How about a bit of an antidote to today’s pristine little Beetle?
While they are very different cars, they do have some things in common. They both have been sold in the US market on and off for several decades. They both came to an end around the same time, the Beetle in 2019 and the Impala in 2020.
Tough to tell when the picture was taken given the other 2 cars. Is it San Francisco? Being in Boston seeing an older car means it’s an older picture.
I had the 75 version of that impala, it felt much faster than my 71 lesabre even though they both had the 350. I think….
They were different 350s.
Back then each division developed its own engines, although some models started using engines from other divisions, leading to the infamous “Chevy engine in an Olds” lawsuit.
Growing up I always assumed they were the same engines. After all, why would one corporation have four or five different versions of the same sized engine? A classic example of how bloated GM was. Were the differences meaningful?
It wasn’t until the divisions lost their individuality that GM started to fail….In my opinion each division created a rivalry and competition that created innovation and loyalty with customers. Plus each division rivaled entire car companies where they could afford to have every division produce their own engines…In the late 70’s, early 80’s Oldsmobile alone was selling a million cars asnd Buick was not far behind…Chevrolet was producing double what Buick was producing..
I have one four letter word for you that was at the root of it all.
From its beginnings in the early-mid ‘60‘s it was on a roll by the late ‘60’s slashing individuality and product/part duplication and eventually driving production increases like no one had seen before. All for profit all at the expense of quality, devisional differences and labor harmony. Peak GM to me was 1966 and 1967 started with the decontenting that made product like the ‘73 Chevrolet as shown a bloated generic mess. It’s a sordid tale that culminated in the Vega debacle at Lordstown.
Great bathroom reading if you search.
GMAD took over all the factories in 1971. Before that, each division had control over its own plants and therefore had more input over build quality. Also, the 1971 full-size cars had much more commonality than their 1970 predecessors, which still had their own frames, engines, and in some cases transmissions. That trend actually started with the mid-size A bodies in the early 1960’s, which were similar underneath but at least retained divisional drivetrains, styling and suspension tuning. A Chevelle looked and drove differently than a Skylark, an F-85 or a LeMans.
GMAD really started to screw things up with the full-size cars then the Colonnade intermediates which seemed like they were never meant to fit together properly. By the time the downsizing began, the differences became much smaller division to division but it was build quality more than anything that killed GM’s market share as the Japanese began making inroads with high-quality cars.
I understand that the divisions lost their individuality along the way. Different styling and different handling characteristics were important. But why different engines? Did most consumers notice or care? Was one division’s engine better than another’s? If not, what was the point of all the duplication? if one engine was better, shouldn’t it have been used by all? Shouldn’t they have focused on making one really good engine instead (and perhaps it would have been cheaper because of economies of scale). Certainly having different transmissions didn’t seem to put GM at the top of the drivetrain heap. Wasn’t Chrysler’s torqueflite generally considered to be the best transmission? (ok I know that will get the GM fans going..)
Back in the olden days, GM used to work like five independent companies under one umbrella management. Over time they gradually shared more and more componentry UNTIL….. 🙁
Yes, that’s San Francisco. Hard to tell exactly where but I’d say in either the Haight or Western Addition, maybe the Mission District.
It’s not unusual to see old(er) cars like this on the street, even today.
“Live and Let Die” …this one represents the former?
That’s one of them new car boats.
You got a set a wheels there that won’t quit…
These cars were everywhere when I grew up in Chicagoland. An amazing vehicle in that it had no road feel, an IP filled with idiot lights, and a V8 that got about 16 miles a gallon on the expressway. Two door coupes, why? Those doors weighed too much, swung out too far, and if the outer door skin didn’t rust out in three years, the hinges sprung. Bench seats, ash trays, cigarette lighters, but no cup holders. I learned to drive in one of these. You didn’t go places fast except the expressway when rush hour was over. They leaked!
This era of big domestic sedans was embarrassing. We all knew that we had to drive something better designed, but didn’t get that until 1977 with GM and 1979 with Ford. Folks still bought these things, and this is what they expected. My grandpa’s generation loved them.
Yup – they were the anti-Beetle. And a lot of families had one of these, and a Beetle in their driveway at the same time. Family car, and a work car. A cruiser, and a death trap. Parent’s car, and a kid’s car.
This is when the fullsize GM car lost the plot. At least I could squint and see the ’71-’72 Impala/Caprice as kinda quasi-attractive in a bathtub-kinda-way…but by ’73, that grill was just a turnoff, and it only got worse until the all-new ’77s came out.
Don’t understand all the hate for this car. this was the most popular car in 1973 bar none. They rode like Cadillacs, even looked like a Cady These were among the best looking cars of the 70’s. They were also some of the most reliable cars made.
Although I wasn’t much of a fan of these boats, I’ve always been in awe of the quarter-panel stamping on the B/C-body coupes (and really, all the Big 3’s coupes and convertibles.)
The OAL on a ’73 Chevrolet coupe was ~222″, and to my eye, that quarter panel is 35-40% of the car, making it over 6′ long! Assuming it’s stamped in one piece, that’s a heckuva stamping!
Make it a 4 door hardtop… that’s what Dad drove when I was a kid. Until we got a Mercury Monarch.
Wasn’t this the first year that Powerglide was no longer available in the full-sized Chevrolet (at least in the US)?
According to the FS brochure at oldcarbrochures.com, you are correct. There was a theoretically-available 3-speed manual on base 6-cylinder Bel-Air sedans (although I think the choice was phased out mid-year, and I doubt they made 5000 of them) but otherwise, you got a THM 3-speed auto. If you *really* wanted a Powerglide in your 73 Chevy, you had to buy a Vega or Nova.
I came across a four door hardtop one of these (from ’75 or ’76) and peeked inside. I forgot how w-i-d-e these things were. I recall when the ’77s were first sold we were reassured the new ones actually had more legroom, headroom, and trunk space. They left out though that shoulder and hip room were reduced by about three inches IIRC. You could really seat three across comfortably in the land-yacht ’71-’76 GM B and C bodies. You could seat six people comfortably without a third row seat. They had plenty of downsides, but I miss how comfortable and roomy they were.
I think the 73 was my favorite of that entire generation. I liked the details on the 73 better – especially those big square taillights, and the later ones just got all of the character drained from them.
In this time period my mother used to do some travel for work and would get a fleet car. The company had a lot of 73 Bel Airs and I recall riding in 2 or 3 different ones. My heart was with Ford and increasingly Plymouth then, but this big Chevrolet was by far the most attractive of the bunch.
I remember these Chevrolets from our vacation to Florida in 1973. We visited a place called Lion Country Safari in Florida that required us to drive through the park.
It was necessary to keep the windows rolled up, due to the wild animals roaming about freely. But no one was going to keep the windows shut on a car without air conditioning in Florida during June, so the park had a fleet of 1973 Chevrolet Impala sedans for people whose cars were not equipped with air conditioning.
Our 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 was not, so we got to drive through the park in a 1973 Impala four-door sedan. It was even this color.
I did like how the taillights on the Chevy dropped down into the bumper for that one year. Back up above the bumper for the ’74 and ’75s was a disappointment, and represented bloat to my eyes. A young lady I knew had a ’73 Chev and I enjoyed riding in it but just a few times.
By the early 1970s, full-size two-door hardtops were the “Answer to the Question Nobody Was Asking,” in my opinion.
People who wanted a coupe for style were better off buying one of the personal luxury coupes. Even if the Continental Mark IV, Thunderbird, Eldorado, Riviera and Toronado were over-sized by this point, at least they had been styled at the outset as a two-door.
The full-size four-door hardtops made better sense, and were better looking, too.
I remain one of the few fans of the big 2 door car. I remember my last one fondly – the 94 Olds 98 Regency. It was real luxury to be able to open a single door, put a briefcase or a couple of bags of groceries on the floor behind the seat and then to get into the car.
4 doors are far better when people are getting in or out of the back seat, but for a single occupant who has to access the back for bags, coats, etc, the 2 door is fabulous.
I was about 13-14 when these were new. I still remember a lot of parents driving 2 doors, but losing patience with them because we growing teens were complaining all the time. My mom tired of her 72 Cutlass after only 2 years – unusual for her. She may have lasted a little longer with a bigger car, but perhaps not.
It was real luxury to be able to open a single door, put a briefcase or a couple of bags of groceries on the floor behind the seat and then to get into the car.
YES! That’s a vastly under-appreciated aspect of Coupe Life. When I drive my Thunderbird to work I always put my briefcase behind the seat… same with shopping bags. Or ice scrapers on a cold morning. These newfangled cars with small doors really mess up what was once a simple process back in the day of personal luxury coupes!
Before the days of child-resistant rear door latch lockouts and safety seats, some parents actually preferred two-doors for safety reasons.
It was these people who bought standard full-size coupes rather than personal luxury coupes. Besides often being less expensive, they usually had room rear seats for kids or occasional grown-ups, while keeping the kids safe from open doors and allowing convenient access to small items like grocery bags.
Love ’em or hate ’em, the LAST Impala, a 2020, is scheduled to roll off the line today, February 28, to begin it’s slow but sure
journey to CC feature.
That would make it the third time we’ve seen “the LAST Impala.”
Wouldn’t surprise me if the name gets dusted off and reused again at some point in the future. 😀
Maybe it’ll probably return as the electric version, AMPala?
Well played, Jim. Well played.
No doubt as many here have said over time, it’s a poor car, and of a plain silly size. Wide as the plains ‘o Texas but much more like Rhode Island inside, for one.
But folks, folks, looking in from outside the fishbowl of the USA, where these were never street furniture of dubious merit, it’s plain desirable.
No wheezy fours or, at best, sixes or whack-job column shifts or au naturel air or stiff-armed rides or fuel worries or corners or Knees-Up -Mother-Brown seating too close to your hated siblings here.
No, this is America, and dammit, we can afford it, so why the damn hell not? The rest of us were not in this land of plenty, but secretly or overtly, we wanted it too – or at least wanted the big idea that is America to have it available as some dream for us.
But most of all, it’s beautiful, it truly is. You folks are too familiar with these cars, and the reality of these bargey things, to see that. Yet those lines wouldn’t work on anything smaller, anyway. And they really are SOME lines, the last (arguably) of the US styling peak.
So maybe it’s the anti-Beetle, maybe not a good or sensible way to make a family car, but neither was the VW, for opposite reasons. Appreciate this great and lovely old monster for the cultural artefact it is.
Nowhere else in the world at that time could ordinary folk move about in a massive and cocooning machine that was also a minor piece of proper art. The wonder is that it was not then a wonder, a marvel.
It will never happen like this again.
Well said, Mr. Baum!
Agree that this was well said.
If this car was all about aspiration and luxuriously cocooned isolation, the I’d go all the way. Make my curbside classic a 1971 or 1972 C body, preferably a Buick Electra 4-door hardtop in a conservative blue or green, with every available option.
Perhaps the ugliest full wheel covers ever offered on an American car. There were optional wire wheel covers, but rarely ordered.
Shot during my 1st and only visit to San Francisco on October 16, 2013 in the exact same spot, same Nissan(?) parked behind it.
Pics didn’t load
No GMC though
My Grandfather’s last (and only new) car was a ’72 Biscayne…medium Blue, with only AM radio (and automatic…not sure if that was standard). He had a ’63 Fairlane before that. My Father (his son) was on his 2nd full sized Ford, a Country Sedan by then. I think his had the 350 2 bb, but not sure. This is the first car I remember seeing the international “symbols” on knobs rather than writing…headlight switch had a picture of a lamp on it, etc.
He also “adopted” a ’69 Olds Delta 88 from my Aunt, who had a stroke and stopped driving. After my Grandfather passed away in 1986, I remember taking his car with my Grandmother and parents to the Effort diner. The rear seat seemed so low, you could barely see the heads of my Mother and Grandmother (short anyhow). My Grandmother never learned to drive, so I’m not sure what happened to the 2 cars, my Uncle might have taken one of them over but I don’t recall seeing him with it, but we lived 1700 miles away so we didn’t get to see them much except every other year.
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