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HarleyEarl

1969 Chevy Impala

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1969 Chevrolet Impala - A Car In August
(Published in "Motor Trend", November 1968)

(Top) An infinite prairie of grass accentuates Impala changes for 1969, including flared wheel wells and ventless side glass. Although Impala sports entirely new sheetmetal, subtle body changes are not immediately apparent. (Above) 1969 trunk space is adequate and similar in size to 1968. Spare is still far forward and difficult to reach for women. (Right) Equipment fills floor and bucket seat. Chevy bucket seats are contoured to fit the back firmly and are extremely comfortable; there is little sliding or swaying in even the tightest corners.



If you want to test a 1969 Chevrolet in August ... go to Milford, Mich. and the General Motors Proving Ground. That's where the cars are. Accompanied by security guards and engineers, you can take the one-of-a-kind prototype out and drive it for the day on twisting, curving blacktop roads and at ultra high speed on the long, 3-mile, north/south straightaway.

A completely new body shell with all-new sheetmetal surrounds a virtually unchanged chassis and suspension. Even though the body shell is new, Chevy's big car lines are quite similar to those of 1968. New, scalloped wheel openings, fender skirts, and a convex rear window present an immediate distinctive change in appearance. Other changes sneak up on you more slowly.

Powertrain & Performance
A 427-c.i.d. engine - that's where it's at if you want a bomb. Add 4-on-the-floor and it's practically a supercar. Not exactly the abstract concept of what the mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation have parked out in the garage. But, to be fair to Chevrolet, it was the only Impala available before production got started. If you want to test a car in August, you take what you can get.

Our test car, in addition to the 427-c.i.d. engine with 4-bbl. carburetion, turning out 390 hp., plus the 4-speed manual transmission, was hooked up to

a 3.31:1 rear axle ratio with positraction. Luckily, a low, low rear end hadn't been included with the package, and performance was more of the family type, with good, nominal engine rpm at highway speeds. With 427 inches and a 4-speed, there was little doubt about acceleration performance, which turned out to be, like fast, as was expected. Chevy's 427 ran smoothly and quietly, even when abused repeatedly with missed speed shifts at high rpms. Four-on-the-floor with a Muncie shifter ... not what the average housewife would clamor for to run the kids to school or make several daily hops to the supermarket. But, if you still enjoy driving a car instead of the other way round, the 4-speed is an ideal adaptation in the Impala. The shifter is located conveniently for comfortable, relaxed driving and doesn't necessitate an overly long reach. We're not exactly in love with the operation of most Muncies, and this one was no exception. Finding second in downshifts wasn't always the easiest thing in the world.

Handling, Steering & Stopping
There's not a hell of a lot you can do to change the basic family car suspension from year to year. Chevrolet does employ a platoon of cunning computers now to determine spring rates on each car, for its specific use, which supposedly keeps every car at its designed ride level and trim angle.

Suspension on the test Impala had the usual soft sedan feel, but with Chevrolet's unique, inviolate firmness evident in handling and steering. Handling characteristics are good, similar to 1968. Chevy's slightly contoured, resilient bucket seats hold down driver and front seat passenger slipping, sliding, pitching and rolling to a minimum. That fact and cohesive power steering that allows a substantial road feel, gives a mobile smoothness to handling the Impala. Going through tight corners, is always road hugging business. Steering is neutral in normal corners, but aggressive driving brings on built-in understeer. Controlled oversteer occurs in sharp power drifts coming out of turns of less than 90 degrees. On steep, abrupt rises or similar dips, the test car had a tendency, when pushed hard, to bottom mushily, with a rear fender (or some part of the body) hitting noisily. This only happened when the body was twisted considerably in a turn/dip at high speed, and, as this was a prototype, that problem will probably be eliminated in production models.

The Chevy, too, was equipped with wide-tread Polyglas tires, which had a noticeable effect on 'handling, steering, and especially stopping. Chevrolet power front disc brakes and drum rear, which our car had, have been a great combination since they were introduced. Stops were always straight and easy to control. Even after repeated use during high-speed acceleration runs (up to 122 mph), there was no fade or burning with the Impala brakes.

Comfort, Convenience & Ride
Front bucket seats are firm, yet immensely comfortable. Bench seats might be more practical for a family sedan, but there is no compromise with the Chevy buckets. Leg room and pedal placement are also well planned for comfort. A large ashtray in the redesigned instrument panel is easy to reach and use by both driver and passenger, as is the radio, and a hidden ashtray in the center console is an added benefit for heavy smokers. Easy to see and read, a large speedometer/odometer is centrally located behind the steering wheel. The newly designed steering wheel for 1969 is easy to handle and has horn buttons in each side of a padded center bar. Unfortunately, when the bucket seatback on the driver's side is pushed forward for rear seat entry or exit, the seatback head restraint makes perfect contact with the horn buttons and a rather noisy fanfare announces your intention. A design computer must have goofed.

Rear seats are comfortable, although seatbacks seem unusually straight. The convex rear window throws lots of light on the rear seat passengers and could become uncomfortably warm if parked in the sun. The window gives unusually good rear-view mirror visibility though. Rear seat knee room is cramped with front buckets all the way back. Headroom in the rear is unusually good and would be adequate for top hats or bouffant hair. Safety seat push buttons are located in the center of front seatbacks and are difficult to find when getting into the back seat.

The Chevrolet-Fisher Body combination continues to exemplify quality craftsmanship and construction. This reflects in the ride, that is softly American, yet at the same time surrounds you with adamantine security. Wide Poly tires unquestionably do their part in the excellent ride qualities. Removal of vent windows on the Impala have also added to the feeling of spaciousness in this car, too. Ride is extremely quiet, with little or no wind and road noise.

Plus & Minus Features
The bottoming body scrape when the suspension gets an unusual amount of activity and the unfortunate match of the steering wheel horn buttons with the front seat head restraint are probably the most outstanding minus features in an otherwise seemingly ideally designed car. More rear seat knee room is needed for good back seat comfort.

Ride and handling are primary among plus features. Bucket seat comfort is a close second. Trunk space is more than adequate and should hold a considerable amount of luggage. The trunk, in fact, is so large that the forward located spare is difficult to reach without actually getting into the trunk. Fisher styling still makes the Impala a bon vivant among the big car set.
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*grins*

I so enjoy this "old memorabilia" ;).

Thanks for sharing this, HE!!!!


Cort, "Mr MC" / "Mr Road Trip", 32swm/pig valve/pacemaker
MC:family.IL.guide.future = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort/
Models.HO = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort/trainroom.html
"I wonder if it's too late" ... Nickelback ... 'Photograph'
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welcome...it's so much fun to see how people veiwed things in another era, their unique sensibilities that reflect the times..I find this stuff facinating...Like mentioning about the spare too far to reach for women.
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welcome...it's so much fun to see how people veiwed things in another era, their unique sensibilities that reflect the times..I find this stuff facinating...


*grins*

So do I!!!! And, fascinating just barely begins to cover it...he he he.

I just enjoy seeing old reviews, old ads, etc., and, sometimes, finding humor in what was considered "state of the art" back then...he he he.
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Great post. :) "Powertrain & Performance A 427-c.i.d. engine - that's where it's at if you want a bomb. Add 4-on-the-floor and it's practically a supercar. Not exactly the abstract concept of what the mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation have parked out in the garage."
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Thanks for posting, Harley. Were we naive or smart in 1969? I vote "smart".
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I don't get it. To me, this is one of the most bland designs. It looks like a bar of soap with a roof. And that rear overhang...whoo-wee!
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1969, like 1959 was a pivotal year for automotive design. Chrysler had led the way in 1957 and was leading the way again in 1969 with their "fuselage" styling. Chevrolet's more rounded, curvy style in '69 was the direction styling was taking at the time, away from the more carved, squared off look of the mid-'60s. I wouldn't say the '69 full sized Chevs were ground breaking, but they were clean and uncluttered.
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Wow, look at the gap between the grille and the hood/fenders. This car is obviously inferior to its imported competition.
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I think that this is one of the best-styled full-size models ever-match this with the 2003 SS concept car and that's what I want to see-these cars I'll admit were a little long, especially in the rear however.
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Yet, as with every Chevrolet, there's a less boring, more stylish version being sold by Pontiac, Oldsmobile, or Buick at the exact same time.
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Yet, as with every Chevrolet, there's a less boring, more stylish version being sold by Pontiac, Oldsmobile, or Buick at the exact same time.

[post="50599"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I see no harm in showing some love for the other B-bodies of the time:

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I love those '60s-70s land yachts.... I saw a triple black '69 Impala SS 427 at a car show a few years ago...hidden headlights, Rallys...sweet car. I think my favorite B-bodies, though, are the 'fuselage' '71-73s (before the bumpers got so big)..
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I've never been a huge fan of the thick c-pillar on the '69 Palah but I think they were trying to make it formal and upright while giving it a Camaro style roofline.

I agree that the '69 isn't the best Impala of all time but it beats the crap out of the 2006, or any Chevy mid/full size car since 1996.

You want to talk about a DARK time for Chevy how about M.Y. '97-'99 when THIS pile was the TOP-of-the-line Chevrolet. What a sad freekin day for General Motors.


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Getting back to the topic at hand I actaully prefer the '69 as a 4-door, so long as it's a hardtop. :) Check out the plate on the Blue one.

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I agree that the '69 isn't the best Impala of all time but it beats the crap out of the 2006, or any Chevy mid/full size car since 1996.

[post="50625"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


In terms of what? Safety, performance, fuel economy, equipment level, price? 2006 has any old Impy beat hands down.

I would also argue that the '06 Impala has a far narrower disparity between it and other, higher-end GM models because it doesn't look real cheap. The '77+ box Chevies and unskirted Caprices looked fine as well.

Kudos are given for convertible availability, something sorely lacking in GM's lineup today compared to then or even as early as a decade and a half ago.
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GM should build these today ,put that next an 06 on the lot and see what peopla are going to look at and buy. Whenever the real cars are shown against there new wannabe editons I hate the new version more and more .
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Rear overhang looks perfectly normal to me... in fact everything current looks too damned short.
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put that next an 06 on the lot and see what peopla are going to look at and buy. Whenever the real cars are shown against there new wannabe editons I hate the new version more and more.


I'm right there with you.

I had been thinking of purchasing an '06 impala, but then I saw a mid-'70s Impala and a '95ish Impala SS in a matter of minutes one evening on the way home back from a Chevrolet dealership...and quickly put the '06 impala out of my mind for purchasing. Instead, I'll either get a "winter beater" ish car ('86-'88 Monte Carlo, '87ish Caprice Classic, '87 Olds Cutlass Supreme, '70s-'80s Impala, '80s Malibu) or get an '06 Dodge Charger.....


Cort, "Mr MC" / "Mr Road Trip", 32swm/pig valve/pacemaker
MC:family.IL.guide.future = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort/
Models.HO = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort/trainroom.html
"It's coming down to nothing more than apathy" ... The Fray ... 'Over My Head'
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We've had a thread for "favorite Impala", but I'll go ahead and say it here, the '69 is not a fave of mine... I prefer the '61-'62, '65-'66, and '71-'72, and of course the '94-'96 SS.
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In terms of what? Safety, performance, fuel economy, equipment level, price? 2006 has any old Impy beat hands down.

[post="50626"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Apples to apples... the 1996 Caprica/Impala was RWD, V* and still got decent fuel economy and was as safe great handeling car. Just ask any cop who was on the force long enough to remember.

OB-effin-VIOUSLY I'm not a proponent of not keeping up wiht fuel economy & safety standards... in 1969 the Impala DID get good fuel economy same as a 2007+ Impala wiht a DOD V8 would get GREAT fuel economy all things considered.

I don;t know why it is Fly that you think just beacuse us RWD/BOF guys want old school styling (or mildly retro) and RWD it means we want 1950s or 1960s technology.


It goes without saying that a 2006 Impala gets better fuel economy than a 1969... if a car 37 years newer and 1000lbs lighter wiht a much smaller EFI engine can not get fuel economy superior to it's ancestor then GM would ALREADY be bankrupt!
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Apples to apples... the 1996 Caprica/Impala was RWD, V* and still got decent fuel economy and was as safe great handeling car. Just ask any cop who was on the force long enough to remember.

OB-effin-VIOUSLY I'm not a proponent of not keeping up wiht fuel economy & safety standards... in 1969 the Impala DID get good fuel economy same as a 2007+ Impala wiht a DOD V8 would get GREAT fuel economy all things considered.

I don;t know why it is Fly that you think just beacuse us RWD/BOF guys want old school styling (or mildly retro) and RWD it means we want 1950s or 1960s technology.

[post="51571"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


You said that the '69 "beats the crap out of a 2006", not that it looked better or whatever.

As far as the '96 goes, a fine car indeed, but doesn't really compare to other Impalas because of its lower-volume production; compare the mainstream Caprice to a mainstream Impala, and I still argue the Impala wins because - though a little smaller and a little less powerful - is more appropriate 'Impala.' Remember that Impalas were the perennial cheap family sedan with decent power, decent room, and reasonably-priced with great appeal. No doubt the Caprice lacked that appeal and you can partly blame the '91-'92 Whale look for it

I think the 2006 Impala will give people that ride and handling quality they expect and the type a Caprice couldn't deliver. Remember, the Impala SS and 9C1 Caprices had suspension modifications while stock Caprices kept the boaty, Cadillac ride. I remember riding in a '92 and the float was much like the DeVille I drove recently for a rental - floaty. Now, I'm a man that prefers a smooth boulevard ride, but smooth encompasses 'composed' as well, not soft and oversprung to the point of annoyance.
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