It's Not Just a Car
by Jim Corbran
A local radio legend restores he equally legendary muscle car
Deep in the heart of the city, in a rather nondescript garage, lives the soul of a former Buffalo radio jock. And, as you can probably gather from the fact that I’m the one telling the story, yes, it’s a car.
But not just any car. As Shane Gibson told me sincerely, “This car means as much to me as my right leg. It’s a part of me, and I can’t wait to get it back.”
I skipped ahead there a bit, didn’t I.
The “Cosmic Cowboy” Gibson, also known to his legions of fans as “Shane, Brother Shane,” bought the car in question, a new 1966 Chevrolet Impala SS 427 (well, actually it was a “demo,” but that’s close enough), from a dealer in Virginia, where he was working at the time. Impala Super Sports were a dime-a-dozen, but not many left the factory with the 427-cubic inch, 425-horsepower engine; and it was, of course, connected to a fully synchronized, four-speed, floor-mounted shifter.
“I had my choice: 396 or 427. To me there was no choice,” said Shane. “I’d been racing drag and dirt circle since Montana, my home tracks.”
He’d originally had his eye on a Corvette, but the logistics of a growing family ruled it out.
Needless to say, a car like this was “born to run,” and run it did. Shane started racing the car…and winning. Not just against the Joe Schmoes who bring their everyday cars to the track on Saturday night, but against such legendary drivers as Ronnie Sox, of Sox and Martin fame. Even Shane’s wife Linda got into the act, surprising him one evening when he was in the announcer’s booth. She showed up at the starting line behind the wheel of “The Horse,” as he called the SS 427, about eight-and-a-half months pregnant, no less. She won.
By 1974 Shane had found his way to Buffalo, where he took over the night shift on WKBW from the departed Jack Armstrong. (No, he hadn’t died. He just left town.) Well, actually there was a guy in between the two, who called himself “The Janitor,” but he didn’t last long. Turns out Shane’s stint at KB was short-lived also, but he bounced right over to rival WYSL (and eventually WGR) and hung around for a while.
During that time, Shane’s SS 427 became a part of the act. Given a $9,000 red metalflake paint job, and christened “The WYSL MYSL,” the car started making personal appearances around town at race tracks, fairs, and any place where a spiffy car and a cosmic disc jockey could draw a crowd.
Fast-forward 20 years or so: Shane and the MYSL, which had since returned to its original Tuxedo Black paint job, were hosting a cruise-in at a nightclub on Niagara Falls Boulevard when, as Shane told me, “ome envious thugs decided to ram their truck into the door of the 427.” I’ve seen pictures, and it was drivable, but not pretty. “Shortly after that,” he said, “I stored the car and went back to Virginia.”
Stored, yes. Forgotten about, hardly. One day some years ago, Shane fired up the 427 and limped it over to his friend Chuck Loubert’s garage to bring it back to life. The damage was still there from the cruise night, and all those years sitting in a garage weren’t kind to either the body, which had started to rust, or the interior, which had become home to a variety of critters. Chuck had his work cut out for him. And if that wasn’t enough, the October storm of 2006 collapsed part of Loubert’s shop roof—the part under which The Horse lived. Heaven knows how much time the new damage added to the job.
Anyone who’s ever restored an old car knows it’s not a quick, in-and-out project. Not if you want it done right. And Loubert is determined to give Shane back a car he’ll be proud of. The ex-DJ and current golf pro still speaks softly when the conversation turns to The Horse. “It’s like my twin brother is in a near-death coma and I am admittedly obsessed with returning him to the magnificent athlete he once was,” he told me a few weeks back.
Shortly after our conversation I headed over to Loubert’s garage with Buffalo businessman and longtime Shane friend Howard Goldman, who is the owner of TheOldHouseDowntown.com, to see how the car was coming along. In Loubert’s immaculately clean shop sat the 427, partially under wraps but with the finish line in sight.
“I put all new disc brakes in this thing, replacing the standard drums,” he told us. “Shane always liked to really go in this car, and now he’ll at least be able to stop.”
The body work is close to done; the engine has been rebuilt, along with the clutch and transmission. Most of the interior bits are on hand and ready to be installed.
How soon before The Horse gallups out of the garage? Loubert couldn’t put an exact time on it, but if the car gods are paying any attention to Shane’s prayers, it will be sooner rather than later. And then, as Shane promised me, he’ll take Howard Goldman and me on a ride. A ride that will let everyone in town know that the man and his machine are once again a team.
Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.blog comments powered by Disqus
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