(first posted 6/9/2015) Has the simple use of a single, duplicated letter ever done more to elevate a pedestrian car into a formidable force of nature than sticking an “S” behind the Impala name?
Impala SS. The simple mention of it replaces mental pictures of grandma’s grocery getter with visions of something having more balls than a washtub on cutting day at the hog farm. If ever you have doubted the magic that was GM, look no further.
The year 1966 isn’t going to be a year many people would name as being one of the more breathtaking in the history of the United States automotive industry. However, it was far from being free of making history.
When Chevrolet introduced their new full-sized line for 1965, it was a significant departure in styling direction for Chevrolet, with the slab-sides being replaced with flowing curves, creases, and contours. There was no confusing a 1965 Chevrolet with anything preceding it.
There was a thorn or two on this rosebush of a Chevrolet. Doesn’t it seem like the 1965 Chevrolet’s tail has always had the appearance of the eleventh-hour conversation in the Chevrolet Styling Studio sounding something like “Uh, Mr. Mitchell? We didn’t put any tail lights on this thing. What if we stick these J.C. Whitney looking things on the trunk lid? Yeah, they could get broken in a stiff breeze, but hey, we’re Chevrolet. Everyone instinctually thinks we’re sharper than a roll of barbed wire.”
This less than graceful trait was resoundingly fixed for 1966 when Chevrolet gloriously broke tradition and went with square lamps. With the market share Chevrolet had, they couldn’t get too outlandish in their fix without running the risk of losing market share. Doing anything too rash might create conquest sales for those pesky folks in Dearborn, or – heaven forbid – those irritating upstarts in Highland Park. Such an occurrence simply wouldn’t be proper.
1966 was a terrific styling year for Chevrolet; dumped were the four eyebrow headlights of the 1965 that had the browbeaten yet eager frontal appearance of a puppy being scolded for having wet on the floor. In its place was a much bolder and more confident, cohesive appearance. Think of the ’66 Impala as being a fine scotch compared to the home brewed tonic of 1965. Both quench your thirst, but one is much more refined.
Chevrolet did a terrific job with the Impala for 1966. Proving no good deed goes unpunished, Impala sales were down with Impala SS volume down over 50% from the previous year. Worse yet for the Chevrolet fan-boys, Ford outsold Chevrolet in 1966.
There is one prime culprit leading to Ford’s sales dominance, but Ford still achieved the unthinkable. There was some solace to be found in sales of the full-sizers as Chevrolet still handily beat Ford.
While 1966 could be viewed as purifying the murky waters of the previous years redesign, there were other events afoot at Chevrolet. Did these help precipitate the near free-fall of Impala SS sales? Singularly they did not but they each made their special and unique contribution. Let’s explore.
In 1965, Ford grandly and triumphantly bestowed the world with their 1965 LTD, one of the founding fathers of the Great Brougham Epoch. Just like when the physician takes the rubber hammer to determine one’s reflexes, Chevrolet reacted accordingly and lobbed their answer to market. Calling it Caprice, it was a trim level for the Impala in 1965 and would become its own model in 1966.
Out of the box, sales volumes for the Caprice nearly equaled that of the second best year ever for the Impala SS, and for 1966 Chevrolet sold three Caprices for every two Impala SS’s. The World War II veterans were entering their forties, if not already there, and they were certainly a target of the Caprice.
Love it or hate it, Brougham was now in vogue; the tastes of the market were proving to be rather capricious.
The World War II veterans also had sizable litters of children who were rapidly becoming adults. Not wanting to miss out on this segment of carefree surfers and beach babes, in 1966 Chevrolet added the Chevelle SS 396 to the mid-sized roster. There had been a Super Sport option on the mid-sized Chevrolet for a while, but it was now its own unique model. Equipped with the 396, it was the same engine available in the Impala SS and it was wrapped in a car that was 200 pounds lighter and $200 cheaper.
Unlike the Chevelle SS, the Impala SS could still be found with any Chevrolet engine – even the relatively weak-kneed 250 cubic inch straight-six. With the Chevelle SS 396, there was no engine lottery upon opening the hood. While only 900 Impala SS’s came with the straight-six that year, there still remained that inkling of suspicion that any given Impala SS might be all talk and no action. That didn’t happen with the Chevelle SS 396, which let it all hang out.
It was the 1960s and automotive tastes were changing faster than Superman in a phone booth.
Despite changing tastes, the Impala SS was holding firm in its mission and this one embodies all the most desirable traits of any Impala SS. And, yes, SS does stand for Super Sport.
If one opens the hood on this particular Impala SS there are 396 reasons why a smile will spread across their face. Rated at 325 horsepower, this was toward the top of the Impala SS engine hierarchy, with only the Turbo Jet 427 sitting above it.
After being several years overdue, the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic automatic transmission finally made its grand debut. In its inaugural year, it could be bolted behind both the 396 and 427.
How does this console differ from those of today? It’s tasteful and not gobbling up copious volumes of real estate. This interior would be a wonderful way to spend the day, listening to the mechanical ecstasy that is 396 cubic inches of Bowtie bounty. It sure is inviting, isn’t it?
Whether or not sales reflected it, Chevrolet hit a home run with the Impala SS for 1966. It was a car built for comfort with a nod toward performance, be it handling, acceleration, or both. Our drop-top example likely encapsulates all the high points of the year with few, if any, of the downsides.
Sometimes, the best cars aren’t the most popular variations.
Sorry, I disagree with the analysis of the styling of the 65 versus the 66 Impala. While the 65 may indeed look like an eager puppy, the 66 looks like a mature dog that sits confidently in your favorite chair whenever it gets the urge. As for the styling of the console: it is indeed good looking but in the picture shown here it looks almost garish. The instrument panel and carpetting are dark while the console is a largish “island” of (very) shiny chrome and glass. The horizontal surface should (?) be of a color to match the dash and carpetting.
The 65, 66, and 67 are sort of a repeat of the “Tri-Five….phenomenon (?), even though the 67, 68, and 69 more obviously share the same body shell.
If I were buying a 60s full-sized Chevy, my 1st choice would be a 65. The “runner-up” spot is A LOT more difficult to choose. The 67 is a great car, very elegant and very sophisticated for an “inexpensive” nameplate…so it would (barely) edge out the 66. I would love to own a 67 Caprice coupe….though it must have the factory fender skirts.
The 1970 also, was the last of the “Mid 60’s Coke Bottle” big Chevys, before the ’71-’76 Tanks!
Nowt wrong with those tail lights – must have been a good idea as the same style was used at least two more times:
You missed one:
isn’t this the really fast 1969 Polara with the 440?
I don’t know how this elegant, well aged lady has escaped the scourge of 24 inch wheels, but long may she continue to do so.
65 & 66 Chevs were quite popular in my home town for some reason, no convertibles though NZ assembly was strictly 4 door sedans 283 PG, though I know of two that had 350s transplanted when they became available, Maroon was the most common colour I dont know if the pallete was restricted here but there were four cars that colour and one with a black top the rest of them were blue or green,
What a nice find! I personally like the wraparound taillights of the ’66 versus the round lights used previously. I also like the gauge cluster on the console. They might not be so easy to read at high speed, but it’s better than the stock low-info dashboards common at the time.
I agree, those protruding ’65 taillights always bothered me, & calling them an afterthought sounds just right; imagining rectilinear taillights inset into the upper bumper trim instead works much better.
BTW, nowadays I have trouble imagining such a nice flat console without cupholders; what •did• people do with their onboard beverages? back then, assuming they had any? Or maybe most folks preferred to smoke? instead.
There were two shallow recesses stamped into the inside glovebox door. When opened, that became the “cupholders”. The, quite valid, assumption is that the passengers may have a beverage in motion, certainly not the driver.
You are right about the smoking part. That is what was so handy about ventipanes.
These are probably the most beautiful Chevys of all time.
Big fan of 65, not so much the 66…although the 66 featured is a beautiful car and has elements that I like a lot, the 65 is clean all the way down to those round taillights…
I vote for the 66 over the 65. From the time when I was a kid and these cars were new, the 65 taillights just looked wrong to me. Also, though I never put my finger on it, you have identified the weakness of the 65s front. The 66 fixes every detail of the 65 that was off in some way.
I guess I would have been out of step in 1966 (so what else would be new) because I prefer “sport” to (brougham). At least in 1966, you still had options for a sporty big car. Six years later, you wouldn’t.
1966 is another of those years like 1963, where there was an unusually good selection of very good looking cars.
This looks like the car Jodie Foster drove in Contact.
This is a tossup case for me – as far as looks go, I much prefer the Galaxie but the 396 Chevy/THM combo is much better than the 390 FE and whatever Cruise-o-Matic/C6 combo Ford ran with.
428 CJ v. 427 would tip the scale back to Ford in my eyes.
That car was a ’68.
Checked Wiki, you’re right, the CJ wasn’t until 68, in 66 it was still the 428 Thunderbird sold as a ‘7 Litre’.
I think I would still rather have the 428 4V over the Chevy 427 though.
Actually I was referring to Jodi Foster’s movie car. The 428-CJ did indeed come out in ’68, but it was never offered in Galaxies.
A 427 Chevy could spank a non-CJ 428 Ford 6 ways from Sunday, and I’m a Ford guy!
Ahh, makes sense (but you were right either way).
The transmission choice in this particular case has me curious, would a 396/Powerglide be better than whatever 390/Auto Trans combo Ford put in the Galaxie?
The answer to your question is 383/Torqueflite. 🙂
The ’66 Galaxie 390 would have come with the excellent C6 transmission–as good as the Chevy turbo 400. Agree that the 396 was hotter overall than a typical 390 2V that came in many galaxies, but a Z-code 390 4V would have been a close match
I don’t think a big block engine guaranteed you a C6 in 1966, as the FMX was in production too, as well as (I believe) the older MX. It was always my understanding that the Ford 3 speed autos were meaty and durable, but sucked up a lot of power, much more than either the Torqueflite or the THM.
The answer to your question is 383/Torqueflite.
Agree on the powertrain but the 66 Mopar equivalent would (by my reckoning) be the Dodge Polara, not in the same class as either the Galaxie or Impala as far as looks (interior or exterior).
Both the Ford and Chevy of that era were classics.
The 66 Sport Fury was a mighty good looker, in my book. And did I mention the optional 440 . . . ?
Looks-wise, I’d take a ’66 Polara over an Impala without question.
Ha a PG behind the 396 is analogous to tying one arm behind it’s back.
That would be an interesting race, a deep breather hobbled by a 2-speed against an asthmatic lump with a more efficient trans.
That would be an interesting race, a deep breather hobbled by a 2-speed against an asthmatic lump with a more efficient trans.
That’s what I’m starting to think.
It’s interesting to look at these things from the perspective of what was actually bought in the day (as opposed to the 5% of the build that everyone covets now).
Strictly speaking, the PG was substantially more “efficient” than of the three-speeds (THM, C6, TF). Its intrinsic mechanical efficiency is what endears it to the dragr race crowd. It was probably the most “efficient” automatic of the whole era, before lock-up torque converters came along.
Of the three-speed automatics, the C6 was solidly the least efficient. In a very high power car, it lost up to 60hp in hydraulic/mechanical losses.
The only real drawback of the PG was that its lack of an intermediate gear, which affected passing speeds, and hampered the 1/4 mile run, depending on rear end gearing. It kept the engine from operating in its most powerful rpm band in certain situations. And the three-speeds lower first gear ratio probably also helped initial take-off, depending on rear gear ratio.
And it kept the engine from running in its most efficient prm range in certain situations, which is probably why you called it “inefficient” 🙂
How about a Powerglide tri-power 427 Corvette? GM actually made a few hundred of that combo in ’66 and ’67. Corvettes didn’t get the THM on any engine until ’68.
THM was actually a mid-year ’65 introduction, along with the 396, not the ’66 model year. PG in the Corvette was limited to the 327 engines in milder tune only.
Have you forgotten about the 427 Corvette with PG: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/automotive-history-capsule-1967-corvette-427-tri-power-pg-the-ultimate-and-fastest-powerglide-equipped-car-ever/
Sorry, I like the ’65 much better than the ’66.
By the way, the THM actually debuted in mid-65, same time as the 396 replaced the 409.
The featured car appears to be a PowerGlide, as I see only 2 positions under neutral. The PG was still offered with the 396 in ’66.
When preparing this, I zoomed in on the console and you are correct – it does appear to have a PG.
I have to agree with Roger. I find that the squared off lights look more tacked on (or maybe wedged in?), not less. Ditto the squarish eyebrows up front.
Maybe it’s because of my age … I was very aware of cars at the time so I saw them in sequence. My point of comparison was the original, so to me the square lights seemed very obviously to be trying to keep up with
Have to agree the round tail lamps of the ’65 are much better looking. Agree the ’66 lamps follow the flow of the body better, but they are cheap looking. The headlamp change is less noticeable. In fact I never realized they were different until now. But I really like both years, and these small differences wouldn’t matter if I was looking for a clean example. In high school a friends dad bought him a perfect condition white ’66 2 door hardtop, 327 powerglide black interior, column shifter, bench seat. Power steering and brakes. He “improved” it with pop in coil spring spacers in the back, rattle can grey primer and cheap wide rims and tires in the back. Punched holes in the muffler for a “better” sound. Drove it like he stole it. It tolerated the abuse well mechanically.
My dad bought a 1966 Impala sports sedan in February 1968. Red w/black cloth & vinyl interior, 250 cu. in. six w/Powerglide, power steering, padded dash and AM radio. That was it!
That car was wonderful in so many ways; very comfortable, plenty of power even with the six, great radio & one-finger turns, but you did have to mash the brakes – not powered!
All on here know I don’t care about how powerful the engine is, for I am an unabashed cruiser, and this car was made for that. I loved it!
The 1966 Impala fixed any sins that may have been committed with the 1965 – just a bit more refined, but I love ’em both.
Still, being able to drive something with a 396 would have been interesting…
Zackman, your dad’s car was well equipped compared to my uncle’s factory ordered 66 Impala sedan pictured below in the fall of 67 at a fishing camp in Wisconsin. The only option was a radio. So you had to really crank the non-power steering, mash the brakes, and do your own shifting. I agree that the six was a really strong and smooth engine, however, and with no power equipment to drag it down, it could haul that big sedan around OK by the day’s standards. I drove it many times as I washed and waxed it for him. BTW, the car was bright red with black cloth and vinyl interior.
My Dad bought a 1965 Impala in 1966, but his was a 2-door and only had the 230 six with a powerglide. It was a nice looking car but was pretty slow. It proved to be reasonably reliable though, as he kept it until 1973. By that time the body was starting to get pretty rusty and the 100K + miles on the six cause it to start to burn a bit of oil. He always said he wished he would have got one with a 283.
I agree the 1965 Impala is better looking, something very cheap about the aluminum grill on the 1966 plus the 1965 tail lights say “Chevy” unlike the 1966.
Of course the Pontiacs of either year are in another, much better, universe looks and power-wise.
It’s a wonder that these sold at all if there was a Pontiac dealership nearby.
Matter of opinion. There’s always the sales figures, where Chevrolet kept Pontiac right where it belonged. In third place, at best.
It would have been interesting to see the Canadian sales figures of that era, there was some years when Pontiac outsold Chevrolet in the Great White North thanks to our local Pontiacs who was “Cheviac” or “Ponvrolet” by being Pontiac bodies on Chevy frame.
I am not sure you can fault the styling of any ’60s Chevrolet. I’d probably give the nod to the 1965’s details, but the subject ’66 is sure a beauty – and a 396 car at that.
Perfect summer car.
I try to stay out of the “65 vs 66, which was better looking” argument because I’m biased against the 66’s big time. After all, having been taken to the Pittsburgh Zone advance dealer showing of the new models that June (my first time ever), suddenly dad’s out of Hallman’s Chevrolet about a week before the new car introduction date.
While the group is used to my describing my late father as the “Chevrolet dealer”, he didn’t actually own the dealership. Hallman’s Chevrolet was one of nine dealerships in a chain based out of Rochester, NY (Hallman’s Central Chevrolet) . . . . . back in the days when you weren’t allowed to own a chain of dealerships. There are certain benefits to having seven sons, all who follow their father into the Chevrolet business. My dad was the only guy not named Hallman who was managing a franchise.
I don’t doubt that Ford outsold Chevrolet that year, if the Johnstown franchise was any indication. After letting dad go, Mr. Hallman brought in a new guy from somewhere in AZ to take over the place, and he was an absolute disaster with the dealership having cars stacked in the rafters, sort of like a tiny version of Chrysler in the mid-70’s. After a year, the new guy was gone and the dealership was sold . . . . . to the treasurer of the Hallman firm. As a new, separate dealership (Rudy Haupt Chevrolet) having nothing to do with the chain. Incidentally, he was the smart guy who figured the company could get someone in who would work cheaper and be a bit less opinionated in how the place should be run than my dad. Hmmmn?
As part of the parting terms, dad did get a ’66 Caprice wagon for mom, which we kept for about eight years (unheard of in our family since we were used to two new cars every fall). It was a good one, which we kept for dirty use even after getting a 70 Caprice wagon.
Syke, your dad’s experience has similarities to my dad’s losing his job at age 50 in 1958. Makes one really re-evaluate one’s priorities in life.
What dad went through certainly rubbed off on me.
Neighbors had a new 1966 Caprice wagon, w/ a 283 and powerglide. I remember the Chevy engine made a pronounced ticking sound at idle.
Dad had 1967 and 1964 Catalina Safaris @ the same time. The Pontiacs were so much more powerful and refined than the top of the line Chevy even though not so much more expensive. The Caprice did have vinyl wood though and full wheel covers while the Pontiacs had FM radios and a/c.
Dad did get wood and full wheel covers w/ the 1970 Executive Safari. He considered it a lemon and his last of five new Pontiacs. I believe Chevy dropped the Caprice wagon in 1969 in favor of the Kingswood.
My parents had a 1965 Bel Air wagon with the base V-8 and Powerglide. I still remember the “whirring” sound that car made while idling, which I believe was the sound of the transmission.
In 1972, they bought a neighbor’s mint 1967 Oldsombile Delmont 88 Holiday sedan that had only 19,000 miles on the odometer. They kept the Chevrolet as a second car. The difference between those two cars in refinement, build quality and reliability was huge. In those days, moving up the Sloan brand ladder did get you a better car.
I remember the GM Idling Whrrrr quite well. It seemed to be a “feature” of all of the 2 speed automatics. Our 64 Cutlass with the 2 speed Jetaway did the Whrrr in park just as well as any Powerglide did. Neighbors across the street had a 64 Impala convertible. While I was playing outside, I would often hear it start, whrrr, clack into reverse, back out, then two loud clacks from under the car for the shift into D, and off she went.
I remember that “whirring” sound! Our family had a ’64 Cutlass also and a ’67 Impala fastback with a 327 and Powerglide at the same time. I must say that I prefer the ’65 taill lights though!
Syke, I have learned over many years of working for dealerships, especially in later years, that you need a good thick skin to endure your job. It helps to hold the knives in your back.
I’ve always thought the 66 Impala was a tad bland compared to the 65, which is an all-time great design. Also, I really dislike seeing Super Sport written in elegant script on the side. SS should suffice.
I like both the 1965 and 66 Impala. I prefer this over what’s being produced today.
Count me as a ’65 fan, ’66 just too bland for my taste. I thought the ’65 rear looked like the ’64 inverted (without the bumper being moved). Marina blue is Chevy iconic. ’65 was a sweet spot for car styling in general, Chrysler, Dodge, Mercury, Pontiac and Ford were all looking their best. Great year to be a Mad Men consumer.
This is a handsome car, but count me as someone who prefers the 1965 version. It’s a “purer” version of the concept.
This car is a watered-down version of the original. It’s as though GM ran the 1965 model through a focus group and then removed or toned down all of the features that the group didn’t like.
Ditto. The ’66 is a lot like the ’64: a blander version of what came before. In fact, the ’66 front end rather looks like the ’64. The Wonder Bread version.
I’ve not been able to find pictures of it, but apparently the ’65 design originated from a concept that was quite wild and dramatic.
The 1965 Chevrolet was originally slated to be an evolution of the 1964 design.
Irv Rybicki wasn’t satisfied with it, so he worked on another design in secret, even though GM management had already approved the final design of the 1965 Chevrolet. Rybicki then showed it to Bunkie Knudsen, who loved it and argued that it should be the 1965 Chevrolet. GM management agreed, and the Rybicki car became the 1965 Chevrolet.
Bill Mitchell liked the car, but he pulled Rybicki aside and told him never to do something like that again.
I’ve heard about Rybicki’s concept. But how does that explain the fact that all four divisions ended up having the same basic design, with semi-fastback roofs and Coke bottle hips, to one extent or another? Are you suggesting the whole ’65 GM look was based on his concept, or just some of the details, like the tail lights?
According to the story in Robert Genat’s book, Chevrolet In the Sixties, the full-size Chevrolet originally planned for 1965 did feature the fastback roofline. The lower body, however, was a conservative evolution of the 1964 Chevrolet.
The Rybicki model revised the lower body by making the rear quarter panel “hips” more prominent, and adding the forward rake to the front. The Rybicki model also featured the slim, blade-like front bumper that showed up on the production car. The book doesn’t say whether Rybicki added the raised taillights that showed up on the production car.
Thanks. In other words, the first concept probably looked more like the ’66. 🙂
You’re welcome! Given Chevrolet’s image and market power at the time, if Chevrolet had introduced the watered-down version right off the bat, it still probably would have sold like gangbusters in 1965.
I agree that the ’65 taillights look kind of like an afterthought, so the ’66 wins there. In most other respects I’ll give the nod to the ’65–I’ve never been particularly fond of the unitized grille and light bezels on the ’66. It does look a little cheap in comparison, particularly in the strip of trim that runs between the raised light bezels. It’s not part of the grille, it’s not chrome, and to me it basically looks like they didn’t want to spend the money to change the sheet metal shape to tuck down, so they just threw that trim up there.
Also, the Chevelle was only 200 lbs. lighter than the Impala? Seems like it should have been a bigger difference. Hmm.
I thought the same thing on the weight difference. However, the Impala weight stated was likely for the lightest Impala SS (ie, six-cylinder) as compared to the Chevelle SS with a 396. Now I’m wondering what a six-cylinder A-body weighed.
Also, the $200 cost difference was likely using the same six-cylinder Impala SS as its basis.
“It’s not part of the grille, it’s not chrome…”
By that time, all the “chome” trim save for the emblems & bumpers were polished aluminum.
65 hands down. I think the round taillights look cool, whereas the 66 is bland, Camry bland even! 66 marked the true point of decline of the full sized Chevy in my eyes, every year leading up to it looked good (ok, at least interesting in the case of the 58 and 59) up until 1966, where conservative styling set in hard and would last until the very end of the B body. 67 was a brief blip of hope but that was short lived. The big Chevy was just an anonymous box and it’s all the 66s fault for setting the precedent!
And then there was the ’67, which looked downright sloppy compared to the two previous years.
I like the ’67 dash, though.
No way. 67 was peak for this shape. 65 second best, then 68 then 66. 69 and 70 somewhere behind.
Nice piece Jason
I always thought that after ’66, the styling started to go downhill. But GM still sold plenty, so many other people must have thought differently.
I disagree. While I do prefer the 65 to the 67 I prefer both to the 66. Personally I think 67 nose by itself was the best of this entire generation, and I definitely think the best interior too.
The year I’d call sloppy would be 68, which had the more flaired up body of the 67, but with a retrograde front end that essentially looked like a busier blockier version of the 65, and huge round taillights in the rear bumper, which always looked incredibly cheap to me, way more so than the 65 taillights supposedly do.
Those ’68 taillights looked cool, but always reminded me of my mother’s jelly moulds.
The 1967 Impala or Caprice 4-door hardtop doesn’t look too sloopy if its painted black like the one nicknamed “Metallicar” who was used in the tv series Supernatural. 😉 https://thetricksterimpala.com
Outstanding piece, Jason. I like the 65’s and 66’s for different reasons. The ’66 models look more clean and cohesive, but I like very-60’s flourishes on the ’65s like the taillight pods. I wish script-font badges would return.
Being my favorite cars back then, I never thought one was ‘way better’ than the other year. My gut prefers the ’65 over ’66, but all Big Chevys look good to me, to the 1990.
I am biased, as my first car was a 65 Caprice, but I love the 65 styling, especially the taillights. I always thought the 66 was like a 65 with cost cutting measures applied. The 65 had more detail with the grille and separate headlight treatments, and six taillights, as opposed to one piece units. The dash seemed more flowing to me as well, without the compartmentalization of the 66.
My Dad had one…..black vinyl roof, blue green color. Awesome color! Reliable and fast. Oh, how GM cars were the BEST american cars back in the day, before they start treating their customers like crap/atm machines. So many fond memories of that Impala! Faster than tanj! My Grand Am wasn’t as good as I thought it was. The intake manifold wasn’t torqued right, or torqued too tight and it blew. I got rid of it. Now have a Olds 88 LS, a 97, but it has the security light on solidly, and you know what that means. Stupid passcode or VATS issue. I am so tired of GM failures and stupid engineering screw ups. I really miss my 2006 Toyota corolla. Bland and boring but at least you don’t have these kind of issues! But again, that 66 Impala SS that my dad had was a real car. Too bad GM doesn’t make cars like that anymore!
My Dad bought a used 65 Impala 4 door hardtop in May 1966 with 2,000 miles on it at the time. Crocus yellow with white roof…black interior and 283 with 3 speed manual…He bought a used 65 after seeing how the 66’s looked more bland. He and I both prefer the 65 over the 66…
……more balls than a washtub on cutting day at the hog farm
Mind if I borrow that line, Jason? I’ve been laughing all day!
Go for it! I’ve been hearing variations of it for a long time.
My first car was a 66 Impala convertible (non-SS), 283 PG, bought from my oldest sister when she bought a 71 Charger. That car was my first taste if automotive freedom, and carried me to other firsts – first dope smoking, first road trip without the parents, first weekend cruising with some buddies senior year. Yes, it was slow, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the 66 Chevs, and would love to have one again, preferably an SS with 396 and 4 speed, the way I would have equipped it had it been mine to order from scratch instead of a hand-me-down.
Does Turbo-Jet actually mean anything officially, or is that entirely in the imagination of the owner?
It was the marketing name for the big blocks, specifically the 396/427/454. Small blocks were “Turbo-Fire”.
It was GM-ese for various engines. While I’m drawing a blank on specific examples, both “turbo” and “jet” were popular at the time, being used in various capacities on a variety of engines.
Those ’65 taillights are awesome, like elegant rocket exhausts.
I always felt that the 65 Impala was the best of the bunch with the 67 and 68 coming in a close second. The lines were so aggressive on the 65 and the forward slant of the Grill matched that on the deck lid. Poetry in motion not to be copied again on a full size car. The 6 taillights on the 65 seemed like the back of jets on a super 707 with 6 exhausts instead of 4.
Feel like part of the problem with SS sales falling in 66 is you could get the Buckets and console in the Caprice Coupe. Have the luxury and sport together.
Count me a fan of the ’65 taillights, standing tall, round, and proud! Marina Blue was such a lovely color also, but didn’t that start with the ’66 models? I know it was carried over to 1967.
Awesome car. My folks took me home as a newborn in a then-new ’66 SS fastback. 396 4-speed. Dad never liked small cars.
I like the shark-gilled ’68 SS.
The problem with the 1965 Chevy taillights wasn’t that they were broken easily. Water would sit in the lights after rain and the steel rings around the edges would eventually rust. My dad had to replace his lights because of this. To this day he still claims that was the biggest flaw of his old Impala. That said, I much prefer the 1965 rear styling to the 1966, and think that the 1965 was a better styled car overall.
I like the ’66 slightly better than the ’65 for the same reason I like the ’56 over the ’55. Simply a nice, modest improvement over a proven winner. The ’56 and ’66 just seemed a bit more refined and tasteful than their immediate predecessor.
I’ve always loved the 66 and have an SS since I was a college student in Denver in ’86. Always thought that when designing the 65, taillights were left to last minute .. “Hell yeah ..let’s put ’em here” 🙂
I really wished that GM installed the 67 dash in the 66 🙁
I always thought the 65 was the better of the two. I had 2 uncles that had a 65 and 66. The 65 always looked a little better to me. The round taillights throwing back to the 61-64 was better than the boring old rectangles of 66. The brows over hte 65 headlights were way better than the straight lines above the 66. Between the nose caps was either the same or close. I always though the bulges behind the door looked more muscular on the 65 than the 66.
I recently read a Thom Taylor column in Hot Rod that said the 66 was supposed to be the 65 originally, but some manufacturing processes on the corners made Chevy adjust the design to what we now know as the 65. And the 67s were better than the 66 to me as well. First car my mom had that I remember was a green 68 327 auto 2dr Impala.
The 1966, along with the 1964, are my least favorite big Chevys. With that said, there’s absolutely no question that GM was smoking in the sixties. Yeah, they had some weak mechanical spots compared to the competition but, overall, you just couldn’t go wrong with the styling from ‘any’ GM division.
And the fact that some of their best-looking cars were also in the low-priced field, well, it’s no wonder that GM was the market leader for a long time, a point that’s driven home by how Chrysler did very well by simply copying GM styling from the last model cycle. Often, if you couldn’t spring for a current Buick or Oldsmobile, all you had to do was wait a year or two and you could get a cheaper, reasonable Mopar copy.
My vote is for the ’65. My cousin had a black ’65 fastback, with a 327 / Powerglide. A red interior. Chrome Moon wheels, thin white walls and a set of glass pack duals peeking out from under the rear bumper. Back in ’68 I thought that it was the coolest car I’d ever seen. Later on I would get a ’65 SS convertible for myself, that I couldn’t get too excited about. I’d made the move to Cadillac, had a ’64 convertible, and Chevies just came up too short in comparison. I had bought the Impala to set up as a Lowrider.
A beautiful car, one of the best of the decade. Full size Chevvies were as common as traffic lights on the roads in their time, in use as low trim Bel Air and Biscayne taxis, Impala family cars, and uptrim Caprice models.
The instrument panel is handsome, but it escapes me why Chev and Chrysler in particular, seemed to slant their gauges dramatically upwards for the driver’s view. It just seemed a bit too angular than what was necessary.
Thanks for reposting this, excellent photos and a great read.
How’s my CC effect?
I felt ashamed that it’s June, Convertible Week, and I still hadn’t dusted mine off yet.
Popped the trunk at the gas station and was reminded that I should’ve delivered this years ago.
I agree with those the find the rear update of the ’66 Impala a bit boring – overall a beautiful car, but I can draw boxes with a ruler as well as anyone.
The ’65 tail lights always stood out for me – in more ways than one. Admittedly, opinions on them can be Tempestuous, but with good reason.
At some point on CC, the protruding tail lights on the 1963 Pontiac Tempest nearly poked my eyes out. Far from being a last minute thought on the ’65 Chevy, it appears the Impala’s tail lights were appropriated from Pontiac!
It appears Chevy also appropriated the Tempest’s wheel covers for the ’69 Impala.
Although there is no right answer here, I prefer the look of the ’65 big Chevy over any subsequent year. To me it looks crisp and clean; tailights included. As others have noted, the ’66 looked like cost-cutting had set in, and the 67 looks just weird with the two-sided auxiliary lights at each front corner and the “melted” tailights. As for the ’68, the rear looks like Chevy wanted the best of the ’65 and ’66 tailights, and ended up with the worst instead. Just hideous, again my opinion. Everything after that was horror piled on horror, until the ’77’s partially redeemed themselves.
Meeting a Dutch colleague at the airport years ago, he stared in amazement at my car. Then he asked what would ever possess Americans to slather SS badges all over a car.
65 was better than 66 (derivative at best). But it doesn’t matter now, does it? ‘Cept I’d buy a 65 and not a 66.
I’ve long thought of the ’65/’66 styling being akin to two brawny “ruggedly handsome” twin brothers.
One (’65) wears flannel shirts and jeans, one (’66) wears dress shirts and suit pants.
The ’65 is attractively angular, rough-around-the-edges, the ’66 is smoother, more refined. Which one I liked better depends on my mood. I owned a ’66, my friend had a ’65.
I lived through the era, and I still can’t reliably recall the difference between a ’67 and ’68. Also owned a ’69. Loved the loop bumper in front.
“I still can’t reliably recall the difference between a ’67 and ’68.”
But you know it when you see it, especially the rear.
To me, ’70 really “snapped the rag” on the final polishing of the, ehhh, design.
I learned to drive in My dads 1966 Caprice. I always wanted a 1965 and lucked out with the first 1965 SS convertible built