Michael Simari and the Manufacturer
Although production of the Impala has stopped, it remains one of Chevrolet’s most revered nameplates—and America’s annual sales leader at various times. But the highly successful cars of the 1950s and ’60s were followed by a string of uninspired models that largely turned “Impala” into a synonym for “rental.” The latest model—which was all-new for 2014—changed that, with a fresh, sculpted design; modern technology; and direct-injected powertrains that include a hybridized four-cylinder. It’s been a long road for the Impala, so let’s take a brief look at the milestones along the way.
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1956 Chevrolet Impala Motorama show car
The GM Motorama show car that started it all.
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Gen I: 1958 Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe
Building on a theme presented at the 1956 GM Motoramas, the 1958 Impala wore a sensational Harley Earl–era design, with ample chrome decoration over deeply sculpted fenders, Chevy’s first dual headlamps, and triple taillamps.
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Gen I: 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Impala Convertible
The major chassis advancement was a move from semi-elliptic leaf springs to coils at the rear.
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Gen II: 1959 Chevrolet Impala
When Bill Mitchell replaced Earl as GM’s design boss, Impalas received leaner, lower, wider styling highlighted by a radical bat-wing tail motif.
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Gen II: 1959 Chevrolet Impala sport sedan
Four-door hardtops and sedans joined the first gen’s coupe and convertible body styles.
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Gen III: 1963 Chevrolet Impala
The redesigned 1961 models showed a conservative streak with a boxier design, tidier dimensions, and a new wagon body style.
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Gen III: 1964 Chevrolet Impala convertible
Kicking off the early muscle-car days, the first SS badge on a production model and the iconic 409-cubic-inch (6.7-liter) big-block arrived at the onset of this generation.
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Gen IV: 1965 Chevrolet Impala
The sleeker, more classic design that arrived in 1965 boosted the Impala over the 1-million-units-per-year hurdle, a record for a single car line. The Impala Caprice arrived as Chevy’s four-door hardtop flagship.
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Gen IV: 1966 Chevrolet Impala SS convertible
Nine V-8s ranging in displacement from 283 cubic inches (4.6 liters) through 454 cubic inches (7.4 liters) were offered in this generation. The base engine was a 250-cube (4.1-liter) six.
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Gen V: 1971 Chevrolet Impala
The last of the biggies introduced for the 1971 model year was the largest Chevrolet ever produced. The advent of unleaded gas in 1972 drove lower compression ratios, reduced power, and diminished performance, and that model year also marked the final time the Impala badge was applied to a convertible.
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Gen V 1972 Chevrolet Impala convertible coupe
The feds required energy-absorbing bumpers for ’73—a significant setback for style.
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Gen VI: 1977 Chevrolet Impala
In response to the first energy crisis that began in the fall of 1973, Impalas benefited from a newly downsized format that appeared in 1977 with smaller dimensions, lighter curb weights, larger trunks, and only a modest loss of interior space. The more-practical Chevys leapt to the top sales slot.
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Gen VI: 1980 Chevrolet Impala sedan
Demand soon dwindled, however, in part due to engineering neglect, resulting in the Impala nameplate’s retirement after the 1985 model year. The basic car, however, continued on in sedan and wagon guise as the Caprice.
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Gen VII: 1994 Chevrolet Impala SS
The aged Gen VI platform was freshened in 1991 and the Impala was reborn for the 1994 model year exclusively as a four-door, with rounded (some say bloated) exterior design, police underpinnings, and SS badging.
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Gen VII: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS
Production again ceased at the end of 1996 to clear manufacturing space for the rising SUV wave.
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Gen VIII: 2000 Chevrolet Impala LS
The Impala nameplate was resurrected in 2000 as a front-drive, V-6–powered, four-door with unibody construction (GM’s W-body platform). It offered six-passenger seating in base trim or five perches in upper models.
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Gen VIII: 2004 Chevrolet Impala Indy SS
A supercharged 3.8-liter V-6 producing 240 horsepower energized the 2004–2005 Impala SS.
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Gen IX: 2009 Chevrolet Impala SS
This one arrived for 2006. Struggling to keep the Impala SS nameplate kicking, Chevy combined a 5.3-liter small-block V-8 with front-wheel drive for the first time in this reengineered model (now using the third generation of GM’s W-platform). That package lasted three model years, although three other trim levels and police packages carried on with occasional freshening touches.
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Gen IX: 2011 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
The rear-drive, Australian-built Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle retired the Impala 9C1 in the 2012 model year, but civilian Impalas soldiered on into 2013.
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Gen X: 2014 Chevrolet Impala
The all-new 2014 Impala bowed at the 2012 New York auto show and is built on assembly lines in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, and Hamtramck, Michigan. The hoary W underpinnings have been replaced by fresh, Opel-designed and -developed Epsilon II components shared with the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS.