As a kid, Dwight Bower could hardly believe his ears while sitting in the Chevrolet dealership with his father and older brother It was a young teenage boy's dream—and a family memory that has remained vibrant for 50 years.
"I remember in the spring of 1964 how we were sitting with our dad in the car salesman's office," Dwight said with a smile. "My dad was there ordering a brand new Impala SS with a 300-hp 327, a four speed and Positraction. Yes, he did!
"After what seemed like many months of waiting, we all went with Dad to pick up his new Chevy," he went on. "My brother got to sit up front while I sat in the back. I remember my dad moving that stick shift and at that moment I fell in love with this car. I dreamed that one day I'd be driving it around showing it off to my buddies. I would be the envy of them all."
With time, this young farm boy grew and finally crossed that threshold to his first step of real independence—he got a driver's license. The SS was still there, and his dream seemed closer than ever. All he needed was the right opportunity.
"For many years, our family would travel to an out-of-town horse sale on the third Saturday of every month," Dwight said. "My father would always drive his truck because he didn't want the Impala to get scratched. One particular Saturday I said I wasn't going. I had plans. I made a copy of the key and I was finally going to get that day to impress my buddies. After waiting to make sure he was gone, I drove it to the Texaco station where all the guys with the hot cars hung out.
"I walked around with pride knowing that the car I had was as hot as anyone's there," Dwight continued. "With a little encouragement, I showed how I could lay down rubber with the best of them. When I got home, I wiped the car down and thought he'd never know."
Of course, his father did know because he checked the odometer before and after his son's trip. It cost him his driving privileges for a few months, but left him with a lesson and a story he has remembered ever since.
The object of young Dwight's affection (and trouble) was this 1964 Impala SS, which was Chevrolet's final installment of the popular 1961–'64 line of full-sized Chevys. Based upon the venerable B-body platform, the Impala was the top of the line over the Bel Air and Biscayne models—and quite popular with the buying public, too. While the 1962–'63 models are arguably the most popular from this era today, the big 1964 Impala was a handsome car with plenty of creature comforts, chrome and trim. There were 250- and 300-horsepower versions of the amazing 327 available, along with three different 409s, with the 425-horsepower model residing at the top of the food chain.
Performance minded buyers had the choice of either the M20 or the legendary M21 rock-crusher four-speed transmissions. New under the hood that year was the first transistorized ignition, which was an option. Other luxury add-ons included power brakes, steering, windows & seats, air conditioning, tilt-steering, AM-FM stereo radio, a vinyl roof and, naturally, the Powerglide automatic.
Dwight's father, however, had other, sporting plans for this fullsize. As the young lad listened on, a Palamar Red SS was specified with the L74 300 hp/327 that had 10.5:1 compression, a Muncie four-speed, Positraction, 7.50x14 polyester tires, and an AM radio. One dealer-installed extra was the driver's side spotlight, which could not be factory ordered after '63. His father insisted on it; he never bought a new car without one. The total price delivered was $3,055.00. It was something special that his pop enjoyed for a long time.
"I never gave up on the '64 SS, and always let my dad know I was willing to buy it when he wanted to sell," Dwight recalled. "In 1995, he finally said he'd sell it to me for $11,000. The car was in fair condition with just over 70,000 original miles and a little bit of rust. I'm sure it really wasn't worth that much, but there was no way I was going to let anybody else have it. So, I bought it and was finally able to drive the car of my childhood dreams. Funny, though . . . I've never burned rubber with it since then!
"I drove this car until 2005," he added. "It had been smoking and I eventually pulled the engine to rebuild it. After that, I thought that I might as well pull the body off and replace the bushings. Things just kind of happened from there. I never intended to make it a show car. I just wanted it to be as nice as the day my Dad, brother, and I drove off in it from the dealer's lot."
In the end, Dwight treated the old family member to a complete frame-off restoration. The original X-frame was sand blasted, then powdercoated by B&B Specialty Coatings in Henry, Virginia, while the coil springs, shocks and bushings were replaced. The body was painted by Gleamers Auto Body & Paint in Martinsville, Virginia, and then finished with a new grille and taillight lenses. Tri-City Plating Co. of Elizabethton, Tennessee, re-chromed the bumpers. Some of the original side and rocker moldings were replaced, while others were painstakingly cleaned and polished.
On the inside, only the headliner, carpet and seat covers were replaced. Everything was cleaned, painted or polished. While that was happening, Jay Foley Racing Engines in Stuart, Virginia, rebuilt the 327 with all original parts.
Other than that, Dwight did all of the other work in his home garage. The '64's since won numerous awards, and was voted the Best Fullsize at Bristol, Tennessee, in the Super Chevy Best of the Best online voting poll.
"My dad passed away before I finished the car, but after I completed the restoration, I brought my mom over to look at it," Dwight recounted. "She smiled, wiped away a few tears and then told me she was so glad that the car was mine and not hers. She knew my dad always loved the car, but she hated it. Recently, though, my sister said that she thought my dad would have been very proud of what I did with the car. I hope he is . . . I hope he is."
Dwight Bower managed to turn those early teenage memories and stories into something tangible. Not only does he get to sit behind the wheel as a reminder of his tire-burning teen adventure, but he can still relive the rumble, vibration and sense of motion that his late father felt as well. He kept it all in the family.