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.
1967 Chevy Impala
Fino's Impala features the ever-cool white on red color option. The big B-body is as stock as it can be, showcasing a 396 cubic inch big-block. Rated from Chevy at 325 horsepower, the hydraulic lifter Rat is topped with a 4-barrel Quadrajet carb and backed by a Turbo 400 automatic. Weighing in at robust 4,422 lbs (with driver), the Impala made four cleans passes after being driven to the track. When the day was done, Kenny packed up his stuff in the enormous sized trunk and cruised home with the air conditioner on. Now that's the life.
Colts Neck, NJ
1968 Chevy Impala SS 427
Landolfi and his father have resurrected the family business, Landy's Performance in Colts Neck, and specialize in not only race cars, but muscle car restoration and monster street machines. In addition, Adam and Ralph compete on the NHRA circuit with a pair of Stock Eliminator cars, one a '69 Camaro with a 375-horsepower 396, and the other a '70 Chevelle powered by a 454 topped with aluminum heads. They even raced Pro Stock some years back with Kenny Delco behind the wheel.
Recently, however, Adam picked up the all-original, numbers-matching '68 Impala SS. Complete with build sheet, the big B-body is powered by a 427 Rat motor of the 385-horsepower origin, and is backed by an M-21 4-speed. The big-block is topped off with a 4-barrel carb, and the body is dressed in menacing black paint. Adam strapped on a helmet and proceeded to powershift his way down the quarter-mile to show us what an SS 427 Impala looks like at speed. This car, too, is factory air-conditioned, making it a pretty rare beast.
Specs: 1967 Chevy Impala
Engine: 396 ci Chevrolet
Transmission: Turbo 400 automatic
Induction: 4-barrel Quadrajet
Weight: 4,422 lbs (with driver)
Best ET/MPH: 17.93/74.53
Specs: 1968 Chevy Impala
Engine: 427 ci Chevrolet
Transmission: Muncie 4-speed manual
Induction: 4-barrel carb
Weight: 4510 lbs (with driver after pork roll sandwich)
Best ET/MPH: 15.83/86.61