Chevrolet Impala 1959-1960 Second Generation
For 1959, the Impala had its own nameplate; it was no longer an option package for the Bel Air. The new model was available as a four-door sedan, four-door coupe, two-door coupe, two-door hard-top, or a convertible. The sheet metal radically changed, and now shared some body panels with the low-end Buick and Oldsmobile.
Chevrolet revised the “X” frame chassis with a rail up each side of the frame for increased side impact protection. The body now sat three inches lower on a 1½ inch longer wheelbase, with the body shell two inches wider than the previous year. As a sign of the times, the Impala put on a few pounds. The rear deck was huge with the tail fins now horizontal and the taillights long, horizontally configured teardrops.
There was a shortened roof line in ’59 for the complete Impala lineup, while the hard-top model had a sporty “flying wing” roof. The back of the greenhouse on all units was a wraparound, pillar-free, compound curved piece of glass making the rear window huge, but the driver had excellent visibility, even on the blind side.
The top-of-the-line Impala featured many uptown interior options, including door-mounted armrest front and rear, two sliding sun visors, crank-operated no-draft windows, with a Flexomatic six-way power seat available. The dashboard has all the gauges somewhat reset and under an over-hang to prevent glare. In addition to the standard gauge cluster, the owner could order an electric clock or a Speedminder. This unusual option was a reminder buzzer that sounded when the driver exceeded the speed selected.
The Turbo Fire 283-cubic-inch (4.6L) V8 was the basic engine in ’59, and it put out 185hp (138 kW). The sticker price for the convertible was $2,967. If you needed more power, a four-barrel carburetor option could produce 190hp (220 kW).
Although if you liked to go fast, there was a further power option of W Series Turbo-Thrust. This was a big-block 348-cubic-inch (5.7L) V8 that delivered up to 315hp (235 kW) for ultimate performance. The thrifty-minded folks could opt to special order the Blue Flame six-cylinder version which saved $118 and retailed for around $2,849, but you also got a lifetime of savings at the gas pump with this choice. The transmissions available in ’59 were the basic equipment close-ratio, three-speed manual; an optional three-speed manual with overdrive, as well as a four-speed manual, and the Turbo-Glide automatic.
The 1960 Impala now had four body styles available: a hard-top sport sedan, a sport coupe, a convertible coupe, and a four-door sedan, but the lead model was the Impala convertible for $2,847. The designers began to steer toward a more conservative look with the large teardrop taillights upgraded to three rounded, smaller units on each side. The front fascia also changed with the large air intakes above the headlights gone completely for a less flashy look. The Impala flaunted its status with a lot more chromed trimming than the lesser Bel Air or Biscayne.
348-cubic-inch283 was still available and could produce from 170 to 230hp (130 to 240 kW), offering a compromise between economy and performance.
There was no fuel injection, but a new option was cruise control, making the buzzer option from the previous year obsolete but very collectible. Oshawa Canada produced right-hand drive models with a mirror image dash configuration for South African, New Zealander, and Australian Impala markets although the Australian-bound versions were assembled by hand at the Holden plant.
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