Friday, April 27, 2018

Abandoned 1963 Chevy Impala SS 4-speed rescued from the woods

After 40 years the Junkyard Life team haul out this classic Chevy.

Gold in the Hills (with FOUR gears!) We have a barn find project that we call "the Prospector." However, Junkyard Life staffer Keith Lively really is a prospector. He found a host of seemingly forgotten Chevrolets in the deep woods of Alabama. With his trusty blue oxen (a homebuilt Jeep named “Money Burner”), Keith “Paul Bunyan” Lively began extracting the vehicles from the forest. Everyone scored on this Bowtie find, but Keith brought home the gold! It wasn’t easy. Our rusty gold rescue team had to spend a few days in the woods clearing trees to gain access to the cars and create an exit trail to haul them out. 

Factory 4-speed Impala SS console still rests between the buckets seats.

In the sticks
  The last and coolest car we dug up and dragged out of the woods was (hold on to your pick axes, fellow automotive prospectors) a 1963 Impala Super Sport! Now that the lumberjacking was done, we still couldn’t get it out. Unless, we had a monster truck and a four-wheel-drive tractor. We just happen to have those! I (Ron) drove Keith’s LS-powered, blue oxen “Money Burner” Jeep pulling a trailer and Keith trudged his way in with a tractor. Truly, nothing else could have done it. Jody pitched in, by pulling, pushing and waving directions while filming the whole spectacle (stay tuned for video). 

Weathered paint around the SS emblem is a thing of beauty.
Weathered paint around the SS emblem is a thing of beauty. 

The Junkyard Life Extraction Team does it again!
  It was a true SS with bucket seats and a 4-speed. Score! It took Keith a couple of years of occasional checking in with the property owner to get hold of this gaggle of Chevrolet goodness, but bless his heart — he did it. The Impala has so many great parts and even a spare set of bucket seats in the trunk. Unfortunately, the 327-V8 and 4-speed are gone, but it was as if they were removed and the car just pushed to the side. What? Who could have committed such a crime against vintage car humanity? 

This is how the ’63 Impala looked, among trees and several other abandoned Chevys. That’s a 1968 Impala coupe in foreground.

What we found out
  You know how as of late everyone wants to put an LS based power plant in everything with wheels short of their lawn mowers? Well, in the 1960’s and early 1970’s Chevrolet’s 327 c.i.d. was the hot power ticket. Street racers, track racers, street machines and anyone with an ego and a small block wanted the 327. The former owner of our Chevy garden was no different. By the time we found our third full-size Chevy in the woods, we sensed a pattern. Sometimes things are what they seem and it seemed someone targeted full-size Chevys packing 327’s, removed their power plants and discarded the cars.  

A modified Jeep TJ with a Chevy LS-6.0 pulls the 1963 Impala home.
The 1963 Impala SS spent the last 40 years in the woods until the Junkyard Life team, led by Keith Lively, haul it out.

Anybody’s guess?
  So the land owner snagged the 327s. What we don’t know is where they went or even what kind of Chevy he was racing or just running back and forth to work. Thirty-or-more years later, we got what was left. That sounds like something we would do, doesn’t it? 

We thought it looked gold. Maybe it has been repainted, although faded now.
Paint code 932 listed on trim tag of the 1963 Impala SS.

Color me Gold 

  If you can’t imagine how cool this 1963 Super Sport is, try to imagine what it was — a very stunningly beautiful and infinitely fun car. Code 932 paint and code 858 trim comes back to be Saddle Tan with Saddle interior. Although the Impala appears to be code 920 Autumn Gold, either way a very handsome appearance. It was not loaded with options. The original buyer checked off all the fast things his budget allowed. We know he could have gone faster, but that was expensive. This was a nice car. So he opted for the 4-speed and 327 combo. No air conditioning or power things, just self shifting fun in the upper level Impala body with Super Sport trim. 
  You would have to spend some money to outrun it. Just ask the Biscayne guys who ran Super Stock at the time.  

No longer equipped with engine or transmission, the Impala will hit he road under Lively’s care.
Loaded on the trailer, the Impala moves for the first time in decades.

I smell rubber in the future
  All is well that ends well, that is, us getting a 1963 Impala with three pedals. But, will this be the end of the road for this golden beauty? Absolutely not! If Keith does not keep it for himself (he is our Impala expert at Junkyard Life) we will find it a good home that insures us that someone will be chirping the daylights out of second gear! 

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Jody Potter, left, and Keith Lively study the situation before they move the trailer under the rear of the ’63 Impala.

Junkyard Life’s Impala Fun Facts:
  • When we first set eyes on the ’63 SS, our hearts stopped when we saw the fender emblem — from 20-feet away it looked like a 409. 
  • Aforementioned emblem actually was a 300 emblem (1964 Chevelle issue) that did not belong on the car.
  • Junkyard Life staffer Ron Kidd spent an hour researching before determining the emblem was incorrect.
  • We thought for a minute that the car was a 50 year anniversary Impala built in Anniversary Gold code 927. However, we were off by a year. That was done in 1962. None of us here at Junkyard Life are sure it is not a re-paint in that very color.
  • We’ve read that only 300 or so of the anniversary cars were built, which made Ron wonder about the validity of his conclusion, thus more research on that darn emblem. Jody and Keith told him that from the beginning.
  • The 50 Millionth car built by GM was a gold 1955 Bel-Air. Thus, at the time people were confused when they again celebrated a 50th in 1962. This time it was years and not number of cars built.
  • Smokey Yunick was loaned a 409 Impala in 1963 and didn’t like it. Chevrolet engineers cold shouldered him for a year after all the bad press. 
  • The Beach Boys loved the 409 Impala and wrote a song about it. One of the Wilson brothers owned one and was known to engage in red light battles.
  • The advertising campaign for 1963 Impalas was “Jet-Smooth.”
  • The full-size Chevrolet line was using a new modern frame, known as the X-Frame. It was to provide more rigidity and strength. Crash tests indicated that the frame didn’t work as well during side impact collisions.

As found condition of the 1963 Impala SS 4-speed abandoned in Alabama woods.
When you find a classic car in the woods what do you do? If it is a 1963 Impala SS we bring it home — with permission of course.

Detail from driver’s seat of the 1963 Impala SS 4-speed console with bright swirled trim details.

1963 Impala SS 4-speed interior holds buckets seats.

Saddle interior holding up on most of the interior including rear seats.

A tractor was needed to lift the front end of the ’63 Impala SS to better ease it onto the trailer.

Keith Lively used chains, tractors and his monster Jeep, “Money Burner,” to yank the Impala SS out of the woods.

Loaded up ’63 Impala SS is ready to move.

Shiny Gold or Saddle Tan paint visible on area once shielded by the round tail light panel on the ’63 Impala SS.
Shiny Gold or Saddle Tan paint visible on area once shielded by the tail light panel on the ’63 Impala SS.

Quarter panels look surprisingly good on the abandoned ’63 Impala SS.

Back in the 1970s older cars did not have much value once wrecked. This one was basically scrapped out for the engine.
The damaged fender is only body damage on the ’63 Impala SS and was likely the cause of its demise. Back in the 1970s, older cars did not have much value once wrecked. This one was basically scrapped out for the 327 engine.

Ron Kidd holds a wiggly reptile that he found living under wet piles of leaves in the ’63 Impala’s trunk.

Read about another car that was among the abandoned finds in the woods: A 1970 Chevelle!

Do you have a great classic or muscle car barn find story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at & Ron Kidd at

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Cars in Yards: 1973 Mercury Comet

The Comet appears to be awaiting restoration although complete and not rusty, a tune-up, tires, brake job may be needed before its road worthy.

Move over, Maverick! The phrase “Ford Lincoln Mercury” did not accurately represent the pecking order of affordability. If it did, it would have read “Ford Mercury Lincoln” on the dealer signage. The Ford Maverick, introduced in 1971, was developed as a replacement for the Ford Falcon that traditionally offered the frugal motoring alternative to a used car. Maverick was an affordable means of transportation and served many families. Mercury offered a slightly nicer platform of what Ford had going on across the hall. Built on the same platform, the Comet was Mercury’s version of the Ford Maverick. Although the Mercury Comet nomenclature was nothing new, this body style was a compact car, no longer the mid-sized Comet of the 1966-1969 generation.

Gravity pulling at the headliner.
Cloth bench seat is in great condition on this 1973 Mercury Comet. Watch your head, gravity is pulling hard on the headliner. 

Comfy cruiser
   This 1973 Mercury Comet was a great example. Example of what? It was essentially a Maverick with a few nicer features for your money. Check out what you would get. Simple, yet a tad nicer. This one was optioned with cloth seats and air conditioning. It also had a 302-V8 with a C-4 automatic transmission and a moderately geared 3.0:1 ratio non-locking rear end. The color is awesome in the seldom seen code 5H Ginger. Rolling stock — predictable hub caps and 14-inch white walls. 

Nice, right? Just wait, these may be the hot rods of the future.
Close your eyes and imagine a 1973 muscle car. Now open them and check out the Comet. Nice, right? Just wait, these may be the hot rods of the future. 

Look deep
   Why is this a find? Well, it is if you are a Mercury enthusiast. Even if you are not you still have to appreciate the fact that this overlooked car is here at all. A lot can happen between 1973 and now. Consider this: For every three Mavericks built and sold in 1973, there was only one Comet sold. Also, how many times along the way has someone needed an unabused 302? Somehow this one was hidden from the engine hoist of potential swappers. 

Blue air cleaner lid denotes the 302-2 barrel carb on the 1973 Mercury Comet.


   Our feature car was sold new in Tennessee. It was purchased by an older lady and was driven sparingly. (Editor’s note: Lets’ all watch and see how long Ron can keep this going without using the age old cliché “only driven to church and the grocery store.” We know he wants to.) Obviously, not a world traveler or a commuter, she managed to keep the miles low and stayed on top of all preventive maintenance. The car stayed with her until the late 1980’s when it was purchased by a gentleman in North Alabama. The current owner took possession of the Ginger brown Comet in the early 2000’s. He is only the third owner of this rare Mercury. 

Bling before bling was a thing.
Aluminum trim is hung all over the Comet. Bling! Economy compact car with class. 

Cheap, muscle car of the future
  Maverick/Comet owners we salute you and hope you continue to save and restore these cars. Many may not understand you or appreciate you, but we do! This generation of Comets and Mavericks are an affordable option to those who want a vintage American classic on the cheap. Rear wheel drive, V8 engine, easy to maintain, has chrome bumpers, 2-door. Check yes on all that! Undoubtedly these are a sure bet to increase in value as the bellybutton (everybody has one) Mustangs, Camaros, Tri-Fives become too costly to buy and too valuable to daily drive. 
  You can count on Junkyard Life to stop and take pictures when we see one on the street or in a yard. The fate of our feature car? To be brought back to life soon. The gentleman who owns this appreciates it and refuses to let it be a parts car. It is indeed in good hands.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

1973 Mercury Comet script sail panel emblem.

Junkyard Life’s Maverick/Comet Fun Facts

  • Hot Wheels gave Maverick fans a treat in the early 1970’s with a few variations of a Maverick with some custom touches such as hide-away headlights. It was called The Mighty Maverick and later The Street Snorter.
  • Then in 2012 Hot Wheels offered fans a Super Treasure Hunt 1971  Grabber and another custom Maverick in 2018. Represented!
  • Due to their light weight, low cost and the chassis ability to sustain a V8, many Mavericks and Comets ended up on the drag strip.
  • To level the playing field for the Pony car wars (then on the decline) Ford offered a performance oriented Grabber package on the Maverick and Mercury offered up the GT package on the Comet. The alternative Mustang?
  • The Mercury Comet buyer was a rare demographic. If essentially the same car was offered in the Maverick, how many buyers with a little more budget would have opted for another car? 
  • No 1970 Comet offered on any chassis in 1970 but the 1971 models started production in April of 1970.
  • The Falcon line, which was replaced by the Maverick/Comet line, was offered in several body styles including a station wagon. Maverick/Comet was not offered in a wagon. A four door sedan was as close as you could come.
  • Why so few Mercury Comets? Do the math ….according to forums they made 282,218 Mavericks in 1973, but only 82,716 Comets. They were not here to begin with!
  • Our feature car was purchased to be a parts car for a Maverick project the owner has going on. He got it home and deemed it too nice to be a parts car. Whew!

The giant bumper, push guards do detract from the overall clean lines of the Comet, but what is your safety worth to you?

Sleeper 1973 Comet with 14-inch wheels and a V8. These cars have been frowned upon and ridiculed for many years but we believe the “little old lady” cars will make a strong investment. Really. 

Original Comet decal for tires/air pressure in mint condition on the original paint.

You can still find an original 302-V8/210hp Mercury Comet in driver condition for a fraction of what 1964-1970 muscle car projects are commanding. Those projects need a full rebuild. You can grab a Comet and take off! 

Do you have a Comet story, a great classic or muscle car barn find story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at & Ron Kidd at