The Chevrolet Impala is named after a South African antelope; this is one of the longest surviving nameplates for G.M. The name Impala first appeared on the corporations rooster during the General Motors Motorama in 1956. The new Impala is represented by a full sized green and white hardtop prototype, styled along the same lines as the Corvette, however this prototype no longer exists. The chief engineer at GM in the late 50’s defined the Impala as a full sized car of prestige that was within the budget of the average American citizen. By the 1965 model year it had become one of the bestselling automobiles in the U.S. A sketch of the design crew caught the eye of Hartley Earl styling vice president and seven months later the Impala was ready to roll off the assembly line.
The Impala was in Chevrolet showrooms for the 1958 model year as an uptown version of the Bel Air and available as a coupe or as a convertible. The Bel Air is longer, lower, wider, and little more radical than the previous model year as well it differs from the lesser versions in ’58 from the windshield rearwards sporting a smaller green-house and a longer rear deck; the model gives the impression of having an extra-long body. The Bel Air Impala has a special crossed flag logo on each rear side molding, bright rocker panels, simulated rear fender scoops, and deeply furrowed horizontal fins with three tail lights on each side. For many years the Impala could be easily identified by this distinctive triple tail light configuration while the less prestigious models have a double set-up and the wagon versions have one set. The ’58 headlights are now laid out horizontally mounted on all the full sized Bel Air models.
The redesigned body is sitting on a revised chassis as well-the rails now sit in and elongated “X” pattern giving the car a more torsional ridge base according to Chevy engineers but this is a transitional construction with the end result becoming the unitized body. The sheet metal is also reinforced most obviously in the rocker panels and the firewall to create a more solid looking finished product. In retrospect this frame proved itself to be less effective than the older conventional perimeter frame at protecting the seating area.
The 1958 Bel Air Impalas are equipped with the 235 CID (3.9 L) Blue Flame six and bolted to a three speed transmission with a column shifter and could be had for $2,693.off the showroom floor. The 283 Cid (4.6 L) also with a three on the tree is the basic V8 putting out 185 hp although a fuel injection system is offered and this will develop 290 hp. The entry level V8 could be purchased for base $2,693.00. There is also a big block 348 CID (5.7 L) V8 available that will develop 250 hp (210 kW), 280 hp (210 kW), or 315 hp (235 kW) depending on the chosen options. The transmissions available are basically the close ratio three speed, or optionally, a three speed manual with over-drive, the Turboglide, and two speed powerglide are also on the table.Basic suspension is coil springs all around but an option package was available that offers air shocks if you prefer. The marketing promised “vigorous performance, the quick, eager-to-please handling lets you know you are the boss”. The prices put the Impala into the mid-price bracket with the uptown interiors sporting a two spoke steering wheel and color co-ordinated door panels with a brushed aluminum trim.
The car was well received and the ’58 Bel Air Impala helps Chevy regain its place as a number one selling car that year. The fuel injection version is a very rare 283 Impala with the factory installed Ram-Jet option and are highly desirable in collector’s eyes.