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Classic Impala from ‘Bubba Cruz 4’ stolen, burned

At this year’s Bubba Cruz 4 parade.

The car was burn almost beyond recognition.

News Staff Writer

While authorities continued this week to look for clues, members of the Lottie community’s Ardis family continued to wonder who might have stolen a classic Chevrolet Impala last week, parked it beside a rural road, then set fire to it.
One of the sleekest cars in the recent Bubba Cruz 4 parade in honor of Ewing Darrell “Bubba” Ardis. The powder-blue 1964 SS Chevrolet Impala is owned by Jean Ardis, the mother of the Bubba Cruz’s organizer and its namesake, who was surprised with the classic ride on her birthday, five years ago.
The theft of the car, which was gutted and blistered by the fire, apparently took place during the predawn hours of August 5. According to www.haggerty.com, such vehicles in mint condition are worth more than $30,000.
Thomas Ardis said the Impala was parked in a field used by Lottie Road Kustoms, the auto rehab and repair shop he owns just off Lottie Road, which is where he usually parks it.
Escambia County Sheriff’s Office reports show that deputies acting on a tip discovered the still-hot, burned-out shell of the Chevy in a remote area off Ewing Farm Road about mid-morning and notified the baffled Ardis family around 10:45 a.m.
“We just found out about it this morning, and we’re all sick about it,” Thomas Ardis said a few hours after the car was found. “I can’t come up with a name of who could have done it, or why anybody would have done it. It just makes no sense at all.”
The thief or thieves apparently first pried open the door of a truck that was stored near the Impala, but apparently couldn’t get it started. They took the Chevrolet, which has a 327-cubic inch motor and a four-speed transmission, instead.
Evidence shows they drove it to the fairly remote location near Interstate 65, where they apparently had to try twice before successfully setting it ablaze.
“There was still a rag in the gas tank, where whoever it was tried to set the rag on fire and get it to burn that way,” said Thomas Ardis. “I reckon they couldn’t get it to catch on fire that way, so it looks like they just poured gas all on the inside and lit it.”
No arrest had been reported by Tuesday’s press deadline, and Thomas Ardis said his family would pay for information that leads to the identity, arrest and conviction of the classic car thieves and arsonists.
“We are offering a large cash reward for information on who did this,” he said, noting that anyone with such information should call him at 251-253-1701.
Bubba Cruz is the annual celebration by local auto enthusiasts of the life of “Bubba” Ardis, who passed away from terminal cancer in 2018, just hours before the scheduled start of the initial fundraiser in his honor.