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Get That Lean Going: The Brutal Test Of The 1969 Chevrolet Impala 396!

Get That Lean Going: The Brutal Test Of The 1969 Chevrolet Impala 396!

Seeing how Car and Track skewered the 1974 Chevrolet Camaro Type LT during testing is one thing. The Camaro was at the end of any acceptable form of the Musclecar era, and had cowed into a soft, slow form of it’s former self, complete with railroad bars front and rear. Compared to what was on the street just four years prior, anyone who has even the slightest inkling for cars would’ve been disgusted…and that’s coming from someone who actually likes the 1974-77 Camaro’s looks. Honesty, especially in blunt form, was that man’s point of pride.

But in 1969, things were still good: big blocks were all the rage, horsepower numbers were just about to crest, and opera windows weren’t an issue whatsoever. Yet, when the testers at Car and Track got their hands on a 396 2bbl/Powerglide-equipped 1969 Impala coupe, well…it sucked. Loudly. Bud Lindemann had plenty of praises for what was good, but when he started off a feature by saying that Ford and Chrysler might be getting new buyers into their showrooms…well, that’s pretty damning. It rolls, it pitches, and it absolutely torments that front-left tire…if you squint, you might even see a spark or two off of the wheel! Nobody was ever going to look at a 1969 Impala and picture it as the pinnacle of handling and sporty driving, but seriously, when you’re about to scrape the rear-view mirror off of the door, there has to be a point where you call a spade a spade. What do you think…accurate or a bit over the top?

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7 thoughts on “Get That Lean Going: The Brutal Test Of The 1969 Chevrolet Impala 396!

  1. ratpatrol66

    It looks like the wheel is touching the ground in that first still picture. Talk about tire roll!!!

  2. Scott Liggett

    Where did they get the dumptruck 396 2 bbl? A lousy 265 HP? Yep, dumptruck engine. And a Powerglide? That is a turd even on paper. In ’69, a 350 with a 4 barrel would beat that slow poke.

    I own a ’70 Caprice with a 454 and a ton of options and it handles awful. But, it handles better than that wallowing drunken elephant.

  3. Bill Greenwood

    That’s interesting how under powered that thing was. I always thought that even 2 bbl big blocks had at least some power. I have an old Motor Trend with a four car comparo of a 70 LTD 429, 427 4 spd Impala, 383 Sport Fury, and a 401 Ambassador Coupe. Surprisingly, the 383 Fury was dead even with the shorter geared 427 Impala in the quarter mile, with a slightly better top speed. Neither of the other two were even close in performance numbers, though I believe the AMC was praised for it’s handling.
    On a related note, the parents of a buddy I grew up with owned a 69 Impala 2 dr with a 250/6 and 3 spd column shift. One night a deer jumped across the road in front of us and he hammered the brakes. Locked up all four, missed the deer, but that Chevy did a pirouette just like that car in the road test, on bare dry pavement.

  4. Loren

    I’m gonna add a late comment to this: I sincerely doubt that any OEM tire company would supply tires and supply/agree to pressure recommendations that would result in the kind of folding-over you see here from the left front, under any conditions. There is a comment that the testers don’t do adjustments -they test the car how it came- and it’s likely that tire was under-inflated for whatever reason and to make a good show (at GM’s expense) they simply went with it. Have a look at the consistent near-violent pulling to the left at hard braking, and the S-curve at 4:50 shows neutral handling steering left but then strong understeer turning right, immediately after. There aren’t many shots giving a clear view of the left tires (it’s almost avoided) but the ones that do (near the end) show a distinct difference in shape between the front and rear. The engine/trans combo would be one of the dog-iest choices of all available (and strangest, given the available and probably less-expensive 255- and 300 hp 350s). I grant them a pointed demonstration is made that F40 or 41 suspension should have been required with a BB…but most buyers who stepped up to the larger motor (and front disc brakes) probably did order it.

    Once in a long while you’ll come across a comment where automotive testers really did try to make a particular car look good, or bad, based on their mood, general feeling about the mfr., or it’s status as an advertiser. I think this guy was possibly tired of Corvettes, Camaros and Chevelles getting all the attention in those days and wanted to flog an old-lady Imp with the worst combo he could obtain and show everyone that in some cases Chevy wasn’t necessarily all-that.

    But, you-know, it’s not like Jeremy Clarkson admitting having test cars specifically modified to roll over or anything (insert slight chuckle here…)

  5. Lee

    The 396 2BBL engine was a one year only choice for 1969 in the Chevy Full Size cars. Along with it was also a one year only engine: 427/335 HP which was the next step up from the 396.

  6. Mike

    I actually owned one of these cars as a kid, was my parents old car. I disagree as to how much of a slug they state the car was, Agreed, that the acceleration was pretty lackluster, possibly due to the fact of the rear end gear ratio. I know mine had a set of 2:56 gears in the rear. Up on the highway this thing got some very good mileage. If you wanted to do a mile or longer run, catch me if you can – speedo would not go high enough – If my parents only knew back then,

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