Updated: Sep 15
Chevy's iconic muscle sedan has captivated this enthusiast for decades.
Chuck Barrett has a wild love for Chevrolet’s Impala, spanning decades. He was first introduced to the iconic sedan as a young boy growing up in Chicago. “My father’s friend had a red 1962 Super Sport,’ recalls Chuck, who still resides in the Windy City area. “It had the 300-horsepower, 327ci V8 with a 3-speed manual and manual brakes and steering. He’d give my family rides and I can vividly recall happily sliding around in the backseat as he powered through the gears.”
Buying the B-Body
Those high-revving memories stayed with Chuck, leading to a lifelong passion and the subsequent acquisition of numerous examples throughout the years.
One of those boulevard bruisers that ended up in the Barrett’s garage was a 1996 Impala Super Sport which Chuck and his wife Barb bought brand new. “We were well aware of this generation of the SS after their introduction in 1994 and both found them quite attractive,’ said Chuck. “When the announcement was made that 1996 would be their final year, we knew we had to act.”
In June of that year, the car-crazy couple headed to Jennings Chevrolet in Glenview, Illinois. There, they ordered a Dark Cherry Metallic example, paying $26,192 for the modern four-door muscle machine.
All three years of this iteration of Impala Super Sport were built at General Motors’ Arlington, Texas, assembly plant. Production started on February 14th, 1994, and ended on December 13, 1996.
The package was available in three paint colors in 1996: Black, Dark Gray-Green, and Dark Cherry. Inside, the sole interior upholstery color was gray leather with the cabin also being fitted with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and floor console. A new touch for 1996 was an analog gauge cluster, fitted with a 160-mph speedometer and tachometer.
Under the hood was a 5.7L LT1 V8 with SFI producing 260 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft of torque. The only transmission option was a four-speed automatic transmission.
The suspension was lowered 1½-inches and upgraded with stiffer coil springs, De Carbon shocks and 12.1-inch four-wheel ventilated disc brakes. A limited-slip rear differential with 3.08 gearing was standard.
On the outside, the cars received a monochromatic color scheme, complete with a body-colored grille. Other additions included 17x8.5-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels wrapped in P225/50ZR17 Z-rated tires, a rear decklid spoiler and bespoke badging on the D-pillar and rear fender.
An AM/FM stereo with cassette player and Speed-Compensated Volume was standard with an optional CD player being available.
Total by Color
Red, White and Vroom
“When I put the deposit in, Barb said I was white as snow – it was the most money I had ever spent for a car,’ laughs Chuck. Those emotions quickly turned to anxious excitement as they eagerly waited for their purchase to arrive.
That day came just after the Fourth of July, making for one raucous red, white, and blue holiday. “It was such a delight to finally see our car in person,’ gushed Chuck. “We were both so excited.”
They did opt for the heat-reflective windshield (costing $52.00). To help keep things secure, the couple made one aftermarket addition to the Chevy, adding an alarm system.
Seeing the U.S.A.
For the next couple of years, it was Barb who was regularly sliding behind the wheel, driving the big sedan to her marketing job on the north side of Chicago. “All her coworkers knew her because of what she drove,’ laughs Bob. “That certainly extended to the guys who considered her choice of wheels pretty exciting.”
One of the longest drives was a business trip to Dearborn, Michigan in the Spring of 1997. Barb had flown to the Motor City and was looking for an activity to entertain her clients. Bob reached out to Bob Eaton, a friend who was also the Chairman of Chrysler. The door was opened for the group to get a tour of the Dodge Viper assembly plant which caught the interest of Bob.
Wanting to participate, too, he drove their Impala over for the high-octane occasion. “That was a special memory being able to see firsthand with those one-of-a-kind sportscars were build’ recalls Chuck.
Part of the Herd
With a deep love for the Super Sport and a desire to connect with other like-minded enthusiasts, in 2010 Chuck joined the Herd car club. During its 25 years, the group focused exclusively on the 1994 through 1996 Impala SS with Chuck serving as President and editor of the SStampede – the club’s official printed publication.
They’re also active members of the Northern Illinois chapter of the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America with Bob regularly writing for the Heartbeat newsletter.
No Running Away
In addition to various club gatherings, Chuck is no stranger to car shows and cruise nights in the Chicagoland area. “Everywhere we go, everybody loves the car,’ said Chuck. “It has a way of appealing to everyone.”
Even with regular use (including Barb’s early days of commuting), the car’s mileage has been kept low. Today the odometer shows just over 27,000 miles. “There was a time when my interest faded and I didn’t think it was too, hot anymore,’ explains Chuck. "But then I get behind the wheel and realize this is a car I never want to get rid of.”