OPINION
Published on August 24, 2011 By Big Fat Daddy In Misc

348 engine1958 impala58 del reyengine283-2three prong spinner

A 348 (with those wonky looking rocker covers), a 1958 Impala; a 1958
Del Rey; and a 283 engine...and a three prong spinner (couldn't find a four
prong)

The Curtis brothers were butchers, working the meat counter at Stoney's
Rock and Roll Market on Jamacha Road south of El Cajon. They worked hard and
saved a bunch of money. One afternoon they took their savings to Hatch Chevrolet
and drove away in a brand new 1958 Impala. It was red with a black interior;
they pulled the stock hubcabs and put on four-prong spinners (back in the day
they didn't spin, they were just called that). The car was powered by a 348
cubic-inch engine with three two-barrel carburators and a three-speed
transmission with overdrive. Other than those hubcaps, the car was totally stock
(just the way it rolled off the assembly line). The boys drove it around El
Cajon for a couple of weeks "Just to break it in some". Then they took off on a
road trip to Utah. They went out to Bonneville and asked if they could run
through the timed mile to see how fast their car would go. It must have been a
slow week because despite all the activity going on there, they wereallowed to
take a run. They were pretty nervous about it; they had to be reminded to remove
their hubcaps, and they borrowed a helmet to made their run. Larry drove and Jim
watched by the timer. I think they had a mile to run up to speed and then passed
through a measured mile for an official time. I don't remember exactly how fast
they went ( I think it was something in the neighborhood of 130 mph) but it was
the fastest production car to go through the mile that week and I believe the
whole year. They framed the time slip and hung it on the wall behind the butcher
counter.

I started high school two years later and the Curtis Chevy was still
one of the best-known street racers in town. By the time I was a senior, the
Chevy was pretty beat-up looking, faded spots on the hood and trunk deck, a few
scratches and dents...but Larry could still double-clutch it into first gear out
on the freeway and blast away from just about anyone.

Jim Biggers was a friend of Curtis'. He had a '58, too. It was a 348
with three deuces and a three-speed with overdrive, just like Curtis' Chevy. But
Jim had taken his down to Tijuana and had a custom paint job and overstuffed,
leather tuck and roll upholstery installed. Riding with Jim on a cruise night
was a guaranteed social boost. It was uncomfortable in the back seat; the
overstuffed seats and padded headliner meant a guy my size would sit almost
doubled over, but no one complained because the surge produced when he opened up
those triple carbs and ran away from any challenger...well...it was worth a
little discomfort.

My brother Skip sold his '56 Chevy 210 and bought a '58 Chevy Del Rey,
a cheaper model than the Impala but basically the same design. It was a
chocolate brown, had chrome rims, and was powered by a pretty healthy 283
engine. It wasn't a beast like the 348s, but it was quick and fun to cruise
around in. At this point Skip would want me to tell you that it was only his
superior driving skill that kept us from being killed in that car one night.
Under duress he would admit that it was his "superior" driving skills that got
us crosswise in the road heading for a very hard looking fence in the first
place. But fortunately a driveway appeared just at the point we needed it most
and we were saved.

Aside from lusting after the '58 that Ron Howard drove in "American
Grafitti", I have only one more '58 tale. In Bad Kissingen a few years later, a
half-dozen of us were treated to a carnival-style ride in a '58 Impala belonging
to a buddy of mine. The car rolled three times and all of us came out dizzy,
scratched, bruised, and sober...not exactly how we got into the car. There might
be something to the theory that drunks are so loose they don't get hurt in a
wreck. Or maybe we were just lucky...well...all except Pablo who lost his car
and a stripe.


Comments
on Aug 24, 2011

I can still picture it in my mind - service station on south side of east Diamond Avenue, filling up the wagon first time I was turned loose with it - and gas was precisely 24.9c/gal.

on Aug 24, 2011

that just marks your age, you know!

on Aug 24, 2011

Daiwa
I can still picture it in my mind - service station on south side of east Diamond Avenue, filling up the wagon first time I was turned loose with it - and gas was precisely 24.9c/gal.

YOu are an old fart!  Although I remember gas that price, I never bought it.  I came of age right at the 73 Arab Israeli war, so 50 cents was my lowest.

on Aug 24, 2011

fI remember Rebel gas stations in Arizona, very low-rent, an above ground tank and one pump, one grade...but it was 15 cents a gallon...in 1967...in high school (60-64) prices varied from 25 to 32 cents...the standard cruise night went like this...five or six guys to a car, each donates a buck for gas (whoever is driving that night could keep the change), a five dollar bill would fill it up.  That tank of gas in my 55 Chevy would last the whole night cruising in to San Diego, through the beaches, up to La Jolla, back through the Mission gorge and finish up cruising through La Mesa, Lemon Grove and El Cajon...and because of a certain big blonde out at El Capitan, we would include Lakeside.  So about three dollars would get you gas, dinner, and maybe a movie if you went to the dollar-a-carload drive-in.

on Aug 24, 2011

My uncle made a very respectable career out of a single gas station & ~25c/gal gas, retired in about 1970.

on Aug 24, 2011

In high school I worked part time for a fella at a Texaco station.  They were an ordinary station, four pumps, two bays and a grease rack.  Lots of TBA and a real good living.  They are a dying breed, though, not many of them left.

on Sep 01, 2011

Big Fat Daddy
In high school I worked part time for a fella at a Texaco station.  They were an ordinary station, four pumps, two bays and a grease rack.  Lots of TBA and a real good living.  They are a dying breed, though, not many of them left.

Yea, Old red Jenkins was one of the last to go.  You could find State Troopers, and the local farmers hanging out at his place.  It was on a corner in the middle of nowhere.  I sought shelter in his office on my way back from college back in 74 and caught the end of the Raider Miami playoff game (Raiders won).  He had to close up about 5 years ago.  But of course that is now one of the busiest intersections in the area, and ground zero for one of the biggest malls!

on Sep 04, 2011

Doc:  I was surprised to find out that there are a couple of states that don't allow drivers to pump their own gas...back in the day nobody wanted to pump their own...I have seen customers sit for five minutes blowing their horn to get someone (usually me) to come out and run the pump.  Sigh.

on Sep 06, 2011

Big Fat Daddy
Doc:  I was surprised to find out that there are a couple of states that don't allow drivers to pump their own gas...back in the day nobody wanted to pump their own...I have seen customers sit for five minutes blowing their horn to get someone (usually me) to come out and run the pump.  Sigh.

There is actually a place down in the country where they still insist upon pumping it for you. It is in Lanexa, about half way between Richmond and Norfolk.  Feels weird to have someone pump it for you now.

on Sep 06, 2011

When I worked at Charlie Tank's Texaco in the early sixties, a car pulled up to the pumps and immediately there were three guys all over it, the hood was coming up before the customer even said what grade they wanted.  There is a commercial on TV now about action like that and the customer thinks he is being attacked.  Sigh...Time and the river.

on Sep 17, 2015

I have just read this post and my father was Jim Curtis - do you have any photos of the car or do you have more stories you can share about this time with me?  I've never heard the story about the two of them going to Utah and would love to document it better in our family history.