At the height of the arms race of the 1960s, a no less fierce race was turning between the Big Three – the concerns of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. As the Impala was GM’s secret weapon, it became the favorite of middle-class Americans and went on to be the top-selling vehicle exceeding one million in 1965. No one has managed to repeat this record so far.
The full-size Impala took its name from the elegant African antelope (the word itself is of Zulu origin). The name was intended for an emerald green metallic two-door hardtop concept car presented at the 1956 General Motors Motorama auto show. Later in 1958 GM introduced the model as a “very expensive and prestigious” version of the Chevrolet Bel Air. Moreover, this machine was selling so well that in 1959 it appeared as a separate model, remaining the most expensive passenger machine in the Chevrolet lineup until 1965.
In 1960, the model became the US’s best-selling car, and 5 years later set a record that has not been repeated so far: the 1965 model was sold in more than a million copies when the entire production volume of Chevrolet vehicles was 1,647,600 units.
The success of the third generation Impala (1965-1970) was due to several factors. First, it was the aesthetics of the machine – the appearance of the model eclipsed even the Chrysler Imperial. Moreover, it was the latest model designed by legendary car designer Harley Earl. Bill Mitchell, who replaced him, toned down some pretentiousness, as strict and clean lines came into fashion, but the unique body shape, reminiscent of a Coca-Cola bottle, remained unchanged. Secondly, it was the engine: the machine was equipped with the V-shaped “eights” in 5 versions with a displacement of 3.9-5.7 liters and a power of 135-315 hp. It’s important also to mention the 3- or 4-speed automatic transmission and fabric-vinyl trim.
The 1965 Impala (and the whole 3rd generation) belonged to the same GM B-body as the previous 2nd generation. However, technically it was very seriously upgraded. The new full-size model featured sharply rounded sides and an all-new front end with new hood contours, curved frameless side windows (for pillarless models), and a sharper-angled windshield with newly reshaped vent windows. It received a spring suspension of all wheels, and the X-shaped frame turned into a more massive peripheral. The body was also brand new. Unlike the strict, even a little ascetic model of 1962-1964, the next generation had a pronounced aggressive design with a coke bottle sidewall line (with a break above the rear wheel arch), typical of the “muscular” second half of the sixties. The lineup again included a convertible, coupe, two- and four-door hardtops, four-door sedan, and station wagons. The choice of engines and transmissions has been significantly expanded. The famous 1965 model body by American standards of those years, remained “in service” for a long time.
Rappers are more likely the most dedicated car fans, who write entire songs about their “iron friends” and shoot videos with even more cars than models. Cars in this culture have always been a way of showing the artist’s current level. In the decades-long war of rappers on the East and West coasts, cars have become one of the hallmarks of the “friend or foe” divide. The old East Coasters favored the Lincoln Continental, while their West Coast counterparts drove the most famous lowrider of all time, the Impala from the 4th generation, as only the first 4 generations are of interest to the low-ride culture. Everything that happened after 1971 is a completely different story. The car can often be seen in music videos and films, and even mentioned in the tracks of a huge number of famous rappers, including Ice Cube, The Game, LA Nash, and Eazy-E. The 1965 model’s most famous appearance, however, was in the cult TV series Supernatural, which starred five Impalas of different release years, including the 1965 release.
To see what it looks like today be sure to check out our inventory on a model we had recently!