Muscular Impala SS born a collectible by Richard Truett (The Orlando Sentinel, 3/13/97)




    Every now and then a car comes along that is destined to

become a classic. The 1994-96 Chevrolet Impala SS is one of them.



   The Impala ranks as the most successful special-edition car

ever offered by Chevrolet.



   When it was introduced in 1994, Chevrolet officials hoped that

maybe 5,000 buyers per year would be interested in owning the big

four-door, Corvette-powered hot rod. By the time production

wrapped up in December, Chevrolet had built more than 40,000

Impalas.



   John Moss, head of Chevrolet's Special Vehicles, built the

original Impala SS on a lark as a concept car. It was displayed

at a show for aftermarket parts suppliers in Las Vegas in 1992.



   Moss took a black Caprice, dropped in a Corvette engine,

fitted it with a police car suspension system, then unearthed

some 1960s-era Impala logos. That and a few other cosmetic

touches -- such as minor tweaks to the body, mag wheels and a

special interior -- transformed the bloated Caprice into a

sinister-looking machine.



   The car caused a sensation, and Chevrolet was deluged with

requests to build it. Chevy's general manager at the time, a wily

Texan named Jim Perkins, gave the go-ahead and the Impala SS was

born. Make that reborn.



   Chevrolet built the Impala and Impala SS in the late 1950s and

throughout the '60s, but all those cars were two-door models.



   The 1994-96 Impala SS was based on the Caprice, Buick

Roadmaster and Cadillac Fleetwood sedans. Although demand was

heavy for the Impala, GM discontinued it in December because

sales of the Caprice, Cadillac and Buick weren't high enough to

continue production. Instead, GM decided to use its factory space

to build more hot-selling Chevy Tahoe and Yukon sport-utility

vehicles and trucks.



   The 1994-96 Impala SS was available only as a four-door sedan

and only in solid colors. All Impalas are powered by a

260-horsepower, 5.7-litre Corvette LT-1 motor and a four-speed

automatic transmission.



   Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide does not have a

separate listing for the Impala SS. But the Caprice on which it

is based has a nearly trouble free repair record in the 1993-96

model years.



   Dave Amshoff, service manager at Bill Seidle Chevrolet in

Clermont, Florida, says the Impala SS is just as dependable as

the Caprice, which is to say, nearly bulletproof.



   "The car has no weak points," he said.



   Mr. Amshoff says most Impalas visit the service department for

oil changes and other scheduled maintenance.



   The last Impalas were built Dec. 13, 1996. The cost is about

$25,000.



   There have been no major recalls.



   All parts are available and should be easy to obtain for many

years. GM has an outstanding record for providing mechanical and

trim parts for its out-of-production vehicles.



   All Impalas came with dual air bags and anti-lock brakes,

side-impact protection and front and rear crumple zones.



   Because demand is greater than supply, prices for second-hand

Impalas have held firm. A 1994 model has a retail price of about

$19,000 U.S., according to the NADA Official Used Car Guide. 1995

Impalas are selling for about $21,000, and, if you can find a

used 1996 model, you'll pay about $24,000, according to the NADA.



   In Ottawa recently, Turpin Pontiac Buick GMC on Carling Avenue

was offering a 1994 Impala SS with 68,000 kilometres for $29,900.



   The 1994 and 1995 models are virtually identical. They all

came with a column shifter and a big digital speedometer. The

1996 Impala SS, which received two major improvements, likely

will be the most coveted. An analog-gauge package with a

tachometer was added, and the shifter was moved to the floor and

placed in a full-length console. These two improvements made the

transformation from the Caprice complete and gave the rumbling

hot rod an even sportier personality.



   Although all Impalas are likely to become collectible, the

20,000 or so 1996 models Chevrolet built are likely to retain a

greater percentage of their value because of improvements and

because they are the last of the line.