Chevy Impala SS is hot rod in disguise by Linda
Sharp (Atlanta Journal and Constitution 6/10/94)
Memorial Day morning, the day after the running of Charlotte
Motor Speedway's Coca-Cola 600, I was at the North Carolina home
of Darrell and Stevie Waltrip. Darrell is the driver of the
Western Auto Chevrolet on NASCAR's Winston Cup tour. He is also
the winningest active driver on the Winston Cup circuit, with 84
victories to his credit.
Enough about race cars; breakfast was the subject at hand. Two
apple bran muffins, to be exact. Darrell offered to pick them up.
Having noticed a new red Corvette parked in the carport, I
offered the use of the car I was driving. It was a
limited-edition Chevrolet Impala SS. Because the Impala is
equipped with a 5.7-liter Corvette LT1 engine, I was curious
about how its performance would stack up in Darrell's opinion.
When Darrell's almost 2-year-old daughter, Sarah, realized her
daddy was leaving, she tearfully pleaded to go along. Her mom,
Stevie, nixed that idea, explaining that she had left Sarah's car
seat in another vehicle. Her decision confirmed that she
understands and agrees that even when riding with a driver of the
caliber of Darrell Waltrip, all precious cargo should be strapped
in a car seat.
Then, it was to the McDonald's drive-through. After all, the
muffins were the real reason for the trip. I noted that Darrell
made a generous change contribution to the Ronald McDonald
charity collection box. He said, "Yeah, me and Ronald are pretty
Then he brightened the day of a few McDonald's employees with
a couple of minutes of pleasant conversation. One raspy-voiced
worker explained, "I lost it yelling for you last night." Darrell
smiled appreciatively and then added, "It's OK when they're
yelling for you; it's when it's at you that worries me."
Time for the test drive. Darrell opted for the interstate to
check out the Impala's 260-horsepower motor. He noted, "This
piece is pretty stout." Next it was to a curvy back road to
evaluate the Impala's enhanced handling performance. Darrell
said, "I like the car's feel. It gives you a lot of feedback. The
steering is quick, positive. It doesn't wallow like most big
sedans." Darrell and I agreed that the SS's 255-by- 50-by-17 BF
Goodrich Co. tires contributed a lot to the car's driveability.
Darrell pointed out that the ample tires actually enhanced the
car's controllability. "I had to drop a wheel off back there when
the last car approached. The wide tires made it a simple maneuver
to get the car back on the road."
I told Darrell that my mom had recently purchased a Caprice
Classic, and while a nice car, there was little comparison
between the two. I joked that maybe I ought to take a can of
black spray paint to my mom's car. (The SS Impala is available
only in black.) I chimed in, "Mom, it'll make the car drive
better. Really, it will."
Back in the Waltrip driveway, Darrell asked, "How much does
this car go for, about $ 30,000?" His expression attested to his
surprise when I told him an Impala goes for about $ 23,000.
That's with power everything, anti-lock brakes, leather interior
and dual air bags. He said, "This is a car I could own. You know
what it really is? It's a car that a guy can tell his wife,
'Honey, it's just an ol' four-door Chevrolet,' and then bring
home a hot rod." We both laughed when he added, "But it might be
tough explaining why he wanted the kids to wear helmets."
Linda Sharp is a training consultant to auto manufacturers.
Her column is written exclusively for The Atlanta