The Chevy Impala dominated the U.S. market for years and inspired an Impala fanbase that remains today. Classic Impalas are popular among buyers looking for restoration projects. While the Impala went through many changes and even halted production a couple times, the car proved resilient enough to adjust to new regulations and buying preferences. Chevy Impala history is filled with a variety of designs and exciting performance features any Impala enthusiast should be aware of.
The Generations of the Chevy Impala
There have been 10 Chevy Impala generations, with many different Impala models offered. These models propelled the vehicle’s evolution with changes in performance and appearance over the Impala’s years. The Chevy Impala first hit the market in 1958 and lasted until 2020.
First Generation Chevy Impalas: 1958
To celebrate GM’s 50th year of production, Chevrolet introduced the Chevrolet Bel Air Impala in 1958. In the Chevy Impala’s first year, it was marketed as a top-tier Bel Air convertible and hardtop named after medium-sized African antelopes.
Though modeled on the past Bel Airs, the Bel Air Impala differed with the car set lower on an X-type frame, a longer rear deck and a shorter greenhouse. It was also the first Chevrolet with dual headlamps. The model offered other special features like the legendary three-circle taillights, a two-spoke steering wheel and roof simulator extractor vents.
There were three engines available for purchase and the option to choose between a three-speed manual or an automatic. A 283-cubic-inch V-8 engine came standard with the Chevy Impala. This engine put out between 185 horsepower to 230 horsepower, depending on the package a customer purchased. Customers could even opt for a Rochester Ramjet fuel injection engine, which brought the power output up to 250 horsepower.
There were a few other engine options available. Customers could purchase a big-block V-8 engine in either a single four-barrel model or a three two-barrel carburetor model. The single four-barrel option produced 250 horsepower, and the three two-barrel carburetor model generated 280 horsepower. Overall, the first generation Impala was a success, with over 125,000 Impala coupes and close to 56,000 Impala convertibles built for the 1958 model year.
Second Generation Chevy Impalas: 1959-1960
In 1959, the second generation of Chevy Impalas arrived with a redesign. The futuristic changes made the body wider and lower, giving it a striking new look. It was also built on a new X-frame chassis to accommodate the lower and wider body. The car had outward-pointed tail fins to give it a more lean appearance. The second generation Impala’s most defining features were the teardrop brake lights and bat-wing rear end.
New technology was included in the second generation, with some Impalas offering a six-way power seat and cruise control. There was even a feature that buzzed when a driver went faster than a pre-set speed limit. However, this “Speedminder” feature failed to generate enough popularity to continue providing it. The 1960 model also came with an electric clock, electric brakes and back-up lights. In this generation, the Impala became its own series with multiple body styles offered. Buyers could purchase Impalas as two-door convertibles and two-door hardtops, as well as four-door hardtops and four-door sedans.
The 1960 Chevrolet Impala offered three different engines, with a 235-cubic-inch 3.9-liter Blue Flame L6 engine, a 283-cubic-inch 4.6-liter Turbo-Fire V-8 engine and 348-cubic-inch W-series Turbo Thrust V-8 engine available. The standard engine was the L6, offering 135 horsepower. The Turbo Fire engine offered horsepower ranging between 170 and 230. The larger W-series Turbo Thrust engine went from 250 horsepower to 320 horsepower depending on the option a buyer chose.
Production for the second generation of Chevy Impalas was even more successful than the first generation, with over 510,000 units manufactured in 1960. With the high supply of units and an affordable starting price of $2,590, the car was the top seller in America.
Third Generation Chevy Impalas: 1961-1964
For the third generation, Chevrolet decided to offer a major new engine and a Chevy Impala body style change. This new Impala was named the Super Sport, or SS, and came with a 409-cubic-inch engine — becoming the first American muscle car to live up to the name. The SS came with personalized features such as a padded instrument panel, heavy-duty shocks and springs, a Sun 7,000-revolutions per minute tachometer and knock-off wheel covers. With the new performance and features, the SS was priced at $5,380.
The overall design of third generation Impalas shifted to a more conservative, straightforward appearance. Third generation Impalas had a boxier design with smaller dimensions and a more rounded look. This model year also made the car quieter, with four large coil springs soaking up sound and dampening vibration while on the road.
The 1962 Impalas brought even more changes, with a focus on reducing maintenance costs for customers. They featured the addition of a zinc and aluminum-coated muffler to slow corrosion and new inner front fenders to protect the vehicle from rust. In 1963, the Impala Wagon models received triple-unit taillights and came in six or nine-passenger wagons.
For the 1964 model, Chevy continued to refine the design by denting the grille’s upper area and clipping off the vehicle’s pointy edges. Additionally, Chevy removed the aluminum strip around the taillights, surrounding them instead with the car’s body color. The 1964 Impala had an upgraded transmission, with aluminum housing for all-helical four-speed synchro-mesh and a quieter three-speed synchro-mesh.
There was a diverse range of engine options for the third generation. The initial SS model offered a 409-cubic-inch V-8, which could go from zero to 60 mph in seven seconds and had an impressive 360 horsepower. Throughout the third generation, Impalas were offered with horsepower ranging between 135 and 430 horsepower.
Fourth Generation Chevy Impalas: 1965-1970
The fourth generation of Impalas was all about making the car look sleek and modern. In 1965, Chevrolet redesigned the Impala to have curved, frameless side glass, a customized full-coil suspension, newly reshaped vent windows and a pointier angled windshield. The cars also ditched the original X-type frame. In its place, the car rested on a full-width perimeter frame. This redesign proved successful, with over a million units sold in the United States in 1965, representing the best year for classic Impalas.
In 1967, the Impala’s redesign continued, with a fresh Coke bottle style. This new style took inspiration from the Corvette, with similar rear and front fender bulges. Besides cosmetic changes, the 1967 and 1968 Impalas had new safety features, with side marker lights, shoulder belts for closed models and a collapsible steering column designed to absorb energy.
Between 1965 and 1968, buyers could still purchase an Impala wagon. In 1969, Chevrolet dropped it from the Impala’s offerings. There were still numerous body models to choose from throughout 1970, with two-door coupes, hardtops and convertibles, as well as four-door hardtops and sedans.
In the fourth generation, Chevrolet also introduced a luxury four-door hardtop called the Caprice. These vehicles featured pulls on the doors’ interiors, tufted upholstery and a dashboard with wood-grained accents. The popularity of the Caprice may have spurred the death of the SS option, as Caprice sales continued to rise while the SS’s declined. Adding to the SS’s decreasing popularity, mid-sized Chevelle and Nova models offered options with big-block engines. Due to these declining sales, 1969 was the last year the SS was offered for some time.
Throughout the fourth generation, there were various engines offered that gave drivers performance upgrades. For example, in 1966, Chevy introduced the Mark IV V-8 engine that generated up to 425 horsepower. To close out 1970, six-cylinder engines were only offered for four-door sedans. Bigger-engined trims came standard with a Turbo-Fire V-8 engine that had an output of 250 horsepower.
Fifth Generation Chevy Impalas: 1971-1976
Chevrolet continued its success with the Impala in the fifth generation, as the car remained its bestseller. The Impala continued to offer exceptional comfort and room, and new design features included flush door handles and a double panel roof. Chevy also began to prepare the vehicle for the addition of catalytic converters in 1971. This modified engine had lower compression rates, so the Impala could run on both unleaded and leaded fuel.
1972 and 1973 brought several changes to the vehicle. The 1972 Impala went away from a fully aligned block with the grill shifted downward, giving it a more prominent appearance below the fender. The Impala convertible was also axed this year, and the body style was only available for the Caprice Classic. In 1973, Impalas came standard with variable-ratio power steering, cushioned front bumpers and doors featuring side-guard beams. The station wagon body was brought back as well, and six-cylinder engines were no longer offered.
In 1974 Chevy Impala did not have major changes. Chevrolet added extra insulation, a corrosion-resistant coating on the frame and new wear sensors on the disc brakes. The 1975 Chevy model didn’t stray far from Chevy’s wheelhouse, as it was essentially an upgraded Caprice. This Impala model featured catalytic converters, 50-50 retractable seats and an early fuel evaporation system.
As Chevy closed out the fifth generation in 1976, the Impala offered the last of its large, long-bodied vehicles. Smaller, shorter Impalas were produced from then on. Overall, the fifth generation of Chevrolets was marked by federal regulations and lower compression rates, which brought down the performance offerings significantly.
Sixth Generation Chevy Impalas: 1977-1985
The sixth generation of Chevy Impalas brought major design changes to the car’s body. While the vehicle still had a sizeable amount of space inside, the body was much taller, narrower and shorter. This new 1977 model succeeded and became the bestseller in the U.S. for the year. Buyers could find this new generation in coupe, four-door station wagon or four-door sedan body styles.
1978 through 1980 only brought minor changes to the Impala, such as the addition of a double tempered rear window, the loss of horizontal bars on the grille and slightly lower and rounded front fenders and hood. After 1981, the Impala only came in a four-door sedan model, with the station wagon and coupe dropped from production. Though the Caprice was outselling the Impala as a sports coupe, the family sedan Impala still sold well throughout the sixth generation.
During this generation, performance changes included the addition of a Computer Command Control emission system and a new four-speed automatic transmission in 1981. The final year’s production also came with improvements to the vehicle’s engines. The 3.8-liter V-6 was replaced with a 4.3-liter V-6, providing a 20 horsepower increase. The 5.0-liter V-8 engine compression was upgraded to give it a 15 horsepower increase.
Seventh Generation Chevy Impalas: 1994-1996
There was a long wait for the seventh generation to arrive, as Chevy halted the Impala’s production to focus on the better-selling Caprice. In 1994, the Chevy Impala made a comeback, this time only releasing a revamped SS model. This new SS model came with a 5.7-liter LT1 engine with 260 horsepower. While many Impala enthusiasts were happy for the return of the car, some weren’t happy to find the vehicle only had a four-speed automatic transmission.
The seventh generation Impala had four doors, a rounded exterior and it rested close to the ground. Originally, the Impala was only offered in Jet Black. Chevy added Dark Grey Green and Dark Cherry Metallic to the exterior color selections in 1995.
The seventh generation Impala models had impressive sports suspension systems with disc brakes, a high-capacity reverse-flow cooling system and gas-pressurized shocks. The final Impala in this generation came with an improved instrument panel and further distinguished the Impala as an impressive sports car.
Eighth Generation Chevy Impalas: 2000-2005
Resurrected again in 2000, the Impala was made without a V-8 engine and switched to a controversial front-wheel drive. This new Impala hit major safety accomplishments. In 2001, Chevy gave buyers the opportunity to purchase two different Impala trim types depending on their preferences. This Impala was only offered as a four-door sedan and took inspiration from the Lumina’s W-body platform.
Near the end of the eighth generation in 2004, the SS trim came back as well, with a supercharged 3.8-liter V-6 engine that got up to 240 horsepower. This SS trim came with the same automatic transmission of the other models, but it had a tighter suspension system that gave the handling a more sports car feel. In 2005, the Impala was the highest-selling domestic car in the U.S. While these were impressive numbers, it was overshadowed by better-selling foreign cars, like the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima.
Ninth Generation Chevy Impalas: 2006-2016
Customers didn’t have to wait long between generations this time. The ninth generation Impala had a much more attractive look that was mostly unchanged. The vehicle came with cornered taillights, a lower-centered grille, a rounder body type and larger and rounder headlights. Consumers had more trim options as well, with the LS, LT, LTZ and SS trims all available.
Don’t be surprised if you see the eighth or ninth generation of Chevy Impalas serving as police cars. The eighth generation Impala was popular among police departments. The ninth generation continued this trend, offering a police package to increase the car’s sales to law enforcement.
New technology came with this generation of Impalas, with Bluetooth integration, satellite radio and MP3 capabilities. One notable performance development was the SS’s inclusion of a 303 horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 engine. The other trim levels received various V-6 engines, with the 2011 3.5-liter engines reaching 211 horsepower and the 3.9-liter V-6 going up to 230 horsepower. Standard models ceased production in 2013, but Impala Limited models were still produced in LS, LT and LTZ trim packages for rentals, police cars and fleets.
Tenth Generation Chevy Impalas: 2014-2020
Chevrolet released a fresh design for the Impala in 2014, drawing loose influence from the Malibu and Camaro. The interior was built to feel more upscale and refined, and the exterior came with a sculpted appearance. This new Impala was also larger than the ninth generation models, and it only offered a four-door sedan body style with various trim levels.
Some of the new features to this generation included ventilated seats, color displays with Chevy MyLink integration, Bluetooth and smartphone integration, a rear-view camera, keyless ignition and blind-spot monitors. These models also had three different engines. The 2.4-liter came with 182 horsepower and the 2.5-liter LKW maxing out at 196 horsepower. The most powerful engine, the 3.6-liter High Feature LFX V-6, produced 300 horsepower.
Which Classic Chevy Impala Generation Is the Best?
Choosing the best generation of classic Chevy Impalas is tough. Impala enthusiasts all have different preferences when choosing their favorite generation or Chevy Impala body styles by year. If they were born in the 40s or 50s, the first or second generations might be their choice, as these classic models provide a nostalgic feeling. Those born later might like the third and fourth generations more. For law enforcement history lovers, the more practical fifth and sixth generation cars may be their go-to.
If you’re looking strictly at popularity, the fourth generation is the winner, as it sold over a million units in 1965. For those who prize power and performance, a third generation Impala might be the best, as it could be outfitted with an engine producing 430 horsepower.
There’s no way to say which Impala is definitively the best for everyone. The great thing about Impalas is that they were offered in so many different body styles, engines and designs. With its variety and long history, the Impala car through the years has been incredibly impressive, and buyers are almost certain to find an Impala that matches their tastes.
Classic Chevy Impala Parts From Raybuck
At Raybuck Auto Body Parts, we’ve compiled an inventory of high-quality Chevy Impala restoration parts. We focus on providing parts from the 1960s our offerings range from 1958 through 1985. Customers regularly turn to us for panel replacements and restoration parts, such as those for the interior, chassis and body. You can trust us to provide reliable components and competitive pricing.