This Chevrolet Impala SS Is One Unusual American Muscle Car In India

Images: Makarand Baokar

The very first use of the Impala brand name was on a concept prototype based on the Corvette, when Chevrolet showcased a five-seater coupé derivative of the two-seater sportster in 1955. Three years later, in 1958, Chevrolet introduced the Impala brand as a sportier option based on the Bel Air coupés and convertibles. Named after the African antelope, the Impala’s distinguishable six rear lamps became its trademark. In 1959, Impala became a separate model, with both two- and four-door variants, and soon thereafter became Chevrolet’s bestseller. By 1960, Impala had become America’s best selling car, and it remained so throughout the decade.

1967 Chevrolet Impala SS Indian Luxury cars vintage cars classic cars
A dramatic profile with just the right touch of chrome distinguished the Impala SS from its lesser siblings

On the other side of the world, General Motors decided to pull out of India in 1954, following the enactment of the Industrial (Development and Regulation) Act of 1951. This Act stipulated rapid localisation for the automobile industry and the slapping of progressively higher duties on the import of cars. Still, a few GM automobiles did get imported until about the early 1960s.

Of them, the most popular, by far, were the Impalas, with scores of them finding their be-winged way to India, and eventually starring in movies, as well as becoming the favourite set of wheels for the very rich, the very famous and the dazzling stars of Bollywood.

With its sweeping, almost fastback look, the Impala SS epitomised the "muscle car" look of the 1960s

The Impala was also at the vanguard of the American muscle car era. In the 1960s, fuel prices were low and American consumers were much keener on powerful automobiles than fuel efficient ones. The typical American car buyer was looking for space, size, performance and driving pleasure. To cater to them, Chevrolet unveiled the Impala SS in 1961, the first real “muscle car” that was available with a choice of two engines and four performance outputs: a 5.7-litre engine putting out either 305, 340 or 350bhp, as well as a flagship 360bhp with a 6.7-litre engine. Plus, the model featured special rims, better suspension, and other sporting options.

1967 Chevrolet Impala SS Indian Luxury cars vintage cars classic cars
With that fastback look the rear of the Impala SS is dramatic

Unfortunately, the SS badge (short for Super Sport) became the signature badge for all of Chevrolet’s high-performance vehicles, as well as some with just a cosmetic option. From 1962, the Impala SS could be ordered with any Impala engine, and until 1969 it was a sports version only from an aesthetic point of view, with all the sporting goodies available as options. Following typical American model year changes, the design of the Impala SS also kept evolving every year.

1967 Chevrolet Impala SS Indian Luxury cars vintage cars classic cars
The rear lamp was perfectly symmetrical, which allowed the left and the right lamps to be interchangeable

Of all the many iterations, the most dramatic though was the 1967 model year Impala SS. A real milestone design, the car was reskinned with larger, sweepier sheet metal, accentuating the trend for the “coke-bottle” look with an even higher hipline. Complemented by a fastback greenhouse, the giant 5.42-metres-long car managed to look very sporty, as well as provide enough headroom for passengers at the rear. The other noteworthy styling feature was the car’s pillar-less construction, which accentuated the side window glass area, making the car appear bigger than it really was.

1967 Chevrolet Impala SS Indian Luxury cars vintage cars classic cars
Except for the SS badge at the front, the front end was identical to the stock Impala

Despite the striking looks, the ’67 Impala SS was less successful than the ’66, only selling a modest (!) 76,055 units (compared to the preceding year’s 119,314). Of the several variants, the most desirable is the SS427, the 385bhp monster powered by the mighty 7.0-litre V8. Surprisingly, the 2,100-odd of the SS427 manufactured is more than five times that of the version powered by the 155bhp 4.1-litres straight-six, with barely 400 of the latter finding buyers. The car on this page is one of them. Part of a famous collection, this superb example is one of a handful of Impala SS in India and is a fine example of an era in American automotive history, when size, brashness and braggadocio were all-conquering virtues.

Gautam Sen

Serial concours judge, author, founder-editor of several Indian auto mags, as well as co-conspirator with design greats Marcello Gandini, Tom Tjaarda, and Gérard Godfroy on a few vehicle projects


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