1971-1976 CHEVROLET full size


The ultimate GM full size in Chevrolet sheet remained the best selling car line in the USA, after it had ceded this place to the Beetle in 1969 on a worldwide basis, but the late 1973 oil crisis gave way to smaller cars to earn this title in the US, though on a basis of body design the Chevrolet/GMC C-series pickup would hold this worldwide title through the 1970s.  The looks of the slab-sided Chevrolets were among the least attractive of the GM divisions, with wheel openings without the usual lips, possibly to ease the use of rear fender skirts at the Caprice, which were also available for the lesser series.  The bulging fenders around the wheel wells of the previous generation might also have played an important part.

At its presentation, GM emphasized the long hood/short deck look, that has come into vogue a year earlier with the Monte Carlo.  Though the wheelbase was stretched 2.5 inches, the overall length grew only 0.6 inch, the width actually shrunk, as did height and luggage space, indicating that the deck had been shortened, but the curb weight grew 3% due to a new safer double-panel roof.  The body was so designed that the shoulder room increased 2 inches, but hip room dwindled, except for the Sport Coupe at the rear.

As with the previous generations, there was a choice of two Impala 2-door hardtops, the ‘Sport Coupe’ and the ‘Custom Coupe’ with a more formal roof, but by 1974, after the share of the Sport Coupe had decreased to 4% of the full car line, it was given a more formal look as well.  At the same time the Custom Coupe (also used for the Caprice Classic) lost its hardtop status, though the door windows remained frameless and this body style became the only one for the 2-door by 1976.  In this last year, the 2-doors would only represent a quarter of the car line, while they earlier had come close to a third. 

People who wanted a hood ornament had to shop at an other GM division, or could make a step down and opt for the Malibu Classic.

The basic Biscayne series lasted for only two years in the USA, after its share was only 2% in 1972, and the Bel Air with a 4% share was renamed Impala S in the USA by 1976.  In the same year, north of the border, the continuing Biscayne ceded its basic status to the Bel Air, which was also available as a coupe, while south of the border, it was time to let the Caprice (with Cadillac status in Mexico) replace the Impala.  Venezuela would assemble the Impala only in the latter half of the run, succeeding on the Biscayne. 

The share of he regular Impala in the USA had fallen to slightly over half of the line in 1976, after it had been close to two-thirds earlier, all in favor of the Caprice which grew from under 15% in 1971 to 44% in 1976 (the Caprice would overtake the Impala the next year).  The Impala 4-door sedan however would remain the favorite choice (around one out of five), sharing this with the Custom Coupe and Sport Sedan in 1971, while the latter two saw their share declining to one out of ten in 1976.

Under the skin:

Except for the 1971 and 1972 Canadian Pontiac Laurentian, the Chevrolets were the only standard sized GM cars of this generation that from the start were available with a six-cylinder engine, but after the output had fallen to only 100 horsepower in 1973 due to emission regulations, its share fell to under 2 per thousand, resulting in its deletion for 1974, together with the option of the 3-speed manual transmission, ironically one month before the unexpected oil crisis.  By 1975, people had to opt for the (smaller) V6 Buick LeSabre for a six-cylinder full size GM car.

Mexico, still using leaded gasoline, installed the 190 (gross) hp 292 cid six with high compression and a larger stroke, and 45 hp stronger than the US 250 cid engine.  It even was available with a floor mounted lever for the 3-speed manual transmission in the coupe.  Among the full-size GM cars of this generation, Mexican Chevrolets were the only to have been available with a floor mounted lever (with separate seats), also for the V8 automatic. 

Power front disc brakes were standard from the start, but power steering was optional in the first year.  Radial tires were used from 1975, but not in the 1976 Impala S.  The 225 hp 454 cid engine in the 1976 models was the only one with dual exhausts among standard-sized GM cars, though with a single catalytic converter.





1971-1976 Pontiac Full Size

1971-1976 Oldsmobile Full Size

1971-1976 Buick Full Size


American Cars 1962-1977