Classic Car Watch
Big Chevys

October 1, 2004
By Scott Lewis

Big Chevys. This mostly covers the Impala, but also includes the Bel Air, Biscayne and even Caprice. Although this type of car has a harder time meeting my performance potential requirement, I still like them. This month I thought I would take a look at these cruisers.

Now, I am picky. I like the 64 year over the early years (61-64). I like the 65-66 with a strong slant toward 66, and I like the fastback styling of the 67 & 68. What I find to be the most troubling when looking for these cars is color. If you find a car that has not been molested then it is in a color that is terrible. They also did a lot of colors on the interiors of these cars that just don't look good today.

Long time readers of my site will know that I hate red interiors. But you will see a red interior here. It is on a black Biscayne. This has a story. The first big outdoor car show I went to was the Street Machine Nationals East in Syracuse NY. I drove 6 hours and arrived after 11:00 PM. I checked into my room and sleep... a little. When I got dressed in the morning I went outside and the first car I saw in the parking lot of the model was a 65 or 66 Bel Air. It was black with a red interior. I started talking to the guy and he told me that he bought the car from some old couple. Yea, the classic little old lady. It had a 396 big block and a manual transmission. He bought it for $2,500 and spent less than $500 cleaning it up and it was show ready. I thought that was a pretty cool back then (1984) as $2,500 was the budget for my first car in 1981.

Performance. This is a tough call here. As you know from my past experience their are a lot of automatic equipped cars out there. And in the early days at GM that meant a two speed Powerglide transmission. You will see a few Powerglides here. When a car has a Powerglide I always assume I will have to replace the transmission quickly. My 67 Camaro had a Powerglide with less than 8000 miles on it and after a month of nearly daily driving the transmission lost second gear. So we have to budget in $800-1,500 for tranny swap. I could put in a TH-350 trans for about $800, which is what I did to my Camaro. But I would prefer to think about putting in an overdrive transmission to help the gas mileage with one of these overweight beasts. That's where the $1,500 comes in... for an overdrive swap.

Like last month I had a hard time picking the preferred car this month. 

Let's get on with the list.

1968 Chevrolet Impala SS - $13,900

68_impala_ss_mint_1.jpg (94600 bytes) 68_impala_ss_mint_2.jpg (105652 bytes) 68_impala_ss_mint_3.jpg (121714 bytes) 68_impala_ss_mint_4.jpg (88764 bytes)

Description: Matching numbers. Matador Red with black bucket seats and factory Rallye wheels in show-quality condition. Stunning one-owner Georgia car with the original 'HR-code' 327/275 horsepower engine. Absolutely no modifications from factory stock. There are no leaks, no smoke, and no noises. Turbo 400 transmission shifts perfectly. Beautiful black bucket seat interior with the center console and factory floor "Basket Handle" shifter. Power steering, factory AM radio. Laser straight body with no dents, no dings, and no waves. Brand new P215-65-15 Firestone Firehawk SS radial tires. There are no modifications to detract from the car's collector value anywhere. Turn key ready for Best-Of-Show trophies, cruises, and summer fun.

Value: $6,450 - $10,650 (+8.9%)

Source: Sports Car Gallery

Comments: I drastically shortened the description from the original. You can try and find it if it's still available and see for yourself. This is one very original, very clean Impala SS.

This car looks awesome. However, CPI says that it should be priced around three grand below where it is. Now, CPI does say that some cars deserve more than the value they provide, but those cars should be rare and/or have extensive documentation. For this kind of money this car should come with the protect-o-plate. The protect-o-plate was something that GM put with the owner's manual of a car. It had the VIN of the car and could be decoded to determine every option that came on the car from the factory. Many of these were discarded. Who knew they would make a difference later as to the value of the car. In this case I think it would be necessary. So, does this car qualify for more than CPI's rating. Maybe. I might think so, but not $3,000 more.

I love this fastback body style. The car looks great in the pictures. Look at the interior, it literally looks like new. If this car stands up to close inspection I could see driving this. However, we would have to get him down in price. I need air conditioning and would have to leave at least $1,500 left form my $15K budget to install it. I would have to say I would be willing to go as high as $13,000 for this car, but it better be as good as they say. I would start at $12,000 and see if I can get lucky.

Now, because it is so stock I don't know if I would modify it. I like those wheels, so I don't see any need to change them. Finally... we have a car with an automatic that is not the wussy Powerglide. The Turbo 400 should stand up to all the abuse we can dish out. I would consider a couple of performance upgrades, and maybe some minor handling improvements. I would limit any modifications to those that could easily be returned to stock in a couple of weekends.

Long run I could see parking that 327 for a nice crate big block. After all the TH-400 can handle it. Just a thought for the long haul as a big block swap would not fit in the budget for the short term.

I really like this car. As I was finalizing this month's list I kept liking this car more and more. I really wish I had the money to buy it now. In fact, I like this one so much that it is inspiring me to come up with a "best of" list. I may make December a look at all the preferred cars from the year and pick a favorite. We'll see.

1969 Chevrolet Impala SS - $11,500

69_impala_ss_4speed_green_1.jpg (34744 bytes)Description: One owner since new, rebuilt 350 V8 engine, Factory 4 speed transmission, air condition, power steering, factory AM radio, all originally interior in exceptional condition. Speedometer showing 98783 miles, won't last long at this price. Drive it home.

Value: Impala: $4,196 - $6,925 (+4.9%) 
          SS 427: $8,960 - $14,050 (+2.4%) 

Source: Lost N the 50s

Comments: This car is a major dilemma. Those of you that are reading my stuff regularly know that I come up with these once in a while. Normally the dilemma is simple, like a GT model that seems to be the wrong year. But this time I am thrown for a loop. My two year old CPI guide doesn't even list an SS Impala for 69. Their web site shows an SS 427 for 1969. Hmm. There is no "regular" SS listed for 69 on their web site either. So, did Chevrolet make a 69 Impala SS with a 350? I don't know. In 1968 CPI's web site lists an Impala for $7,100, An SS for $10,650, and an SS 427 for $21,900. Wow that is some spread. For 69 all we have to go by is the price of an Impala at $6,925 and an SS 427 for $14,050. Clearly 68 is a better year for the investment. Anyway, so where do we put this car. I am content to give this car a value in excellent condition of about $10,000. He is asking $11.5K. So he may be a bit optimistic. I did a little research (but not much) and from what I understand the 69 Impala is the easiest to clone as an SS. So we need to be careful here.

On to the car itself. This car is high on my list for one reason... it has a four speed manual transmission. Let's assume for one moment that this is a genuine Impala SS 350. As you know the four speed is very hard to come by in this body style, and I love a good manual. This car also has factory bucket seats and a nice full length console around that 4 speed shifter. Soooo cool.

I am not a big fan of green interiors, but this car looks pretty nice. You can see there is color fade between the head rest and the seats. But if it is original that is fine. I much prefer the fastback roof lines of the 67 & 68, but that four speed just keeps calling out to me.

1968 Chevy Impala SS - $11,500

68_impala_ss_formal_roof_1.jpg (45803 bytes)Description: Chevrolet Impala Super Sport. I think the pictures tell the story. Call me for all the updates that have been done in the last year. The car is a head turner because of its color. Bright red with a black vinyl top. Interior was just redone and all black. Original radio comes with car but have a cassette installed now with AM/FM radio. New brakes, exhaust (duals), and carb. rebuilt. New BF Goodrich tires. It has 327 automatic transmission and the car shows 107,000 miles. It is a beautiful car for shows or Sunday Drives. PRICE REDUCED!

Value: $6,450 - $10,650 (+8.9%)

Source: Cars On Line

Comments: He says, "I think the pictures tell the story." How true. And he is right in this case. I saw the pictures and the price and was impressed. Then I looked it up on CPI and discovered it was overpriced. Oops! Regardless, the pictures are very nice. I really prefer the fastback roofline to the formal one, but the black vinyl top sets this one off really nice.

Now for the specifics. The price fits in our budget, but the car needs air conditioning at the least. He doesn't mention power steering or brakes, so we need to check those out. This could be a money pit trying to make a daily driver out of it. There wasn't a picture of the engine compartment to get any info from. At this price we need to make sure the cars has as much as possible, and for this kind of money it must be a numbers matching car or our resale value will be in the toilet.

So let's say we assume a few things. Assume for a second that it has power steering and brakes. It looks great, so we add A/C to it and go cruising. Sounds good. I would definitely start by showing the CPI guide and making a 10 grand offer. After all, he already reduced the price and the ad showed a counter since May of 2004. So he should be getting even more flexible on the price.

1969 Chevrolet Impala SS - $12,950

69_impala_ss_427_1.jpg (62116 bytes)Description: Beautiful original car with matching numbers! 427ci V8 390hp, Turbo 400 Auto transmission. Both freshly rebuilt. All gauges work. Excellent paint & interior. Less than 190 produced! Rare Big Block Car!

Value: $8,960 - $14,050 (+2.4%)

Source: Brocker's Beautys

Comments: This car is priced about one thousand below its top value in restored condition. The interior looks very nice in the picture supplied. We can even see the power windows and tilt wheel. We would need to verify its authenticity, because 69 is the easiest year of the big Impalas to clone as an SS. Looking at the engine compartment showed the A/C compressor missing. Oops! The engine is also not stock, and we can see an aftermarket intake manifold, MSD ignition, and who knows what else. Check those numbers carefully.

Clearly we should be able to get this car for less than they are asking. That should cover the cost of the A/C. I get a kick out of really big muscle cars from time to time. This car should be relatively fast. Relative being a subjective term. Most people would think of this car as fast if they drove it. It should be able to smoke its rear tires plenty. But I bet this car would struggle to run low 15 seconds in the quarter mile. Plenty of new cars car run that fast. Be prepared for driving a pig with this one. Remember, this car is well over 4000 lbs.

I like it. The color is not my favorite, and I would prefer a black roof if I had a choice, but overall I am impressed. A true luxury muscle car. BTW... I don't know where they get the 190 produced. A quick check on the Internet found one reference said over 2400 SS 427 Impalas being produced in 1969. Maybe they are trying to go buy color or something silly.

Let's offer $11,000 and see what happens.

1965 Chevrolet Impala SS - $9,950

65_impala_ss_not_orig_1.jpg (38199 bytes)Description: 350-4 v8, stock power glide trans, power steering, buckets, console, rare factory gauge package including the vacuum gauge on the far side of the dash. Stock AM pushbutton radio, and am/fm/cd Sony under dash unit, stock rims and SS caps, dual exhaust. 

Value: $7,950 - $13,125 (+7.1%) 

Source: Collector Car Trader

Comments: If you find the original ad for this you will see a description about 5 or 6 times longer than what I put in above. Let's summarize it. This "was" a show car a long time ago, but it has seen better days. It looks like it could make a great daily driver. For us that means adding A/C, power disc brakes and a real transmission (Powerglides suck and are not reliable for daily driving).

There are a few things wrong with the car, but nothing jumps out at me that would scare me away. Price is the big problem here. The paint is supposed to be showing its age, but looks good in the pictures. We need to see it up close. If this car needs paint (or rust removal) then we should look elsewhere. If the paint is presentable then this car fits with our daily driver requirements. Now, the engine is not stock, so I would check carefully that this is a true SS. This car loses a lot of value if it is a fake. In fact, resale value without the original engine will not be good.

I like the big Chevys and this one looks nice enough. But I would try to get him down to $8,000 because of the non stock engine, non stock color (was blue), etc. Then we have enough money to clean up the interior, add air conditioning and while the car is apart getting a disc brake upgrade maybe we can put in an air suspension.

1966 Chevrolet Impala SS - $15,500

66_impala_ss_4speed_1.jpg (154117 bytes)Description: Real factory SS. Exterior paint finish in red complemented by the original all stock black vinyl interior. Matching numbers 327, 275 hp engine, 4-speed transmission, P/S, A/C (blows cold), bucket seats & console with rare factory gauge pkg. mounted in console. This car is in real nice, super clean condition. It runs excellent & has extensively been detailed to it's original condition both inside & out. The engine & trunk compartments have been restored to original. The interior is immaculate.

Value: $7,850 - $12,950 (+10.4%) 

Source: Brandon Classics

Comments: Here is one of those cars that is way overpriced. I assume from the long description (I shorted it considerably) that it does not have power brakes. But we can live with that. You know why this car is here. Yep, the 4 speed. Plus this has the high performance 327 which should make a nice match for that engine.

Another thing bothers me. The quality of the pictures. You know how important a good picture is too me. This car would never have made it in here on looks alone. But I can clearly see they took the pictures indoors with a flash. Not good for something as big as a car. They really should take it outside for the pictures or get better lighting inside.

Back to the price. Except for the 4 speed I can't see any reason this car should be price so high. If the condition matches its description and not the pictures I think I could be talked into spending in the $12-13K range, but there is now way I would go more than its worth. Sorry.

1964 Chevrolet Biscayne - $12,900

64_biscayne_1.jpg (121211 bytes)Description: Factory black car with red interior. Strong 1966 327 4bbl V8, Hurst shifted 4 speed, headers with full great sounding dual exhaust. Nicely chromed and detailed engine bay. Cragar street pro chrome wheels. Straight, rust free body. Excellent chrome and stainless. Immaculate custom red interior. Radio delete. This car runs and drives fantastic in town and on the freeway.

Value: Impala: $6,925 - $11,425 (+1.8%) 

Source: Memory Lane Motors

Comments: This is the car that most reminds me of the car I saw at the Street Machine Nationals event in 1984. It's weird that it did that. Also this car is one of the few big Chevys with a manual transmissions. Unfortunately it sold before I even had time to start this month's list. Darn. If this car was still for sale it is very likely it would have made the preferred status.

CPI doesn't list a Biscayne for 1964 in its price guide. So I used the Impala price. I don't know if there is a rarity thing going with the Biscayne, but in the early days the Biscayne was definitely a cheaper model than the Impala. A stripped car. Notice the radio delete. So the price range I state is probably a bit high for a Biscayne, but I am not an authority. Since this car sold already I don't have to worry. If I was getting ready to buy this car I would research further its value. For my commentary we will assume our usual... this car is overpriced.

Now, to drive a black car daily I have to have air conditioning. Also, this is a BIG car and really needs power steering and power brakes to be safe. So I have to budget at least $3,000 for those three items. That means the most I could pay for this car would be $12,000 to fit in our total $15K budget. I would want a little left over to cover possible repairs and do something about the radio delete option. So I would top out my offer at $11,000. Then I would start adding all the things I mentioned.

1965 Chevy Impala SS - $10,000

65_impala_327_4speed_black_1.jpg (45069 bytes)Description: 327, V8, four speed on the floor, power steering. Complete frame-off restoration. Some pictures of frame-off restoration, complete parts and assembly manual. Interior looks brand new. Looks great and runs great. Must see, hear and drive!! New paint job – not perfect. More pictures available upon request. 

Value: $7,950 - $13,125 (+7.1%) 

Source: Cars On Line

Comments: Wow, this looks like it could be the perfect Big Chevy project car. His asking price is about three grand below its top dollar value. He claims a frame off restoration, with a paint job that is not perfect. Sounds like the perfect daily driver. Of course we need to add air conditioning to this car... it is black on black and I live in South Central Texas. I love the big cars with four speeds.

So why isn't this car the preferred car. Simple. A picture is worth a thousand words. I didn't like the main picture of this car. However, I would be certainly willing to get the other pictures he is offering before making up my mind. Also, this car is in Pennsylvania so we have to be very careful about rust, which would be a complete show stopper.

1964 Chevrolet Impala SS - $11,900

64_impala_ss_6.jpg (59945 bytes)Description: 327 engine, 350 transmission, all standard car, CD player, new tires with Corvette Rally's, very nice.

Value: $10,875 - $16,850 (+1.0%) 

Source: Greene's Classic Cars

Comments: There is something about the look of this car in particular that gets me inspired. Shortly after I found this car on the Internet I saw an episode of Horsepower TV where they showed the installation of an air suspension on a gold 63 Impala. They not only showed how the system is installed, but also ran the 63 Impala through a slalom course to show how well it handled. I was impressed that this big old car could gain such an improvement in handling. In fact, it helped spur the idea for this month's selection of big Chevys. Well, that and the 69 SS 427 elsewhere on this page.

Knowing that a big old car like this could be made to handle well, if not up to sports car standards, opens my mind to getting one of these big beast.

This car has a nice look. I love that it already has a factory console and bucket seats. I am not thrilled with the gold on gold color combination, but I can live with it. This car already has the TH-350 transmission. That means it is not stock since the TH-350 came out in 1967. We should check the engine to see if it a numbers matching car. Now there is a bit of value in this car, assuming it is a real SS and the engine is original. For us, we would need to buy this car as a project car. It is an "all standard car." That means we need to add power steering, power disc brakes and air condition. Oh, yea, and that air suspension. I would offer $10K for this car and see what happens.

1964 Chevrolet Impala SS - $13,950

64_impala_ss_black_1.jpg (61901 bytes)Description: Super Sport 2dr hardtop, beautiful black over black, matching numbers 327ci V8, automatic, P/S, bucket seats & console, spinner wheels. Original California vehicle. Sharp!

Value: $10,875 - $16,850 (+1.0%) 

Source: Brockers Beautys

Comments: Now this car has the look. I like the black on black look of this long car. If the paint and bodywork are good and straight, this car should look awesome in person. The interior is very clean. There are speakers in the kick panels, so that would imply a stereo somewhere. The engine is clearly non-stock, though they say it is the original. That's good. I see a power brake booster, but I bet is has drum brakes. This car seems to be priced right about in the range it belongs. What a pleasant surprise. However, a black on black car in South Central Texas will not happen without air conditioning. So, I would need to offer them about $1,000 less than they are asking. I might be willing to go that high on this car if its condition warrants the price.

1967 Chevy Impala Convertible - $7000

67_impala_conv_1.jpg (30892 bytes)Description: Has a 327 that was rebuilt about 45,000 miles ago. Runs and looks great.

Value: $7,752 - $12,800 (+2.0%) 

Source: 1 in a Million Cars

Comments: This car looks too good to be true. The one picture is very nice looking. In fact, it almost looks like a stock photo. Unfortunately we can't get much from the description either. However, the picture inspires me enough that we should call. Here are a few important questions... even at the asking price. 1) Is it a power top? I won't buy another manual top convertible. Period! 2) Does it have any rust? At this price we have money left over for rust repair and paint, but I still want that to be as little as possible. Next would be the usual... does it have PS, PB, A/C? None of those really matter at this price, because we can add them. What transmission does it have? If it is a two speed Powerglide, most likely, then we will need to plan a replacement right away.

This car is a cruiser. With the small block it will not be fast. But it looks good. It would be interesting to see what kind of performance we could get out of a heavy metal car like this. Keep in mind that all the cars this month are big, heavy cars that will be difficult to get good performance from, so we can just cruise with this one. What we want here is a reliable cruiser that we can have fun driving on a near daily basis. This car fits that bill as well as any other this month.

The reason this car is not the preferred car this month is because of my first statement about it... it looks too good to be true. My guess is that this car has been on the site for a few years and it was never removed when it was sold. That's the only reason I can think of why a car that looks this good and priced this low would still be for sale. But a quick phone call should take care of any doubts.

1973 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 - $7,500

73_chevelle_ss_454_1.jpg (93912 bytes)Description: One of a kind 1973 Chevelle SS 454, 4 speed, 3.42 posi rear. One of less than 1700 built. 30k original miles. Last licensed in 1980! Over 24 years off the road. Numbers matching engine and transmission. Build sheet confirms rare LS4/M21 combination. Who says the end of the muscle car era was 1972? Non-air, no power, radio delete factory hotrod. Absolutely NO rust. New Imron paint and correct striping. Code 11 White exterior with new black vinyl swivel bucket interior. Less than 100 miles on complete engine rebuild. Completely and painstakingly returned to original condition - down to smog pump and air cleaner. Lots of NOS parts, too much to list.

Value: $6,125 - $10,100 (+12.8%) 

Source: Collector Car Trader

Comments: I know this is out in left field, it is not an old big Chevy. Then again... it is old, just not as old. It is big at over 4000 lbs. And it is a Chevy. I put this car in this month's mix because is doesn't fit in any neat category. Besides, this may be the only way I could afford a real SS 454 anything with a factory 4 speed. This car could be cool. O.K. So it will never look cool. So what. It has a numbers matching 454 and a 4 speed.

A lot of parts that can be used to beef up the handling of these overweight beasts are shared with other cars. It shouldn't be too hard to get decent performance out of this car. At the price we have plenty left over to finish the restoration, or get it in a condition to kick some import butt. Did I mention the 454 and 4 speed. It also has a nice 3.42:1 posi rear end.

I would ditch the smog pump he so painstakingly put in there, and remove any other pollution control items I could legally. This engine should wake up huge to some basic bolt-on speed parts. After all, it is a 454 and even has a 4 speed manual transmission. What's not to like. Look past the ugly styling and remember, it has a 454 and a 4 speed.

1965 Chevrolet Impala Convertible - $19,995

65_impala_conv_4speed_1.jpg (144624 bytes)Description: 327 V8, 4-speed manual, bucket seats, power top, AM radio, dual exhaust. Very clean running & driving vehicle. Nice straight body. Excellent paint & interior, good top.

Value: $8,575 - $14,150 (-0.4%) 

Source: Classic & Collectible Cars

Comments: This car is technically way overpriced. But it has to be rare with that 4 speed transmission. If we could get this car for what it is worth, around $14K, I would be all over it. It needs air conditioning, but at least is has a power top and white interior. And I LOVE 4 speeds in cars like this.

This car looks so good that I think I could live with it as is (once the A/C was installed) for a long time. I love it. I don't know what we can do about the price. Expecting someone to come down over 25% is a bit of a wish. But this is the only car this month that's value has actually dropped over the last two years. So we can easily argue against the investment issue... especially when they want more than it's worth.

We could track this car for a couple of months and see if it just sits there. That might provide the motivation to sell. Remember, we have our CPI guide that says this car is at its highest at $14K. Maybe it is on consignment. I definitely think it is worth calling about to get more pictures and make the low offer. What do we have to lose?

I put this car at the bottom of the list because of its asking price. I am trying my best to list cars that are under my $15K budget, but sometimes you just can't resist wishing.