Whoever special-ordered this Impala Sport Coupe placed a lot more importance on outward appearances than inner qualities. They not only picked a top-tier model, but also splurged on the full wheel covers and white-wall tires (presumably). But that’s as far as it went in terms of indulging themselves, given the very long list of options available. Unlike the overwhelming majority of Impala Sport Coupes that came with V8s of various sizes, they insisted on the 230 cubic inch six, which made all of 120 net hp (140 gross), as well as the three-speed manual transmission with column shift. Given that it doesn’t even have a radio, I can almost guarantee that it also lacks power steering or power brakes.
This was a rather unusually-equipped Impala Sport Coupe back in 1964. In 2016, it’s practically a unicorn, given the scarcity of any original ’64 Impala coupes, never mind a six. And to think I almost didn’t stop for it.
Why wouldn’t I have stopped? Well, other than the fact that I was in a bit of a hurry, the ’64 Impala long ago became an icon, and not exactly the kind that has a lot of appeal to me.
But it certainly does to others.
Original ’64 Impalas are just not that common anymore, as most of them sacrificed their originality on one kind of altar,
They’ve been attracting undue attention (and molestation) to themselves for a very long time, as a particularly desirable canvas upon which to express their owners’ automotive dreams and nightmares. Why?
Well, it was America’s apple-pie sweetheart, prior to the arrival of those usurpers like the ’65 Mustang. The 1964 and earlier big Chevys always had a more loyal and intense following than their more flamboyant and all-new ’65 successor. They represent a more innocent era, one that started to fade right about the time the ’65 appeared, along with Vietnam, psychedelics, and the Rolling Stones. And the resultant fragmentation.
For those that came of age before 1965, the ’64 Chevy represents a culmination of sorts, as well as a symbol of a time when just about everyone could agree on a number of commonly held values and ideals, including that a Chevy Impala Sport Coupe was pretty much the most desirable car in the affordable segment. One just couldn’t go wrong with one, in more ways than one.
Not only did it confer maximum social acceptability, but its high resale value made it a pragmatic proposition too, as long as one didn’t order an Impala like the owner of this one did. Resale did not factor into this one, which was clearly intended to be a long-term keeper. The Impala’s clean, innocuous styling, rather outdated by 1964 like the crew cut, oozed of squeaky-clean mainstream and Main Street acceptability.
The ’64 was really just a ’61 (above) with some tweaked skin, along with that convertible-style coupe roof that appeared in 1962. And the ’61 was really just a ’59, with a body tuck. And the ’59 sat on the ’58’s chassis. Which means that the ’64 was getting a mite long in tooth, especially for GM’s and America’s best-selling car.
But then between 1959 and 1964, Chevrolet had been busy developing and introducing no less than four lines of all-new cars, so the big Chevy had to be content with an annual facelift.
One suspects that Chevrolet was being a bit defensive in calling its X-Frame “Safety-Girder Frame”, given that the lack of side rails was specifically implicated in making this frame design more vulnerable in side impacts. 1964 would be the X Frame’s last outing, except for the Buick Riviera.
Yes, the Chevy had a smooth ride. But when it came to handling, an analogy with a tug boat rather than a jet would have been more apt. The Chevy’s steering was very slow, sloppy, and dull. And its handling, such as it was, was equally plodding. But for a lot of Americans, it was – good enough. Never mind the drum brakes and undersized tires (7.00 x 14, 2 ply rayon bias ply doughnuts). But the ride was smooth, which was of course the important thing.
I was running an errand at Home Depot in a bit of a rush when I spotted this Daytona Blue coupe from some distance in a nearby parking lot. And I was already well past it, not feeling inspired, when it called out to me: Hey; CC has never had a proper curbside ’64 Impala! True that, which is practically a crime, considering how common and popular they were, and still are. So I heeded its call, and turned back, hoping it wouldn’t disappoint me. It didn’t.
I was a bit suspicious when I noticed the distinct lack of a V8 emblem on its front fender, but then these cars are often not original. One look into its front seat area confirmed it though: this is not only a six, but it’s a three-on-the-tree Impala Sports Coupe. And look at what great shape the original upholstery is in. And no radio; just a blank expanse of polished aluminum, or whatever that blank plate is made of. Who would buy such a nice car equipped like this?
And how did it come to be so well preserved?
Seeing that long gearshift lever hanging there and that rather sparse instrument panel brought back memories of a ’64 Bel Air sedan that one of my high school girlfriends had; a hand-me-down, and a bit tired and saggy by 1970. It too was a six, three-speed, with manual steering and brakes. That wasn’t really all that unusual at the time, except for Impalas. Yes, one would occasionally see one without the V8 emblem, but rarely so.
This Bel Air had the sloppiest steering I’d yet ever encountered, except perhaps for the Farmall tractors I used to drive in Iowa. Going down the highway, one could swing the steering wheel a good quarter of a turn without any noticeable response from those distant little tires out front. Not very sporty. And the polar opposite of the steering in my brother’s MGA. That was sporty. Of course my ’66 F100’s steering isn’t really any better, and I still do that sometimes at speed, just to prove it to myself. But then it’s a truck, not a Sports Coupe.
I always drove every GF’s car; it was essentially a condition of any possible relationship. Well, there was one exception, but it didn’t last, obviously; control issues. Actually, this one didn’t last very long either; maybe it was the Chevy. Anyway, there were often a half dozen or more of us kids in it when we would head off somewhere after school or on weekends, usually out to the Gunpowder River or such, in North Baltimore County. The drive there involved the kind of winding, hilly narrow country roads sports cars were designed for, not the Chevy.
The wheezy moan of its tired 230 inch six, the balky shifter, and the bobbing, wallowing Bel Air are all coming back to me; not in a really good way, although it did afford us some good times. And it never let us down. But remembering its ways makes me wonder again: why would someone order such a lovely Impala Sports Coupe equipped this way?
There were so many better alternatives. Never mind the brawny 409s (full story here). How about just a 327 backed up by the four-speed floor-shifted manual? And throw in the HD suspension and oversize tires, for good measure. Doesn’t one deserve a wee bit of fun with their new sweet-looking Impala Sport Coupe? Ok; at the very least the 283 V8, even if it wasn’t exactly a rocket in these bigger Chevys.
Was its buyer a cheapskate, or just a lover of sixes? They might have at least ordered it with overdrive, which also came with a lower 3.70:1 rear axle, for somewhat brisker take offs as well as a slow-turning engine on the highway. But no…good thing these cars weren’t all that heavy yet; the Impala six had a listed curb weight of just 3265 lbs. Without seven teenagers aboard.
The debate over which ’61-’65 Chevy is the most appealing is an old one, going right back to 1964. Frankly, as much as I was a Chevy man at the time, I did think that the new ’64 was a bit of a modest effort, especially its front end. Unlike its predecessors, it was flat as a board, and rather dull and cheap looking. This came from Bill Mitchell’s vaunted studios? The same place that gave us the ’63 Corvette? It looks like it belongs on a Dodge; like the ’63 Dodge 880, actually. The designers must just have run out of ideas. Or they were too tied up with the all-new ’65, which had a very daring front end. Actually, my theory is that they purposely gave the ’64 a dull and boring face to set folks up for the ’65.
One of the highlights of my childhood was going to the 1964 NY World’s Fair. At the GM Futurama exhibit, I ogled the various concept cars on display. But there was also a large sampling of current GM production cars, and I remember thinking that the disparity between the far-out concepts and the ’64 Impala was getting to be mighty big; a genuine leap of faith even for a true acolyte of the Church of St. Mark of Excellence. Only a month or so later, when the ’65s were unveiled at our hometown Chevy-Buick-Cadillac dealer, did my niggling doubt evaporate.
I had just spent too much time obsessing on the ’61-’64 Impalas, feeding my endless internal debate about their stylistic strengths and weaknesses. Truth is, none of the ’61-’64 Chevys had a very compelling front end; it was their rear ends that much more caught my attention at the time.
In these debates, the 1961 won most often, thanks to its originality, ‘lightness’, and of course the bubble top on the Sports Coupe. Its Corvair-inspired rear end though, was a wee bit off in some regards; its wrap-around effect was starting to look a bit dated by 1964.
Speaking of ’61s, I had a special obsession on the Impala 2-door sedan, the only year one was ever offered. They were incredibly rare too; seeing one was cause for a celebration.
The ’62 ushered in that close-coupled convertible-style roof. And its rear end was now more self-contained, with a contrasting bright panel on the Impalas, to really draw attention to itself. Which it did. It’s actually very nice, and although sparser than the ’63, it’s less contrived too, and as such, the best of the bunch. For the moment…
The ’62 Ford’s rear end looked heavy in comparison, as if the tail lights were melting into the bumper.
The ’63 refresh brought a more chiseled look all over, including at the rear end. It has more depth, but it’s also a bit self-conscious; trying a bit too hard to be different from the ’62.
The ’64 reflected the change to the front end: flatter. And trying to look a bit different than the ’62 and ’63. And succeeding in that, if not in overall appeal. But no matter; it still caught my eye, and in particular it was of course the Impala that caught it the most, what with its three tail lights per side and the inevitable bright/white accent.
Of course, the Impala Super Sport, which was now a distinct series of its own, always one-upped the mere Impala in that department, with this machine-turned-effect accent band. Not that it was actually any sportier in the true meaning of the word, since the SS was strictly an appearance package, except for the 1961 original. Super Sportless. Now if this Impala six coupe had been an SS, it really would have been a find.
But I’m quite happy enough with this one. The ’64 Impala Sports Coupe was a car that was bound to make it to CC eventually. It was just a little slow getting here, thanks to its six cylinder engine.
Related CC Chevy Love:
CC 1963 Impala SS 409 – Giddyup, Giddyup 409 PN
CC 1965 Impala Super Sports – The Peak Chevrolet Experience PN
COAL: Gary Dulude’s 1964 Impala – Updated and Still Driven Regularly
I’m all in favour of customizing cars but frankly this orange Impala with dubs is a nightmare. Everything about it is just so bloody wrong.
Pass the eye bleach!
It’s funny how when I was a kid the common mod was to put SMALLER than stock wheels and tires on these! Poor cars!
Exactly why I don’t go to any GM shows. Couldn’t stand getting a glance at even one abomination.
Great find. Prefer the 61 tail myself. That Jet Smooth ad is a classic – not quite AF/VK but successful in conveying its message both evocatively and effectively.
Photo #2: Need a HORSE to pull that wagon,
#12: No, I do not want my car to feel like it
isn’t touching the pavement. Too many
current cars feel like that. 😀
#14-15: For a car that looks like your walk-
around photo shoot, it should have a bucket
interior. It looks like a convent inside there.
Nice writeup on some classic American Iron.
Rolln’ on clown shoes…
Being a MoPar guy, ’64 Chevies were never particular favorites of mine but beautifully preserved examples like this one go along way toward winning me over. The original interior is a definite plus. It’s soft colors and textures are very inviting.
A low-option version of such a high trim level car is fascinating and could only be made more so if it was an Impala SS so equipped.
If it was a ’65, I’d be drooling on my keyboard.
The ‘austere showoff’ was indeed rare. Austere people and corporate fleet buyers generally liked to exhibit their austerity.
Status seekers wanted The Best Of Everything, not just on the outside. Max acceleration, max entertainment.
I finally thought of one plausible situation. Husband grew up with Ford T’s and A’s, likes to keep the car simple so he can fix it himself. Wife insists on looking rich enough to impress the neighbors. Result: strippo Impala.
When I was in high school, a woman living next door to the school (and an occasional substitute teacher) had a car that was a near twin to the featured car. Biggest difference was Powerglide instead of “three on the tree”….even the colors were the same. I too found that car to be memorable mostly for it’s being an Impala with a 6 cylinder engine.
For looks, these aren’t bad cars, even as Bel Airs and Biscaynes, but they are a facelift of the better 63. I’d rather own the 63, but could easily settle for the 64.
I spotted a similar ’60 at a car show a few years ago. This one at least had a radio & a clock.
A delightful oddity, especially for a Chevy. It seemed like the more conservative Ford buyers were more inclined to put a 6 and a 3 speed in their cars.
As miserable as I found these to drive, they were certainly crisp and attractive to look at. I also thought that the 64 lost a bit of personality, but then the 63 was my favorite. Also, I preferred these to the 65s by quite a bit. Neighbors had a silver-blue 64 Impala convertible that I liked a lot.
I never noticed until now how the 64 Impala mimicked the side trim of the 63 Ford Galaxie 500.
I always find it interesting when, in articles like this, the inevitable mention of a four speed floor mounted shifter with a V-8 comes up. Back in these days, this was THE most unpopular, seldom seen, put-it-in-the-unicorn category combination available for a full sized Chevrolet, Ford, Plymouth, Dodge, etc.
Nobody but the most jaded hot-rodded (who probably rolled his own) would want a full sized car equipped in that manner. The full sized sedan had gotten too big for its own good to build a street rod in Sixties standards, and was completely oriented towards soft comfort. The move was already on towards putting something with a manual transmission into a compact body, or a mid Fifties body, to maximize the power to weight ratio.
The Sixties full size car with the V-8 and 4 speed (with a bench seat no less) is the period equivalent of the current brown diesel sport wagon with rear wheel drive and a manual transmission: The bloggers may obsess about them, but almost nobody would have actually bought one.
Also, keep in mind that back then, the three-on-the-three was still a completely acceptable alternative to the hot-rod crowd. The Beach Boys, etc., sang about 4 speeds because they were still a bit on the rare side in 1964.
FWIW, Chevrolet undoubtedly sold a lot more cars with the optional four speed than anyone else. They were the first to offer on in the popular price segment, and actively promoted them. Why?
I’m guessing it was a direct result of the fact that the Chevy brass were all into sports/sporty cars. Knudsen drove a Corvette Shark, especially made for him, and Corvettes were the car of choice for most of the rest. Chevrolet burnished its sporty image, before that was common, by offering fuel injection and the four speed.
And it wasn’t just targeted at the drag racers. keep in mind that the sports car era was peaking in the late 50s early 60s, but some folks needed a family-sized car. Chevy wanted that segment of the market.
I’m guessing that would have been primarily in California and such, more so than Pennsylvania. I don’t know what the take rate for the four speed was, but it was not just for the drag racers. Chevy promoted it actively, and I remember seeing a few here and there on pretty tame cars.
This ad from 1959 pretty well sums up Chevy’s sporty (and non-drag-race) ambitions at the time.
My dad bought a ’67 Mercury Montclair four door hardtop with the 410 cu. in. V8 and floor-mounted four speed transmission, which had been rear-ended, trunk folded to the rear window, for its front clip in 1971. The engine and transmission got yanked, the T-10 four speed sold to a street racer. According the Mercury’s seller, it had been ordered to pull a travel trailer.
I got a kick out of the “manual RWD brown diesel sport wagon”, its such an apt description for what you are talking about and it captures a certain buzz around certain blogospheres.
I’ve driven a fair number of manuals, from sporty cars to econoboxes to plodding farm trucks and while they can be fun and have their place, give me an automatic any day. No paddle shifters either. All I want out of a transmission is that it gets my barge moving reliably with as little feel or noise from it as possible.
An interesting combination of options (or lack thereof) on this one. It’s definitely on the odd end of things. I would love taking it for a spin.
Speaking of, my grandparents bought a new ’64 Bel-Air way back when, replacing their ’57 Bel-Air. While the ’57 had a four-barrel 283, the ’64 had a six-banger and Powerglide. My father drove the ’64 a few times and said it was a horrible car to drive – uncomfortable and painfully underpowered. He owned a 144 cubic inch powered ’62 Falcon at the time, so that is saying something.
Off-topic question: When did you paint the wheels on your xB green? I think I like that even more than the red.
I put winter tires on the red wheels this year, and rather than changing them, I bought another set of wheels from a junk yard, and put the summer tires on them. And I decided for a different color for the summer wheels. 🙂
Some folks still wanted thrifty cars, even in the Sixties. My father wanted to get a new car in 1968, so he settled on a ’69 Ford Fairlane with the 250 CID six and three on the tree. His car did have a radio, but I doubt he used it much, and A/C, which got used a lot. He coulda had an automatic with a small V-8, which would have made for a nicer ride, but he wasn’t phased by cars like a lot of people.
When he was younger, he had bought a ’56 Pontiac with a V-8, but for some reason, he soured on that car and switched to a ’61 Ford Falcon, and then for a while a ’64 Mustang, both with the small six and three speed manuals, before getting the Fairlane. Even while driving the Mustang, he looked at it as basic transportation, nothing to get bothered about.
A nice old Chevy .
I had a ’64 Biscayne so equipped in the 1970’s , paid $130 for it , slow but comfy , a good around town car , not much fun on the open highway .
The ’63 and ’64 Chevy full sizers sold like hot cakes when new , go look up the sales numbers .
I remember many Impalas equipped with inline 6’s , mostly had powerglides and AM radios though .
Folks were not flu$h back then , a new car was considered a large once in a lifetime purchase .
Yes, my grandmother who lived 86 1/2 years only bought one new car. Figured she needed something new to come visit me in, so 2 months after I was born ( Sept. 66) she bought a new 67 Impala. Took delivery in Nov. 9 1966. I would have probably inherited it instead of her 74 Impala Sport Coupe if the 67 hadn’t been totalled in 80 by a dump truck crossing the line. I do remember the 67 quite well. I still have all the paperwork for it except the window sticker. One of these days I’ll find a 283 block with the same code on it and put it in the 74 when the 350 wears out!
What I don’t understand is why Chevrolet called their frame the “safety girder” frame. From a safety standpoint, it doesn’t look very safe at all. If someone were to t-bone you, it looks like the Impala would snap like a twig leaving its occupants vulnerable to serious injury or worse. Does that sound like a safety frame to you?
There is no safety there. My boss, who is 61 now, was T-boned in a ’64 Chev back in the mid ’70s. He spent 5 months in traction, and many more in physical therapy. He still walks funny to this day. He was crushed between the rocker panel and trans tunnel. I have seen the pictures of the car; not pretty
I like the ’62 best of this series, although I appreciate the appeal of the ’64.
Sometimes though I just have to look at a car like, say, the Imp in the second shot and just go…at least they’re having fun with cars.
Cue Sly & The Family Stone! “Different strokes for different folks, and so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby…”
Here’s a 1983 remake by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.
An interesting side note, it seems the Australian Bel Air used the 6-taillight setup we’re used to seeing on Impalas. The difference is they placed the backup lights furthest inboard. Image from oldcarbrochures.org
Zackman’s going to have a coronary when he sees this.
That’s because the middle ones are amber turn signals.
For years you could tell a Chevy’s trim level from the rear taillights: Four for Bel-Air, six for Impala.
I was always surprised that they didn’t do just one on each side for the Biscayne… I mean, if you were to extrapolate… 3… 2… 1 would be logical, right? ;o)
On the Australian Bel Air, I’m wondering if it had 3 lights per side because the turn signals had to be amber (although in the brochure drawing, the 2 outboard lights appear red).
On another note, for some reason the 1967 US Bel Airs had 3 lights per side just like the Impalas, We had a ’67 Bel Air 2-door sedan back in the day, so that’s how I know (plus look at the image — not our car of course with those meatier tires).
As the author points out, the cultural progression these Impalas have taken is somewhat ironic, going from an icon of Americana to a stereotype of something quite different.
Great article. One question though, did you find out if the car was original or restored? You stated the interior upholstery was original, so I am assuming you talked to the owner. If has been restored or refurbished it looks like it’s not fresh.
It’s interesting that these 61-64 Chevy’s modified so often. Around here most of these cars are restored to original or maybe mildly customized with some wheels and a few speed parts under the hood. Low riders and donks just are not on the radar here. At a local cruise night last summer, there was a 1964 Impala 4-door hardtop that had the 230 six. It was mildly customized in 1960’s flavour, and it included a ton of speed parts on the old six. Very cool ride.
Up here in the great white north, six cylinder full-size cars were not out of the ordinary due to Canadians more frugal nature. I know most of my father’s generation owned full-size cars from the 1950’s and 1960’s with inline six engines. It wasn’t until 1972 that my father bought his first car powered by a V8 after a slew of six cylinder cars.
In the 1961-64 Chevy debate, I tend to favour the 1961 Impala 2-door hardtop or the 1962 Bel Air 2-door hard top. The bubble tops seem to work really well on these early cars. I also tend to agree the 1964 was the least appealing, but I still think they are a great looking car. That said, I always preferred the 1965 over all of the above.
Looking at the rundowns of the early 60’s Chevies, I’m reminded that my two favorite American cars of the first half of the Sixties are the 1961 Chevrolet and the 1962 Plymouth. I get the feeling that I put a plus on a lightness of appearance and large amounts of glass. Starting with 1962, it was a slow steady march of bigger and heavier, in appearance at least.
I didn’t talk to the owner. I assumed it’s a very well preserved original, but I suppose it could be an older restoration. The paint was not perfect.
I’ve never understood the enduring appeal of the ’64 Chevvy.
It’s “Velvetta Cheese Box” styling made it the boxiest and dullest model since the 1950’s.
Any Mopar was a much better “road car”, with better handling and braking.
True, the small block V8 engine was a winner…but matched by Fords new small block 289 and Mopar’s enduring 318 engine.
And as for Chevvie’s ancient, sloppy, inefficient “Slip ‘N Slide” 2 speed PowerGlide transmission…..the less said the better!
Since I’m a slab side kinda guy, I think the 64 looks the best out of that generation. It certainly looks better to me than the 64 Ford. I like boxy. No fancy curves for me, thank you.
Well, Chrysler at this point was still recovering from their ill-planned downsizing mess at this point, so their resale value was still down and I think buyers were still kind of wary about assembly quality. Also, the styling of the Dodge and Plymouth big cars, while less quirky, was still a little fussy. (The ’64 Fury is pretty normal, but I certainly can’t call it less boxy than the ’64 Impala, which has better detailing and, IMO, is better suited to its two-door hardtop roofline.)
Wasn’t the ’64 318 still the heavier A-series (not LA) poly engine rather than the more familiar (if still related) LA 318/340/360?
My grandmother had a 64 Bel Air identical to the one pictured above, right down to that same gold color. The 230 with the 3 on the tree suited her perfectly. She worked 4 miles from home, was 1 mile from the grocery store, and her friends and family all lived close. She didn’t like to drive on the Interstate and she was very careful with her money. A V-8 in her car would have just gone to waste. In addition to working the shifter she was wrestling manual steering and brakes while usually smoking a Pall Mall. That car stunk of smoke!
PBR: the mental image you painted is priceless.
Truth is, none of the ’61 -’64 Chevys had a very compelling front end; it was their rear ends that much more caught my attention at the time.
I wanted to rebuke this statement but I just realized I can’t, because it is true, even the 61. I will say I think the 63 would be the best all rounder though, that’s probably the most attractive front end on these, and the back doesn’t eclipse it like other years do. That may be why I like it almost as much as I do the 61
I wonder if this car was the star of a dealer’s ad when new (“Own a new ’64 Impala Sport Coupe for only $—-“) that would inevitably lead to the bait and switch to something with a V8 and PG until it was finally dumped at a solid enough discount to attract a would-be Biscayne buyer at the end of the model year.
Count me as favoring the ’61. Pontiac was the only division that pulled off a good-looking car in the final year of the ’61-4 B-bodies, the rest were all a facelift too far and the “convertible look” two-door hardtop always seemed especially frumpy to me. All in, the ’64 Impala Sport Coupe looked like the box the ’61 came in.
I would argue that the 1964 Olds 88 should go on your list too. It looked pretty good in that final year.
I was going to make the same comment but you got there first. I am willing to bet that this was an ad car – “New Impala Sport Coupe only $2499!!!” Followed by: “One only” in incredibly small type.
Quite possibly whoever bought it did so because of the very low cost of entry and had dreams of engine swaps, etc. but never could manage to actually do it. Glad he didn’t.
I’m still leaning toward an older buyer who had some money and the patience or stubbornness to demand exactly what they wanted, but whose needs were simple and whose willingness to spend extra for features they didn’t want was nil. I’ve encountered people like that and I assume they drive salesmen crazy.
I don’t see the original buyer being a would-be hot-rodder or engine-swapper. A hot-rodder probably wouldn’t want the hardtop or the fancy upholstery and trim — if you’re going to tear everything out to build a racer, why not just get a two-door Biscayne? — and by ’64 would probably be more likely to buy a Chevelle or Chevy II for that kind of duty (or, more likely, some older Chevy).
This beauty was in the parking lot when I showed up for work one day last week. You’re right, Paul…it’s rare to see an umolested ’64 anymore.
The ’64 Chevy front also looks like the ’64 Rambler Classic. Post also mentioned the Dodge 880.
Always liked the archway trim on the rear, made it pop, and stand out.
A famous ’64 was the car John Travolta and gang used in “Saturday Night Fever”. Was a 4 door hardtop.
My first thought of a famous 64 was Cheech and Chong’s Impala. Oops!
Nice, My hobby car started out a lot like this. Daytona Blue with 300 hp 327 three on the tree and power steering but non power brakes. Back when you could get any combo of parts available. Yes it handled like crap but sold like crazy. Just got mine out for a summer of fun.
Just wondering, what made the ’64 Chevy the favorite of low-riders two decades later?
By around the early ’70’s the ’64 was already the car to have if you were into lowriders, at least in the LA area. ’63 probably came in second. When I worked graveyard at a Pizza joint in 1972, these were everywhere in low rider form, complete with hydraulics and parking lots hoping and bouncing as the night wore on. Lots of the lowriders were equipped with 6 cylinder engines, it was all about show, not go.
Like Paul, I would obsess over the ’61 to ’64 models, I was always torn between the ’63 or ’64 as my favorite. Did the same with Cadillac from ’59 to ’64 as the fins shrunk from outrageous to vestigial. We had a ’61 beige stripper Parkwood wagon, 283 powerglide with ps and am radio and little else. Mom hated that car, she like the new well equipped ’65 Impala wagon that replaced it much better. That was also our first car with AC, and us kids enjoyed the AC on the summer trips to Disneyland from Portland so much better than the sweltering ’61.
This fancy looking Impala Sport Coupe with base drivetrain is indeed an odd duck, and a great find as well.
I like the ’64 and all of the mentioned years, but the ’61 is my favorite, front and rear, and in Biscayne, Bel Air, or Impala models. Love all of the ’61 Chevy full size models! I see the tail lights of the ’67 Biscayne or Bel Air in that red concept model on the pedestals, and the fastback of the ’65 and later Impalas.
I’ll take it.
We had the station wagon version of this in our household, it was even Daytona Blue. As I recall, it was pretty stripped having a 283 V8, Powerglide auto. transmission and power steering, that’s about it not even a radio!
As I remember is was a pretty reliable car except for the leaking, slip & slide Powerglide lump of a transmission. Somehow, the kick down lever came apart from the accelerator linkage too, it was just swinging in the breeze, under the car, banging along until my father realized that wasn’t right and had it repaired (I think my sister ran over something and just didn’t tell him).
The only other issue was the Daytona Blue lacquer finish. It faded and oxidized like crazy after about three years – it looked like someone had dumped bleach on the horizontal and slanted body panels.
I swear GM lacquer paint is the fastest oxidizing paint I have ever encountered.
I have an ’87 Caprice wagon finished with it in yellow gold, and it is a real chore keeping it from looking flat.
“It faded and oxidized like crazy after about three years” – oh yes. Those GM lacquer finishes were beautiful in the showrooms, and any cars that came in with less than perfect paint jobs could be buffed out by the dealer. And as long as the car lived in a garage or didn’t get that much sun, they aged pretty well. But too much time outdoors was not kind to the finish, which was much softer than the enamels that everyone else used by then.
Being garaged and in Pittsburgh where the weather is so often overcast in the winter (about like Indy) probably explains why our family Chevys (’61 followed by a ’67) had nice-looking finishes 6 years on from new. Rust was another matter though, with the ’61 developing rust on the front fender tops behind the headlights. The ’67 was worse, with rust bubbling up on the right quarter panel behind the wheel after just 2 winters.
Enamel paint predates acrylic lacquer by many years acrylics are faster drying so appeal to assembly lines, Enamels were gone in Australia by 59 on some makes some others kept it into the early 60s but the 63 Holden I rebuilt was acrylic lacquered new and so was the 59 VW, of course now automotive paint is waterborne due to environmental concerns and peels badly in the sun anyway.
I’d have to vote for the 61.
This Impala SS would be the one I’d buy if I wanted to “splurge” a bit for the highest trim level. It makes sense to me. But my inner tightwad would be screaming “Why didn’t you get the Biscayne 2 door sedan instead ?”
My 63 Valiant Signet is like this: [Formerly] 170″ Slant, radio, heater and, I suspect, whitewalls. Bucket seats, 3 speed column mounted gear shift, unboosted steering and non power brakes.
While it makes more sense in a compact car, the original buyer of it and this SS seem to have been the same type of customer.
I prefer the ’61 out of the ’59 to ’64 models. The Impala 2-door bubble top is the real looker, and my aunt had a ’61 Olds Dynamic 88 in the same body style.
Our ’61 Chevy 2-door sedan had the same flat-top roofline as the pictured Impala 2-door sedan. It was a stripper, with the 6, 3-on-the-tree, manual brakes and steering, and no radio. We did opt for the “safety features” — outside left-hand rearview mirror, backup lights, and the “deluxe” heater/defroster.
The ’64 is a clean design, and could even be called elegant if it weren’t for that totally pedestrian front end. But I do like the back–the contrasting trim arch was a very nice touch.
Overall, though, I think I’d take a ’61. While it may have looked a bit dated at the time, the way the trim flows across the tail with that little peak is a thing of beauty.
Great use of the word elegant – it perfectly surmises what I thought Chevy was going for. The ’64 is squared off and more formal. Personally I think the front end works if their intention was to go formal. Then they blew it to pieces with the ’65.
Of the early ’60s series, the ’61 was a strong, sporty design IMO. Next to the Fords, Chevys definitely had the sport look down…
With the overdrive option, I wonder what kind of control engages the overdrive gear? I believe with some vehicles it was via a button on the dash that would activate a solenoid, then I assume disengaging it when taken out of 3rd gear.
Besides Zackman, I’m probably the biggest ’64 Impala fan here, so it’s always nice to see one of Betty’s cousins.
My driving experience with these cars is different from Paul’s and jpcavanaugh’s. The ’64 Impala sedan I learned to drive in back in 1982 was pretty much bone stock with skinny Firestone Deluxe Champion bias plies. Sure, the car would heel over like the Andrea Doria on a hard corner (there was a winding street that followed a creek near my house that I loved to drive), but once assuming the position, the car was stable and easy to power through the corner. And while the suspension was soft, it wasn’t mushy; there was no wallowing or floatiness. Dad must have invested in a good seat of shocks.
The power steering required a lot of wheel twirling, but the car was responsive, and there was decent road feel. The power steering on the ’84 Celebrity wagon my parents bought new was utterly devoid of feel, and I’ve driven a few late 60s Mopars where you could twirl the wheel with your pinky and not feel a thing.
One reason why I wanted another ’64 Impala is because I remembered how nicely they drove. But I have made some modest and subtle modifications to make Betty a better driver. Wider 215 tires and a rear stabilizer bar drastically reduced the body roll, and I have KYB shocks with excellent damping that still preserves the Jet-Smooth ride. At my mechanic’s recommendation, I replaced my very leaky power steering system with a more modern CPP unit, a decision I kind of regret. The amount of road feel is about the same (and similar to my earlier Impala), but it’s a faster ratio, and I miss twirling that big wheel.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the seats in the feature car are original, although replacement covers are readily available. The unique upholstery pattern is one of my favorite features of the ’64 Impala interior, which along with the handsome dash (with integrated A/C vents in Betty’s case) makes it my favorite of the ’61-’64 generation.
I will agree that the front end is the weakest part of the styling, but it’s not bad. Just a little dull. The side profile as seen in the period photo is smooth, linear and elegant. It makes the Impala look like a more expensive car than it is, which of course was a major factor in its success. And I’ve always liked the rear styling. All of the ’61-’64 Impalas look good in the back. The shape on the ’61 makes a nice transition from the fins of the ’60.
It’s interesting to compare the ’61 and ’64. They’re both beautiful cars, but to my eyes they look so different. The ’61 is so light and airy with that bubbletop. But the convertible-style roofline on the ’62 to ’64 looks great, too. And the crisp roofline of the four-door hardtop works beautifully with the linear side profile.
Sharp car! GM’s 4-door hardtop styling of these years was very well done, and the mint green color is so evocative of the era.
Consumer Reports (this one’s for you, Paul!) thought the Six was totally adequate in 1963/4. Maybe they thought everybody lived in places no more hilly than eastern Connecticut.
Though Dad was a Ford man during this era, I loved Impalas. One of my best friends in college had a 64 SS white coupe with the 327 and PG – loved that car though at only five years old, it was already consuming a good bit of oil (to say nothing of gas).
It was a different age. Lots of frugal folks in my small town Midwest factory ordered cars – even nice cars – with sixes and three-on-the-tree. My uncle made a habit of it. His 66 Impala was a sedan ordered with a radio only – no other options. Note the blackwalls and dog dish caps. The Impala interior was pretty nice and that’s why he ordered it rather than a lower model. The 66 was his third full-sized Chevy with the six/manual – followed a 60 Biscayne & 63 Belair.
My folks’ first new car was a 64 Impala coupe with the base V8 and three on the tree.
I’m almost afraid to mention that I purchased a near-new ’74 Camaro with a 6 cylinder and a three speed floor shift. Should I mention it was beige colored?
I didn’t choose to drive my first girlfriend’s car around much, her first car was a ’65 Montclair, and then her dad (who owned a car lot on West 7th in Eugene) bought her a ’66 Rambler wagon. That’s what girls drove back then, I guess…
If I had to rate the 1961-65 Chevrolets it would be in this order: 1965, 1961, 1963, 1962 and then the ’64 in fifth. These cars were thick on the ground when I was reaching the age where cars became even more important. A good friend had a ’63 Impala coupe with the six and Powerglide combo; it was well used by the time he acquired it (circa 1970) so he knew not to be disappointed with the lack of performance. I wouldn’t say that the six would make the full size Chevy undriveable but anyone with any interest in performance at all would spring the extra few bucks for at least a 283.
There’s some videos on YouTube of some of these full size Chevys being driven with the 6 cylinder/283 and 3 speed – makes me want one so bad.
With 900,000 Impalas a year being sold during this era, 6 cylinder versions were not as rare as you would think. 96,700 were built in 1963 and 73,600 in 1964. Most had Powerglide, but I recall seeing a good number of 3 speed manuals as well back in the day.
These sales figures are truly monstrous, and this doesn’t even count the 500,000 Biscaynes and Belairs sold as well. 1.4 million units a year for the full-size Chevy. Amazing numbers that will never be seen again. Today, Accord and Camry sell 300,000 – 400,000 a year and are considered smash hits.
Too much fragmentation of the market today, but pickups are an exception with relatively few makes/models on offer. There were over 726,000 F-Series light-duty pickups sold in the US last year. I’m sure the vast majority of these were F-150s.
Now that F-150 production of the new-generation aluminum-bodied model is fully up to speed, I would expect 2016 sales figures to be even greater.
Something I had not paid much attention to before is the A-pillar changes. From the wrap around windshield of 59-60, the 61-62 models get a revised A-pillar with no wrap around windshield. Then the 63-64 models get a straight A-pillar. These changes are found on the rest of the B-bodies and C-bodies.
I paid a lot of attention to the GM A-pillar shapes during this time period. I was a young boy then, and my aunt had a ’59 Bel Air with what I thought was the coolest all-time shape in windshields and A-pillars. (Harley Earl would have been my hero, if I had known he was behind that space-age design.)
Then by ’61, the wraparound was gone, replaced by the much more conventional A-pillar with the dramatic scallop at the base. I was very familiar with this design as well, because my aunt replaced her Bel Air with a ’61 Olds 88 and we got a new ’61 Bel Air. I thought it was a retrograde step — being too small to get my knee cracked on the dogleg and too young to drive and witness the distortions of the wraparound glass.
Then in ’63, the straight GM A-pillars returned to the design used in 1953! I couldn’t understand it — all that “progress” had come full circle! I didn’t know Harley Earl had retired and there was a new stylist by the name of Bill Mitchell in charge.
And we’ve never had a true wraparound windshield since, even though some vehicles would have been a natural for it, such as GM’s “Dustbuster” vans and the current Fiat 500L.
The A pillar on the wrap around windshields would have had very little structural strength, which is why they are gone now. My guess is that the windshields were expensive to make, so they were phased out. I remember the 59’s with the windshields, I just had not thought much about when they were gone.
Love the ’59 A pillar too, but actually Harley Earl had little to do with it. If fact, his ’59 designs were little more than warmed over ’58’s. GM brass panicked when they saw Chrysler’s forward look and knew something had to be done. So while Earl was on vacation in Europe, Bill Mitchell and the design staff threw out Earl’s ’59 designs and came up with the totally different designs that went into production. The volatile Earl was stunned, but was closing in on retirement and went along.
2 comments in one post…
Hemmings Classic Car recently did a restoration profile on a ’63 Impala SS convertible that came from the factory with a straight 6 Powerglide.
And a friend of mine bought a ’67 Impala hardtop, NOT an SS, that came from the factory with a 327 4-speed.
the rear 3/4 photo of the white 62 Impala looks exactly the same as one i had. no SS trim option and even same wheel covers. i was more a Ford guy than a Chevy guy but after i’d get done polishing that car and the summer day faded into dusk, man i’;d just stand back and be mesmerized by the ballet of light and shadow on that car. simple tight adjectives applied to any view of that chariot. sharp, handsome, swept, crisp, clean, and uncluttered. nowadays, a 5th grader in study hall can design a car. hint: start with giant black grill that dominates 7/8ths of the front end. back then cars were “sculpted”. i did always secretly prefer the 61 a tiny bit more though. i had a 64 2 dr Impala as well. can’t really dun the styling. probably a logical evolution of the series that was distilled to its simplest form. maybe the talent was busy carving the 65s. drove the 64 across country from Port Townsend to Pgh with no mechanical issues.
Nice car and not a body style we got new only four door Bel Airs and Impalas got locally assembled and very few sixes, for the extra people had to pay for an American car they wanted the V8 engine and auto, still some have been imported since those days so I have seen a couple of sport coupes in the metal nice but I still prefer the 65s & 66s.
I’m coming late to the party here, but want to add my 2 cents. Learned to drive on a ‘63 BA 6-3 speed. Inherited it from my dad, drove it constantly from 71-76. Very dependable and got me where I needed to go, but not very fast. Learned body work on it and car maintenance. New paint and Rally wheels with G60 tires made it look sharp.
However, by this time in America’s love of cars the V8 was already cemented in our consciousness by Henry Ford’s Flathead V8 and the small block Chevy. The unique exhaust tone of each was the soundtrack of our automotive dreams from our teenage years until death. Six cylinder power belonged to the generation of the 20’s, Depression years and the equally frugal war years and gas rationing. By the 50’s Americans wanted a vacation from these past, dark years and the flashy, powerful V8s being sold represented a change, a loosening up of decades of denial.
My current 63 came to me inadvertently. It is an Impala non-SS convertible with a replacement 250-6,(for the original 230), PG trans and PS in addition to standard Impala items. Received it in 1985, I drove it a bit before having to store it for many more years than I intended. I recall it being too slow to get out of its own way. After this long, 25+ year sleep and prep, it started right up! You can’t kill these things!
This car is an oddity in another way, also. The cowl tag numbers say “V8” while the door numbers say “six”. I’m guessing someone wanted a cheap blue Chevy convertible and the factory had a blue V8 body sitting, so they installed the six and shoved it out the door to fill the order. I guess things like that were done in those days. We certainly are living in a different time and place. John DeLorean’s Pontiac OHC-6 was way ahead of its time, but was not terribly well received. Nowadays, 12Bolt.com can get you a Chevy six that puts out close to 300 hp or more, but it’s not inexpensive.
I have not begun my 63 retirement project yet and I grapple with keeping the uniqueness and rarity of my six (about 5000 produced in convertibles) with the satisfaction and power of a V8. I still have yet to decide. The V8’s are SO COMMON, so maybe the rarity will win!