That little blond kid staring up at his dad in admiration should have been me. This is exactly the kind of dad I would have preferred to have, and yes, this would have been the perfect car for the six Not-Niedermeyers upon our arrival in the US in 1960: an Impala hardtop sports coupe with the 290 hp fuel injected 283 V8, the newly-available four-speed stick shift transmission and Positraction (instead he bought a dumpy old ’54 Ford four-door sedan with a 130 hp Y-block). But where’s the heavy duty/sports suspension? The ad does say handle like a sports car.
Time for a trip to oldcarbrochures.com. No sign of an obvious sports/HD suspension package. There’s “Heavy-duty rear coil springs”, probably aimed primarily at station wagon owners with six kids and a fully-loaded roof rack. It does mention “Special equipment for police or taxicab service”. Not so sure that actually means a HD suspension. Frankly, that kind of thing just wasn’t really in the air in 1959. So the “sports car handling” seems a bit of a stretch. But the performance certainly wasn’t.
Update: a bit more research shows that the “police suspension” was a HD set up that was also used on export cars. Presumably it would have been available on any Chevy ordered, as per the mention in the brochure. It might have made sense to mention that in the ad. And according to one test of a police package ’59 Chevy, it was a big improvement over the base suspension.
With that Fuel Injection badge on the front fender, 290 hp (at 6200 rpm,) and the four speed, this would have been a brisk car for the times. And given the 283’s light weight, it would undoubtedly have been a relatively better handler than many of the heavy-engined competition, including the 348 V8 Chevy. So maybe there was something to the claim; certainly so in relative terms.
Chevrolet was the first popular-priced car to offer a four speed manual. Ford wouldn’t install one in the factory until 1962, although one could order a ’61 with a four speed in the trunk, to be installed by the dealer, and then only with the hi-po 390. Seriously. Which is of course exactly what my not-dad did in 1961, since he was a confirmed Ford man at the time. It was not-worth waiting two years, I guess.
Hat tip to Sean Cornelis