They rocked and rolled their way into the hearts of America, more horses under the hood than a stampede of wild stallions! They were the speed merchants of the 50’s-who guzzled gas by the gallon and burned rubber by the inch, while today’s boomers were just learning how to walk!
Born In The Age Of Rhythm and Blues & Blue Suede Shoes, Chevrolet ’s top-of-the-range Impala had everything in 1959. The outrageous fins, plenty of horsepower and luxurious extras. It didn’t matter so much about the handling of the car to designers - the Impala was more about style.The new Impalas were longer, lower, wider, and more curvy.
The 1959 Chevrolet was designer Harley Earl’s final, dramatic statement before his retirement. While "all new all over again" was GM’s apt description of its entire 1959 model series, it was the full-size Chevrolet that sparked the most controversy both within the industry and from observers.
With its signature cat’s-eye taillights, it was called "the wild one" by admirers, and "the Martian ground chariot" by detractors. The only slightly less wild Chevys of the following two years represent a continuation of the automaker’s experimentation.
The Impala came in three different body styles including a four-door sedan, two-door coupe, and a convertible coupe.
From the front of the car, the design was fairly normal for the 1950’s era. Extensive amounts of chrome littered the front end. Two headlights, located side-by-side, were placed on each sides of the vehicle. A front grill was used to help keep the engine cool. View the car from the side and it becomes immediately clear that this is a big vehicle. The length of the vehicle could be extended an additional 11 inches by adding the Continental spare tire cover to the rear of the car.
At the back end the Impala was fited with "bat wing" rear fenders, "cat’s eye" taillamps, and a huge decklid, and had also a huge cargo hold, big enough to pack in a half-dozen couples for Saturday night partying.
Viewing the car from the rear, the car quickly ends up in a league of its own, with only a few other vehicles such as the Cadillac Series 62 / DeVille having such a radical rear-end. The vehicle featured rear-fins that resembled cats-eyes. To top it all off, this car was not-only long, it was also very wide.
The 1959 Impala (and the ’60 and ’61 models that followed) had narrow C-pillars and plentiful glass, which led these cars to be nicknamed "bubbletops." The long sweeping lines were the final iteration of a decade of flamboyant GM styling, all of which came to an end with the squared-off look introduced in 1963.
The bubbletop design does result in a significant greenhouse effect, causing these cars to become very hot in the summer. In fact, partly due to the bubbletops’ reputation as "cookers," full-size Ford coupes outsold Chevys in ’60 and ’61.
The name Impala originated from a southern African antelope known for its speed and prowess. Introduced in 1958, the Impala was developed by chief engineer automotive executive for General Motors, Edward Cole.
Michigan born, Cole was the son of a dairy farmer whose lifelong aspiration was to become an automotive engineer. Beginning as a lab assistant for the General Motors Institute, Cole worked in engineering before gaining recognition and becoming promoted to chief engineer in 1952. Cole eventually became president of Chevrolet in 1967.
While the Impala was the top-of-the-line Chevy, and hence available with many convenience options including power steering, brakes, windows and air conditioning (not to mention foam seat cushions and an electric clock), it could also be ordered with a variety of Chevrolet’s most powerful engines.
There were eight powerplants available in 1959, the most powerful being the Turbo-Thrust 348 cubic-inches V8 capable of producing 315 horsepower, triple carburetor. Even though the vehicle weighed 3650 lbs, it could achieve a zero-to-sixty run in about 9 seconds. Top speed was in the neighborhood of 130 miles-per-hour.
Continuing for a decade as the best-selling automobile in the U.S. Impala broke the record for sales with over 13 million units sold. The Impala held this record until 1977 setting an ‘all-time industry annual sales record of more than 1 million units.
This is a true success car.