Feature Article, Other Motorsports, Washington — November 26, 2011 at 4:47 am

Linda Smith (issue 100)



By Steve Heeb

The trip from Lake Tapps, Wash., to Puyallup is but a few miles. But for Linda Smith and her pair of ’58 Impalas, showing up at the Goodguys Pacific Northwest Nationals this summer marked the end of a very long journey.

It was the first time the vintage Chevies had seen daylight since Linda’s husband David passed away in 2003.

“The cars had been on the lift for the past nine years,” Linda says. “I had never taken them out.”

She recalls how David loved the 1958 model and had tried to get her interested.

“He took me to a show room and we looked at a root beer brown one,” she laughs. “I thought they were ugly.”

She warmed up to the car when she and David took a liking to one for sale at the Hot August Nights Silver Auction in 1996.

“We made an offer and the owner took it right off the auction,” she says.

Their first Impala was blue and boasted a 348-cid engine. They took it to Hot August Nights gathering in Reno and the Goodguys show in Puyallup where it won the Memory Lane Award.

Now fully in love with the car, David and Linda picked up another ’58 Impala the following year.

“We tried the same thing, but this time the car went to auction,” she recalls. “It got to a certain price and the bidding slowed down. An auction worker asked if I would go $200 higher and David said yes. Suddenly that was our bid and that was it. We bought the car.”

The new car, decidedly Linda’s car, was a brilliant Rio Red and soon was beating David’s blue Impala at car shows they went to.

In 1997, she and David contacted the Automotive Information Clearing House to find out more about their classic rides.

“As of March 1997 their records showed only 683 in existence,” Linda says of the AIC report. “Only 11 were in Washington and we owned two of them.”

In addition to the pair of Impalas, David and Linda also had a ’41 Bantam Roadster and a ’59 Corvette automatic. They sold the Corvette in 2001 and another car caught Linda’s eye.

While showing their Impalas at a Goodguys show she fell in love with a ’32 Phaeton owned by Mike Vogler who was selling a T-bucket at the time.

“I told him I preferred the ’32 and he said it was not for sale,” Linda smiles. “He eventually sold it to us anyway.”

Linda recalls driving the ’32 back up from Oregon in the rain.

“There aren’t any windows of course,” she laughs.

She also remembers David insisting on the family making a quick visit to a Fourth of July car show on Tacoma’s Ruston Way.

“He got us to the show and we were trapped,” Linda says.

“It really was his passion,” daughter Angela says of her father’s love for street rods.

“These cars were like his little grandchildren,” Linda says. “He had pictures of them on his key-ring viewer.”

Freeway Trailers owner Mike Rendell recalls selling Linda a trailer for David’s Impala during a Goodguys show.

“She came over to our booth the first thing on the Friday and said she wanted to get her husband a trailer as a birthday present,” Mike says.

“We took care of them,” adds Russell Stevenson, who helped make sure David’s gift would be just right. “They’re just awesome street rod people.”

David and Linda were happy to share their vintage vehicles for special occasions. They provided the blue Impala for the weddings of family friends including David and Janell Qunell’s daughter Angela and Brian Wilson, and Patty and Coy Anglin’s daughter Lyndi and Tim Baublits in 2002.

Sadly, David passed away in July 2003 after courageously battling colon cancer.

In 2008, daughter Angela chose to get married July 12, the five year anniversary of David’s passing.

“I wanted there to be a happy memory for that date,” she explains.

She says that having one of the family’s street rods as part of the ceremony was very special to her.

“It was like having my dad there with me,” Angela says of using the ’32 Phaeton. “Every girl dreams of having her father walk her down the aisle. It was my way of having him be part of the wedding.”

Linda hauled the car to Walla Walla for the ceremony herself, but trouble loomed when the car refused to start when it was time to drive it off the trailer.

The frustrated bride was not going to let the stubborn street rod spoil their plans without a fight.

“I shouted ‘C’mon Dave!’ and it started immediately,” Angela says. “He really was there.”

In 2012, Linda contacted Terry Suschinski of the Auburn-based Vetteworks Motorsports to to bring the Impalas back to life.

“It was a dream working on these cars,” Terry says. “There’s a lot of original components and really nothing aftermarket on them.”

Linda spent countless hours detailing the cars and overseeing the mechanical work that was done.

“She was the least pest-iest pest I’ve ever dealt with,” Terry laughs.

The hard work paid off as the Impalas were ready for the annual Goodguys gathering, the blue Impala being finished just a day before the show.

“The goal was to get them out to the show,” Angela says of the car’s first outing in nine years. “Mission accomplished.”

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