opposed to the larger “cone” style like on the Vette. The Corvette wheel (in this case) has the center you automatically got when checking off the higher wheel option. Ironically, the short centers were usually found on the Corvette, although an option on any vehicle ordered with Rally Wheels. This example, if you look closely, denotes the Power Disc Brake option. This is a rather rare center piece that promotes (and now celebrates) the first year power disc brakes were offered as a regular production option on the Impala and many other GM master pieces.

Lessons to be learned
So what is there to learn from this bad dream? This lesson is simple – make sure-and-double-darned sure, your insurance covers catastrophic events. Don’t give them any reason or loop holes to escape liability for your treasure. It is NOT just an “old car.” It is history and heritage. It is a future inheritance. 
  Don’t let them say “Oh-you didn’t tell us the tree was there” or “the garage and contents thereof are not covered because the garage isn’t connected to the house” or “we only cover this if caused by an angry penguin in an August snow storm in Alabama.” Check and double check the insurance company's agreed value of the vehicles. If your insurer doesn’t offer you a suitable policy, check into collector car insurance. If you have a tree threatening to fall, don’t bet that it won’t. Bet that it will and take it down yourself. Whatever measures you can take to prevent disaster is good and whatever doesn’t happen allows you to sleep a little better.

— Ron Kidd, The Earth Roaming Car Guy at

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Here is the distinctive rear bumper of the 1968 Impala convertible. Even this sturdy bumper was not made to withstand a garage falling on it.

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