Saturday, July 23, 2011

Look what I saw...a 1964 Chevy Impala

1964 Impala

I had the pleasure of seeing this beauty parked on the way to work yesterday. I will not claim to be an authority on 1960s cars, but I certainly appreciate this 1964 Impala. While trying to figure out the year of this car online, I noticed that practically each year in the 1960s, Chevrolet made noticeable tweaks to the headlight and taillight design. This practice of planned obsolescence is exactly the same thing Apple does to its i-products today - by making small, inexpensive changes, models become out of style quickly, making consumers want to buy the latest and greatest to stay in fashion. This practice is much less apparent in the automotive world today because of massive retooling costs and a keen focus on the bottom-line. Car models typically see longer lives today, often lasting 3-7 years. This '64 Impala prompted me to think about Impalas in my lifetime so far (in the last 2 decades), and how relatively unexciting they have been. Click through to see.

1994-1996 Impala SS
After decades of storied history, Chevy stopped selling the Impala in 1985, and then resumed in 1994 with this boat based on the Caprice. I never liked the bloatedness of the Caprice or how the rear wheels were covered. The Buick Roadmaster variant was even worse with wood-paneled siding (how that was ever popular, I will never understand). Chevy made a few slight tweaks to the Caprice, including a Corvette-inspired engine, body-colored cladding, nice wheels, removing the fenders that covered the wheels, and of course, adding the SS badge, and then sold the car as a high-performance Impala model. This model has a huge cult following, but probably more so because of its raw performance and scarcity value, and less so because of its looks.

2000-2005 Impala
After another 4 year gap in production, Chevy released a new Impala, and this time with a more typical engine and mainstream appeal. When it first came out, I was very intrigued by the rear lights, which were reminiscent of 1950 and 1960s models. But the overuse of black plastic (below) cheapened the look in my opinion.

2000-2005 Impala
After virtually no changes to the car in its 6 year run, it became very ubiquitous on the roads. The Impala is one of the last sedans that seats 6 people (3 in the front, 3 in the back), and its ample space has made the Impala popular with families, retirees, police & fire services, rental fleets and taxis. Racing videogame developers often use the 2000 Impala to represent a nondescript traffic car that you must avoid hitting while you speed around in your Ferrari or Porsche. It's not an ugly car, but it's certainly not beautiful or interesting to look at.

2000-2005 Impala interior
 The interior design is a bit awkward, but could be worse. From experience, the seats are very comfortable, and the dashboard - while a bit too curvy for my taste - has all the latest creature comforts.

2006-present Impala
I have fewer nice things to say about the current Impala, which is now way overdue of a redesign. Chevy managed to take the previous model, which was already practically devoid of personality, and make it even more bland. The front end received Chevy's corporate design language which, while works on some cars, is extremely boring on the Impala.

2006-present Impala
Also gone are the rear taillights that reminded me of the cool 1960s models. This rear end HAS to be one of the most boring and irrelevant in modern history. Don't get me wrong, the Impala is still a very competent car and serves police-forces and rental fleets well. The engine is powerful, the car is spacious, and the new interior - while simple - is a significant improvement over the previous model.

2000-2006 Impala interior
However, I cannot understand why anyone would actually be excited to own this car (aside from utility and practicality). The Dodge Charger and Ford Taurus are two cars, for example, that blow the current Impala out of the water, at least in terms of excitement and design refinement. I was surprised to hear that the next Impala isn't due until 2013 (!). Gone are the days when front and rear fascias were swapped every year - a practice that made the 1964 Impala special and unique. 50 years from now, no one will be able to distinguish between a 2006 or 2011 Impala - what a shame.


  1. Oh that '64 Impala is gorgeous! It has so much personality -- I smiled as soon as I saw the picture. Back in the 1960s people thought that a car in 2011 would look futuristic, like the Jetson's car -- boy were they wrong! Great review.

  2. Oh, the Impala. The car we dreamed of having when I was a kid. My brother had a '56 Impala and was very proud of its iconic look. Impalas and their universal appeal is almost forgotten except at car shows. If you drive an Impala these days you are probably a cop or a salesman. Too bland to notice.