My Favorite Cars: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS

My Favorite Cars: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS

For us guys of a certain age and place a car can define you. Yes the 1984-86 Buick Grand National is the first new hot rod I saw growing up and still remains my favorite call of all time but I was 8 years old when it came out.

But when Chevrolet reintroduced the Impala Super Sport (SS), in February of 1994 (it went to production on Valentine’s Day, talk about love), I was 18 years old, had my driver’s license, worked part time, had been around my dad and his cars and had a deeper appreciation for cars. I was a high school senior and I still couldn’t afford it but the car meant more, especially when it got “street cred” from rappers like N.W.A.’s MC Ren.

Also one of my dad’s friends (Ernest T), bought one and we drooled over that car, that car quickly became an icon in the ‘hood.

This Impala SS was basically the Caprice (which was Motor Trend’s car of the year in 1991), with the police package suspension (“cop motor, cop suspension, cop shocks…”), and then blacked out grill and side moldings. And this is way before the current trend of “murdering out” a car in all black.

It was powered by a 5.7 liter V8 that was putting out 260 horsepower. The engine was known as the “LT1” and was the same engine used in the Corvette at that time also remember this was a rear wheel drive car, the last Chevrolet would make until the current “SS” came out two years ago.

Initially the car came only in black with grey leather interior and bucket seats, 17 inch wheels with silver deep dish rims, had a nice dual exhaust and even the rear lights had black trim, the car was menacing.

It had a few Impala SS badges on it though the interior wise there wasn’t a lot to tell it apart from the Caprice. It had a column shift (“on the tree”), for the automatic transmission (no manual was ever available), it had the same digital dashboard and readout. All of that stayed the same for both the 1994 and 1995 years.

The 1994 Impala SS is fairly rare (6,000 manufactured), because of a shortage of the rims for it, the 1995 was more plentiful (21,000 manufactured) and had two new colors, dark cherry and dark grey, but Chevrolet made several key changes for the 1996 model which was the last year.

First, Chevrolet went to an analog dashboard, similar to what full sized trucks and SUV had at the time which had a retro feel to it.

Second, Chevrolet switched from a column shift to a floor shifter (console), for the transmission for a much sportier look and feel.

And due to demand, Chevrolet manufactured over 40,000 Impala SS’ in 1996. Yes that high number takes some of the rareness off of the car but it’s still highly desired. Not to mention the car has remained affordable because there are still a lot of them out there, quite a few in decent condition.

I remember being at the Chevrolet Corvette show at McCormick Place in the spring of 2006 and someone had a 1996 Impala SS for sale for $ 13,900 and I was stunned. I was driving a 2002 Chevrolet Malibu LS at the time and considered selling it to get the Impala SS but within two months someone hit me and totaled it and that was that.

Since then the price of the Impala SS has remained steady between $ 10-20K for the better ones and for ones that needs work or have high mileage is under $ 10K. Not bad for a popular muscle car that will eligible for antique vehicle plates next year.

In the mid 1990’s the only American competition for the Impala SS was the Dodge Spirit R/T and the Ford Taurus SHO (Super High Output), and the SHO switched to a 3.4 liter V8 engine in 1996.

Neither of those cars weren’t as mass produced as the Impala SS, there were only 1,300 Spirit R/T’s created (in 1991 & 1992), and for 1996 Ford only manufactured 9,000 SHO’s.

Chevrolet has brought back the Impala SS twice since 1996, the next incarnation was the 2004-2005 based on that generations Impala using the 3.8 supercharged series II engine making 240 horsepower and then the 2006-2008 version using the popular 5.3 liter V8 engine making 303 horsepower. I’ve driven both of those and they are nice (and front wheel drive), but don’t match the legacy of the 1996.

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