MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of GM Media Archives
Published 11.22.2023

The 1958 Chevrolet Impala GM Media Archives 2The 1958 Chevrolet Impala (GM Media Archives)

Although 1958 was a recession year for the auto industry, the Chevrolet Impala became a huge success for General Motors. The 1958 Chevrolet Impala was introduced on October 29, 1957, by singers Dinah Shore and Pat Boone in their popular commercials. The Impala sold for $2,693 and became a big hit among younger buyers.

1958 Chevrolet Impala assembly line GM Media Archives 1A look at the 1958 Chevrolet Impala assembly line (GM Media Archives)

The 1958 Chevrolet line was completely redesigned, offering a longer, lower and wider look, with new quad headlights that were introduced for the model year in all new GM products. The Impala was designed under the direction of GM styling vice president Harley Earl and his design team, including Clare MacKichan. The 1958 Chevrolet bodies were completely restyled and built on a new “Safety Girder” frame which featured X-type construction with cross members and a center tube.

A 1958 Chevy Impala GM Media Archives 3A 1958 Chevy Impala promotional image (GM Media Archives)

The 1958 Chevrolet Impala was only manufactured in a hardtop and convertible. Although the fins were removed in 1958, they were brought back in 1959 with an even wider fin design. For 1958, the Chevrolet Impala was one of the costliest models in the brand’s lineup.

Despite the higher price, the Impala soon became America’s bestselling automobile. The Impala name comes from the medium-sized African antelopes. Charles Jordan, who later became vice president of GM Design said this about the 1958 Chevrolet Impala: “The front was pretty straightforward, but the rear had some flair to it -- when we put on those three taillights, we thought we really set the world on fire.” 

A 1958 Chevy Impala convertible GM Media Archives 4A 1958 Chevy Impala convertible (GM Media Archives)

Some automotive historians have said the 1958 Chevrolet Impala stood out in a crowd, and it did. As an automotive historian, I was always attracted to the 1958 Impala because it was a great looking car. Carl Renner, who was a part of the Impala’s design team, said, “considering the various design input, we were really pleased with the outcome of the 1958 Chevrolet Impala design.”

1958 Chevy Impala at the GM Tech Center RESIZED 5The 1958 Chevy Impala at the GM Tech Center

Some GM designers called the 1958 Impala’s horizontal fins “barrage balloons.” By developing an all-new safety girder chassis for 1958, Chevrolet brought a completely re-engineered and restyled model line to market.  

The Impala models were very striking with their front fender top ornaments, along with four short vertical strips located on the lower rear fenders and trim features that included an Impala script insignia and a crossed-flag emblem.  

A 1958 Chevrolet Impala ad GM Media Archives CROPPED AND RESIZED 6The 1958 Chevrolet Impala in the Golden Jubilee catalog (GM Media Archives)

The Impala was a part of the Bel Air series. Chevrolet promoted the 1958 Impala in a number of ways. Promotional photography took place at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. The Impala was also a part of the 1958 General Motors Golden Jubilee advertising catalog, celebrating 50 years of General Motors 1908-1958. Finally, as mentioned earlier, General Motors also used for its television commercials with Dinah Shore and Pat Boone to promote the new 1958 Chevrolet Impala.

1958 Chevy Impala convertible ad GM Media Archives 7A 1958 Chevy Impala convertible ad (GM Media Archives)

In 1956, Chevrolet introduced a show car called the Impala. It was made out of fiberglass and could accommodate five passengers. The bumper and grille were an integral unit and both the front and rear styling resembled the new Corvette for 1956.

1958 Chevrolet Impala sales catalog GM Media Archives RESIZED 8A spread from the 1958 Chevrolet Impala sales brochure (GM Media Archives)

In conclusion, the 1958 Chevrolet Impala was a great looking design. Today it is still very popular with automotive enthusiasts, who like to customize their 1958 Impalas. Today, a newly restored 1958 Chevrolet Impala sports coupe or convertible could sell for well over $30,000.  

Bibliography      

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

McNessor, Mike. “1958 Chevrolet Impala: A Timeless Classic That’s Only Going Up in Value.” Hemmings.com Buyers Guide, November 3, 2023. 

Traver Adolphus, David. “Groundbreaking 1958 Chevrolet Impala.” Hemmings.com, September 23, 2018.

Kowalke, Ron. ‘Standard Catalog of Chevrolet 1912-1998.” Krause Publications.