Monday, July 10, 2017

1962 Chevrolet Chevy II - Gertie

What with the amount of posts about "the dearly departed" that I see on my wall at times Facebook should change its name to "Deathbook". I swear I've seen some posts where the body is still warm and someone is posting that so and so has passed away. I find it disrespectful to the deceased and more often than not nothing more than a grab for attention by the person making the post.

Recently, though, I saw one such post on Facebook about a high school classmate who died suddenly and it moved me deeply. Let's call him "Tom". Tom and I were not friends and dare I say we didn't like each other but his death was a shocking reminder of my own mortality.

I didn't comment on the melodramatic Facebook post about his death but many of our classmates did. All of the posts were glowing of course and some were sweetly sentimental. One of our classmates made note of how they remembered back in high school riding around in his little blue car he called "Gertrude", "Gertie" for short. "Gertie" was a 1962 Chevy II or what some refer to as a "box Nova".

All new for 1962, the Chevy II was GM's answer to Ford's similar Falcon that had crushed the infamous rear engine Corvair at the box office. The Chevy II was as conventional as the Corvair was not and the public's reaction to it was extremely positive; Chevrolet sold more than 325,000 of them in 1962.

I rode in "Gertie" once and thought the car horrific and terminably uncool. Cramped and dangerously slow, I found no charm in its awkward, disproportionate styling. I still don't. It looked like exactly what it was -  a shrunken Impala without any of the Impala's excellent dynamics. I've never understood why shrinking a car back then diminished its drivability. Anyway, Tom struggled with the "three on the tree" and complained mightily about his parents not buying him a car with an automatic. It lacked power steering and power brakes too. Gertie was a handful just like Tom.

Gertie was as slow as she was because she was powered by a rather unique power plant - a Chevrolet built 153 cubic inch 4 cylinder engine making just 90 gross horsepower. The first four cylinder engine produced by GM in over thirty years at the time, it was little more than a Chevrolet 230 cubic inch in line six with two cylinders lobbed off. While it was lauded for its off idle torque responsiveness and good fuel economy, it was chastised for the amount of vibration it made. Chopping two cylinders off an inherently smooth running in line six makes for quite the paint shaker of an engine. Contemporary reviews of the Chevy II recommended buyers opt for the 194 cubic inch in line six instead. I recall this little engine's drone and it was not pleasant. No V-8 was available on 1962 or 1963 Chevy II's.

Incidentally, this engine is not to be confused with the Pontiac 301 V-8 sourced "Iron Duke" of very similar capacity that debuted in 1977. 

Again, the "II" was little more than a shrunken Impala and much like the downsized GM cars of the late 1970's, GM stuck with what they knew (and worked) when they designed it. You couldn't blame them seeing how the shrunken Ford Galaxie Ford peddled as the Falcon sold vs the Corvair.

Tom had no idea what he was driving nor did he care. All he did care about was that he had a car albeit one that he didn't care for. I remember him looking at me patronizingly as some sort of goofball for taking any interest in it. Nothing personal, Tom. That's the thing about being a "car person"; we take interest in just about anything and not just in things that we like. Well, you know what they say - what goes around comes around. 

In the week's following Tom's death I came to find he was embroiled in some sort of white collar crime and he killed himself rather than face either the consequences of his alleged actions. I feel for the guy because what he must have been going through must have been awful since he was convinced offing himself was a viable solution. Although, thank you Deathbook, you'd never know he had a care in the world when you look at his Facebook photos he posted of himself in the days just prior to his passing.

I have no idea whatever became of Gertie.

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