1959 Chevrolet Impala
The 1959 Chevrolet Impala, following the styling excess of the late Fifties, was radically reworked and veered away from the GM pack by shooting its tailfins outward rather than upward. Admakers always were fond of naming nearly every part, but this year's "bat wing" fins above "cat's eye" taillights earned no such designations in the sales catalog. Those nicknames came later, though brochures did brand the deck "saucy."
Sharing bodyshells with lower-end Buicks and Oldsmobiles as well as with Pontiac -- part of a GM economy move -- Chevrolets rode a wheelbase 11/2 inches longer than before. Atop a new X-frame chassis, roofs sat three inches lower, and bodies measured more than two inches wider overall. Naturally, the growing size contributed to an abundance of poundage -- one more trend of the times. Always-witty auto tester Tom McCahill, of Mechanix Illustrated, declared that a Chevy's decklid had "enough room to land a Piper Cub."
Impala was now a separate series, including a four-door hardtop and four-door sedan, as well as the two-door Sport Coupe and convertible. Sport Coupes featured a shortened roofline and wrap-over back window, promising a "virtually unlimited rear view" to complement the car's new compound-curve windshield. The hardtop Sport Sedan had a huge, pillar-free back window, allowing for scads of headroom beneath its slender "flying wing" roofline.
Base V-8 was the carryover 283, at 185 horsepower. Performance fans could select 283-cubic-inch outputs to 290 horsepower -- or turn to the big-block 348-cubic-inch V-8, in a dizzying roster of ratings, up to 315 horsepower.
With a V-8, the Impala convertible listed at $2,967, but a six-cylinder version saved the customer $118. Impala interiors flaunted their top-of-the-line status, offering such pleasantries as front and rear armrests, an electric clock, dual sliding sun visors, and crank-operated front ventipanes. A contoured instrument panel held deep-set gauges residing below hoods to prevent glare. On the comfort front, a new Flexomatic six-way power seat could be installed.
1959 Chevrolet Impala Facts
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