1958 Impala put Chevy back on the map

Automaker’s stylish release helped company compete head to head with Ford in sales again

The Chevrolet Impala originated as a sports coupe and made its debut at the 1956 General Motors Motorama.

The concept became a reality with Chevrolet launching the Impala in 1958.

The car was named after the African antelope known for its speed, though I don’t suppose GM had any idea how far the Impala would eventually run. The production between 1958 and 1996 amounted to 13 million cars, breaking all production figures for a full-sized North American car.

The one-year-only 1958 Impala body style turned out to be a very bold move on GM’s behalf — it worked and lay the foundation for the risk-taking direction they were prepared to go in developing cars for the next decade.

The chassis was a new design — longer and wider — and the body had a reduced height of almost 127 millimetres (five inches).

It was very stylish with its quad headlights and dripping in chrome, almost as much as the automaker’s flagship Cadillac.

The Impala was available in either a convertible or a sports coupe. Engine options included a 235 cid six-cylinder, a 283 cid V8 or a muscle car version 348 cid V8 with 280 horsepower.

A number of different fuel-delivery options were available, including one four-barrel or three two-barrel carburetors or Ram-Jet fuel injection — the latter being the most expensive option, costing $488.

The convertible turned out to be the most expensive car in the Chevrolet model line for 1958.

The convertible is highly sought after today, particularly if it is equipped with the large V8 and the Tri-power carburetors. This combination can easily command well over six figures. (Hagerty Price Guides lists a No. 1 example at $136,000.)

The 1958 Impala saved the day; GM was back on the map, competing head to head with Ford in sales for the first time since the early 1940s.

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