MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of General Motors
Published 1.9.2019

 

1958 Chevy Impala at the GM Tech Center GM Archives 11958 Chevy Impala at the GM Tech Center (GM Archives)

 

One of the most popular General Motors nameplates over its history is the Chevrolet Impala. The Impala story started back in 1956, when Chevrolet introduced a great looking show car at the GM Motorama show called the Impala. The show car offered a fiberglass body and became a big hit with consumers who enjoyed its great styling.

1958 Chevy Impala convertible GM Archives 21958 Chevy Impala convertible (GM Archives) 

When the Chevrolet Impala was made available to the public in 1958, General Motors had a huge success on their hands. Most consumers enjoyed its great design and many of its new added features. It was a brand new design for Chevrolet. The 1958 Chevrolet models were designed under the legendary Harley Earl. It was the first Chevrolet model that offered dual headlamps and triple taillights.

I always thought that the 1958 Chevrolet models were the best looking cars made that year. In 1959 and 1960, Chevrolet continued to be among the sales leaders in the automotive market, with models that were more radical featuring a bat-wing tail design. However, one of the nicest looking models in the Chevrolet line was the Impala Sport Coupe, which attracted many buyers. In 1961, Chevrolet once again offered a completely new design in the full-size line, with the Impala 4-Door Sport Sedan selling for $2,769 and convertible model which attracted many buyers at a price tag of $2,704.

 1962 Chevrolet Impala station wagon GM Archives 31962 Chevrolet Impala station wagon (GM Archives)

 

From 1960 to 1965, Chevrolet’s signature rear end styling included the round taillight designs which many consumers admired and enjoyed. I always thought that the 1962 and 1963 Chevrolet models were great looking designs. They were designed under the direction of Bill Mitchell and were strong sellers. The Impala 2-Door Sport Hardtop model was the only two-door style in the Impala Series for that year. The former two-door sedan was dropped from the series and was available only in the Bel Air and Biscayne Series.

1963 Impala 50 millionth Chevy vehicle manufactured at Tarry Town NY GM Archives 4A 1963 Impala was the 50 millionth Chevy vehicle manufactured. Governor Nelson Rockefeller was part of a ceremony at the Tarry Town, New York plant. (GM Archives) 

GM celebrated with Governor Nelson Rockefeller as a gold Impala rolled off the line in Tarrytown, New York on June 10, 1963. It was the 50 millionth Chevrolet. The Impala models were quickly identified by its wide side spear with the Impala nameplate at the rear end of the vehicle. The 1964 Chevrolets were very popular and remain collectible to this day. Chevrolet manufactured 1,190,821 vehicles for the 1964 model year. The Impala series had used distinctive side trim to quickly distinguish it from the Biscayne and Bel Air Series.

1964 Chevy Impala convertible GM Archives 51964 Chevy Impala convertible (GM Archives)

 

The 1965-1969 Chevrolet models once again offered great styling for the consumer market, and the Impala continued to generate great sales for General Motors. In 1965, the sleek swept-back Chevrolet was a big hit, and drivers enjoyed its great styling and different colors like Evening Orchid, which became a big hit among women buyers. Chevrolet was all new for 1965, and interiors were also redesigned as well.

1969 Chevy Impala GM Archives 61969 Chevy Impala (GM Archives) 

The 1970s and 1980s Chevrolet models were great looking cars with a Custom Coupe model costing $3,474 in 1970. In 1975, Chevrolet manufactured its last full-size convertible model which was a Caprice Classic.

1977 Chevy Impala GM Archives 71977 Chevy Impala (GM Archives)

 

The OPEC oil embargo in 1973 and 1974 shook up the entire automotive industry. During this time, GM began its corporate-wide downsizing due to the oil shortage. However, the big news for 1977 was the introduction of a new and practically designed Chevrolet Impala now downsized for the consumer market. The models offered more leg room, headroom and trunk space. GM received excellent reviews for the new Impala, including being named Motor Trend's “Car of the Year.”

In 1986, the Impala nameplate disappeared after 30 years, and the Caprice took over. However, in 1994, the Impala came back, this time as a high-performance sedan sporting the SS logo.

2018 Chevy Impala GM Archives 82018 Chevy Impala (GM Archives)

 

In 2000, the Impala was introduced on a number of front wheel drive four-door sedan models manufactured on the W-body platform. Today, the 2019 Impala is manufactured with high strength steel, helping form a rigid structure around the passenger compartment for safety, along with added new features for your smartphone. GM recently announced that the 2019 Impala is the final model year for the iconic nameplate, as the company’s focus continues to shift to crossovers, SUVs, pickups and electric vehicles.

In conclusion, the Impala, which has reflected the automobile industry for over 60 years, will always be a part of our culture and memories.   

 

Bibliography

 

Dammann, George H. “Sixty Years of Chevrolet.” Crestline Publishing, 1972.    

Auto Editors of Consumer Guide. “Chevrolet Chronicle: The Complete & Colorful Story of Chevrolet from 1904.” 2002.   

Chevrolet Impala 2019 Catalog.