The Chevrolet Impala through the decades

Origins of the Chevy Impala

Chevrolet introduced the Impala as a concept car in 1956 at the Motorama — General Motors’ (GM) car show. The five-seat hardtop design was met with excitement. Even back then, two years before the car’s production, many people saw it for what it might be — muscly, agile, elegant and powerful. It had all the attributes that made its name so fitting.

The “impala” name — though not e

The “impala” name — though not explicitly stated by Chevrolet — likely refers to a type of antelope that roams the savannas of southern Africa. Notoriously speedy, these animals can also leap distances of 33 feet and up to 10 feet high

Although the Impala might not have these specific leaping abilities, it soon became clear that it was the type of fast, sinewy vehicle that made it feel like you could. 

Video

1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Impala Sport Coupe

Impala was born as an upscale variant of the Chevy Bel Air. The name was introduced as part of a schemed to celebrate 50 years of GM vehicle production by creating top-trim offshoots with similar styling cues. This initiative gave birth to two other names that would go on to future production models: the Cadillac Eldorado Seville and the Buick Roadmaster Riviera.

1977-1985 Chevrolet Impala

For 1977, the sixth-generation Impala got smaller, slicker, and more efficient. This generation bore the brunt of the mayhem inflicted on Detroit by the mandate of emissions controls, along with waning support of domestic manufacturers by a fickle public eager for more fuel-efficient, compact options. The largest engine offered in this generation was 350 cubic inch small block; it was also available with a diesel. We try not to talk about that fiasco. 

At the end of its eight-year run (the longest of any Impala to that point), GM decided Chevrolet couldn’t sustain two full-size nameplates. The Caprice, which was the higher-end full-sizer, was spared the axe. Thus, after the 1985 model year the Impala was killed off. 

It wouldn’t be the last time. 

1971-1976

Larger and heavier was the trend when the 1971 model cars arrived, and the Impala was right in step. The Impala continued to outsell the more luxurious and more expensive Caprice. In fact, the 10-millionth Impala was assembled during the 1972 model year, thus making it the most popular full-sized American car in history.

While Chevy went with the “Colonnade” design for the Caprice, Impala hung on to the hardtop through 1975. Shown here is the special edition 1974 Impala dubbed “Spirit of America.” It featured white paint and upholstery, special pin striping, fender skirts, and wheels borrowed from Pontiac.

The 1973-1976 model years brought major changes to the auto industry as a whole; Chevrolet could not avoid the forces causing these changes. Government regulations and rising insurance costs resulted in the so-called 5-mph bumpers for 1973. Stylists simply did the best they could with the new rule known as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 215, but the hefty bumpers looked clumsy. The only exception was the body-colored “Endura” bumper-grille combination appearing on some GM models; the Impala was not one of them. Roof-crush resistance standards ultimately put an end to the hardtop design. While Chevy went with the “Colonnade” design for the Caprice, Impala hung on to the hardtop through 1975. The hardtop craze that began in 1949 had become as extinct as the tailfin age that had ended about a decade earlier. Pollution control mandates brought the end of high-compression engines and also gave vehicles the catalytic converter. The Arab oil embargo in 1973 and 1974 resulted in a shortage of gasoline and higher prices for fuel. Suddenly big, heavy cars were undesirable due to their inherently low fuel mileage. Although the embargo did not last long, big car demand had weakened. Another big change was the disappearance of the convertible. Convertible sales had for a number of years been on the decline thanks in part to air conditioning, an extra-cost option that had gradually become much more affordable. The same roll-over crash standards that brought the demise of the hardtop also contributed to the end of the convertible — or so everyone thought. The last Impala convertible was built in 1972 (though the Caprice convertible was offered through 1975). While convertibles began to reappear in the 1980s, a full-sized Chevrolet convertible was not to be.

For 1977, the fifth-generation full-size Chevrolets received an all-new downsized body. This photo shows the 1978 Impala 2-door coupe.

1967 1968

A new look was offered for 1967, but the sales slide continued. Even so, production of Impalas and Impala Super Sports totaled roughly 650,000 cars.

The 1968 Impala two-door hardtops were offered with a formal-style roofline borrowed from the Caprice; this Impalas model was dubbed Impala Custom Coupe. The standard 1968 Impala two-door hardtop continued with the fastback roofline. One other update was a raised lip at the rear of the hood to conceal the windshield wipers. Also, the SS this year regressed to an option package as it was in the beginning.

The standard SS package was rather subtle in 1967 and ’68, but buyers who selected the 427 engine in a 1967 or ’68 Super Sport received the SS427 package which included a special domed hood and more prominent SS call-outs, among other SS427-only features.

The 1970 Impala lineup no longer included a Super Sport. A 4-speed transmission was not offered for the big Chevys either. The new big block 454 was an option and was offered in two states of tune – 345hp and 390hp. A 350cid V-8, introduced for 1969, was yet another choice. The Impala Custom Coupe came with power brakes with front discs.

Find Your Dream Impala at Volo

The Chevy Impala is one of the most popular and beloved cars ever. Owning a classic Impala is like owning a piece of that golden history. 

If you’re looking to buy your own Chevy Impala, it can be difficult to chase down a classic model, and the number of these classic cars is always diminishing. It’s important to find a trusted provider that can give you a quality selection to choose from. With the right dealer, you can browse for the specific model you want and know you’re getting exactly what you’re buying. Going through a dealer is a convenient and reliable way to find your classic Impala. 

At Volo Museum Auto Sales, we give you that convenience and reliability. Our on-site mechanics inspect our cars to make sure they’re in the proper condition. We can let you take a car for a drive to test it out, and we’ll assist you with post-purchase support so that you’re satisfied throughout the entire buying journey. With over four generations of family experience, we are the oldest car collector dealer in existence. Find your dream Impala at Volo by browsing our collection today! 

Tags

Leave a Comment