It isn’t easy keeping a year-round convertible daily driver rust-free in Michigan, but Jan Fultz knows the secret. She was fresh out of school in 1961 and while riding with a friend on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn her attention was drawn to a 1958 Chevrolet Impala convertible parked on a used-car lot. Chevrolet first introduced the Impala in 1958 as a sub-series of the Bel Air model.
was in the market for her first car so she planned to stop at the car
lot on the return trip. Unfortunately, the car was not on the lot when
she returned. Luckily, she says, the Chevrolet had not been sold, but
had only been moved inside the building for detailing.
inspection, the used car proved to be as nice as she first thought it
to be. The then three-year-old Impala had been driven 25,000 miles when
she purchased it on Oct. 9, 1961.
The convertible was exactly what
she wanted. The red/black/silver vinyl upholstery and red carpeting
along with the Rio Red dashboard padding contrasted with the Snowcrest
White exterior. There’s no power steering, power brakes or power
windows. “That means there is less to go wrong,” Fultz observes.
250 horsepower developed by the 348-cubic-inch V-8 engine is
transferred to the 14-inch rear wheels through the automatic Powerglide
Soon after acquiring the 1958 Impala the white
convertible top was replaced. “I think it cost about $67,” Fultz says,
“and that included a new rear window.” The replacement top is still on
the car, usually hidden under a red boot.
For the next decade,
Fultz drove her white convertible on a daily basis. Her secret to
keeping the notorious rust monster at bay was maintaining a clean car 12
months of the year, not an easy task in Michigan. In the winter, she
regularly would attach a garden hose to the hot water heater in the
basement and thread the hose out the basement window to the driveway.
There she could wash road salt and chemicals off her car. She has driven
her Impala as far as Florida and Massachusetts and never once has it
When Fultz got her father’s Chevelle in 1971 she was
able to semi-retire her convertible. “It has been used as a show car
since 1974,” she says.
When new, the base price for a vehicle like
hers was $2,841. The 3,523-pound Impala is loaded with enough optional
extras that Fultz guesses the original owner more than likely paid in
excess of $4,000.
Although the dual-exhaust pipes exit under the
rear bumper, there are two dummy exhaust ports on the sides of the rear
fenders. Atop each rear fender is a radio antenna, but only the left one
is functional. Style was king in 1958, so the right antenna was
strictly for show.
only the outboard two parking lights are operational. The inboard pair
is not wired to anything, but the four parking lights look nice below
the four headlights, the first year Chevrolet had them. The Impala does
have two working spotlights. There are two exterior mirrors and two door
At the rear of the Impala is a dealer-installed
option, Fultz explains. It’s the continental kit, which is locked in
place. A hidden lever releases the tire that then tilts away from the
car, providing access to the 20-gallon gasoline tank, as well as to the
trunk. Inside the trunk is a well on the right side where a spare tire
would be if there were not one outside. “The trunk is so big you don’t
even know it’s there,” Fultz says.
The 20-gallons of gas are necessary, Fultz says, because her thirsty
V-8 returns only 10 miles per gallon. In 1981, a trusted body shop owner
suggested that if she was going to keep the car forever she might want
to have all the trim removed to verify the condition of the metal behind
the metal. Fultz agreed and when all the trim was removed she had the
car stripped and resprayed in the original Snowcrest White. Fultz
reports that her Impala’s odometer now reads close to 87,000 miles, the
most recent miles accumulated near her Howell, Mich., home.