1965 Chevrolet Impala SS -- Chevy 409
(Published in "Car and Driver", December 1964.)
Page 2 of 2

While the car was being made longer and wider, an inch was pared off the height, reducing it from 55.1 inches to 54.1 inches. This, coupled with the radically sloped roofline, led some of the staff to wonder whether or not rear vision might be impeded. A moment or two behind the wheel eliminated any such apprehensions. The view out back is wide and distortion-free, though rear quarter vision is obscured.

There are very few features on the 1965 Impala SS that could be described as significant innovations, but a bit of obvious evolution has come forth on the hood design to reduce the danger of a latch failure releasing this great expanse of metal into the airstream. By concealing the leading edge of the hood behind a lip of the grillwork, this sort of eventuality is all but eliminated and it's one of those things, like the Ford two-way key, that leads one to wonder why it hasn't been used for years.

Driving the 409 SS is not the startling experience one might expect. The 420 pounds-feet of torque are always in greater evidence than the 340 horsepower.
1965 Impala SS

Even within the rather limited scope of Chevrolet's venerable two-speed Powerglide unit, there were no low spots in the 409's performance and it accelerated smoothly from any speed. Our test car was equipped with the standard 3.31 rear axle, which is a lovely ratio for turnpikes and open road cruising, but won't break any records in the stoplight Grand Prix. Without punishing the transmission, and with two people in the car, the 409 SS ran an easy 16.4-second standing quarter mile and might have been persuaded into the mid-15 second zone by really trying. The whole trip was very subdued and there was very little impression of the big beast traveling over 90 mph at the end of the trap.

Handling is not exactly what you might expect from a massive 1965 car, but it is there. The well-located suspension gives a soft, relatively roll-free ride with the standard dose of understeer. This latter trait is probably exaggerated in the 409 version, due to the powerplant's considerable margin in weight over the standard 327. Nonetheless, the automobile is perfectly mannerly and the understeer is both predictable and controllable. Once the car has been thrust into a fast corner and its customary attitude of understeer has been established, it can be pointed by throttle adjustments in very satisfactory fashion. The car is nose-heavy enough so that too much power will cause the rear end to slew off line in what might be mistaken as oversteer. Chevrolet does have an RPO handling kit available for the car that includes heavier springs and shock absorbers and this may correct the situation.

1965 Impala Test Data

The brakes are inadequate for any sort of really serious motoring -- a charge that has been leveled at most mass market automobiles for the past 15 years. The Impala SS is capable of 130 mph and hauling it down from such velocities would take a great deal of fortitude and untold quantities of open road. For everyday use, the brakes are adequate, but don't ask too much from them the next time you descend a mountain. But that's all been said before. Let's hope that Chevrolet will see fit to equip at least the SS version with their new disc brakes in the near future. The 1965 Corvette features an outstanding example of the disc brake concept that would be perfectly suited to the full-size Chevrolet. With any of the engine options of 300 bhp or more, first-class braking is essential for the sort of high-speed driving of which the car is capable, and it will be a shame if the option isn't made available for all interested buyers.

What is germane about the 1965 409 SS is that it is no longer a poor man's Grand Prix or Oldsmobile Holiday. It is for all intents and purposes, the same sort of vehicle that they are, lacking only a few niceties that only additional dollars can provide. Chevrolet is literally marketing more car for the money this year (the base price of which varies only $1 from 1964) and this, coming from a colossus like General Motors that is under steady attack from some quarters for its supposedly heartless exploitation of the automotive market, can only be praised. The 409 SS is a good automobile, especially for the man who likes to run very fast on the big turnpikes. And with 41,000 miles of Interstate highways crisscrossing the United States, that can mean a lot of satisfying time behind the wheel.


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