This remarkable 1966 Chevrolet Impala SS396 hardtop is one of those special cars that have lived a charmed life.
Big cars and fast cars are not mutually exclusive. In fact, in the earliest days of motoring and well into the 1950s, the biggest cars were always the fastest cars, too. That’s usually because big cars need big engines to move them, but it’s also because the buyer of an expensive car wants better performance. That’s how it was decades ago and it’s how it was when this 1966 Chevrolet Impala SS396 was built. For many, full-sized luxury also meant big performance and Chevrolet was only too happy to oblige, particularly on the cars wearing the vaunted “Super Sport” badges. Remarkably, you could get a six-cylinder 1966 Impala SS, but who wanted that? No, what you wanted was a real code 68 Impala SS with a big block, a car that makes going fast effortless and comfort is standard equipment.
This remarkable 1966 Chevrolet Impala SS396 hardtop is one of those special cars that have lived a charmed life. Having spent its first 48 years in New Mexico in the hands of a single owner, you know it’s been loved. It still carries its original, matching-numbers L35 396/325 horsepower engine. The 66,503 miles showing on the odometer are authentic. And all those years in the desert means that the sheetmetal is impeccably well preserved. Big cars with big engines were being superseded by mid-sized cars like the Chevelle and GTO, and even Ford’s smaller Mustang, but there’s still nothing like the feeling of massive torque moving a massive body. Every square inch of this car’s bodywork is original and has not been wrecked, patched, or filled. It was repainted once in its original code F Marina Blue back in the 1980s and if you didn’t already know it had been painted, it could almost pass for immaculate original paint. Now that doesn’t mean perfect, but it does mean that it has an authentic look that shows some age and wear but totally in line with the car’s great history. It was a quality job, too, because there are no masking lines and it appears that all the trim was removed for best results. The car just looks great from any angle.
Likewise, the stainless and chrome trim remains in good shape. The bumpers wear rare factory bumper guards that I bet you’ve never seen before and the stainless trim along the flanks isn’t bent or dinged. The grille and Chevrolet script emblem are a little faded, but on an original car that’s an easy sin to forgive and it would be a mistake to replace it. Lenses, glass, and weather-stripping are likewise in fantastic shape. A rear-mounted antenna looks sporty and helps preserve the ultra-clean lines of the Impala hardtop’s fastback shape and the crossed flat emblems on the front fenders should serve as a warning to everyone else in traffic. This car even carries four correct T3 headlight bulbs that are probably worth a few hundred dollars all by themselves!
Yes, the code 885-S bucket seat interior is also 100% original, right down to the carpets. The Impala SS was a separate model in 1966, not just an option package, so bucket seats and a console became optional. This car has them, along with relatively rare front seat headrests, which would not be federally mandated for another three years. The factory vinyl is in excellent shape with the only notable demerits being a small scratch on the driver’s outer bolster and a few threadbare areas on the original carpets. Again, there’s just no reason to replace any of it and it’s a real gem of a find if you love original cars. Everything works, including the optional AM/FM radio and dealer-installed 4-way flashers and there’s no question that the mileage shown is authentic. The woodgrained appliques are in excellent shape, the steering wheel hasn’t cracked, and despite a lifetime in the desert, the dash pad is almost entirely unmarked. The preservation is pretty impressive. The back seat looks completely unused and the white headliner is taut with only a few areas with light discoloration. The trunk is rust-free, of course, and is fitted with its original mat and what might just be the original redline spare tire.
There’s no question that the 396 cubic inch V8 living under the hood is the original, numbers-matching piece. The stamping pad decodes correctly:
T = Tonawanda assembly plant
0114 = January 14 assembly date
IV = 396 cubic inch V8, 325 horsepower, automatic transmission, no A/C
R = Rochester 4-barrel carburetor
6L = 1966 full size
163184 = last six digits of the VIN (matches)
The engine remains 100% stock, right down to the Quadra-Jet carburetor and cast iron exhaust manifolds, although at some point somebody added a set of chrome valve covers with T-handle fasteners, and the air cleaner’s snorkel is missing, but those are easy details to fix. It appears that the engine paint has been touched up here and there, but most of it looks to be factory-applied enamel. The alternator and starter show correct date codes, suggesting that they are original to the car as well, and the incredibly clean inner fenders and firewall are more evidence of this car’s easy life. Even the under-hood light works! Turn the key and it fires quickly and settles into a 1000 RPM idle that’s buttery-smooth and a few seconds later, you can blip the throttle and it’ll drop down to a nice 650 RPM where it’ll stay. It’s impressive as hell. The big engine’s torque moves the hardtop as if it weighs 800 pounds less than it does and never seems to work very hard. It stays cool under all conditions and never hiccups or stutters, no matter what you’re doing. That’s very hard to restore back into a car and once you’ve experienced a survivor like this, you’ll understand that untouched cars are indeed very special.
The stout TH400 3-speed automatic transmission is the ideal partner in a full-sized cruiser like this. It’s quick-witted and impeccably smooth, launching the car with authority but making sure the shifts are unobtrusive unless you’re really hammering it. With 410 pounds of torque on tap, downshifts are purely optional and thanks to tall 2.73 gears in the 12-bolt rear end, this is a fantastic highway cruiser that’ll eat up pavement at an alarming rate. The dual exhaust system is older, maybe even original, showing galvanized mufflers and correct hangers, and the muted V8 burble is exactly right for a piece of luxury/muscle like this. Floors, rockers, trunk pan, and quarters are all spotless with only a light dusting of surface scale that comes from age, not neglect, because this car was never undercoated and never needed it. The front end shows some new components and there are adjustable air shocks out back that help keep it on an even keel if you fill the giant trunk with gear. The ride is big car comfortable with the kind of smoothness that you can’t find in today’s cars. No squeaks, no rattles, no wind noise, just a warm purr of a V8 engine and an inevitable feeling of acceleration pushing you along. It sits on Rally wheels that look right, as well as a set of 225/70/14 white-letter radials, but just imagine how amazing this car would look wearing a set of redlines!
Great pedigree, immaculate sheetmetal, big block engine, matching-numbers, and awesome colors. This Imp gets everything right. If you love original cars, if you’ve been looking for a big block Impala that won’t break the bank, and if you like the mid-60s styling, this car is a very exciting find. Give us a call and we’ll tell you all about it, because you’ve already noticed that it’s become one of our favorites.