It was in July of 1955, when the design studio at Chevrolet brought together a group of ideas that became what was called a dream car, that would first appear at the 1956 GM Motorama. Incorporating elements from the Corvette (grille and grille surround for starters), the 1956 Corvette Impala was a five-passenger hardtop that lived a short life.
Known internally at Chevrolet as XP-101, the Corvette Impala was on display to gauge what consumers thought about a Corvette as a five-passenger sports car. Like all Corvettes, this car was constructed with fiberglass. The car featured a tinted, wraparound windshield with a panoramic view, that actually curved up and joined the pale blue-tinted, brushed stainless steel roof.
The rear window was a wraparound style, and beltline took a decisive dip near the reverse slant C-pillars. The Corvette Impala was 74.4 inches wide, 53.7 inches high, and 202 inches long, and featured a wheelbase that spanned 116.5 inches. Initially, the car’s color for a while was very close to Aegean Turquoise Metallic, a color which was an option on the 1958 Chevrolet cars, but there is a photo of the car at the 1957 Chicago Auto Show that shows the color of the car was changed to a bright blue.
The futuristic interior of the car saw an airfoil-shaped padded bar protruding from the steering column, angling upward and flattening into a horizontal plane. This padded bar spanned the width of the interior, and contained the various accessory controls and heater vents. Mounted in the center of the padded cowl was a recessed area housing the radio and clock. A true design idea that never really caught on, was the speed warning system that consisted of ten small light windows in the instrument panel. This system was designed to have each window light up progressively in brighter shades of red as predetermined road speeds were reached.
The upholstery was a brilliant combination of a silver-blue vinyl and nylon material with a crosshatch pattern. The front seat utilized a fold-down center armrest that housed a map case, and the rear seat passengers could make use of a fixed central armrest that contained the power window switches, courtesy light, and an ash tray. The car also saw the inclusion of seat belts and a sloping package tray as safety features. The car exuded style and the chrome-plated wire wheels with knock-offs made sure you noticed.
There isn’t much information about the engine, other than it was a 265 cubic-inch small-block drinking fuel from two four-barrel carburetors, and delivered 225 horsepower. Behind that was a Powerglide transmission.
The Corvette Impala never had a chance, as it was quickly scrapped after the 1957 Motorama. But, many design cues did help the car live on within following year Corvettes. Do you think that Chevrolet should have mass-produced the Impala? Could this have been a “better” Corvette?
Article courtesy of Chevy Hardcore, written by Randy Bolig.