REDONDO BEACH, Calif.
) -- It seems that Herb Younger got it almost all in life -- good health, good family, good job, good place to live.
By the time he reached his 60s, Younger, a retired general contractor who lives in Redondo Beach, Calif., felt he was missing just one important thing: The 1965 Chevrolet Impala he had bought in July 1965 and sold in 1986. It was the first new car Younger ever bought, and, in his mind, it had come to symbolize much of what he treasured from his long-gone youth.
"I spent my life thinking about that Impala," said the 67-year-old Younger. "My kids probably heard me say I regretted selling it a million times."
We might as well say right now that this story has a happy ending, which explains why
recently started to air a commercial about how Younger's two sons spent years tracking down his old car and returned it to him in September. "It knocked me off my feet when I saw that car," Younger said.
In fact, the film crew was there at the moment the kids presented the car to dad. "Chevy runs deep," said Jamie Barrett, Executive Creative Director and Partner at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which produced the ad. "We wanted to show the different dimensions of that." The ad makes clear, Barrett said, that "distant memory is still an active memory."
Younger was born in January 1944, which technically predates the baby boom, but it is worth mentioning that many
baby boomers have early memories of a particularly interesting period in the annals of the U.S. automakers.
In Younger's case, he was a sophomore at Colorado State University in 1965, working part time as a bartender. The job provided income to buy the $2,790 vehicle on very attractive, student-oriented initial terms: $40 a month. "It was the first year for Impala to get away from the boxy look -- call it 'the Coke bottle design,'" he recalled. "It had four bucket seats, an all black interior, and it was yellow." The car is a 1965 Chevrolet SS Impala with a 396 engine and four speeds on the floor.
This purchase came at a particularly memorable moment in Younger's life. "I was just starting to date my wife," he said. Linda, also a CSU student, spent 22 years as a flight attendant at
, retiring in 2009.
In 1970, the couple drove to California after Younger found a job teaching art at a high school. That went fine, for a while. In 1980, some changes came. The Youngers bought the home where they still live. Also, Younger, "burned out on teaching," and went into the construction business. A downside: The construction business has ups and downs.
"It took its toll," Younger said. "The 65 Chevy was one of the first items to go to make some of the ends meet."
A funny thing happened in 1988. Younger had a bad experience with a 1988 GM Safari. After that, he said, "I turned away from GM and went to Ford.
. A student of mine was a salesman at a Ford dealership, and that made it easy to get into leases." In his lifetime, he had driven about two dozen vehicles, most of them leased Ford trucks.
The Youngers had two boys. Jared is an ophthalmologist in Newport Beach, while Derek is a pilot at
. The pair began to track down their dad's lost dream in 2005. Using the Internet and VIN tracking resources, they followed the car from California to Pennsylvania to New York to Maine to Montreal. This is not an exact science and much depends on timing. This summer, a Montreal dealer put the car on sale, fortunately including an Internet post. The boys pounced, paying $40,000 for what had become a collector's car.
One more piece to this story. At a dinner party, Jared Younger happened to tell it to someone at Goodby Silverstein. "We found out about a week before (the return) happened," Barrett said. "We wanted to film it, and Chevy was very spontaneous. They said 'yeah.' What we caught on camera was great. It became bigger than we ever thought it would."
Said Younger: "It's an amazing story. For that car to go on that journey it went on and to come back in the shape it's in --- it's just gorgeous.
"I've been lucky in life," he said. "Maybe luckier than I deserve."
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
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