by Tom Shaw, photography by Colin Date
Which is your favorite Impala, 1959 or ’60? There’s probably not a big preference either way. If you’re fond of one, you’re probably fond of the other too, because they’re so similar – not twins, but sharing an unmistakable family resemblance.
Styling cycles at the time usually lasted three years, with ’58 being a one-year exception. That put the ’60 in the second year of its styling. With fins being the dramatic rage of the age, the ’60 had fins aplenty. They were described in the 1960 sales brochure as part of the car’s “…handsomely tapered lines in the style America likes best…”
“Space, Spirit, Splendor” boasted the brochure’s cover. OK, maybe that was laying it on a little thick, but the ’60 model was a good looking car, and trimmed out with the top Impala-level finery, it was downright fetching, especially in hardtop and convertible.
The same three models, the entry-level Biscayne, intermediate Bel Air, and the top-trim Impala were all carried over. Station wagons retained a four-model lineup with Brookwood as the price point leader, Parkwood as the intermediate 6 passenger, Kingswood as the intermediate 9 passenger, and Nomad as the top model with Impala-level trim. No “woody” was offered to compete with Ford’s Country Squire.
As was the custom of the day, refinements were made to the grille, rear end, and side ornamentation, but overall shape and dimensions remained essentially the same.
Chevrolet did make a change under the hood, dropping Ramjet Fuel Injection 283 from the passenger car lines, but it remained an option on Corvette, and only on Corvette. The 348 continued as the top engine option, ranging in output from 250 to 335 horsepower.
Five transmissions were offered:
3-Speed Synchro-Mesh with overdrive
Powerglide 2-Speed Automatic
Turboglide 3-Speed Automatic
Another bit of period styling appearing one the ’60 was the flat roof used on 4-door hardtops. Featured on the model called the “Sport Sedan” in Chevrolet nomenclature, the flat roof did not have the arching rear pillars of the hardtops and post sedans. Rather, it used a wrap-around rear window terminating in forward-leaning C-pillars. It was a different look.
Both 1959 and ’60 models were built on an X-frame, with five cross-members, 3 in the back and two in the front. Coil springs were at all four corners.
Interiors were a particularly nice point on the ’60s, especially the Impala, which featured enough room to accommodate several Scions and a Kia, and plenty of multi color style. Wide seatbacks had checkered-patterned fabric with two-tone vinyl accents. Door panels were extra lively, with a patterned center, a couple of bands of two-toned vinyl, and some stylized brightwork and ribbing. Even the steering wheel was two-toned. There was plenty of color to stimulate the eye, making for an interior that was perhaps a little busy, but all in keeping with the period fashion.
It was a good sales year for Chevrolet, which added the Framingham, Massachusetts assembly plant. Chevrolet not only remained the leader in U.S. auto production, but increased its market share over rival Ford, which was enduring a rather weak styling year.
1960 Impala courtesy of the South-40 Collection
Spotter’s Guide: 1959 vs. 1960
Front: Chrome “jets” atop fender Smooth fender tops
“Two Scoops” above grille Wraparound, no scoops
7 vertical ribs with center buttons horizontal bars with center
headlights in housing no headlight housing
parking lights above headlights parking lights below bumper
Rear: 1 almond-shaped taillight each side 3 round taillights each side
Fins have gentle curve fins have sharp angle
concave channel side-to-side
1960 Chevrolet Essential Specifications
Overall Length 210.8
Track, Front/Rear 60.3/59.3
HP @ RPM
235 I-6 135 @ 4000 (Hi-Thrift 1V)
283 V8 170 @ 4200 (Turbo-Fire 2V)
230 @ 4800 (Super Turbo-Fire 4V)
348 V8 250 @ 4400 (4V Turbo-Thrust)
305 @ 5600 (4V Turbo-Thrust Special w/HD Powerglide)
320 @ 5600 (4V Turbo-Thrust Special)
280 @ 4800 (3 x 2 Super Turbo-Thrust)
335 @ 5800 (3 x 2 Super Turbo-Thrust Special)
Passenger Car Models
Station Wagon Models
Kansas City, MO
Los Angeles, CA
St. Louis, MO
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