Way back in the early '60s, the Impala was the car to have other than a Vette. Packed with a 409 W-motor with dual quads, these cars would tear up the streets and the dragstrips.
In 1964, the Chevelle hit the showroom floor, and in '65 the A-body, coupled with the Z16 396, stole much of the thunder from the Impala. The trend downwards for the Impala continued with the debut of cars such as the big-block and Z/28 Camaros, the romping, stomping L79 Novas, and later big-block powered Chevelles. A big-block in the increasingly larger B-body just wasn't a match for a lightweight Nova with a 327 or a Camaro or Chevelle with the high-powered 396. The Impala quickly became just a family car. The Super Sport option was still available, though, and the 396 or 427 Rat was still offered for those with the cash.
The question with muscle cars, especially high-dollar, collectible big-block ones, is if they really were as fast as billed back in the day. The conjecture always arises when talking about the 12-second factory hot rods, but what about the good old Impala? How fast were they, and were those oft-quoted numbers true?
Thanks to Adam Landolfi, Kenny Fino, and Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, the question of just how quick and fast a large displacement heavyweight Impala was then and now was answered. Adam and Kenny drove their rides to the track and proceeded to beat on them mercilessly until both of them were happy and content.
Landolfi, along with his dad, the legendary "Coney Island" Ralph, picked up the black 1968 SS 427/385-hp Impala at the Barrett-Jackson auction, and the car is exactly how it was when shipped from Chevrolet in '68. Fino is the proud owner of the white '67 packing a 396/325 horse punch. The plan was simple: take the cars, Landolfi's equipped with a 4-speed and Fino's with a Turbo 400 automatic, and run them down the Raceway Park quarter-mile as fast as possible on the skinny tires.
When it was all said and done, both the cars and drivers performed admirably. At a time where collectors might not even consider driving their muscle cars, let alone beating the you-know-what out of them, both Landolfi and Fino let it all hang out in an effort to wring the best possible elapsed time and speed out of the cars.
So did the cars run as fast as billed back in the Vietnam era? In '67, Motor Trend got a 396-powered Impala with a Turbo 400 automatic to run 17.0 at 83 miles per hour. A year later, the same magazine took a '68 with a 427 and Turbo 400 slushbox down the dragstrip in 15.4 seconds at 90 miles per hour. With a best run of 17.93-seconds, in hot, humid, New Jersey summer air, Fino's Impala was a bit off the mark set by Motor Trend in '67. The same can't be said for Landolfi, who banged the gears in the '68 to a best run of 15.83-seconds, a little more than four tenths of a second off the MT time, while running in the same soup. Not bad if we say so ourselves.
In the end, we spent the day watching two A-1 B-body's duke it out at the track. Neither car can be declared a winner as there are more differences between the two than we have space to list here. The losers in this gig are those have never seen a pair of big-block Impalas as nice as these two.