1959 Chevy Impala awaits rehab project

Published 12:03 am Monday, February 6, 2012

ROD GUAJARDO/The Natchez Democrat — Andrew Smith crouches next to his late aunt Bertha Smith King’s 1959 Chevy Impala. Smith and his cousin Angela Landers have plans to eventually restore the classic car and the memories they both shared with the car. At top, the dashboard of the Impala hasn’t seen any movement in a while, but Smith and his cousin hope to soon return the car to its original condition.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story contained an incorrect date of the vehicle, due to reporter error. The story has been corrected below.

NATCHEZ — Inside Andrew Smith’s garage is a relic that takes him all the way back to the 1950s.

A worn-down 1959 Chevy Impala sits in the garage of Smith’s Old Washington Road house. The wear and tear is from the many years of his late aunt Bertha Smith King driving it when Andrew Smith was a child.

But if Smith and his cousin Angela Landers, King’s daughter, have their way, the car will eventually be restored.

“When my uncle, Charles King, passed away about five years ago, Angela came to me about getting her parents’ car restored,” Smith said.

So Smith inherited the Impala, which he said may not have been driven any later than 1989.

“(My aunt and uncle) didn’t stop driving it because it wasn’t drivable, they just had several other cars,” Smith said.

Both his aunt and uncle were teachers who lived in Natchez, Smith said. Smith has lived in Natchez for 54 years, while Landers lives in Dallas, which is why he inherited the car when his aunt and uncle died.

Despite that, Smith said it will probably be his cousin that ultimately gets around to restoring the car.

“It takes time, and right now I’m too busy,” Smith said. “Maybe when I retire. I had some estimates down, and one said $250 grand, so it depends on how much you want to spend.

“It’s probably Angela’s project. I’m just sort of watching it for her in the meantime. We had a cousin restore a ’62 Impala, so that’s how the idea came about.”

Smith also said the car contains a lot of memories of time he spent with his aunt.

“We used it to go fishing — she loved to fish out in Kingston,” Smith said. “She’d also love to load everyone up in it to go to church or vacation Bible school, or to just taxi her mother around.”

And Smith said that’s reflective of just how close he was to his aunt.

“It’s almost like I was one of her children,” Smith said. “She cared for me. When I was at her son’s wedding, some ladies were kidding around and asked if she had another son like that, and she said, ‘This is my son,’”

Smith works for the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation, overseeing projects in Adams and Jefferson counties.