The Impala's SS: Is it super sport or Social
Security? by Mark Collins (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5/21/95)
If you've ever looked underneath the body of a '60s sports
car, chances are you've seen an exhaust system shaped like a Y.
It matches the male Y-chromosome. Men are genetically built to
lust after '60s muscle cars in the same way ... well, in the same
way they lust for muscles after turning 60.
At my age, I don't even drive 60. My idea of car renovation is
changing the oil. My idea of adventure is changing lanes.
But when I spy an old GTO or Barracuda or Javelin pulling
beside me at a red light, my heart goes all aflutter. In my
fantasies, I imagine rebuilding a '69 Firebird, using nothing
more than a can of starting fluid, a half-inch open-end wrench
(none of that prissy metric stuff), and a radio that plays only
Roy Orbison. Suddenly I'm transformed from the Auto Writer
Formerly Known as Mark to a guy in mechanic's overalls, wiping my
hands on an orange rag, and my name, Buzz (or maybe Speed),
stitched in red over my heart. I smoke Luckies. My license plate
reads 2BAD4U or 8MYDUST. I regularly outrun the police, who have
a begrudging respect for me and my machine. Women leave love
notes in lipstick on my windshield.
I wake from my dream because the guy behind me is beeping. The
light has turned green. I ease my minivan into gear, careful not
to spill my travel mug of decaf coffee.
Well, Chevy is out to turn that dream into a reality. Their
1995 Impala SS (remember that name?) has all the looks and appeal
of those halcyon days when gas was cheap and so was your
eight-track tape player. The jet-black model I drove turned more
than its share of heads. The Impala's long, lean looks,
rear-wheel drive, leather-wrapped steering wheel, huge 17-inch
(yowza!) tires, and black-on-black decals reminded me of the
souped-up Chevys of yesteryear.
That, unfortunately, is the drawback: it only reminded me of a
sports car. Don't get me wrong -- the 5.7-liter (er, 350
cubic-inch) V-8 engine, derived from the Corvette, has plenty of
power. (Machine Design magazine called the acceleration
''seat-denting.'' I've told them a million times not to
exaggerate.) There are also some '90s-style appointments such as
stainless-steel exhaust, dual air bags, ABS brakes, electronic
seat controls, and power windows and doors (though all these
modern accouterments are well-hidden, so you're never reminded
that Nixon isn't president.) Chevy even recreated the simpler
dashboards of the '60s -- just a speedometer and a coupla gauges.
And the back seat is very roomy, too, in case your mid-life
crisis still includes a couple of kids.
But there's something not quite sprightly enough here. Despite
the decals and the mag wheels, we're still talking about a
dolled-up Caprice. By contrast, my friend Dave has a turbocharged
'87 Buick Grand National -- another attempt at retro-muscle by
GM, except this thing hauls. One step on the gas and you feel
like Sulu chasing the Klingons. The Impala, by comparison, seems
tame. There's something ineffably out-of-touch about this car.
It's not just the inappropriate automatic transmission. It's not
the four-door styling. The Impala is ... is ...
... Is just fine. It's fine. Really. I realize, as I'm writing
this, that the reason people (read: men) buy these retro-cars
isn't for speed but for the look of speed. It's a safe mid-life
crisis, and it doesn't involve lawyers or Rogaine or people much
younger than your spouse.
But, like the decade of the '60s, the Impala won't be around
forever. After next year, Chevy plans to decommission the Impala
and other Fleetwood-class cruisers. So go for it now. Get your
motor runnin'. Head out on the highway. But wear your seatbelt.
And take the corners slow. And take your cholesterol medication.
And wear sunscreen, for Pete's sake. You know how easily you
1995 Chevrolet Impala SS
Vehicle type.....................Souped-up sedan
Base price..........$ 22,910 (As tested: $ 24,540)
Horsepower (net).................260 at 4800 rpm
Curb weight...........................4,036 lbs.
Torque...........................330 at 3200 rpm
EPA mileage rating...........17 city, 25 highway