Gary Redwing of Chatfield shows an original ad for the 1966 Chevy Impala as he stands next to his own Chevy Impala from that year.  PHOTOS BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
Gary Redwing of Chatfield shows an original ad for the 1966 Chevy Impala as he stands next to his own Chevy Impala from that year. PHOTOS BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
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Gary Redwing of Chatfield travels the Chevrolet way, Jet-smooth and original.

According to an original ad for the 1966 Chevy Impala, "Again this year, Impala affords fine-car features while sparing the high expense. Unmistakably '66 are the newly styled fenders, grille, bumpers and smart-looking wraparound taillights. Every distinctive Impala has front and rear wheel opening moldings; black-accented side and rear moldings; slender sill and hood windsplit moldings; and bright roof drip moldings. Six ways to go Impala: sport coupe, sport sedan, convertible and 4-door sedan, 4-door 2- and 3-seat versions of the sport coupe and convertible single out the Impala Super Sport series. Traveling the Chevrolet way in the Jet-smoother Impala is more relaxing than ever."

The local Chevrolet enthusiast has a 1966 Chevy Impala four-door hardtop sedan, a make that's very rare because most hardtops at that time were two-door.

"The fact that it's a four-door hardtop was the first reason I got it, and the second reason I got it was that it's in all original condition, with original paint, original spare tire that's still good and never touched the road, original hubcaps, and it obviously spent most of its life in storage," Redwing explained.

He bought the car in May of 2011 and it had 35,000 miles on it at the time. He had seen this particular car several times at classic car shows in the area, including Striker's in Stewartville and at the Eagles in Rochester.

"I'd spent a whole year looking for one like it on the internet," Redwing said, "and I found one in California that was awful, not worth bringing home, and this one cost the same as that, so that made this look pretty good."

He found his car in Old Cars Weekly Magazine in February of 2011, and it made him jump. "I didn't want to let it get away," he said. "It had been through an auction at Iola, Wis., where they have a yearly big car auction. It came from Oregon, Wis., and I suspect that sometime in the '80s, it ended up in Minnesota."

Popping the hood release showed off a mint condition engine, which was as clean as it can get, Redwing said, and as beautiful as the original sales literature portrayed it to be.

"Hardtop models have new perimeter frames and body mounts that contribute to a more silent, softer ride. And every '66 Impala is available with the new standard 155-hp Six or 195-hp V8, depending on model selected. Other V8s, many new, can be specified from Chevrolet's engine lineup, including 220-, 275-, 325-, 390- and 425-hp versions. The standard 3-Speed gearbox is now fully synchronized in all forward speeds. Additional transmissions that can be specified: 4-Speed fully synchronized; Powerglide and Turbo Hydra-matic automatics; and Overdrive."

Redwing observed, "The small eight-cylinder engine and three-speed transmission with overdrive tells me it had to be a car someone ordered...it wouldn't come up any other way. And I like that you can fix these cars, even though I don't have to fix this."

He's also enamored of the comfortable interior which provides him a chance to relax on a Sunday drive or on the road to a car show, as he and his wife, Donna, each drive a car to the shows - she rolls down the road in style in his 1967 Chevrolet Nova sedan because it has automatic transmission, and he takes the Impala and chills out.

"Slip inside the new Impala and discover its pleasant surroundings. You can choose from up to six color schemes, depending on model: fawn, turquoise, red, blue, green and black. As for upholstery, Impala Sport Coupe, Sport Sedan and 4-Door Sedan are fashioned in new tufted textured pattern cloth with deeply padded vinyl bolsters."

The '66 Impala also offered a padded instrument panel with brushed aluminum across the lower portion, chrome controls and an electric clock.

Polishing the "Marina Blue" fenders, Redwing stated, "I've taken the Impala to car shows from the Iowa border to Red Wing to Cannon Falls, Cresco, Mabel and Decorah. Between the two cars, I've gotten 75 to 80 trophies. I didn't want to get into that at first, but after the first couple shows, I got hooked."

He's run out of places to put his trophies, so he keeps a couple in the trunk for conversation pieces, a way to point out that he also has the four-door Nova, a plain four-door sedan, but that's where most of the trophies have come from because it's also in original condition.

Redwing added, "The Nova started out at Suburban Chevrolet in Minneapolis, and it was an older couple that bought it. They never drove it in the winter, and when they passed away, the car came to Rochester, where their daughter lived. She put it in the garage and never drove it, but a neighbor across the street saw it once in a while and asked if it was for sale. He ended up buying it from her in 1987. It had 15,000 miles on it when he bought it, and 10 years later, I got it from him with 19,000 miles on it. It now has 39,000 miles. It has the second set of tires on it, but it has the original spare, and all the details are in their proper places, like the jacking instructions."

Gary's collection is limited to only two cars because that's the garage space he has. As new cars are rolling off the production line with their own sales literature touting "Bluetooth-ready" systems and other tech gadgets, Redwing anticipates the coming spring and summer, when he can open the garage doors, get in his easy-to-fix "Jet-smoother" cars and travel down the road.

It's his Chevrolet way into retirement, as free as he might have been in '66 when his cars were new.