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by Jay Traugott
It was massive in size, had true character and a V8 under the hood - there was nothing not to love about it.
Just when we thought it was the end of the affordable V8-powered large GM sedan, the automotive giant announced that they will in fact bring back their Holden Commodore-based sedan (aka Pontiac G8) to the U.S., but this time as a Chevrolet. Set to be called the SS, it'll be making its debut sometime in 2013 as a 2014 model. Along with just about everyone else, we can hardly wait. In the meantime, we wanted to look back on the last high-powered V8, rear-drive sedan Chevrolet built, which, big surprise, was the seventh generation Impala SS.
Built from 1994-1996, the Impala SS was based on the cop car favorite Chevrolet Caprice. Originally shown as a concept at the 1992 Detroit Auto Show, the production version was very similar to the show car. To further separate it from the base Caprice, Chevrolet opted to use various parts of the 91C police package as a basis for the new high-performance trim. As such, it was given unique features like a sport-tuned suspension complete with reinforced shocks and springs, a reverse flow cooling system taken from the Corvette, dual exhaust, larger four-wheel discs, an improved electrical system and a lowered suspension.
Power came from the LT1 5.7-liter V8 small-block V8 that produced 260hp and 330lb-ft of torque. While this was the same engine used in the Corvette at the time, Chevrolet decided not to improve the electronically controlled transmission to handle the extra power. As a result, many Impala SS owners experienced outright transmission failures at around 100,000 miles. Unfortunately, a manual was never offered, but there have been many owners who've been making the conversion (after their original tranny blew) to a manual taken from the old F-body Camaro and Firebird.
Aside from the aforementioned mechanical differences, the Impala SS was a much better looking car than the Caprice. Instead of a somewhat bland and even Florida retiree-friendly appearance, Chevrolet managed to make the Impala SS look almost mean. This was thanks to that lowered suspension, a single-bar grille sans the hood ornament, a rear spoiler, and a set of 17-inch brush aluminum wheels. Initially only offered in black, in 1995 Chevrolet added two more exterior paint options: Dark Cherry Metallic and Dark Grey Green.
Other standard features included leather seats with the 'SS' logo, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and cup holders (remember, this was the mid-90s; cup holders were not always standard then). As you can likely guess just by looking at it, the Impala SS was a heavy thing, weighing in at 4,221 lbs. and when combined with that V8, made the car quite the fuel sipper. Still, until Cadillac launched the current CTS in 2007, this Impala SS was the best V8 sedan GM built. You could say the Pontiac G8 (launched in 2008) was its most directly related decedent and perhaps that's why that car (or rather its platform) is returning shortly along with a proper V8.
The owner of this 1995 Impala SS has managed to keep his car in fantastic condition. Unlike many other owners, he's opted to keep his car mainly stock. The only exception is some new rims that he likes to alternate between from time to time. Even the interior is in wonderful condition and we're sure this car will only gain in value and reputation in the years to come. But just to put something into perspective here: the new Chevrolet SS will likely be powered by the 6.2-liter LS2 V8 with close to 400hp, while this '95 Impala SS has just 260hp. Good things are about to happen. Photos courtesy of fkrause.