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Chevrolet Impala SS
The 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS was a top-seller, beating out the 1996 Caprice.

Just for fun, Chevy displayed a special Caprice sedan at early '93 auto shows. A mean, solid-black thing, it crouched two inches lower on five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels with fat Goodyear Eagle GS-C tires. Most chrome was erased, a new honeycomb grille installed, and a deft C-pillar insert imparted a jaunty kickup to the rearmost side glass.

Inside were leather-trimmed front bucket seats and center console. Under the hood: the same new 300-bhp LT1 V-8 that powered the latest Corvette. Chevy called it Impala SS, and showgoers went wild. "Build it," they pleaded. Replied Chevy general manager Jim Perkins, "You got it."

The first of the reborn big muscle Chevys rolled off the line in February 1994, thus putting the LTZ to rest. Tires were now Goodrich Comp T/As, ride height was lifted to within an inch of stock Caprice spec, and the LT1 was tuned for 260 bhp but no less torque.

Otherwise, the new Impala SS was just like the show car. That included a heavy-duty police chassis with quick-ratio steering, rear disc brakes (with massive 12-inch rotors), rear antiroll bar, uprated body mounts and premium de Carbon gas-pressure shocks.

Full power and luxury trim completed another amazing Chevy value in modern performance: $21,290 base, just $327 more than an ordinary Caprice Classic LS at the time of the SS's introduction.

Encouraged by rave "buff book" reviews, demand for the new Super Sport was super-strong. Chevy had planned 4000 of the '94s but ending up selling more than 6000 -- the most the plant could build.

Production was upped to over 20,000 for '95, when dark cherry and green-gray metallic were added to the paint chart. The '96s carried on with a new standard analog tach and console shift (instead of column lever) for the mandatory four-speed automatic. Impala outsold Caprice that year with sales of almost 42,000.

But by that point, both Caprice and the brawny Impala were doomed. Having decided there was more money to be made with big sport-utility trucks, GM sacrificed the full-size Chevys after 1996 to free up space at their Texas plant for truck production (a move that also claimed the related Buick Roadmaster and Cadillac Fleetwood).

Few mourned the Caprice, but it was sad losing the Impala so soon. Though an anachronism in the '90s, it was the kind of car a whole generation understood -- a happy throwback to the glory days of Chevy performance.

For more on Chevrolet cars, old and new, see:

  • Chevrolet New Car Reviews and Prices
  • Chevrolet Used Car Reviews and Prices