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Still a champion, Old Reliable IV delivers a strong performance in Kissimmee

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Photos courtesy Mecum Auctions.

Mecum’s 2017 Kissimmee auction featured no shortage of blue-chip muscle cars from collectors like Don Fazell, Jackie and Gary Runyon, Dale Reed and Tim and Pam Wellborn. Of the purpose-built production racers that crossed the block, none outperformed Fezell’s Old Reliable IV, the very first RPO Z11 factory lightweight Chevrolet Impala delivered, which sold for $525,000 to land the number-four spot on the sale’s top-10 list.

1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11

As Thomas A. DeMauro wrote in the October 2014 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines, the first 25 Z11s were released on December 1, 1962, with the car that would soon be lettered as The Old Reliable IV arriving at Ammon R. Smith Chevrolet in York, Pennsylvania, prior to Christmas. There, it was prepared by Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins for driver Dave Strickler, who campaigned it with great success throughout the 1963 season.

1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11

Starting with Chevrolet’s ready-to-race V-8 (conservatively rated at 430 horsepower), Jenkins’s changes were both extensive and innovative. The engine was painted in matte black, reportedly to shed heat more efficiently, and the stock alternator was replaced by a generator with a quick disconnect that served as a motor to drive the water pump when the car was shut down. During runs, when the generator was disconnected, this change alone was said to be good for an additional five horsepower.

1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11

To improve shifting, Jenkins removed half the teeth from the synchros in the Borg-Warner close-ratio four-speed, adding hardened gears as well. A hardened 4.56:1 gear set was used in the Positraction rear end, and to improve launches, Jenkins set the car up with soft front springs and a single, long ladder bar that helped lift the front end, transferring the maximum amount of weight to the rear tires. A heavier-than-stock battery was installed in the trunk, on the passenger side, to further aid traction, and in the interest of weight savings, the steel front fender liners were swapped out for aluminum parts from the 1962 parts catalog.

1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11

The Old Reliable IV was a contender from the onset, winning the A/FX class in 1963 and reportedly running as fast as 11.04 at 125 MPH. Ronnie Sox, also driving a Z11, reportedly fell victim to Jenkins and Strickler, as did Jim Wangers in a Super Duty Catalina (which gave Old Reliable IV the Little Eliminator title). In the 1963 and ’64 season, the car won better than 90-percent of its match races, though after the initial season, it was campaigned (still carrying the same name and livery) by Lou Czern, its second owner.

Czern raced the car until 1967, when it was placed into storage for the next 15 years. Jenkins purchased the Impala in 1982 and briefly ran exhibition runs in the Z11 before selling it to Floyd Garrett in 1986. Ed Burden purchased the car in 1988, and in May of 1991 Fezell became its long-term caretaker.

1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible

Other lots in the sales top-10 included a 1969 Maserati Ghibli 4.9 Spyder, which sold for $920,000; a 427/435 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, which sold for $775,000; a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, which sold for $625,000; a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette (with the Big Brake and Airbox options), which sold for $450,000; a “Swiss Cheese” 1963 Pontiac Catalina factory lightweight, which sold for $430,000; a 1980 BMW M1, which sold for $400,000; a 1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11 (also from Don Frazell’s collection), which sold for $340,000; a 2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition, which sold for $327,500; and a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette coupe restomod, which sold for $300,000.

1973 Plymouth Duster

More affordable lots of interest included a 1985 Toyota Supra, which sold for $4,000; a 1973 Plymouth Duster, which sold for $4,000; a 1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, which sold for $4,500; a 1988 Ford Mustang GT convertible, which sold for $4,750; a 1982 Jeep CJ-7, which sold for $5,500; a 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk, which sold for $7,000; a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda, which sold for $7,000; a 1948 Chrysler Windsor, which sold for $7,000; a 1968 AMC Javelin SST, which sold for $7,250; and a 1978 Chevrolet Corvette Silver Anniversary Edition, which sold for $8,000.

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