Impala SS is a bullet BY John Gilbert (Star Tribune 6/25/94)




    Remember the Chevrolet Impala SS cruisers of the 1960s?

Remember the Oldsmobile Bravada of the late 1980s?



    The Impala disappeared from the auto scene in the troubled

'70s, and the Bravada almost disappeared a couple of years ago.

In fact, there were more reports that the Bravada would be

dropped than there were that the most under-appreciated member of

the growing sports-utility market would survive.



    The Impala SS has been reborn out of the Chevrolet Caprice,

and the Bravada is alive and well. The timing to consider both of

them is ideal because automotive nostalgia will be celebrated in

two events this in the Twin Cities.  



    The 1994 Great American Race, complete with vintage cars en

route from Huntington Beach, Calif., to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., stops

over in Bloomington this weekend.  The vintage racers are

scheduled to arrive from Albert Lea at about 3 p.m. Sunday at the

Met Center parking lot, where a classic car show will be under

way.  The show starts at noon and is free and open to the public.

    Among the "vehicles" involved are some horse-drawn wagons

built by Studebaker, which later manufactured automobiles.



    The wagons' visit to the Twin Cities coincides with the

week-long gathering of the Studebaker Drivers Club, the Antique

Studebaker Club and the Avanti Club. They will be headquartered

at the Radisson South hotel, at Interstate Hwy.494 and Hwy. 100,

opening their displays of historical vehicles and artifacts at

noon Sunday. Events will run through next Friday, and concourse

judging will finish on Thursday. Brooke Stevens, who designed the

Studebaker Hawks of the early 1960s, as well as the early Jeep

Wagoneers, will speak at 9 a.m. Monday at the Radisson South.



    So how much automotive nostalgia can you handle at once?



   Chevy Impala



   The Chevrolet Caprice is an enormous car, and it has become a

staple for police departments all over the country. So, a year

ago, Chevy folks decided to trick up a big Caprice for the

civilian market. The result was a loo-ooo-oong and

sinister-looking monster - all black with slightly altered lines

and bright silver five-spoke alloy wheels.



    The challenge was to make such a big car perform in a capable

manner.Chevy's solution was to stick the high-performance LT-1

Corvette engine (the venerable 350-cubic-inch V8) under the hood

of the prototype Caprice. And thus, the 1994 Impala SS was born.

Or reborn.



    In the 1960s, you could get an Impala SS with a

409-cubic-inch V8("Giddy-up, giddy-up, 409," sang the Beach

Boys), and later a 427-cubic-inch V8. Those engines' horsepower

ranged from 340 to 400, back when hardly anybody worried about

fuel economy, exhaust emissions or the sound of tires screeching

on city streets.



    The Caprice's size, handling and general purpose have been

widely criticized, although I have always excused cars of that

size for people who need large cars. So this experience is

something of a phenomenon.



    The '94 Impala SS is a piece of work. It will snap nostalgia

buffs to attention because the LT-1 engine develops 260

horsepower. But its reason for being in the car is because,

race-bred or not, its emissions are comparatively low.



    That engine probably is not going to get near 20 miles per

gallon, EPA estimates notwithstanding, but it makes the big SS

get up and snort. At 4,221 pounds, the car is hefty by any year's

standards, but such equipment as the police package suspension,

special shock absorbers and monstrous 255/50ZR BF Goodrich

Comp/TA tires on 17-inch alloy wheels help the huge car go like a

street-racer of old but corner and handle with amazing dexterity.

    For all its size and power, the Impala is subtle in many

ways. The wheels stand out, but the oval emblem with its leaping

Impala on the rear-door pillar and the rear deck lid are

tastefully understated. The Chevy bow-tie emblem on the grille

and the headlights are the only non-black parts visible from the

front.



    The adjustable leather bucket seats are tastefully gray. 

Instrumentation includes an electronic digital speedometer

combined with analog gauges, and with that huge engine and

four-speed automatic, a tachometer seems superfluous.



    Naturally, there is considerable room in the rear seat and

the trunk.



    My opinion of large cars remains constant: If it's larger

than you need for 90 percent of your driving, then it's too

large. It would be spectacular to see this engine and drivetrain

in a 3,000-pound car instead of a 4,200-pound beast. But in the

meantime, those who want a huge car might as well choose one that

offers the advantages of great stability and potent acceleration

for $ 23,000.



   Chevrolet



   Impala SS



   Turn-on/ Long, lean and sinister-looking with ample room front

and back, and it comes in any color - so long as it's black.



   Turn-off/ It feels more like a sports car than a barge, but

why does it have to be so heavy and large?



   Bright idea/ Beneath the skin is a Corvette V8, which makes

its performance far from sedate.



   Subtle touch/ Black-on-black trim without chrome appliques

provides proof that old hot-rodders do mature at Chevrolet.



   Bottom line/ Sticker price: $ 23,355.