Goodbye Chevrolet Impala

Six decades of Golden Antelope history are over.

This car was loved by everyone – police officers, middle managers, drag racers, rappers … For 62 years of his life, he managed to visit both sides of the law and become the same familiar symbol of America as the eagle or the Statue of Liberty. And this year his story came to an end.

Impala, as Wikipedia says, is “medium sized African antelope.” This term became American thanks to the love of the General Motors concern to make gifts to itself on significant dates. In 1958, another reason to open champagne appeared – the company was exactly half a century old. However, GM wanted to celebrate the holiday on a larger scale than a couple of corporate parties, and ordered the subsidiaries to prepare one special version of their full-size coupes. Pontiac unveiled the Bonneville Catalina, Cadillac unveiled the chic Eldorado Seville, and Chevrolet took the iconic Bel Air and named the new package after that same antelope. In fact, this name appeared even earlier – the first badge tried on the show car Corvette Impala XP-101, prepared in 1956 for the Chicago Auto Show.

The first Bel Air Impala of 1958: panoramic windshields and rear windows, along with six taillights, sunk into the souls of almost two hundred thousand Americans

In the late fifties, well-fed America went crazy for big cars with gluttonous engines. Gas was cheap, the auto industry was booming, and manufacturers could afford to release new models every year. Early in its life, Impala changed its body design more often than its owners shaved. And the demand for it was crazy! The 1958 Bel Air Impala sold 180,000 units. It was quite different from the regular Bel Air: the interior sported bright colors and aluminum accents, and under the hood could be located a 5.7-liter V8 Turbo-Thrust with up to 315 horsepower. In this generation, the model received one of its main business cards: six lanterns at the stern.

Impala 1959. The Bel Air name was dropped, as were the classic round lanterns. Which, however, will return anyway

In 1959, the Impala became an independent model and proved that its success was not accidental. A sedan was added to the coupe and convertible, and in the first year of production, the Americans bought 473 thousand of these cars. The 1959 Impala features a mermaid tail with oversized fins and two teardrop-shaped headlamps, but the following year, the rear took on a more traditional look.

Impala SS 409 1961. And this is still not the most “evil” option …

The third generation, released in 1961, received two updates: a station wagon and a sports version of the Impala SS. The latter is often called the first muscle car in history. The arms race between GM, Chrysler and Ford began with this model. The Impala SS’s arsenal included a 6.7-liter V8 with 360 horsepower and 542 Nm of torque, which accelerated the 5.3-meter coupe to the first hundred in 7.8 seconds. And two years later, in 1963, it became even more powerful with the Z11 package. It included an engine bored out to seven liters (430 hp and 780 Nm!), Lightweight body parts made of aluminum and a hood with an air intake. This was one of the first cases when it was already possible to get a serious dragster ready for competition from the factory.… In 1962, only 18 Chevrolet Impala SS 409 Lightweight Coupe were built, and such cars were not sold to the uninitiated. And now these “Impalas” are regulars at auctions, where the cost of a lot easily exceeds several hundred thousand dollars.

Impala Hardtop Coupe of the fourth generation …

If one could describe Impala’s early history in two words, it would be “superlative”. The former most expensive Chevrolet model at birth, in 1961 it became the first muscle car in history, two years later – one of the first factory dregs, and a couple of years later tried on the title of the most popular Chevy in the world. In 1965, more than a million fourth generation Impalas were sold! And even now it is difficult to find a more famous Impala among young people than the 1967 Hardtop Sedan – the faithful companion of the Winchester brothers from the TV series Supernatural. Impala and world cinema have long gone hand in hand, but more on that later.

1968 Custom Coupe – the final breath of the two-door Impala SS

While conventional coupes, convertibles, sedans and station wagons dominated the full-size car market, the Impala SS did not fare well. The buyers realized that the heavy cruisers were too big for them, and switched to the more compact and maneuverable Nova SS and Chevelle SS. The flagship’s dwindling sales were attempted to revive with a 7.4-liter V8 and front disc brakes “at base”, but already in 1969 the Impala SS pointed the door. The “simple” Impala lost the title of the most expensive Chevrolet car. The culprit was the Impala Caprice with individual seats, rich trim and wood-look inlays in the cabin, which from the top version later became a separate model on a higher level. By the way, it was she who would later return the Impala from oblivion.

The early seventies dealt another blow to the model. However, at that time all American automakers had a hard time – the 1973 oil crisis did not spare anyone. And Chevrolet managed to give the fifth generation of the 1971 Impala the largest body in the history of the model … It is impossible to come up with a bad solution. The consequences were not long in coming. From a million annually sold cars in the 60s, the figure fell to 176 thousand in the mid 70s: even the very first Bel Air Impala sold better.

The 1976 Impala line shows how the bodywork has thinned out. Neither the convertible nor the SS version survived the oil crisis

General Motors rushed to fix the mistakes. At first, it was decided to remove the convertible and the two-door hardtop – the buyers obviously had no time for four of them to walk in the sun in such a voracious car. The V8 engine range has been reduced from eight to three variants. Then they set about solving problems with quality and equipment: for a small surcharge, you could buy a speedometer with double markings, a front sofa with additional adjustments and a whole scattering of options. In addition, limited editions such as Landau and Spirit of America have tried to spur interest in the Impala.

Sedan and station wagon – that’s all the Impala “variety” of the late seventies. There was also a two-door, but she had very little to live.

In this form, the car lived up to the sixth generation, released in 1977. The Impala is smaller, lighter and more comfortable. Not a trace of the former luxury remained: the once luxury coupe turned into a line of sedans and station wagons, which also acquired V6 engines. The 7.4-liter V8 had to be forgotten, but the market appreciated this gesture: in the same year, the Impala became Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. Having survived one restyling, the model left the market in 1985, leaving behind the soplatform Caprice. The first chapter of Impala’s history has closed.

Ice Cube and Chevrolet Impala are such an established duo that they print posters and produce figures with it

In the video above, Ice Cube and Chevrolet Impala are such an established duo that they print posters and produce figures with them. The first four generations of the Impala were beloved by East Coast gangsta rappers. She has been featured in dozens of tracks and has been featured in the videos for Eazy-E and Ice Cube. The luxurious coupe was an accomplice in crimes: for example, Notorious BIG , one of the leaders of the “war of the coasts”, was shot from a passing Impala . And it was this car that stood at the origins of the culture of lowriders. And the fifth and sixth generations gave Impala to live up to its name – it became a workhorse for taxis and police, going over to the side of law and justice.

The Nineties Impala SS was a real wolf in sheep’s clothing

In 1992, after a seven-year hiatus, Impala returned. And on what scale! The hero of the occasion was the General Motors designer, who came up with the idea to return the historic Impala SS nameplate. To do this, he took the units of the police Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 and introduced an 8.2-liter (!) V-8 engine there. The concept was presented at the SEMA Show, after which the decision to put it into production was a matter of time. However, Chevrolet was modest by installing a 5.7-liter LT1 engine from Corvette in the production Impala SS with 260 forces and 447 Nm. Such a “sleeper” could boast of a stiffer suspension, disc brakes in a circle, a limited-slip differential and a dual exhaust – why not a worthy heir to the good old “Impala” of the first generations? And for those for whom 260 strength was not enough, tuning studio Callaway has offered a power increase package to more than 400 hp. and acceleration to “hundreds” in 5.9 seconds. The main highlight was the oversized brakes that were originally developed for the Ferrari F40!

Alas, the swan song of the rear-wheel drive Impalas with big motors was short-lived. Already in 1996, the GM B-body platform went to rest, taking with it both the Caprice / Impala SS and the Buick Roadmaster with the Cadillac Fleetwood. SUVs in the late nineties were more popular than sedans, and of the entire B-body line, only the Caprice achieved any significant success.

Impala early 2000s. By the level of unusualness and attractiveness, it is located somewhere between an office printer and a toothpick.

The year 2000 was a revolution, albeit a very dubious one. The Impala is front-wheel drive! The eighth generation, which replaced the Chevrolet Lumina, was not remembered by fans for almost anything. It was the same ordinary, unpretentious sedan, as in the eighties, the main task of which was to comfortably move passengers (or police officers) from point A to point B. Sales could be called satisfactory, but nothing more – several hundred thousand were far from million cars in the sixties, with a good portion of the orders coming from the police and firefighters. Not even the Impala SS deserved attention, for the first time swapping eight cylinders for a Buick V6, which developed a ridiculous 240 horsepower.

The ninth generation Impala sold 300 thousand units a year at its best

The ninth generation, released in 2006, tried to strengthen its position in the market. Having retained the W-body platform, Impala finally lost its driver’s ambitions, but instead it became better quality, more comfortable and safer. And this was the last time the Impala wore the “SS” nameplate. The latest “hot” sedan was powered by a 5.3-liter V8 LS4 series with 303 horsepower. The equipment was very good: leather interior, 18-inch wheels, good old “mechanics” … And from zero to a hundred Impala SS accelerated in 5.6 seconds. Ryan Gosling escaped the chase in the same sedan in the movie “Drive”. In addition, the ninth generation Impala was released in NASCAR for the first time in 40 years … Unfortunately, this did not affect production cars. In 2010, the model lost its V8 engines. Forever and ever.

Tenth generation Impala. We will remember her just like that

In 2014, the tenth and last generation of the Impala was released. It was built on the Epsilon II platform, followed by a wave of misfortune. Saab 9-5, Cadillac XTS, Holden Insignia – they all left the market as Impala co-platforms. And the ill-fated Chevrolet sedan collapsed in sales: from 311 thousand in 2007 to 44 thousand copies in 2019. And it’s not entirely clear what was wrong with it – it had two in-line four-cylinder engines (182 and 195 hp), a flagship V6 with a capacity of 305 horsepower, a spacious interior with ventilated seats, a Bose audio system … However, the fact remains: Chevrolet Impala production ended on February 27, 2020 Ironically, General Motors killed one legendary model for the sake of reviving another, destroyed by the concern earlier: an electric GMC Hummer pickup will be assembled at the vacated facilities of the Detroit plant.

Although the creators of the Chevrolet Impala never dreamed of world domination, the contribution of this model to the culture of the United States is simply enormous. According to the Internet Movie Cars Database, Impala has appeared over 2,500 times in movies, TV series and music videos! Songs were written in her honor, films were made with her, she helped to break the law and protect the same law. She managed to visit the top of the Chevrolet hierarchy and make a sad journey to the very bottom.

It is known about African impalas that they are capable of jumping up to three meters in height and up to ten meters in length. Today the history of the Chevrolet model of the same name is over, but I hope that it will not be forever. Is she preparing for a new leap? Indeed, with its departure, Chevrolet loses not only its famous name, but also its flagship sedan. Who knows, maybe in a bright future full of chargers and batteries, such a luxurious “antelope” will come in handy.

Goodbye Impala. And – we hope – see you later.