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Mr. Average: The 1967 Chevrolet Impala


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Mr. Average: The 1967 Chevrolet Impala

If any car deserves to be called the archetypal sixties American automobile, it's the Chevrolet Impala. In 1965, the peak of its popularity, one in every nine new cars sold in the United States was an Impala. If we add the sales of the mechanically identical Biscayne and Bel Air models, full-size Chevrolets accounted for more than 15% of the U.S. market. By comparison, the best-selling car in the U.S. in 2008, the Toyota Camry, accounted for only about 3%. In today's fragmentary market, the sheer ubiquity the big Chevys once enjoyed is difficult to grasp.

Let's take a closer look at this most average of average American cars.


When we talk about the Chevrolet Impala, we are actually talking about only one subset of what was once considered Chevrolet's "standard" car line. In the late sixties, Chevrolet offered its full-size cars in five series:

The low-line Biscayne, a sparsely trimmed, minimally equipped price leader aimed primarily at the fleet market

The mid-level Bel Air, once Chevrolet's top-of-the-line model, now demoted to family-car duty

The Impala, the moderately trimmed, middle-of-the-road series

The sporty Impala Super Sport, previously an option group for the Impala, promoted to its own series in 1964

The luxury Caprice, Chevy's answer to the popular Ford LTD, introduced as a sub-series of the Impala in 1965 and promoted to full-fledged model status in 1966.

While this sounds like a wide range of cars, the only real differences between the different model series were trim, price, and the availability of certain options and body styles. All shared the same body and chassis, the same suspension and brakes, and most of the same powertrains. The main distinction was market position.

Chevrolet's marketing strategy amounted to an elaborate game of musical chairs. From 1950 to 1957, the Bel Air was at the top of the heap. In 1958, Chevrolet added the Impala, initially pitched as the most sporty, luxurious model (although this was strictly a relative term) and offered only in the most glamorous body styles: the convertible and the hardtop Sport Coupe. It was promoted to a full model series in 1959, and subsequently became the mainstay of the Chevy line. The Impala SS, introduced in 1961 as an option package for regular Impalas, supplanted its parent as the top-of-the-line model in 1964, and two years later was in turn supplanted by the luxury-oriented Caprice.

Both the SS and the Caprice were comparatively specialized models, and the Impala continued to account for the lion's share of big-Chevy sales throughout the 1960s. Unlike the Mustang, which was originally targeted at young Baby Boomers just reaching driving age, the Impala was aimed squarely at the middle-American demographic that Richard Nixon later called the silent majority. In a 1971 editorial entitled "America's Two-Dimensional Sweetheart," Car and Driver's Brock Yates described the typical Impala buyer (married suburbanite with a middle-class income and a high school education) and noted that to such a customer, the Impala represented an ideal. Driving anything more, Yates explained, would seem overly pretentious; anything less was a tacit admission of underachievement.



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Loved that article and the others on that site!

You are most welcome. I was reading a lot this past weekend and I came across that site. I thought all the GM stories were interesting. That is why if you check each GM brand here, there are stories in each one. I was hoping people would enjoy them. I also wanted people to know the real stories behind many GM brands and designs. They can get an idea of where GM has been and where it needs to go and have a feeling of how GM lost its way.

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