By on March 13, 2012

Picture courtesy

We like to draw readers in with our titles, so the logical question is “what’s completely different about a 60 Chevy?” The 60 Chevy was in a Bob Seeger song. How unique can it really be?

That’s a fair question, but the answer is really obvious. This is a right-hand drive car and it’s been in South Africa since Day 1. Besides that, the 60 Chevy 4-door hardtop isn’t something you see in a Safeway parking lot every Saturday. With all due respect to Mr. Seeger – it’s a rare sighting.

Seth Phalatse is a true-blue Chevy guy. He didn’t grow up listening to Dinah Shore singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet” but the bowtie called to him just the same. He just happened to live in South Africa.

I live in a suburb called Beaulieu-Kyalami which is between two main cities of South Africa called Pretoria and Johannesburg. I am a retired Marketing Executive Director of a leading German Motor Company in South Africa having been with them for 25 years. So, you will note that I have been involved with cars for a considerable time”.

Seth was smitten by the Chevy from the day he first saw one many years ago:

In 1968, a friend of mine bought a 1960 Chevy that is similar to the one attached. This was the most desired car during this era and I became so in love with this car, but unfortunately could not afford it that time. I gave myself a promise that one day I will have to reward myself by owning a 1960 Impala. Obviously, these cars went out of the market, especially this model, and could not be found anywhere in South Africa. In 2005, I gave my son Clifford a picture of this car for him to help me look for this car.
You will note that restoration of classic cars is not at the American level and therefore not much was done about this then. That is why I did not know of a place I could visit for such an advice. 2005 passed with no success. Towards the end of 2006, Clifford called to say he thinks he saw the car I was looking for and we later on found the owner who would not want to part with this car. After much persuasion, he relented and we agreed that I could buy this car.
So, my dreams came true and the beginning of 2007 saw me owning my dream car”.

For a dream to come true there has to be sacrifice and car guys know that all too well-Seth was no exception.

Having been in a motor industry for a long time, I wanted my car to be without any quality problems. This car was 47 years old then and I did not know which part was old, wearing or about to give in. I did not want to get stuck with a car I loved so much. So, what did I have to do to avoid such a disappointment? I was a regular viewer of American Hotrod and wished we would have a “Boyd Coddington” in our country but alas, could not be found. I knew nothing about restoration of classic cars. I came from the OEM side and knew nothing about OERs. And as you can imagine it, I fell into wrong hands with people promising to know about restoration whereas they were indeed panel beaters”.

Seth was undaunted. He took his education at “Car University” with a grim practicality:

“The long and the short part of this is that I paid heavy “School Fees” until after my car was from one incompetent person to another. One day I was waiting for my wife who was doing what they love most, I saw a magazine called SA Hotrods. You can imagine my excitement. I came across and article about a company called Rolling Thunder. By then I had done a lot of research and reading about American Classic cars…”

After doing his homework and filing bad experiences under “L” for learning curve, Seth was ready to complete the project:

“So, when I visited Rolling Thunder, I more or less knew what I was looking for. I had a list from Winning Collection and was happy that Rolling Thunder would do the right job. The car had to be redone all over as nothing was working properly. Had to remove and install a complete electrical harness, the exhaust system; brakes; and the electrical systems”.

The bottom line is always the bottom line. Seth survived the school of hard knocks and now he’s enjoying the feel behind the wheel of a legendary Chevy Impala on South African roads. He might not be seeing the USA in his Chevrolet, but the trip Seth took is the same one every car guy in the world has taken-difficult and bumpy but worth every mile.

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23 Comments on “Car Collector’s Corner: 1960 Chevy Impala 4 Door Hardtop – And Now for Something Completely Different...”

  • avatar

    The idea of putting a huge stylized chrome jet plane on the rear doors, then painting in a white jet trail with chrome trim across the rear fenders to the tail lights, is just flat out rude. And freaking awesome!

    The fact that this also comes with a giant canopy flat top roof makes my heart happy.

    I don’t care if it self destructs like a jet plane into a mountain side when it collides head on with a new Malibu. It is a rolling work of art. Of course someone is going to spend all their money to possess one!

  • avatar

    I never understood how these cars sold when new. The styling screams: INSTANTLY DATED.

    • 0 avatar

      Cars didn’t last long, so buying one was only a three year commitment. Also remember that American families were booming in sizes. Buyers were making babies left and right and the kids they already had on hand were growing. Folks today tend to forget how necessary it was to get a new car because of the biological need to reproduce. Folks needed to replace their cars far more oftent than today.

      The planned obsolescence wasn’t just on the automotive size – it was also that American men and women were busy building America by birthing new Americans.

      There is a huge difference stylingwise between 1960 GM cars and 1961 GM cars, but the same basic car beneath the changes. GM beat Studebaker, Hudson, Packard, DeSoto, Edsel, Continental, Imperial, Nash and Crosley by implementing annual model changes they could not afford.

      It cost $100 million each year to do this and it killed the competition.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s the rocket ship that kills it for me. I take one look at that and think, “It’s something only a sixteen year old boy would want, or someone with the emotional development of a sixteen year old boy.”

    • 0 avatar

      skor, you had to be there…it was called “optimism”

    • 0 avatar

      Skor, as the son of a Chevy dealer back then, the attitude was real different. People who bought a new car usually traded them in by by the third year and almost never kept their car past 50k, and the car was in its third owner and completely worn out by the time it hit 100k. Next, the attitude of the time quietly mentioned that owning a used car was the domain of the ‘high school kid’ or the ‘loser’. As in, someone who was enough of a failure in life and society that they couldn’t come up with a new car every three years.

      I remember very well my three block long street in a middle-class suburb of my town. 18 houses on the street. 17 cars, none of which were more than three years old. And replaced right on schedule.

      The 18th car. I seem to remember a late 40’s Ford. And the house was the shabbiest place on the street, and the family there was kinda looked down upon.

      Welcome to American suburban life in the late 50’s. Yeah, life was real different back then.

  • avatar

    Well Skor, they did. Gotta remember the context:

    1) One out of every four cars sold in the USA was a Chevrolet. The brand truly ran deep. Plus the ’60 was a chance to redeem for the over-the-top ’59’s, rushed to market in reaction to Mopar’s ’57 “Forward Look”.

    2) The competition’s offerings that year ranged from dubious to just plain weird. I like the ’60 Plymouth and ’60 Ford but the styling of both wasn’t received as well as Chevy’s.

    Plus, IIRC, the ’60 build quality was superior to the ’59s and especially the ’58s.

    Today we look at the ’59-’60 line thru the lens of Bill Mitchell’s laser-sharp-in-contrast ’61-’64s. GM’s philosophy in those days was to build a car that would exceed your expectations and make you happy…until the next one came out, which was supposed to make yours appear dated and stale in comparison.

    Mission accomplished…or planned obsolescence?

    The reader can decide.

  • avatar

    skor: Not instantly dated, but pretty soon dated. But despite the fact that I hated this look for a long time, I have come to kind of like it, in the same way I like swoopy, separate fenders in the cars of the ’30s. It pretty much epitomizes the times.

    I also wonder if one day we’ll be looking at the current Hyundais and thinking, “I never understood how these cars sold when new. The styling screams: INSTANTLY DATED.”

    • 0 avatar

      I also wonder if one day we’ll be looking at the current Hyundais and thinking, “I never understood how these cars sold when new. The styling screams: INSTANTLY DATED.”

      I’m already saying that. The Sonata was groundbreaking. But every look-alike model since then looks more and more like a joke. I can only imagine someone in 20 years saying “What were they thinking with all those wrinkly-looking cars?”

      • 0 avatar

        The Sonata has aged quickly to me, too. (As has the Mercedes CLS that it more or less copied.)

        Someone on TTAC should do an article on what makes a car design timeless or dated.

        I personally think timelessness is twofold:

        Originality (trying to copy something done a few years earlier, by another company, will look slavish)

        Not forcing “look-at-me” details that attract attention in a negative way (i.e. Altezza lights)

        To me, “timeless” is something like the Jeep CJ/Wrangler, Mercedes G-Class, Honda S2000, 1993 Mazda RX-7, or Porsche 911 (except the 996).

        Those are all very original and relatively conservative (but still innovative) designs. They did not shout “look at me”, but rather “This is who I am”.

  • avatar

    I started on what was then, called the Chev line, in 1972. We didn’t build right hand drive,or convertibles.

    The older guys {about 35 or so} talked of working in the “right drive” group. I guess it was considered “the” job to have.

    I do remember somebody telling me that the only RH I.P. used was a 59 Chev,and they used it in Pontiac and Chev RH for 59 and 60.

  • avatar

    Is TTAC trying to hijack CC or something? Family feud perhaps? This really belongs on the other site, but I’ll comment anyway.

    This is the car I learned to drive in. Dad bought a 1960 Chevy Impala Sports Sedan in May, 1965 after he got rid of the old 1955 Dodge Royal Lancer that pretty much gave up the ghost.

    Dad’s Impala was white with an off-white stripe. Tri-toned brown interior. AM radio, 283 powerglide. That was it, but boy, it was one of the sharpest, snazziest cars on our street! Quite a good car, too.

    BTW, I never hit my knee on the dog-leg door cutout, either, so all the whiners out there who complained about that, learn how to properly move!

    Nothing but wonderful memories and experiences in and around that car: learning a bit about body work to fix the developing rust, applying walnut-grain contact paper to the jet stripe – yeah – it really looked sharp and unique, too – cruising around town with all windows down and vents cranked out – just a great car.

    Sadly, when dad replaced it three years later, he really wanted to give it to me, but needed it for the trade-in, but bringing home an even more gorgeous, red 1966 Impala sports sedan in 1968 made it worth it!

    If this shows up on CC, I’m copying this comment, too!

    • 0 avatar

      My memory of the 1960 Chevrolet was that I finally talked dad into an Impala convertible for his company car that year. Normally, he’d get an Impala 2-door hardtop, 283 or 327 (depending on year) and Powerglide – because it’d be an easy car to sell the next model year once he got his new one.

      Unfortunately, I forgot to consider mom. That top was put down twice in the year he had it. Both times for Sunday family drives (a weekly occurrence as much family religion as mass earlier that morning). And both times mom bitch bitterly the entire trip about how it was messing her hair, she was too cold, too hot in the sun, etc., etc., etc. For ’61 the 2-door hardtop was back.

      Dad’s final chance was the ’62-65’s were SS hardtops. Dad did like the sportiness.

  • avatar

    I was always amazed at how modern a new Chevrolet looked, but how dated it seemed after a year or two.

    I think the Toyota Camry has an even stronger talent for this now. Can’t wait to buy a new one, can’t wait to get rid of the old one!

  • avatar

    here’s a link to a photo of me playing in front of my mother’s ’61 impala convertible. this was probably about 1964.

  • avatar

    @ Zackman TTAC isn’t trying to beat up CC. TTAC is just trying to keep us old guys interested.

    I’m still miss the “65 Chev project” piece.

  • avatar

    Pete Seeger, but Bob Seger

  • avatar
    red stick

    If we’re going to refer to pop culture, we should get it right. It’s Bob Seger. And to be fair to Mr. Seger, he was primarily interested in the back seat. :)

  • avatar

    Jerry is much more of a Bob Seger fan than a Pete Seeger fan so I don’t know what he had in mind with the extra e-and Jerry won the Grade 6 spelling bee in our school system. We have been doing stories like this Chevy on our site since we launched in April 2009 to satiate our addiction to the old vehicle culture.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    An uncle was a Pontiac dealer so that’s what we always bought.The old man was still getting Fords as company cars and Mom had what may have been the most expensive car he ever bought- a 1960 nine passenger Bonneville Safari in an odd acid green metallic with matching interior – too bad Mom wrecked it almost immediately . But the cars I thought were cool were the 1959-60 Bonneville Vista roof hardtop sedans a couple of the relatives had- it felt so cool, so modern, so airy in the back seats. Very similiar to the roofline of the 60 Chevy.Several college friends fad similiar 60 Chevies, one in a two-tone blue and white color scheme like this one, which the guy drove the wrong way and crashed into a police car.

  • avatar

    No reference to the RHD 1959 Chevy in Mad Max?

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