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

burn. 



TEST TRACK



1995 Chevrolet Impala SS



   Vehicle type.....................Souped-up sedan



   Base price..........$ 22,910 (As tested: $ 24,540)



   Engine type..................................V-8



   Displacement...........................5.7-liter



   Horsepower (net).................260 at 4800 rpm



   Transmission................Four-speed automatic



   Curb weight...........................4,036 lbs.



   Torque...........................330 at 3200 rpm



   EPA mileage rating...........17 city, 25 highway