The cars we loved.
It always amazed me how different American cars appeared from year to year in the 1960s. Even when they were continuing on with the same basic body, they looked almost like completely new cars as their designs progressed.
Where big Chevys were concerned the buyer who wanted power, performance, room and a bit of comfort chose the Impala, more specifically from the SS line. SS badged cars from Chevrolet had been around before 1961 as an appearance package, but for the ’65 model year it became a true performance option with it’s own model line. Optional V8 engines went from just over 5 to a whopping 6.7 liters.
Big performance cars had been popular n the first half of the ’60s, as the muscle car craze had not heated up the market ket. Impala cars were undergoing rapid styling evolutions in an attempt to keep up with Ford’s new Galaxie and Fairlanes.
In 1965, the Impala took a giant leap forward in the cause of modernism. New sleek near fastback ‘C’ pillars and a low and wide stance made it look particularly attractive with a modern elegance. Things like the Full Coil suspension and Wide-Stance tread designs made the Impala’s ride smoother and more stable.
In ’65 a new now famous 3 speed automatic transmission called Turbo-Hydra-Matic made its debut. It offered improved highway passing ability and was overall much smoother and quieter than Chevy transmissions of the past. Now that the SS was it’s own line of cars, there were plenty of performance and comfort options to go with your smooth self shifting Impala including performance axles, AM/FM radio, air conditioning and even tinted glass.
It was power and performance that most buyers wanted when checking off on one of the V8 engine options that were available. The largest for ’65 was a 409-cubic inch V8 with well over 400 hp.
The rapid evolution of Impala styling would see it in full fastback mode by 1967. By then all the usual engine choices were still available up to the 427 (it came in two versions). It was also possible to order camaro style wide rims with red stripe tires. Stiffer springs and a front stabilizer bar insured that the SS could take curves as fast as the driver’s nervers would allow.
The days of but big engines in big cars for the sake of performance was seeing its days numbered. Intermediates with the same big engines were becoming more popular. They were cheaper and offered more performance simply because they were lighter. They also had more of the presence of a sports car due to compact dimensions. Big performance cars did offer more mature buyers the comfort and practicality they may have occasionally needed (as a family car), without drawing too much attention to themselves from the police (or insurance companies for that matter).
As supercars (as they were called then) were overtaking big performance coupes, it would not be long before the Impala SS would revert to just an options package again as sales waned. While the 1968 models looked similar the ’67, they still could be had with the SS 427 engine option. Only by this time you could choose between a hardtop coupe or convertible. The SS option would last through the ’69 model year.
The interior became a bit more lush with vinyl Strato-Bucket seats with a optional a center console or a bench set up. Suprisingly, in contrast to earlier SS cars, the later interiors played down SS427 designation on the top Impala. Super Sport emblems would appear on the dash and in some years on the center of the wood rimed steering wheel.
A new era was coming with fewer and less dramatic external changes from year to year. An all new Impala for 1971 became available in late 1970 that became the biggest Chevy ever produced. While making the switch to unleaded gasoline, it had to navigate the new tough emissions and EPA regulations, effectively killing any hope for a new SS model. There would be no more real performance oriented Impalas until the 1990s.