Although only in its second year of production, the new 1959 Impala surprisingly received a redesign. In a move to cut costs, the new Impala also shared body shells with some other GM cars, like the lower-end Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs. The roof line was 3 inches lower, and the body was 2 inches wider than the previous year. And talk about large, the tailfins on the ‘59 Impala were the largest ever placed on the model. In fact, at the time, the trunk area of the ’59 Impala was one of Chevrolets largest, capable of containing a whopping 32 cubic-feet of cargo. This year, the Impala was separated into its own model, and included a four-door hardtop, four-door sedan, two-door coupe, and convertible. The 1959 Impala production totaled approximately 473,000 units.
This year also saw the introduction of the El Camino. Although some think the 1959 El Camino was based on the Impala, in actuality, it was based on the Brookwood two-door station wagon.
Power for the Impala started with the base-offering inline six-cylinder engine. The Hi-Thrift six cylinder delivered 135 horsepower. The behemoth Impala was woefully underpowered with this engine. If you wanted a V8, the base engine was the 185 horsepower Turbo-Fire 283 cubic-inch engine with a two-barrel carburetor. But, there were variants of the 283 cubic-inch small-block that were available. One was the Super Turbo-Fire with a four-barrel carburetor that delivered 230 horsepower, and the fuel injected Ramjet gave buyers 250 horsepower.
Stepping up in size and power, meant ordering the 348 cubic-inch “big-block” engine. Opting for the big W-series engine meant you could make one of four choices. First was the 250 horsepower Turbo-Thrust that utilized a single four-barrel carburetor. Next on the propellant list was the 280 horsepower Super Turbo-Thrust with the iconic three, two-barrel carburetors. While the horsepower of the first two available “big-blocks” was not much greater than the small-block options, the increase in torque developed by the 348 cubic-inch engine is what made it a popular choice. The upper echelon of the 348 cubic-inch engine choices featured a Special Turbo-Thrust, and a Super Turbo-Thrust Special. These two engines featured 300 and 315 horsepower respectively. The Special Turbo-Thrust featured a compression ratio of 11.0:1 (up from 9.5:1), and a solid-lifter camshaft. The Super Turbo-Thrust Special also utilized an 11.0:1 compression ratio, solid-lifter camshaft, and added three two-barrel carburetors. Late in 1959, the Super Turbo-Thrust received a compression ratio increase to 11.25:1, which helped boost horsepower to 335.
In a 1958 issue of Mechanix Illustrated magazine, Tom McCahill noted that a four-door sports sedan powered by the 280 horsepower 348 cubic-inch engine and a Turboglide three-speed automatic transmission, showed a 0-60 mph time of 13.1 seconds.