Wednesday, April 20, 2011

1959 Chevrolet Impala Convertible

"Ever wanted to design your own car? Chevrolet lets you come awfully close – with a choice of nine engines, five transmissions, two suspension systems, regular or Positraction rear axles, special cams, solid or hydraulic valve lifters, two air-conditioning systems, even Fuel Injection.You name it, chances are Chevy has it."

Chances are that you come across this beautiful Chevrolet Impala convertible when you visit the colonial city of Trinidad in central Cuba, as our pictured car is often rented for a parade cruise at marriages, quinces and the like. A quick look under the bonnet and a chat with its dueƱo impressed us: the original V-8 engine is still in its place, and overall the car is in a pretty original condition, thanks to the support of relatives from Miami.

When Chevrolet introduced its lineup for 1959, many were surprised: in a previously unequalled effort, Chevrolet had replaced its whole "new-for-1958" lineup already next year with an entirely new construction. Partly, this change was due to a strategy move at GM, towards increased cost-saving measures by raising the number of shared parts between the divisions even further. You can note it when you look at the front doors of a Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile or Pontiac: they all show the same, strangely rearward sloping shoulder line, because GMs bean-counters had dictated that all brands should share one door panel that was initially designed for the 1959 Buick. Another reason for the overhaul of the lineup was the awareness that GM styling desperately needed to regain ground which it had lost to Virgil Exner's spectacular "Forward Look" cars since the mid-50s. For a company like GM with a proud Harley Earl leading the styling department, the answer could only be: "All New All Over Again".

However, the 1959 Chevys were Harley Earl's swan song to retirement in late 1958. New styling chief Bill Mitchell should leave his mark already on the facelifted 1960 models: leaner and cleaner, their "Linear Look" led the way into the 60s. But for 1959, the Chevy still sported 50s excess with its flamboyant surfaces in best Harley Earl tradition and exaggerated details like the fake air intake nostrils on the bonnet or huge tailfins, now pointing outwards instead of upwards.

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