The car hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years and 45,000 miles. It still has many of its original parts under the hood, and the only area of the interior that has been refinished is the bucket seats.
When asked how he has kept the car in such good shape, Self always says he buys “the good stuff” at NAPA Auto Parts and gives the rest of the credit to Chevrolet.
“Like they say on TV, it’s built to love and built to last,” Self said.
The Chevrolet Impala SS was one of the most popular muscle cars of the 1960s. A hit song by the Beach Boys about its powerful 409 engine only enhanced its reputation, and sales of the souped-up Impala jumped from less than 150 in 1961 to more than 15,000 the year Self bought his at an Illinois dealership.
He was 26 at the time. Although it wasn’t his first car, it carved out a special place in his family’s history over the next decade.
During the week, Self’s wife used the car to run errands and carry their kids to and from school, but on weekends the family returned the 409 to its true place at the drag strip.
“We’d change a few things on it and race it all day. When the race was over, we’d put the regular tires back on it and the caps back on the headers, go home and she’d drive it the next week. But every Sunday, it was mine at the track,” Self said.
The fastest Self ever drove the car was 150 miles per hour. Its speed of 109 mph in 14 seconds earned him two trophies at a drag strip in Cordova, Ill.
Self retired the car several decades ago but still keeps it in working order.
Only one of the Selfs’ four children has ever driven the 409. Self let his oldest son behind the wheel after he turned 16 but quickly had to repossess the keys upon learning that his car had been seen screaming through the streets of Carbon Hill and evading police.
At one time, Self had more than a dozen antique cars in his collection. Now he only has a 1931 A-Model, a 1963 Buick Riviera, a 1970 Camaro, a 1986 El Camino autographed by former Auburn coach Pat Dye and the 1962 Impala SS.
The 409 cost Self slightly more than $3,000 when it was brand new. He has heard others have gone for as much as $100,000 at auction and has been offered as much as 15 times what he paid for the car, but he refuses to sell.
“I could use the money, but I love the car,” he said.