Impala Facts

Impala Facts & Impala Essay

1958        First year of the Impala

1958        First year to have speaker grill in rear seat

1959        Impalas largest tail fins

1959        First year of the El Camino

1960        Last year of tail fins

1961        Only year 2 door hardtop and sedan were offered

1961        Impala Super Sport was introduced

1962        First Impala available with Bucket Seats

1964        Largest displacement V8 available 409

1964        Last year of X-frame

1965        First curved side glass on every impala

1966        First year of the 2 door caprice

1967        SS 427 model introduced

1967        Last year to have speaker grill in rear seat

1967        Last year to have emblems on rear quarter

1968        Safety belts became standard

1968        First year of the hideaway headlights

1969        Last year of the SS Model

1970        First year of the 454 engine option

1971        Was offered with louvered trunk option

1972        Last year for the Impala convertible

1975        Radial tires became standard equipment

1958 - 1961 Impala had the 348 Big Block engines produced

1961 - 1965 Impala had the 409 Big Block engines produced

1985        Last year of the Impala

1994        Impala was only offered in 1 color, Black!

1995 - 1996    Impala was only offered in 3 colors, Black, Dark Cherry, Blue/green

IMPALA Essay by "White Boy"

In 1950, Chevrolet released the Bel Air.  The '50 Bel Air was America's first low-priced hardtop coupe.  It was modeled after the Cadillac Coupe de Ville. The hardtop was exclusive to GM, and it was said the Bel Air had come just at the right time.  In '51 and '52 there were slight changes to the Bel Air, until in '53 it took on an even more Cadillac look with its new body style.  The Bel Air was now Chevrolets op-of-the-line vehicle.  It came in coupes, sedans, and convertibles.  In '53 power steering became an option, and in '54, power brakes, power windows, and power drivers seat all became options.

The year 1955 was a big year for Chevrolet.  Chevrolet released its first V8 under the hoods of its vehicles, and also in '55 Chevrolet unleashed the Corvette sports car.  The release of this powerful V8 engine made the '55 Bel Air the new "hot" car.  Many teenagers all across America now wanted one, and many adults had already loved them since their release in 1950.  In '56 the Bel Air got a slight facelift, with new colors also available.  It also had the option of an even more powerful 225 horsepower V8.  It was said that few cars on the street could beat the '56 Bel Air in a race. 

The '57 Bel Air may be possibly the most famous Chevy ever.  With its Cadillac-like fins on the rear of the car, and aluminum trim panel running along the side of the car, the ‘57 Bel Air was a huge hit.  It was said, "'57 Chevrolet Bel Air represented the pinnacle of '50s automotive styling."  It was also the first year of the Fuel Injection system which was a very rare and expensive option.  The ’57 Chevy was nice, and very popular, but was not one of the nicest cars on the market because they were made to be very affordable and get good value for your money.

In the 1950’s, the way America traveled began to change.  The Federal Highway Act of 1956 was going to change America in a big way.  The plan was to spend 24.8 billion dollars and build a 65,000 km national system of highways.  With the creation of the highways, Americans would want faster cars so they could go to far off destinations comfortably, and quickly.  It was also becoming a popular idea to drive to vacation destiny’s, and people would need better cars to do it.  Chevrolet wanted to build a car more like a Cadillac so their customers who wanted more luxurious cars would not leave Chevrolet and go to a different brand.

Chevrolet decided to build a new car to meet these needs of the country.  There were two things that people were wanting.  People wanted faster cars, and people wanted more luxurious cars.  Chevy wanted to build something bigger, faster, and more luxurious than the popular Bel Air; that the middle-class Americans could still afford;  that’s when Chevrolet decided to build the Impala.

The Impala was first seen at a Chevrolet Motorama car show in 1956.  These car shows used to be big events with live entertainment, and they would show off their new line of vehicles for the next year.  In 1956 the Motorama car show hit New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston.  This first Impala at the Motorama show was a four-passenger coupe, with "a strong Corvette flavor," which was called the Corvette Impala.  The Impala show car was made out of fiberglass, like the Corvette.

At the time, the Bel Air was the nicest Chevrolet you could buy.  The Impala changed this.  The first Impala came out in the fall of 1957; it was the 1958 Impala  The Impala was a great success.  It was only offered as a sport coupe and convertible, giving it an image of sport.  The Impala was over 9 inches longer, 4 inches wider, and 2 inches lower than the previous full-size models (Bel-Air).  "Chevrolets had been slowly getting longer, lower, and wider--as directed by Harley Earl--but this was a leap."

The new 1958 Impala came with some exciting options.  It came with the new 348-cubic-inch V-8 and the Level-Air suspension system.  With the new engine the Impala was much faster than previous Chevys, and with the new suspension system, the car had a smoother ride than ever before.  One of the biggest changes was the new frame design on all 1958 Chevys.  Chevy started building cars with an X frame.  This was newer technology that gave the car a better ride.  The new Impala came with chrome accents on the door and instrument panels, and a sport-style steering wheel.  Things like that made the ‘58 Impala feel more luxurious than the ‘57 Chevy.

1n 1959 the Impala had a big change from the 1958 model in many ways.  The body changed to a "faster, more agile, and most importantly, more modern" look.  In reality the size, weight, engine and chassis layout, were the same from 1958.  The big change was that in 1959, the Impala took over the Bel Air.  In 1958 the Impala was only offered in two-door Coupe and Convertible, but in 1959 there was a full line of Impalas.  It included two-door hardtops, two-door convertibles, four-door sedans, and four-door hardtops.

In 1960 there were slight changes to the Impala.  One change was the taillights going from Cats-eyes shape to six separate round taillights, which was on the 1958 Impala, and will become a landmark for the Impala.  The fins on the rear of the car were made less radical, as fins were losing their style because they had been around since the 1947 Cadillac.  In 1960 however, Chevrolet made some changes too.  The Bel Air started making a two door model, but will still be a cheaper version than the Impala, and Chevrolet came out with the Corvair, which was a "economical small car."  The Corvair sold 250,000 cars its first year, but neither the new 2dr Bel Air or the new Corvair put a dent in the sales of Impala.  Impala was still the best selling Chevy.

In 1961 Chevrolet decided to completely change the Impala again.  The ‘61 Impala lost the rear fins completely, got a new instrument panel, and kept the 6 taillights.  In ‘61, many buyers of the Impala wanted the options like Posi-Traction, a heavy-duty battery, plus heavy-duty brakes, springs, and shocks.  This made Chevrolet to decide to make a Super Sport package for Impalas.  The Impala was the first Chevrolet to come with a Super Sport package, which would later come on other models like the Camaro, Chevelle, Monte Carlo, El Camino, and 1500 Truck.  In the summer of ‘61 Chevrolet released the first Impala SS. 

In ’61, an Impala SS could have been ordered in any body style, but in the future would come in only sport coupes and convertibles.  Until the release of the Impala SS, the Chevy Corvette was the Chevy sports car, but now the Impala SS was right next to it.  The Impala SS came with either a high-performance 348, or the new 409.  The 409 was a monster 350-horsepower engine.  SS Models also came with power steering, power brakes, heavy-duty brakes, shocks, and springs.   

In 1962, a new engine was added to the Impala SS family.  It was the new 327 V-8.  In ‘62 any Chevy engine could be used in the SS package, and the heavy duty suspension was removed from the package; because some people wanted the Super Sport looks without having to buy all the high-performance equipment.  1962 was a good year for the automotive industry, and the Impala SS was blowing up nation wide.  Word was starting to spread of it and it was getting hot.  In ‘61 less than 500 Impalas were SS models, but in ‘62 nearly 100,000 SS models were sold.  New options also came available for any type of Impalas including air conditioning in standard and deluxe versions, power brakes, power steering, power windows, power seats, outside and inside rearview mirrors, and manual or push-button radios.  New performance accessories included heavy duty clutch, radiator, dual exhaust, and temperature-controlled radiator fan.

The ‘62 Super Sport was different from the regular Impala in that it came with bucket style front seats with a center console, a passenger assist bar, special emblems, wheel covers, side molding insert, rear cove molding, and bright metal transmission cover plate for four speeds.  In 1962 Chevy also added another low cost economy car to its line-up; the Chevy II Nova.  The Chevy II did not put a dent in the sales of the Impala, just like when the Corvair was first released.  In ‘62, Chevys total sales reached nearly 1,600,000 and Impala sales reached over 700,000.

In ‘63 the Impala sold over 832,000 vehicles; it was still America‘s car.  "Its all-American image was right up there with hot dogs and apple pie."   The Impala sales nearly doubles the sales of Fords most popular full-size vehicle, the Galaxie.  In ’63 the Impala did not change much.  There were seven new color choices added, which brought the total number to 15 colors plus 11 two-tone choices.  One big thing was that the Impala was the only Chevrolet full-size two-door sport coupe in ’62, and the Impala was also the only four door sport sedan.  Chevy’s old big-seller, the Bel Air, was now only available in two-door and four-door sedans.  One new option was the vinyl top on the roof, which was only available on the two-door sport coupe.  Mechanically, Chevrolets got alternators instead of generators.  The SS model gained nicer emblems, wheel covers, and interior to make the buyers happy about what they were buying.

In 1964 was the introduction to Chevy’s new intermediate-size car, the Chevelle.  This was the third new line of cars Chevy had introduced since 1960, but important because this one had the potential to have an effect on the Impala.  In ‘64 the Impala only changed several ways.  It stayed in Cadillac style and got thicker bumpers which made the car seem lower and heavier.  The ‘64 grille was much more flat than the ‘63 grille had been.  In ‘64 the Impala SS became its own line, compared to being a package in the past.  More than 185,000 Impala SS’s were sold.  The regular Impala sold over 890,000, and the Bel Air only sold over 550,000.  This shows how popular the Impala was, because usually the cheaper (Bel Air) version of a car outsells the more expensive version (Impala).  Another big landmark was that Impala and Impala SS sport coupe sales reached over 442,000 and Chevy sold 536,000 four-door sedans in 1964.  Usually sport-coupes never come close to reaching the sales of four-door sedans in the market, but the Impala was just too popular.  Small upgrades were made to the ‘64 Impala like an electric clock, emergency brake light, and special steering wheel for Impalas.

In 1965 the Impala sold more than any one car in the history of automotive history.  Over one million Impalas were sold in 1965.  The ‘65 was the last year of the big 409, and the first year of the 396.  The roofline was lowered in ‘65 making the car much more sleek looking.  The ‘65 kept the six round taillight theme, but lost side moldings for the first time.  The loss of side moldings and use of lighter-looking bumpers made the ‘65 Impala look like a real sports car.  In ‘65 the Impala switched to a new frame and suspension.  It had a redesigned coil-spring independent front suspension and a link-type coil rear suspension which gave better maneuverability and level cornering.  The new 396 engine was a monster, delivering 425 horsepower.

In 1965 Chevrolet came out with a nicer version of the Impala.  It was called the Impala Caprice.  It was a luxury version of the Impala.  It came with nicer interior and real wood grain, unlike the artificial wood grain in the Impalas.  The Caprice was a success.  In 1966 Caprice became its own line with a sport coupe, sport sedan, and two station wagons.  

In ‘66 some people stopped buying the Impalas because they moved on to the more luxurious Caprice, and younger people wanted the smaller, faster Chevelle.  The drop in sales was nothing huge though, Impala was still doing great.  Many people still wanted the Impala name that they were used to.  In ’66 the Impala lost its famous 6 rear taillights, but gained a yet another new engine.  This new engine was the 427.  It was 425 horsepower just like the 396 was, but it had 45 more foot-pounds of torque than the 396.  The big Impala was too big to race though, so many people were buying the Chevelles.

In ’67 safety became an issue.  Accident avoidance features such as windshield washers, two-speed wipers, anti-glare mirrors, and improved brakes were added.  Also in ‘67 front disc brakes became available.  The popular Impala in ‘67 was the SS427.  Impala had lost its luxury to the Caprice and much of its performance to the Chevelle, so the SS427 was the real big thing going for the Impala.

In 1968 there was a new addition to the Impala family.  It was the custom coupe model.  The custom coupe was a two-door hardtop with a squared-off roofline as compared to the fastback rooflines other Impalas.  The custom coupe had actually started in 1967 as a Caprice, but its first year as an Impala was in 1968.  In 1968 the SS became a sport package once again, instead of beings its own line.  In 1968 the Impala also lost its famous 283 engine as an option.  The 307 replaced the 283 on the option list.  In 1969 slight changes were made.  The 327 was dropped and replaced with the now-popular 350 engine.  The SS line came back once again for 1969 and came in sport coupes, convertibles and custom coupes.

In 1970 Chevrolet introduced the Monte Carlo.  The Monte Carlo was a huge success.  It was a two-door coupe midsize car which had characteristics of the first Impalas, in that it had a lot of engine and luxury for a small price.  The Monte Carlo put a dent in Impala sales.  For almost ten years the Monte Carlo was Chevrolet’s number one selling car.  In 1970 a new big block was released.  The new 454 could be bought with up to 390 horsepower.  The 427 was no longer available, and neither was the Impala SS.  In 1970 there was not even an Impala SS package.  The Impala customs started to come with standard front disc brakes, and so did the Caprices.

In 1971 there were not many changes to the Impala.  Chevrolet kept making it look like a Cadillac.  Many people today confuse old Impalas for old Cadillacs.

In 1972, Chevrolet stopped making the Impala convertible.  "People were more concerned about safety, they worried about getting hurt if the convertible rolled over."  In 1972 the Impala reached its 10 million sold mark.  The 1972 Impala was the biggest one yet, over 18 feet long, and wider than any Chevy before it.  In 1972 horsepower rating system changed, so now the 365-horsepower 454 from 1971 is rated at 270-horsepower.  From 1972 to 1976, the Impala outsold the nicer Caprice.  However, convertibles were available in the Caprice model from 1973 to 1975.  In 1973, the Biscayne was dropped from Chevrolet.  The Biscayne was just like the Impala, Caprice, and Bel Air but much cheaper.  1975 was the last year of the Bel Air.  After the loss of the Biscayne and Bel Air, it was thought that the Impala might be next.  After 1975, there has yet to be a Caprice or Impala convertible.  Between the years of 1971 and 1976 the Impala barely changed.  Small changes like headlights, grille, bumpers, and taillights were made each year.

The biggest change to the Impala was in 1977.  At the time, there was the mid 70s Oil Embargo; Gas prices hikes, emission-control-regulations started, and the people wanted smaller more fuel efficient vehicles.  The gas prices started to rise in about 1973, and consequently the 1976 was the last year of the "big Chevy."  The Impala got much shorter, and even became shorter than the mid-size Chevrolet’s in 1977.  The smaller Impalas got better gas mileage and they started coming with smaller engines to get better gas mileage.  You could no longer get a big-block engine either.  In 1977 the Impala lost almost everything that made it famous.  They lost their great design, big engines, and big size, but many people still loved them.

The late 70’s to 80’s were the years of these small "box" Impalas.  Losing about 700 pounds from the previous models, the 1977 Impala was actually much faster than the previous models.  They had many improvements in handling too.  There were slight changes between 1977-1986, which became the last year of the Impala.  The Caprice carried on until 1996.

In 1994 Chevrolet re-introduced the Impala.  It was only available in the Super Sport model.  It was a big fast Impala once again.  It was also the first time that the Impala was nicer than the Caprice.  The Impala came with leather seats, air conditioning, cruise control, dual air bags, power drivers seat, power door locks, power mirrors, power windows, remote trunk release, theft deterrent system, tilt steering wheel, and tinted glass.  It "had transformed an uninteresting Caprice Classic into a nasty-looking, sweet-handling modern muscle car."   Chevrolet made the new Impala SS from 1994 until 1996 and then stopped.  The Caprice also stopped in 1996.

In 1999, Chevrolet introduced the 2000 Impala.  Many people were upset when the 2000 Impala were released because they only came with six cylinder engines, and every single other year Impala had come with an eight cylinder engine.  The new Impala only came in four-door model, like the earlier 90s SS model had.  Another upsetting factor was that the new Impala was front wheel drive and every other Impala to date was a rear-wheel drive car.

The new Impalas were said to have "a lot to offer, but at the same time, maybe not quite enough.  The Impala image and heritage have not been completely fulfilled."   The new Impalas just did not have the high performance like in the past.  The Impalas from earlier in the 90s had Corvette engines, and the new ones have small fuel efficient six cylinder engines.  "It makes no bold statements and easily blends into a parking lot full of modern and domestic and import sedan."