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Family ties make vintage Impala special

News editor

The love for a classic car is often simply for the car itself. Sometimes it’s for the memories it evokes.

And sometimes, as with Mark Harms of Lincolnville, it’s both.

Harms is the proud owner of a 1963 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport, a car that’s been his since he was a teen-ager.

“I bought the car when I was 13 years old,” he said. “I couldn’t even drive it.”

However, Harms can’t talk about his Impala without his words quickly turning to his father, Harold, and the good times they had restoring it together.

“Dad found it in an ad,” he said. “We’d been looking for something for a while, and I wanted to fix up something that would have some value later on. Dad didn’t pay for any of it, but he always helped me work on it.”

Harold was a good source of assistance, as he also had a 1963 Impala.

“Dad had books on the Impala SS back then, and I read those like most kids read comics,” Harms said. “I knew most of the engine options, I knew how many were made.”

The pair had plenty of work to do, as Harms’s new car was in poor condition, bad enough they almost didn’t buy it, Harms said.

Over the next year-and-a-half, they worked together on it when Harms got home from school or sports, and weekends often were spent going from one salvage yard to another to find parts.

Harms did odd jobs for neighbors and sold livestock to afford the parts, which had to come from other Super Sports.

“Vehicles have matching numbers, so to maintain the value of the vehicle we had to be sure we kept things matching,” he said.

When Harms started high school, the car was drivable, but the restoration wasn’t complete. Harms drove it anyway.

“I drove it to two-a-days my freshman year in high school,” he said. “It had four unmatched tires, and overspray on the tires from the paint shop, so it looked like a real jalopy.”

One part that was hard to come by was the back part of the center console. Harms said he couldn’t find a good used one and couldn’t afford a new one, so he built a substitute part in freshman wood shop.

The car hasn’t changed since Harms and his father completed the restoration, one part shy of perfection.

“The way it is today is the way it was then,” he said. “I’m one piece of chrome short. I tried chasing a piece on eBay, but I bailed out before it finished.”

The part sold for $1,200.

New family

Harms left the car in storage with his parents when he left Deschler in 1986 for Kansas State University. As a long-term investment, parking the Impala in a parking lot or on the street was out of the question, he said.

The 1981 Pontiac Trans Am he bought for his college car is still in the family; it’s the car his son, Cade, now drives to Marion High School.

However, well before any thoughts of a daughter or sons, there was the matter of love to attend to.

Harms went on his first date with fellow K-State student Kim Buethe of Lincolnville on Feb. 24, 1989, he said. Five months later, he proposed and she accepted.

As they began planning their wedding, Harms got an idea to include two special Impalas in the event.

“Dad still had his ’63 Impala from when he and Mom got married,” Harms said. “I got the idea that between the two Impalas, we could fit the whole wedding party.”

He proposed the idea to Kim.

“She just rolled her eyes and said ‘That’s fine,’” he said. “She and my dad had a pretty special connection, and he kind of lighted up when I told him about it, so it was kind of a done deal. That’s what we drove away from church in.”

When Harms’ father died in 1999, Harms brought his Impala to Harms Plainview Ranch. His brother, Jeff, bought the other Impala.

Aside from high school and the wedding, the car has mostly been kept inside, so it’s stayed in top condition and appreciated in value, all going according to the plan hatched in the mind of a 13-year-old.

Harms had it outside a few weekends ago.

“Cade asked me when the last time it was waxed, and I told him, ‘It was probably the time your mom and I got married,’” he said.

Having it out brought the family connection full circle.

“Cleaning it up the other weekend, I remembered working on different parts with Dad,” Harms said.

Last modified Oct. 29, 2015

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