Keepers: 1994-1996 Chevrolet Impala SS—Shopping

By Christopher Smith

January 11, 2010

When it comes to collector cars, the last year of a particular model run is usually the one people want, and the sixth-generation Impala SS is no different. 1996 is the only year for the floor-shifted automatic, as well as a standard gauge cluster and tachometer which replaced the digital units from 1994 and 1995.

Rumors suggest improved quality control at the factory also made the ’96 a slightly tighter, longer-lasting performer, but since the newest sixth-generation Impala is still 14 years old, it’s safe to say the survivors likely weren’t built on a Friday afternoon. Either that or they were fixed long ago by previous owners, many of which looked to the Impala SS as a classic in the making instead of a cool daily driver. That’s good news for current shoppers looking to pick up a low-mile Impala, because there are plenty of nice examples to choose from. Case in point is the green ’96 featured in our gallery, showing only 8000 miles and sporting a Vortech blower beneath its otherwise stock appearance. It’s listed with an optimistic buy-it-now price of $24,999 on eBay motors, but nabbing a similar SS (sans blower) with less than 20,000 miles for well under $20k is easily accomplished. Edge closer to the 100,000 mile mark and good condition Impalas drop to under $10,000, with well-used, high-mile daily drivers going for a few cases of Budweiser. And perhaps an extra $5000 in cash.

Higher mileage also means higher degree of wear, and though the Impala SS is a heavy combat soldier, it’s not immune to battlefield fatigue. Among other things, the LT1 engines of the day were notoriously finicky when it came to the Optispark  ignition system, with symptoms of imminent failure manifesting in the form of lost power or engine misfires. Also pay close attention to the transmission, as the extra torque from the beefy V-8 tends to chew up the Impala’s not-beefy-enough four-speed automatic. And don’t forget the standard GM parts-bin components of the day; ill-fitting interior panels and sketchy electronic gremlins are definite possibilities, even on the mighty Impala SS.
Also within the realm of possibility is inadvertently purchasing an Impala SS clone, as the exterior/interior components are very easily transferred to an ordinary Chevy Caprice. Furthermore, the Impala’s LT1 V-8 and heavy-duty transmission were offered outside the Impala line, so bolting the interior and exterior goodies to a Caprice with the existing powertrain creates a very convincing copy. Purchase an old Caprice cop car with the 9C1 police package and you have most of the suspension upgrades as well, so to make sure you have the real deal, check inside the trunk lid for a sticker with WX3 on it. You can also check for the Impala’s 255/50/17 tire size on the doorjam sticker. If all else fails, take the VIN to a GM dealer and have the service department run it through their system. Sure, buying an Impala imposter with all the same performance items makes for a fun car—just make sure you’re paying half the price for it.
Visiting the Impala SS community is our next Keepers adventure. Until then, revisit the first part of our Impala SS exploration by clicking here, and come chat about the Impala in the Winding Road Forums.