1994 Impala SS
From a 1960's perspective, the 1994 Chevrolet Impala SS was an odd duck. It's a four-door sedan, it's big and it caters to comfort as much as performance. However, putting the SS back in context, it ranks as on of the last remnants of the old big-horsepower era. It combines a large-for-its-time V-8 with ample horsepower, rear-wheel drive and full-frame construction.
The last Impala SS had been the 1969 model. As domextic automakers convverted to front-wheel drive, smaller engines and smaller bodies, big high-performance cars disappeared. Chevrolet continued offering a full-size, rear-wheel-drive car with V-8 power, but downsized it in 1977. The Caprice name was usually attached, but a few low-buck Impala models were produced through the 1985 model year.
There was a controversial restyling for 1991, utilizing basically the same chassis. The Caprice was popular with the police and taxi segments of the market, but "civilian" buyers tended to be on the senior side. All that changed in November of 1992, when Chevrolet tricked up a Caprice sedan for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas. It had an LT1 350-cid V-8, 17-inch aluminum wheels, 50-series tires, full rear-wheel cutouts, slightly modified rear quarter windows and a blackout-style paint job.
Chevy went to its retired name farm and revived the Impala SS tag and reaction at the SEMA show and other previews that followed was the same: "Build it!" This is just what Chevrolet Motors Division general manager Jim Perkins wanted to hear and on Valentine's Day of 1994 the first of the new Impala SS models rolled off an assembly line in the GM Assembly Plant in Arlington, Texas.
Unlike some production versions of show cars, the SS was not a watered-down, wimped-out version. The 260-hp version of the 350-cid LT1 came standard and was attached to a 4L60-E automatic transmission. The wheels were special 17 x 8.5-inch units like those on the show car. They were wrapped with P255/50ZR17 tires.
Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes were used at all four corners, as were stiffer coil springs and DeCarbon shocks similar to those on the Camaro Z28. The result was a 20 percent stiffer suspension, much better handling and a still comfortable ride. From the police car parts bin came front and rear anti-roll bars and other hardware aimed at going fast on straight or curved roads.
Chevrolet listed a 0-to-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds, but a spirited Car & Driver crew got a 6.5-second run and a quarter-mile of 15 seconds with a 92 mph trap speed. A couple of SS examplers were even quicker. GM put a 502 big-block in a test car and got a 0-to-60 mph in 6.0 seconds and a 14.5-second quarter-mile at 98.2 mph. Horsepower was claimed to be 385. Reeves Callaway converted customers' Impalas into the SuperNatural SS with a 383-cid small-block with 404 horses. Motor Trend performance figures were 0-to-60 mph in 5.9 seconds and for the quarter-mile 14.0 seconds at 100.3 mph!
The late-model Impala SS cost $22,495 and turned out to be a small-volume niche car in the GM scheme of things. For the model's first year, 6,303 units were built. Of course, instant collector status was assured for the Impala SS. We may not see anything like it again, at least from General Motors.