By the time 1967 rolled around, few performance car buyers were thinking big anymore. Oh sure, they liked mountain motors and large horsepower figures, but most preferred them in a smaller overall package. For Chevrolet performance fans, the SS396 Chevelle offered a sensible balance of size and power, while the new Camaro was the obvious choice for those seeking something a little smaller and sportier. Impalas? Well, those were "family cars!"
But lest we forget, the Impala nameplate had a history as more than a pedestrian people mover. Since its inception in '58, the Impala had been a pinnacle of panache and style, and a fairly potent performer when properly equipped (that is, when you ordered a triple-carb 348 or a high-horse 409). Chevrolet hadn't completely forgotten that heritage, and when corporate honchos began recognizing the success of the SS396 Chevelle, they figured a similar concept could be successful on the freshly restyled Impala platform.
Now keep in mind that the Super Sport option that had made Impalas so popular in the early '60s was still available in '67. But it was essentially a trim package that included bucket seats, special badging, and extra trim, so you could order it with just about any engine-even a six-cylinder. The Bow-Tie boys figured they could take the SS Impala concept one step further and make an engine-specific version-one with an engine that was powerful enough to make this large car muscular. So they dipped into the Corvette parts bin, pulled out the Mark IV 427 Turbo-Jet V-8, and created the SS427 Impala.
Though the Impala fat-block wasn't exactly the same as its 'Vette counterpart, it was still plenty stout. Rated at 385 hp (compared to the 'Vette's 390-, 400-, 430- or 435-horse variations), it was a solid performer equipped with 10.25:1 pistons, a Rochester four-barrel, dual exhaust, and chrome dress-up items (air cleaner, valve covers, etc.). It was enough power to push the Impala to 15.75-second quarter-mile times (as tested by Car Life magazine in 1967) in stone-stock trim. That was about a second slower than a stone-stock SS396 Chevelle-not too bad for a two-ton luxo-barge.
Concluding their road test, Car Life writers called the SS427 Impala a "family car for a swinging family, or possibly a good choice for a traveling swinger without a family." Sounds cool to us, although that swingin' recommendation seems to have fallen on deaf ears. A mere 2,124 buyers stepped up to the plate with the necessary cash (approximately five grand for a fully equipped version) to purchase one of the behemoths. Of course, yesterday's disinterest translates into today's collector value, as there are only a handful of these rare beasts roaming the roads anymore.
We're not too sure whether Jimmy Crowell, of Matthews, North Carolina, considers himself a "swinger," but he is hip enough to appreciate the fullsize Super Sport legacy. This pair of Impalas should be evidence of that. The green hardtop is a legit, numbers-matching, four-speed SS427 machine that Jimmy purchased after it had been restored. With the exception of the SS427 package and disc brakes, it has a minimum of options-no air conditioning, no FM stereo, no power windows. But hey, with a four-speed shifter in hand, 460 ft-lbs of torque under foot, and a cool-looking "stinger" hood in the line of sight, most gearheads couldn't care less about creature comforts.
The Nantucket Blue convertible, on the other hand, is a pure luxury cruiser. This one started life as a 396-powered Super Sport, but has been "cloned" into a 427-powered version, complete with the larger engine, domed hood, and additional emblems. Don Honeycutt helped Jimmy complete the transformation, and is responsible for the nice-looking bodywork and paint. This Super Sport is optioned to the hilt, with a Turbo 400 automatic, power disc brakes, tilt steering, air conditioning, headrests, and an FM multiplex stereo. With the top down, we'd bet that it's the perfect machine to take cruising down those winding North Carolina two-lanes on a warm summer evening.
Two years after these cars were produced, the Impala SS nameplate faded into oblivion for a quarter-century, foreshadowing the long hiatus that all factory musclecars would soon take. But thanks to enthusiasts like Jimmy Crowell-and his dynamic duo of big brutes-the classic Super Sport legacy of power, comfort and panache lives on today, and will continue to rumble well into the future.