Once upon a time, Americans chose sides when it came to car makes. Loyalties were strong. Allegiances to Chevy or Ford were common. Some people are still embarrassed about owning a car made by the "other" brand. Decades later, car clubs are full of these loyalists. Take the Minnesota Impala Club, for example. With a focus on what was Chevy's top-of-the-line full-size car, and specifically on 1958 to 1970 Impalas, the club is certainly designed to attract "Chevy people."
Started 10 years ago, the club has about 50 members plus their families. It occasionally sponsors a car show - a regional National Impala Association show is on the 2009 summer docket - but the area Impala club mostly does the typical car-club things. These include monthly meetings, a monthly newsletter and social gatherings. Members go on informal cruises and take their Impalas to car shows. Events in Barnum and St. Peter are regular stops on club members' calendars. The club also hosts an official 150-mile fall color cruise and events like mystery cruises.
Though the club's focus, like those of many car clubs, is narrow, members sub-divide themselves even further. President Mike LeFlay, for example, likes the earlier Impalas and their six taillights. He owns a 1958 hardtop with a big-block 348 cubic-inch V-8 he spent five years restoring and a 1965 SS just like the one he owned in high school. Le Flay, who says full-size cars are easier to work on, cites Impalas' ride - "It's like floating on a cloud" - as a big reason why he likes the cars.
Club vice president Duane Hayes, on the other hand, likes the lines of Impalas from the second half of the 1960s. A self-described "Chevy man" who had an Impala Z24 in 1967, he again owns one of these 385-hp models. (The Z24, a rare model with a domed hood, has an Impala body though its only insignia read "SS 427.")
Member Jody Anderson, owner of the National Impala Association, which provides a hobbyist magazine to nearly 2,000 "members" around the world, some from the Minnesota Impala Club, has an even narrower interest. He's partial to '64 Impalas. In the parts business since his teen years, he says he's owned 110 '64s and currently has a restored highway patrol car from that year.
Anderson recently purchased his association and moved it to south Minneapolis from Spearfish, S.D. He says it's the only one of its kind now that a former competitor aims its magazine more at the newsstand.
For more information on the Minnesota Impala Club, call 612-922-5471 or 651-773-0427 or visit www.minnesotaimpalaclub.com.