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Ask a Hemmings Editor – What’s the best generation of Impala?

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1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Impala Convertible. Photos courtesy General Motors.

Chevrolet’s Impala has been around for a long, long time. Debuting in 1957 as a 1958 model, the Impala soldiered on (in its first life) from 1958 through 1985, evolving to include convertible, hardtop, coupe, sedan and even station wagon variants through portions of its lifespan. From 1994 through 1996, a high-output version of the Chevrolet Caprice was rebadged as the Impala SS, and in 1999 the model returned to the regular Chevrolet lineup as a sensible four-door family sedan, a label it carries to this day.

1963 Chevrolet Impala SS

The Impala’s third generation: A 1963 Impala SS.

That’s a lot of history to consider, especially when pondering a question asked by reader Bayard Dominick, who writes,

My son is doing a research project on Impalas. As part of his report, he wants to get the opinion of car aficionados as to what is the best generation of the Impala. Obviously the (first) convertible is really valuable, (so we’re) wondering if this is the most coveted edition.

Though “best” isn’t further defined, it isn’t necessarily the most valuable Impala, nor is it the highest-performance version. Those born in the 1960s may have a leaning towards the third or fourth-generation cars, since they are, perhaps, the most familiar to us, while those born earlier may argue that original-generation cars set the standard for later Impalas to meet. Even the utilitarian fifth and sixth generation cars must have their devotees (perhaps among readers formerly involved in law enforcement), which gets us not one step closer to answering the question at hand.

1966 Chevrolet Impala SS Convertible

1966 Chevrolet Impala SS Convertible. The fourth generation cars were immensely popular with consumers.

By the numbers, the fourth-generation Impalas were the first to sell over a million units per year, and they came in the largest variety of body styles with the broadest range of engine options. Consumers, then, voted these the most popular, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as the best. Which, we suppose, is our way of answering the question without answering the question.

1996 Chevrolet Impala SS

A Caprice by any other name: The 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS.

What would you pick as the best generation of the Chevrolet Impala, and what made it better than the rest?