Chevy built this full-sized generation from 1971 to 1976. The biggest car Chevy ever built, it spanned a very contentious time in the automotive landscape. Throughout this time span, safety and emissions mandates pulled Chevy’s attention away from style and features, while a major spike in gasoline prices permanently changed the automotive market. Finally, midway through the model run newly mandated 5 MPH bumpers further weighted down these boats. Although Chevy managed to update the front and rear look of these cars each year, few other significant changes occurred. Except for the year 1974…
Prior to 1974, the full-size Chevy came in two different coupes. This Sport Coupe provided a fast back rear window and a triangular quarter glass opening. Placing a “sporty” roof line on such a large car proved to be a bit off putting, and few folks joined the Sport Coupe ranks.
In contrast, the Custom Coupe arrived with an upright rear window, and a squared off quarter glass opening. This roof line proved to be the more popular of the two, better fitting the body lines of the Chevy and the inclinations of the buyers. I should also note that the quarter glass on both these coupes opened up to provide the rear passengers with fresh air (as God intended).
In 1974, evidently inspired by the new intermediate colonnade coupes, the Custom Coupe lost its roll down window and formal quarter glass opening, and gained a massive C-pillar with a fixed widow stuffed into its center. I’m not sure if this approach created the biggest opera window ever, or the first coupe with both a B and C pillar. The bottom edge of the new window matched up to the top of the trunk line rather than the driver’s window, adding to the overall oddness. The words I might use to describe this look include; ungainly, malformed, and half-baked. I could also go with the descriptive phrase “styled with a can opener.” That’s correct; I don’t care for the look.
Stepping back to view the total package actually helps, but only because the rest of the car exudes basic Chevy goodness. In most years, GM used mainstream styling on their highest volume nameplate, taking an inclusive approach rather than choosing polarizing looks. Those fundamentally good lines help reduce the impact of the new roof line, almost convincing us this is an attractive car. The red metallic paint also adds to the overall effect, but I’m confident this car did not leave the factory with this shade. There may have been a red color option in 1974, but I don’t see Chevy offering a metallic paint option on the Impala.
Here’s a closer look at that metallic paint. Given the rust bubbles along the edge of that fixed glass, perhaps this is the original paint. More likely, the owner failed to properly prep the body prior to laying on the new color, leading to this paint failure. This shot also shows that ungainly step up from the driver’s glass to the fixed glass, and the odd way the glass mates to the body. Unlike other window openings on the car, there’s no molding between the glass and the sheet metal. The more I look at it, the more this roof seems to belong to another car.
No real surprises in the cabin. Black seat belts, vinyl bench seat, roll up windows, and generic Chevy steering wheel. Overall the look is very similar to the LeMans Colonnade Coupe I posted last week. The tan interior also points to a different paint color from the factory. A red exterior with a tan interior is a possibility, but an unlikely one.
Ah ha- The fender inner liner shows signs of red over-spray, confirming a non-factory paint job. The fender also indicates this Impala came with the mid-grade engine, packing 400 cubic inches into eight small block cylinders “siamesed” together. Given the basic goodness of the 350, I’m not sure I would have sprung for the 400. The ’74 also offered a big block 454, but outside of towing duties, I’d avoid the fuel costs associated with 7.4 liter power.
In 1974, Chevrolet still offered a Sport Coupe, shown here. The roof line now appeared more formal than sporty, but I prefer this look to our CC Custom Coupe. As an additional benefit, the Sport Coupe eschewed the fixed glass option, offering a movable quarter glass as an alternative to our fixed glass car.
Taking a final look at our Impala, let’s thank the owner for keeping it so original. It’s always refreshing to see wheel covers rather than aftermarket wheels, and other than a repaint, I saw no signs of modification. Perhaps that funky roof line works to maintain this car’s originality, sending those who might modify it off in search of greener pastures.