Picture courtesy mystarcollectorcar.com
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.
For more of J Sutherland’s work go to mystarcollectorcar.com