The Chevrolet Impala is an automobile built for the Chevrolet division by General Motors. Ed Cole, Chevrolet's chief engineer in the late 1950s, defined the Impala as a "prestige car within the reach of the average American citizen". For many years, the Impala was the best-selling automobile in the United States, and its 1965 sales of over one million units still stands as a record.
The Impala name was first used for the Corvette-based show car for the 1956 General Motors Motorama. Painted emerald green metalic, with a white interior, the Impala featured hardtop styling.
First generation (1958-1970) Impala
The Impala was introduced in 1958 as a new upmarket, sporty trim package created for Bel Air coupes and convertibles. Unique to the model were its six taillights, which set it apart from lower trim levels with only two lights on a side. This classic styling cue would become its trademark. It was named for a southern African antelope. The Impala became a separate model in 1959 in both two and four-door versions and became the best-selling car in the Chevrolet lineup. For 1960, it became the best-selling automobile in the United States and held that position for the next decade. From 1958 until 1966, Impala sales were in excess of 13 million units, more than any other full-size car in the history of the automobile. In 1965, the Impala set an all-time industry annual sales record of more than 1 million units in the U.S., which has never been bettered.
In 1965, Chevrolet introduced the Impala Caprice. Beginning with the four-door hardtop sedan body, Impala Caprices received unique upholstery, wood grained accents on the dashboard and specialty pulls on the insides of the doors. The Impala Caprice was reintroduced as the Chevrolet Caprice in 1966, taking the top position in the full-size Chevrolet lineup. The Impala however, remained Chevrolet's top-selling model until the late 1970s. The 1967 model was redesigned along the lines of the 1963 Buick Riviera. The Coke bottle shape was strengthened and the curves were biggest with the 1967-68 models. During the 1969 model year, for example, Impala production topped Caprice production by 611,000 units.
In 1961, the Impala SS (Super Sport) was introduced to the market. The SS badge was to become Chevrolet's signature of performance on many models, though it has often been an appearance package only. The Impala's SS package in 1961 was truly a performance package, beginning with the high-performance 348 in³ (5.7 L) V8 engines (available with 305, 340, and 350 hp (230, 255 and 260 kW)) or the new 409 in³ (6.7 L) V8, which was available with up to 425 hp. The package also included upgraded tires on station wagon wheels, springs, shocks and special sintered metallic brake linings. Starting in 1962, the Impala SS could be had with any engine available in the Impala, right down to the 235 in³ 135 hp inline-6. With one exception, from this point until 1969, the SS was an appearance package only, though the heavy-duty parts and big engines could still be ordered. From 1962-on, Super Sports were limited to the hardtop coupe and convertible coupe exclusively.
The exception was the Z24 option package available in combination with the standard Z03 Super Sport package. Starting in 1967 through 1969, buyers of Impala Z24s got cars badged as "SS427" models. The SS427 included a heavy-duty suspension and other performance goodies, as well as a Turbo-Jet 427 in³ V8 in either L36 or L72 variations. Special SS427 badging inside and out were the rule, but few were sold, since muscle car enthusiasts were looking toward big-block intermediates like the Chevelle SS396 and Plymouth Road Runners, which were lighter and subsequently faster off the line. Interestingly, Z24 cars could be ordered without the Z03 SS package, which meant SS427 equipment but no bucket seats or center console.
The Impala SS could be identified by SS emblems on the rear fenders and trunklid. The Impala SS became its own series (separate model rather than an option package) for 1964. In 1968, the Impala SS once more became an option package rather than having its own model. 1967 and 1968 SS427s got a special domed hood and body emblems, and the 1968 model featured "gills" on the front fenders in front of the wheel opening, possibly to remind people of its Corvette cousin. In 1969, the Impala SS was only available as the Z24 (SS427), coming only with a 427 in³ V8 of 390 or 425 hp. This was the final year for the Impala SS until 1994. Another plus is that the 1969 Impala SS was the last year it came with the Z24 SS427, but the only year where front disc brakes became standard equipment, along with 15 inch wheels, which made the 1969 SS427 better than its previous version. Although the 427 was replaced by the 454 in³ Turbo-Jet V8 in 1970, the SS option was gone. Thus the 1969 Impala SS427 got the best of both worlds, which is why it is so valuable today.
Second generation (1971-1976) Impala
In 1971, GM introduced its redesigned full-size B-body, the largest full-size car ever offered by GM. However, the 1970s marked a change in the American view of the automobile, which had a lasting impact on cars such as the Impala. The impact of the 1973 energy crisis on the industry was dramatic. Gasoline prices doubled between 1973 and 1979. Industry car sales plummeted 20% between 1973 and 1974, and for the first time in recent history, annual passenger car travel in the U.S. actually declined. The Impala's sales dropped to 176,376 units in 1975, the weakest sales year since its introduction in 1958. The 1970s-era Impalas had some notorious reliability issues, such as a large crack which would appear in the dashboard. Impala owners jokingly referred to it as the "Mark of Excellence" since like the GM logo, it was on virtually every car. The 1970s full-size Chevrolets were the biggest Chevies ever, partly because of Federal rules for bumper protection; beginning in 1973, front bumpers had to be able to withstand a 5mph impact. In 1974, rear bumpers also had to meet the same standards. Powertrains consisted of V8 engines ONLY. Engine sizes: 350, 400, or 454 cid. Beginning in 1972, all engines were designed to run on unleaded gasoline. Catalytic converters were introduced in 1975. The convertible model was dropped after 1975
Downsized (1977-1985) Impala
The changes in the automobile marketplace resulted in Chevrolet redesigning the Impala once again in 1977 to meet changing demands. The new Impalas were shorter in length, taller in stature and narrower. The new Impala's frame was a shortened version of the one introduced in 1971 and would be utilized until 1996 when the B-Body production line was shut down. The Impala embodied the new image of the full-size American car — smaller, lighter (lighter even than the mid-sized Chevelle in 1977), and more efficient. Even with its trimmer dimensions, the new Impala featured increased headroom, legroom and trunk space. Production of the downsized model increased substantially versus 1976, and the Impala regained the number one US sales position. Unfortunately, no convertible models were offered. However, the relatively rare 1977-1979 coupes did have a double bent tempered rear window much like the Monte Carlo Aerocoupe. Engine availability was narrowed in 1977, when the inline six-cylinder returned with a whopping 110 SAE(net)hp. Other options included 267cid and 305cid V8 engines. The 350cid V8 engine was optional in some years. Some Impalas also received Oldsmobile's 350cid V8 diesel engine.
In 1980, a slight facelift took place, although the body style remained the same, and all the sheetmetal was changed. From 1980-1990, all GM B-bodies shared similar doors that can be replaced by just removing model-specific trim pieces. Some sedan models used a longer wheelbase.
Although the Impala (and the upscale Caprice) sold well into the early 1980s, the Impala was more of an entry-level vehicle along with fleet usage - especially with law enforcement. The Impala was eventually discontinued in 1985, while the Caprice continued unchanged until 1990. The Caprice received a major facelift in 1991 and it continued until 1996.
1985-1995 Impala discontinued
Third generation (1994-1996) Impala
In 1991, the GM B platform was extensively redesigned, though it retained the same shortened frame design of the 1977 redesign.
The Impala SS badge was resurrected at the 1992 Detroit Auto Show as a concept car designed by GM designer Jon Moss, and received lavish praise of media and auto enthusiasts alike. In fact, the show car had been so well received that it was put into production almost exactly as the designer of the car had intended, the only noticeable cosmetic change being the "bowtie" logo on the grille was chrome in the production cars vs. red in the concept. However, a major mechanical difference was the concept car had a GM Performance Parts 8.2 L engine, which was impractical for production. It was replaced with the 5.7 L LT1 engine used in the Chevrolet Corvette, Camaro, and Pontiac Firebird. The 1994 Impala SS went into production 14 months later at GM's plant in Arlington, Texas.
The car was a high-performance version of the Caprice, and is often regarded as one of the best all-around cars that General Motors ever produced. From a mechanical standpoint, it used the Caprice 9C1 police package as its base and as such got most of the equipment formerly available only to law enforcement and government agencies. This included a sport-tuned suspension with reinforced shocks and struts, a high-capacity upgraded reverse flow cooling system, larger and more powerful four-wheel disc brakes, transmission cooler, dual exhaust, a higher-output electrical system, and other minor mechanical alterations. Not all of the police equipment was carried over however, as the Impala SS did not get the external oil-to-air engine oil cooler, nor were all the body mounts secured (the standard Caprice and Impala SS were assembled at the factory with the front 3 body mounts missing one of the rubber cushions, while the 9C1 was assembled with all rubber cushions in place), although both are popular aftermarket additions to the Impala SS by their owners.
The Impala SS was uniquely fitted with a standard 3.08 limited-slip rear differential and suspension that was an inch lower. A retuned LT1 5.7 L small-block V8 was standard on the Impala SS, making 260 hp and 330 ft·lbf (447 N·m) of torque. The primary difference between the LT1 in the Impala and the LT1 that was in the Corvette and Camaro was that the Impala engine was fitted with cast-iron cylinder heads instead of aluminum ones, and a camshaft that was designed more for low-end torque than high-end horsepower. Another difference was that the Impala LT1 had 2 bolt main bearing caps while the Corvette LT1 had 4 bolt main bearing caps. The transmission used in the car was the 4L60E, which was based on the previous 700R4 transmission, but with the notable addition of electronic controls.
Several other cars in the B-body line also shared a similar powertrain: these were the Chevrolet Caprice, Buick Roadmaster, and the Cadillac Fleetwood which all shared the LT1 engine and 4L60E transmission.
One surprising aspect of the performance of the 1990s Impala SS was its handling. Being a rather heavy (4200 lb) and large car, handling would not appear to be the car's forte. However, its improved suspension tuning, lowered stance and wide high-performance tires made the car handle surprisingly well.
Cosmetically, the Impala SS received body-colored trim, which helped reduce the sometimes "bloated" look of the standard Caprice, a unique single-bar grille with no hood ornament, a rear deck spoiler, and for 1994, a rear quarter panel window insert that bore the Impala logo. It was fitted with 17 inch brushed aluminum wheels, which wore some surprisingly wide 255/50ZR17 tires. Inside, the car came with a central console with cup holders (1994 and 1995 models) and a storage compartment, leather seats embroidered with the Impala SS logo, and a standard leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Impala SS proved to be one of GM's most successful limited-edition vehicles ever. For the 1994 model year, it was available only in black with a grey interior. Due to a shortage of the unique 5-spoke aluminum wheels, only 6,303 cars were sold. However, the wheel shortage was rememdied for the 1995 model year and 21,434 cars were sold. In 1995, Dark Cherry Metallic and Dark Grey Green were added as exterior color options, and the body paneling on the rear quarter panel was altered to reflect the cosmetic effect formally achieved by a window insert. 1996 was the last year of production with 41,941 units sold. The 1996 Impala SS production went late into the model year; some being produced as late as Dec 17,1996. It saw some minor interior alterations, with the digital speedometer being replaced by an analog one, along with a tachometer. The shifter was moved from the column to the center console, and mechanically, the car now used the OBD-II computer system.
The entire B/D-body line, consisting of the Chevrolet Caprice, Impala, Buick Roadmaster and Cadillac Fleetwood, was discontinued by General Motors, as GM wanted more assembly lines to be able to produce SUVs, which were more profitable for GM. Another fact was that the Caprice was the only B-body with a market share since fleet sales to law enforcement outnumbered sales of all other B-bodies.
Today, 1990s Impala SSs (including the Caprice 9C1) retain a great deal of popularity and devotion among owners and enthusiasts, more so than many comparable vehicle models with such a limited production run. Many clubs across the United States and in other countries are centered around the Impala and related B-body vehicles. The Impala and its cousins are often modified by many of their owners, who take advantage of the powerful Corvette-derived engine and large size of the vehicle. Some modifications may include turbocharged or supercharged engines, bigger wheels and tires, louder sound systems, and unusual paintjobs.
Fourth generation (2000-2005) Impala
The Impala name was resurrected for the 2000 model year to replace the Lumina. It was built at the Oshawa Car Assembly in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Unlike the earlier Impalas, this one was front-wheel drive and was available with two V6 engines. This car was based on the GM W platform. A new Impala SS with a supercharged V6 was brought out for the 2004 model year.
This generation of the Impala (as well as the next generation) became a sales success, with 290,259 units being sold in 2004, and became the best-selling large sedan. It was available in two trim levels from 2000 to 2002. The base model came equipped with cloth bench seats, the 175 hp 3.4 L LA1 V6, and a 3-gauge instrument cluster. The LS came factory-equipped with cloth bucket seats upgradeable to leather with center console and floor shift, color-keyed "Impala" door scripts and trunk badge, anti-lock brakes, traction control, keyless remote entry, integrated foglamps, 4-gauge instrument cluster and the 200 hp 3.8 L L36 V6. Options available on all models included a sunroof, OnStar system, rear decklid spoiler, Driver Information Center with built-in Homelink system, heated power front seats and 16 inch 1990s SS-inspired wheels. All options found or available on the LS were available on the base model. All models came equipped with power windows, door locks and mirrors.
In 2003, Chevrolet introduced the LS Sport appearance package. Added to the LS model, it offered a 6-gauge cluster, front bumper extension, color-keyed tail light panels and a chrome exhaust tip.
The 2004 to 2005 Impala SS came equipped with the 3.8 L supercharged L67 V6 engine. It was rated at 240 hp, and had been previously used in the Pontiac Grand Prix GTP, Buick Regal GS and Pontiac Bonneville SSEI. Even though the vehicle was discounted as not being a 'true SS', the lightweight supercharged sedan was actually quicker than the 1990s Impala SS, with 0-60 mph times pushing 6.5 seconds compared to the 1990s model's 7.1.
Also released with this version were the Police Package and Undercover Police Package, named 9C1 and 9C3, respectively. Available only to law enforcement, it has had more success than its predecessor, the Lumina 9C3. The 9C1 was basically a base model with a much beefier suspension and the 3.8 L V6 engine. It was only available in a few basic colors. Another addition was the "SURV MODE" switch which replaced the foglight switch found on the LS. This enabled the driver to turn off all lights in the vehicle and "hide"; something not allowed with the civilian models as automatic headlights were standard. The 9C3 was comparably equipped to the 9C1 but the ability to add other convenience options and more paint and interior choices set the 9C3 apart.
Fifth generation (2006-2009) Impala
The 2006 Impala was introduced at the 2005 Los Angeles Auto Show. Like the Buick LaCrosse, this model uses the updated GM W platform. The base engine is a 3.5 L V6 producing 211 hp. The most notable news about the model, though, is the SS model's use of the Generation IV small-block V8 in a front-wheel drive Chevrolet car for the first time, and the first V8 in a Chevrolet sedan since the 1996 Caprice: the new 5.3 L V8 (with Displacement on Demand) produces 303 hp, making it one of the most powerful production front-wheel drive vehicles in the world. The car is 200.4 in (509 cm) long, 58.7 in (149.1 cm) high, and 72.9 in (185.2 cm) wide. Available trim levels are LS, LT, LTZ and the aforementioned SS.
Also updated are the 9C1 & 9C3 trim levels for Police Package models, which do not have the civilian SS' 303 hp V8 engine available, much to the disappointment of law enforcement, but instead will use the 3.9 L V6, as that engine does not have Displacement on Demand, and is more suited for the power-to-weight ratio and handling advantages. The interior was also completely revised. The 2006 Impala featured a new wood trim center console with chrome accents on all major control buttons. The dashboard features a chrome Impala logo embedded in the wood grain trim which runs across the front of the vehicle and onto the doors. The new control knobs found throughout the vehicle's cockpit are similar to those found in the new Buick models as well as the Cadillac DTS, all of whom feature a similar center console. Another interior revision are the cupholders, which are now concealed underneath the mid-section of the vehicle's center console.
The Impala receives several new colors, and an AFM-equipped 3.9 L V6 for 2007, as well as a Regency-outfitted "Impala RSS". The RSS will include more aggressive rims, front/rear bumper and rocker panel extensions, a BMW M-inspired spoiler and various interior upgrades. Also beginning in 2007, the Impala will begin to replace the successful Monte Carlo on the NASCAR stock car racing circuit; more specifically, on all the scheduled racing events where NASCAR has mandated the use of a car with different (and some) new specifications, better known as the Car of Tomorrow, it was recently announced that in 2008 the Impala will be the only Chevrolet nameplate on the NASCAR Circuit.
The Impala will be heavily redesigned for either the 2009 or 2010 model year, with sales beginning sometime later this decade. It will be transferred to the GM Zeta platform alongside the new Camaro. The car will likely be a spin-off of the Holden Commodore that shares the same platform, but it is unknown if the Impala will be more like the Holden Statesman or not.
Appearances in pop culture
In the Disney and Pixar film Cars, Ramone is based on a 1959 Impala lowrider. The voice of Ramone is provided by Cheech Marin who drove a 1964 Chevrolet Impala in the 1978 movie Up in Smoke.
- In rap culture, the term "six-four" is generally assumed to refer to a 1964 Impala.
- Actor and comedian Tim Allen once owned a 1996 Impala SS with a custom-mounted LT5 engine.
- Detroit-based rap group Slum Village was featured in ads for the 2006 Impala.
- 1964 Impalas were popular with West Coast rappers in the early 1990s, as they were featured in several music videos.
- The murderer of Notorious B.I.G. was in an Impala when he fired the shots that killed his victim.
- The red convertible used in the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a highly optioned 1971 Impala, although it is often mistaken for a Caprice. Full-size Chevrolet convertibles changed to the Caprice Classic in 1973, but aside from the name, they were still essentially the same car.
- On WCVB-TV Boston's Chronicle newsmagazine, long-time co-host/correspondent Peter Mehegan drives a fully restored 1969 Impala 327 V8 coupe to different New England destinations on The Main Streets & Back Roads segment series. Mehegan started driving the Impala on the program in 1987, after having a local auto body team bring it back after it had rotted in a garage for years. "The Old Chevy" has become an institution for Chronicle viewers.
- Eddie Guerrero, WWE wrestler, owned at least one Chevrolet Impala (he owned upwards of 14 lowriders) and was known for driving it and other lowriders to the ring before his wrestling matches.
- The 1971-76 Impalas were the largest produced to date.
- 1971-76 Impalas (alongside the upscale Caprice and low-end Bel Air/Biscayne) fitted with rims over 22 inches are known as 'Donks' alongside BOP B-bodies and full-size Cadillacs. The publication 'Donk Box and Bubble' and Rides magazine consider large Impalas fitted with 22+ inch rims the equivalent of a Mercedes S500.
- A black, four-door 1967 Chevrolet Impala is used in the television series Supernatural.
- The cover of the "Weird Al" Yankovic album Straight Outta Lynwood features Yankovic standing in front of the rear end of a 1967 Chevrolet Impala, even though the album describes it as a 1977 Impala.
- The 2006 movie Crank has 2 94-96 Chevy Impala SS (cloned) cars in a car chase.
- In 2007, the 17 year old R&B singer Crystal Cue came out with her debut single, which is titled "Impala Boy".
- During a Chevy commercial debuted in the 2007 Super Bowl, T.I. sang a version of "Top Back" with an Impala in the background. At least two previous generations of Impalas are featured in another commercial promoting the NASCAR Car of Tomorrow Impala, as those cars (and other Chevrolets, past and present) "introduce" the 2007 NASCAR version, with TI, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Tony Stewart.
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We carry the following parts for the 1958, 1959, 1560, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970 Impala:
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