1969 CHEVROLET IMPALA SS 427: LAST OF THE FIRST BIG-TIME SUPER SPORTS (Autoweek 10/31/94)




   As most Chevy fans probably already know, Chevrolet's

re-release in 1994 of its once-revered Impala SS nameplate came

25 years after the last full-sized Super Sport made its

appearance. And much like the new Caprice-based four-door Impalas

now lurking about, the '69 Super Sport was one large barge-to say

the least.



   Any way you looked at it-inside, outside, under the hood-this

baby was a big one: roughly 3800 pounds dripping wet at the curb;

18 feet long stem to stern; ample seating width behind the wheel

for even the hippest cats; a cavernous trunk capable of letting

the whole gang in free at the drive-in; and 427 big-block cubic

inches up front, the only SS power source available that year.

Hands down, big simply wasn't a big enough word as far as the '69

SS 427 Impala was concerned. So what else was new?



   A product of a time when the big deal was putting big engines

in big cars, Chevy's first-generation Impala SS, the two-door

variety, ranked among Detroit's most popular toys during the

sizzling '60s. Late in the '50s and early in the '60s, full-sized

performance represented the only way to fly, basically because it

was the only way to fly. It was not until the arrival of

Detroit's intermediate muscle cars, led by Pontiac's GTO in 1964,

that the spotlight turned away from the high-powered heavies such

as Chevy's Impala SS, Ford's 427 Galaxie and Chrysler's 300

letter cars.



   It was big fun while it lasted. From 1961 to '69, some 920,000

Super Sports hit the streets in both low-priced style and

performance-at least in some cases. While the original Impala

SS-introduced as an attractive trim package midyear in 1961-came

only with the hot 348 V8 o r its all-new, all-powerful ''W-head''

cousin, the famed ''Four-Oh-Nine,'' standard-issue Super Sports

to follow were powered by yeoman 283 small-blocks. There were

even a very few thrifty six-cylinders that wore SS badges. No

worry, though. Bow-tie buyers who believed that the ''Super'' in

Super Sport should mean something could still save their pennies

and dimes for the optional 409. By 1963, when fed by twin

four-barrel carbs, the 409 was squeezing out 425 hp.



   On the street or at the track, those early 409 Impala Super

Sports were certainly worth singing about in 1961. And '62. And

'63. And '64. But by 1965, the W-head technology had run its

course. It was replaced in February of that year by Chevrolet's

exciting new Mk IV big-block, initially displacing 396 cid. With

those exceptional, free-breathing, canted-valve ''porcupine''

heads, the 396 could also deliver 425 hp in top tune, although

most sold in '65 were of the more civilized 325-hp variety.



   An even more-impressive Mk IV, the renowned 427, joined the

396 Turbo-Jet as yet another hot choice for Impala SS customers

in 1966. Two 427 big-blocks were offered that year, the 425-hp

top-dog and the slightly less ferocious 390-horse version.



   Then along came the SS 427 in 1967. It was a complete package

built around the biggest of the Mk IV big-blocks, the SS 427

option, RPO Z24. It joined the ''standard'' Impala SS model line,

which still included 283 small-blocks and six-cylinders. As did

the 385-hp 427 (RPO L36), the Z24 option featured a stiffer

suspension, redline tires on 14x6 rims, and a special domed hood

with simulated intake vents.



   Sharp buyers picked up 2124 SS 427s, coupes and convertibles

that first year, followed by another 1778 in 1968. But the SS

line had lost its six-year status as an individual model series.

Instead, customers in 1968 had to check off RPO Z03 option to add

the SS imagery to their Impalas, a clear sign a downturn was in

the works.



   Sure enough, Chevrolet returned to the full-sized performance

arena in 1969 with only the SS 427. No small-blocks. No sixes. No

simple SS Impalas. And next to no visual recognition for RPO Z24.

Other than a blacked-out grille and those ever-present ''SS''

logos, the '69 SS 427 could've almost been lost in a crowd. While

the '67 SS 427 had its exclusive domed hood and large ''SS 427''

cross-flag emblems, and the '68 rendition had sported unique

fender ''gills,'' the '69 model left interested onlookers

squinting almost in vain while trying to make out the

uncharacteristically small 427 badges hidden atop the two side

marker lights on each front fender. Then again, maybe that

understated look was an improvement over the unique gills and

exclusive hoods of yore.



   Beneath the last SS 427's plain-Jane hood was again the L36

big-block, this time rated at 390 hp thanks to mildly modified

pistons and heads. Returning as well were the appropriate

heavy-duty underpinnings and wide-oval redline rubber, while

power front discs were also thrown in as part of the $422 deal. 

Popular options included close- or wide-ratio Muncie four-speeds,

a Turbo-Hydramatic automatic and Chevrolet's attractive 15-inch

Rally wheels with chrome trim rings.



   Total production for the last of the big-time Super Sports was

2455. In 1970, Impala sport coupe buyers could still opt for the

even larger 454-cid Mk IV V8, but it just wasn't the same without

those two big S's on the fender, a badge of honor that wouldn't

return to Chevrolet's full-sized ranks for another

quarter-century.