1969 Chevrolet Impala Classic Review Mar 9, 2016 by Cedric (Driver Weekly)
For decades, the Chevrolet Impala set the company standard in comfort and value in one beautiful package. The Impala debuted as a luxurious trim level for the Chevrolet Bel Air in 1958 before it arrived on dealer lots as a full-sized model in 1959. Discontinued in 1985, the popular nameplate was resurrected in 1994 and then made a permanent return in 2000. But nothing can match the beauty and prestige of a classic model. The 1969 Chevrolet Impala is among our favorites with crisp, sporty styling and an attractive range of options.
The ’69 Impala was part of the fourth generation that was redesigned in 1965. New full-sized models were built on the GM B-Body with full-width perimeter framework. The spacious vehicle had a 119-inch (3,023 mm) wheelbase that was a full four inches longer than the Chevrolet Chevelle. Buyers could peruse a wide range of trims and body styles, including a two-door convertible, two door coupe or hardtop, four-door hardtop or sedan, and a station wagon. While the top-of-the-line Impala Caprice inspired a separate model in 1966, an upscale Impala could still offer Chevrolet buyers a heady taste of Cadillac’s look and ride.
Chevrolet’s basic body design had become increasingly subtle and refined over the first half of the 1960s, and the new Impala was no exception. Each year, Chevrolet updated their full-size show car, In 1969, the Impala was redesigned to appear larger and more imposing on the same 119-inch wheelbase. The curvaceous “Coke bottle” styling from 1967 and 1968 was smoothed out. The crisp new lines featured wraparound front bumpers and a small upsweep near the rear quarter window. The 1969 model also saw the elimination of the power vent as a way to reduce highway noise. This also helped GM sell more models with air conditioning, boosting their profits. The instrument panel was restyled and highlighted by a new steering wheel while the ignition switch was on the steering column as opposed to the dash. The four-door station wagon was renamed the Kingswood and sold as a separate model.
Engines and Transmissions
1969 models were available with an incredible range of engines. The standard engine was a 235 horsepower 327 cubic-inch V8. 8,700 buyers still selected a six cylinder option available on previous model years, the Turbo-Thrift 250 Six with just 155 horsepower. More impressive powertrain options included the new 350 cubic-inch Turbo Fire V8 with 255 horsepower and a big-block 396 cubic-inch Turbo Jet V8 with 265 horsepower. At the top of the pack, buyers that were in the know could order a regular Impala with a 427 cubic-inch Turbo Jet V8 with an advertised rating of 335 horsepower.
The standard eight-cylinder engines were now all available with the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission for the first time, but economical buyers could still select a two-speed Powerglide option on the 327 and 350. You can find a 1969 Impala with one of five different transmissions, including three- and four-speed fully synchronized transmissions and a special three-speed manual. Even though shoppers could pair a run-of-the-mill model with a big-block engine and a slick transmission, real enthusiasts were more interested in the Impala Super Sports. That’s where collectors are going to find a model with a 427.
The Impala has always been ahead of its time, offering options that many other vehicles didn’t have. Available features like the AM/FM Push Button Radio with stereo, speed and cruise control, and power trunk opener helped set it apart. You may also find a 1969 version with an adjustable roof rack, floor-mounted shift lever, hide-a-way wipers, and vinyl roof. The Impala also had one of the rarest options on any Chevrolet: the “liquid tire chain.” This strange device sat in the trunk and had two nozzles positioned over each of the rear tires; during the winter, it sprayed liquid onto the tires that was supposed to melt ice and improve traction. It was only available in 1969 and discontinued due to low sales—perhaps unsurprisingly. Finding one of these incredibly rare models would be a coup for any collector interested in automotive esoterica. But most buyers won’t be interested in the liquid tire chain—they’re interested in the Impala SS.
Chevrolet offered an impressive performance package for the ’69 Impala called the SS 427 in official literature and identified as the Z24 option package. The SS was limited to just three models, the Custom Coupe, the Sport Coupe, and the convertible. For an extra $422, buyers secured bigger wheels and tires, a blacked-out grille and headlamps, SS badging that differed slightly depending on the body style, and a big block engine. The base Impala SS had the L36 427 with a 10.25:1 compression ratio, hydraulic lifter camshaft, cast-iron crankshaft, Rochester Quadrajet carburetor, and a dual exhaust system. While technically available on the Impala, the SS L36 delivered 390 horsepower at 5,400rpm and 460 pound-feet of torque at 3,600rpm.
This was the same engine that had been offered on the ’67 and ’68 SS. Discerning buyers could find an even bigger engine if they delved into the sales literature: the L72. The 427 L72 had an 11.0:1 compression ratio, solid lifters, forged crankshaft, and aluminum intake manifold with a Holley four-barrel carburetor. With the L72 under the hood, the Impala SS could churn out 425 horsepower and pushed the redline to almost 6,000rpm.
Full-sized muscle cars had waned in popularity over the decade (compared to trimmer mid-sized muscle cars), and the ’69 model was the last available Impala Super Sports for the next quarter century. Just 2,455 models were ever built but, thanks to their waning popularity when they were first built, they are still less expensive than a similar Chevelle SS from the same year.