Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Chevrolet Impala

Batmobile Published: 20th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Chevrolet ImpalaRelatively modest frontal aspect styling compared to the rear, note ‘wrap around windscreen’

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 348ci Two-door Sports Coupe, Convertible
  • Worst model: Straight-six Four-door sedan
  • Budget buy: 283ci Four-door sedan
  • OK for unleaded?: No, Original 283ci and 348ci need leaded fuel
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 18ft 7”, W 6ft 9”
  • Spares situation: Very good
  • DIY ease?: Very easy
  • Club support: Good in USA
  • Appreciating asset?: Defi nitely, slowly but surely
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Good buy
Roomy front bench seat is comfortable enough Roomy front bench seat is comfortable enough
The most distinctive aspect of the 1960 Impala are the rear ‘bat wings’ and decking, surely one of the largest ever? The most distinctive aspect of the 1960 Impala are the rear ‘bat wings’ and decking, surely one of the largest ever?
The 283ci V8 engine with two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission was popular pick The 283ci V8 engine with two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission was popular pick
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Cars For Sale Magazine and save over 25%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

But there’s more to the Chevrolet Impala than big wings and fins

Pros & Cons

Glamourous styling representing the last years of proper fi nned landyachts, good performance, high specifi cation desirability, very popular and successful pedigree
Slightly agricultural driveability compared with more modern classics, not as roomy inside as you would expect, huge size and weight, rust prone
£5000 - £35,000+

The Impala was America’s favourite car for around a quarter of a century and a holder of many sales records, perhaps the most signifi cant being over a million Impalas were sold in a single year (1965) which has never been bettered by any other manufacturer since. This full size saloon available as a four-door, two-door and convertible was portrayed as having an upmarket image, came fully loaded and most importantly was still very affordable for the mass American market and folk queued up to buy them. It was a time when there was still no substitute for cubic capacity, petrol was cheap, and the 1959 models were longer, wider, lower, and heavier than their predecessor. Whether your penchant is for a late 1950’s model, the more sleeker, boxey saloons of the 1960’s, or even something from the 1970’s, you’ll be in good company, over 12 million buyers can’t all be wrong!


The Impala, which incidentally was named after a southern African antelope, was initially a high level option package for Chevrolet’s hugely successful, Bel-Air from 1958, but became a brand new model in its own right from 1959. Suddenly the fi ns ‘n’ chrome theme took on a whole new meaning, with the rear styling of the ’59 often colloquially referred to as ‘bat wings’, and a tad tongue in cheek, they looked so sharp, you could almost cut yourself on them! The distinctive six tail lights gave way for an unusual teardrop design, but came back again in 1960 and was to become an Impala trademark There were plenty of engine options available too, ranging from a 235ci straightsix, right up to a 348ci V8, and you could evenhave fuel injection. Underpinnings comprised of a heavy X-section sturdy chassis, upper and lower A arm, coil sprung suspension at the front, and four-link live axle and coil springs to the rear. Performance was quite respectable too, for such a large car (which boasted a 32cu ft boot space) the most powerful engine option propelled the Impala from 0-60mph in nine seconds. Handling qualities were further enhanced by heavy duty springs, Positraction axles, and power brakes, though they still comprised of drums all round. For 1960 the Impala styling was still very distinctive, but somewhat toned down at the rear, which now looked distinctively gullwing and still easily identifi able. The frontal aspect styling was quite reserved in comparison. Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated reckoned the rear decklid was big enough to land a Piper Cub aircraft! This was the beginning of the age when stylists were being infl uenced by jet aircraft design. The Impala sported a rear three quarter metal moulding of the overhead profi le of a jet fi ghter leaving a long contrail behind it picked out in another colour. The contour of the doors didn’t just drop straight down from the lower level of the window to the sill, they angled right out before swooping downwards. The convertible model, fi nished in a pale metallic blue looks particularly stunning with some 79,903 produced in 1960. The Impala lead the way right the way through the decade, during which time 7.8 million cars were sold. Through the 1960’s the Impalas were still as huge in size as ever, but much more subdued in the styling department, becoming sleeker and boxey. New designs arrived in 1961 and 1965 with lots of restyling along the way. Engine options ranged from a straight-six to 283ci through to 427ci V8s, the latter being used in the SS Super Sport model, which ostensibly was the designation for Chevrolet’s more sportier package, but not exclusively. In 1972 sales of the Impala exceeded 10 million, and when the fuel crisis struck in 1973, Chevrolet responded to meet the new criteria of design and emission requirements, the Impala lived on and remained a best seller up until the late 1970’s.


These cars were designed to be driven at 55mph all day long in a straight line, but cornering them at speed can induce huge wallow and it’s like being in a boat in rough seas. While huge on the outside, the interior can be a tad cramped for tall passengers due to the fairly low roofl ine. However overall seating comfort is as good as a modern Volvo. Cars fi tted with the 348ci engines offer excellent performance and although the brakes aren’t fi tted with a servo, they are reasonably effi cient due to the huge size of the drums.


A rough four-door Impala sedan with an MoT and 283ci engine will cost around £5000, though it may have a lot of fi ller and rust! Smart useable cars with non original engines will be closer to £8K. Numbers matching 348ci cars are around the £20K mark upwards in the US. Convertibles tend to be in the £35,000 plus price category

What To Look For

  • While Impala bodies are made from very thick metal, painting and rust proofi ng was rather poor. Those cars that were destined for ‘dry States’ had no rust proofi ng from the factory, so a rust-free ‘dry State’ car imported into the UK requires protecting immediately!
  • The front wings can rot around the headlights and also the trailing and lower edge where there is a strengthening panel and mounting point. Refurbished wings are available from Impala Bob’s in the USA. The front edge of the bonnet is another area susceptible to rusting. No repair panels are available, but a Jaguar XJ6 sill has a similar profi le and can be adapted as a repair panel!
  • Floor pans can rot virtually anywhere, usually due to water ingress through windscreen rubbers. Full and patch replacements are available, including the body braces/outriggers beneath.
  • Inner and outer sills can be another problem area, but full replacements are available. Other areas that can rot include the rear wheel arches and lower rear corners of the wings and bottoms of the doors. Replacement skins are unavailable at the moment.
  • Boot fl oors don’t escape from the dreaded tin worm either, especially the rear edge, including the lip beneath the rear bumper. Directly under this is a crossmember that carries the rearmost body mounts. This is diffi cult to see with the rear valances in place, but it can rot away causing the rear of the body to sag. A repair panel is available for the near edge of the boot fl oor, but not the crossmember.
  • Specifi c areas to watch on the Sport sedan (pillarless four-door with wrap around rear screen) include the rear edge of the underside of the roof that overhangs the rear screen. This rots from the inside out and is very diffi cult and time consuming to repair.
  • The base of the B/C pillar has a strengthenerand also a special outrigger directly below it underneath the fl oor. This can fi ll with muck and water and rot away, allowing the rear doors to move when opened.
  • All screen and glass rubbers are available from Steelerubber in the USA, fi tment is very good, but they are not cheap!
  • Brakes are drums all round and incorporate a single line system. All replacement parts are available new if a full rebuild is required.
  • Suspension bushes deteriorate, but are available. Replacement can be challenging without the use of a press for the front A-arm (wishbone) bushes.
  • The steering column in the engine bay uses a sliding universal joint, specific to 1959- 1960 models. These are not available new or reproduction. Grab the joint and try and move it from side to side and listen for knocking.
  • Check the upper location rod on the rear axle (there is only one upper, but two lower). This can tear from the chassis on cars fi tted with Hi-power engines, and cars with manual transmissions.
  • Many cars have been fi tted with later small block and TH350 transmissions and are fi ne, as are sensible upgrades such as disc brake conversions. While these devalue the originality, they improve the driveability.
  • Ensure that what you are buying is what it’s claimed to be! Original 348ci cars are desirable and there are a good many fakes out there. Have the VIN number authenticated by someone knowledgeable ( is a good starting point.


A classic design with stunning and outrageous rear ‘bat wings’ and (‘cat’s eye’s’ taillamps for ’59 only) the likes of which will never been seen again. Excellent performance from 348ci engines rated at 250, 320 and 335bhp. Reasonably easy to maintain and source replacement parts, though mostly from the USA. Rust can be a big issue so beware.

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Cars For Sale Magazine and save over 25%

Free Downloads