1959 Chevrolet Impala
For the model year 1959, Chevrolet surprised dealers and customers alike with an ambitious and stylish new lineup. Even though the 1958 models – including the new Impala – were quite well received by buyers, Chevrolet nonetheless shocked showroom-goers in the fall of ’58 with a stunning complete redesign of the entire range. The era of the tail fin was reaching its zenith by this point, and while Ford never quite seemed comfortable with the look, Chrysler was still full-finned with their bold Forward Look models, and GM just introduced the radical 1959 Cadillac. But the Chevy design team took a different approach by exaggerating the 1958 Impala’s rear-end treatment. Essentially turning the fins horizontally, the 1959 Chevy boasted deeply sculpted flanks, a wildly curving trunk lid, cat-eye taillights, and a dramatically slimmer profile. Within an instant, the new car rendered the 1958 models obsolete – despite a somewhat polarized response from the American motoring press. Even Chevrolet’s chief designer, Clare MacKichan, suggested they took the theme a step too far, but with the benefit of hindsight, the “Bat Wing” 1959 Chevrolet is recognized as one of the most daring and bold designs of the 1950s.
Wild styling aside, other features included a revised version of GM’s recently introduced X-Frame chassis, which allowed the body to sit low and provide a roomier cabin. Three primary models made up Chevy’s line: The base Biscayne, mid-range Bel-Air, and the Impala, reprising its role as the flagship. Inline-six and small-block V8 engines were the norms for most of the range, although the big block 348 cubic-inch V8 was the reserve of the Impala. Customers could specify their Impala as a coupe, convertible, or four-door sports sedan, yet the convertible was by far the most glamorous and well-suited to the outlandish design. Chevy’s gamble paid off, with sales up by 264,000 units over the previous year. Despite the sales success, the car again proved to be a one-year-only design, as the 1960 models were toned down significantly.
Finished in iconic Roman Red over a matching red interior, this 1959 Impala Convertible is a superb example of Chevy’s daring style-leader. This highly-optioned car features a host of factory equipment and accessories and wears a superbly detailed nut-and-bolt restoration. It was once part of the renowned Chuck Spielman collection, and while the restoration is older, it is beautifully maintained and presents in outstanding condition. Reportedly discovered in Apache, Arizona, as a rust-free car with original panels, it underwent an intensive ten-year, body-off restoration. The project included powder coating the chassis and suspension components and the use of NOS GM parts wherever possible. It features a plethora of factory options and accessories, including a grille guard, stainless rocker trims, door guards, dual antennas, continental kit, and dual outside mirrors. The paintwork is excellent, with straight, beautifully aligned panels and polished stainless brightwork reflecting the meticulous nature of the restoration. It sits on body-color steel wheels fitted with optional full wheel covers with “spinners” and correct wide-whitewall tires.
The high style continues once you climb aboard, with the generous bench seats upholstered in red vinyl with patterned fabric inserts;de rigueurfor most high-line cars of the 1950s. Flashes of chrome and stainless steel trim and switchgear intersperse the color-matched door panels and dash. Optional extras include a color-keyed steering wheel, factory AM pushbutton radio, GM accessory tissue dispenser, deluxe heater, courtesy lights, and tinted glass. As with the body, the interior restoration is excellent and is superbly maintained in excellent order. The soft trim includes a factory-correct pinpoint vinyl soft top in bright white, which provides a beautiful contrast to the red paint and upholstery. Fit, finish, and detailing are first-rate, and the cabin presents in near-concours condition thanks to meticulous care in the hands of collectors.
Under the hood of this Impala sits the highly desirable tri-power 348 cubic-inch “W-block” V8. When fitted with three two-barrel carburetors, the big-block 348 made 280 horsepower and a generous 355 lb-ft of torque. Power output is more than enough to give the big Impala plenty of giddy-up off the lights and long legs for high speed highway cruising. Consistent with the rest of this superb car, the engine bay is outstanding and detailed to original specifications, showing slight signs of use in the otherwise excellent finishes. Convenience options include power brakes and power steering, and the engine mates to a 2-speed Powerglide transmission, which suits the torquey and effortless nature of the 348.
While Chevrolet’s production records did not break down production by model, it is likely safe to suggest the flagship Impala convertible is one of the rarest of the “batwing” Chevys. We seldom come upon examples restored with such care and attention to detail as this car, which benefits from meticulous care in the hands of its previous collector-owners. Beautifully finished and fully loaded, this collector-owned Impala is a marvelous specimen from the zenith of 1950s American automobile design.
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