By on June 5, 2017

1966 Chevrolet Impala in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I have a lengthy history with a 1965 Chevrolet Impala sedan. So when I checked the online inventory of a local Denver self-service wrecking yard and saw a ’65 Impala sedan there, I headed right over. It turned out that someone had made a data-entry mistake while listing the inventory, and the car is a 1966 model. Still, it’s a very interesting Junkyard Find, so let’s take a closer look.

1966 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan cowl tag - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

According to the cowl tag, this car was built at the Van Nuys Assembly plant in Southern California (closed in 1992 due to slow Camaro/Firebird sales and not-so-great build quality). It’s a four-door V8 Sport Sedan (aka four-door hardtop) with Mist Blue paint, blue cloth interior, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, and air conditioning. The date code indicates this car and I were born in the same week of January 1966, which I think is cool.

1966 Chevrolet Impala in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

What engine is this? The base engine (which few Impala shoppers got; the six was for the cheapskates and their Biscaynes) was the 155 horsepower, 250-cubic-inch straight-six. This car has a small-block V8, which would have been a 283 (195 or 220 hp) or a 327 (275 hp). However, small-block Chevy engines get swapped so often that you’re unlikely to see an original one in a 49-year-old car, and I didn’t feel like getting filthy scraping off oily schmutz to get to the block casting numbers. There’s a 98-percent chance the car started life with a 283, and a 60-percent chance it now has a 305 or 350.

1966 Chevrolet Impala in Colorado wrecking yard, Powerglide shifter - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Powerglide transmission, with the good-ol’ PRNDL shift pattern. First gear in the Powerglide was pretty tall and off-the-line acceleration suffered as a result, but these transmissions were almost impossible to kill. Back when I made beer with custom labels, Powerglide Road Soda was one of my favorites.

1966 Chevrolet Impala in Colorado wrecking yard, radio - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

You’ll see CONELRAD frequencies marked on quite a few post-1963 car radios (1963 being the last model year that 640 and 1240 kHz had to be marked for Radio Armageddon), but Delco radios were CONELRAD-free by 1966.

1966 Chevrolet Impala in Colorado wrecking yard, clock - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

This yard charges just $4.99 for clocks, so I bought this one for my car-clock collection. It doesn’t work — this extreme-low-bidder component almost certainly crapped out while Nixon was still in the White House — but I know how to fix this style of GM timepiece.

1966 Chevrolet Impala in Colorado wrecking yard, hardtop windows open - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

My Impala was the stodgy four-door sedan with unsightly pillars, but this one is the devil-may-care hardtop. Sure, they leaked, but so what?

1966 Chevrolet Impala in Colorado wrecking yard, Bondo - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

There’s no lethal rust, but the thick layers of backyard-applied Bondo and the Earl Scheib-grade black paint job indicate a car that lived a low-coddling-level life. Mid-1960s full-sized Chevrolets are worth restoring, but even a hardtop sedan has much less collector value than any two-door; just about anyone looking for a ’66 Impala project would pass this one by for one that would be worth more when finished.

1966 Chevrolet Impala in Colorado wrecking yard, glovebox emblem - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Rare? Not at all. GM built 1,194,900 full-sized Chevrolets for the 1966 model year, of which 654,900 were Impalas. If we were looking at a really oddball ’66 big Chevy — say, a Biscayne two-door post with 396 engine and three-on-the-tree manual transmission — then we’d have a Junkyard Find almost as rare as an all-wheel-drive Ford Tempo.

1966 Chevrolet Impala in Colorado wrecking yard, interior - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

These cars really were superior machines, for their time and for their price, with very reliable running gear and more advanced suspensions than their Ford and Plymouth competitors. The base price for a V8 1966 Impala Sport Sedan was $2,852 (around $22,000 in 2017 dollars), versus $2,869 for the Galaxie 500 four-door hardtop and $2,825 for the Fury III four-door hardtop. I think the Galaxie was a better-looking car, and the Fury wasn’t far behind in that department, but the Chevy outsold both. (American Motors didn’t make a four-door hardtop Ambassador for 1966, so we’ll keep Kenosha out of this debate.)

Let’s watch a Mist Blue ’66 Impala Sport Sedan assemble itself, then get reverse-exploded.

This promotional film for the 1966 Chevrolet line features some good Impala stuff, but you’ll want to stay for the Turbo Titan III truck, complete with Astronaut Seating.

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36 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1966 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan...”


  • avatar
    CobraJet

    I remember these when new. I didn’t like them as well as the 65’s. Chevrolet made a mistake when they got away from the triple tail lamp design.

    • 0 avatar
      RobbiesRobot

      I completely agree with you. I was starting to think I was the only one left who remembered the triple tail lamps totally meant an Impala was in front on you. Chevy owned that design starting in 1958 then just let it fall by the wayside. I keep hoping someone will remember that the driver of that car with a pair of triple tail lamps is driving the best Chevy on the road. Stop passing the design up before no one remembers it.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    ….. If GM did anything right, it was the MY 65 and beyond full size sedans. Full perimeter frames, IFS coil over front suspension, coil spring rear, excellent A/C systems and the ability to check options packages for upgraded everything. brakes, trailer towing, a turbo 400 trans etc…. ( can’t remember if you could order a Turbo – Hydro in a Chev in 65′).

    Due the shortcomings of the small block Chevrolet, a 3 post Delta 88 with all the option boxs checked would have been the top choice is the GM line, IMO. Especially in the material and build quality department, Lansing just did a better job.

    Overseas compition was not even considered. However, Chryco did have the drivelines, but the body’s were junk. FoMoCo IMO were just not refined and bordered on crude when it came to suspensions, A/C etc….

    Caddy Daddy’s 2 cents.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      I agree concerning the Oldsmobile. My parents bought a new 64 Impala and my grandparents bought a new 64 Olds. The Olds had a much heaver frame and seemed more solid. My Uncle bought a new 64 Pontiac. I got to drive all three from time to time once I got my license. It was interesting to see how completely different they were. No badge engineering back then.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Even if I won the lottery and had an unlimited budget for restoring cars I would not buy an X frame GM vehicle (1959 to 1965) other than an Oldsmobile with their side braced X frame. Oldsmobile engineers took a look at the X frame and added side members to basically make it a conventional full perimeter frame with X bracing in the center.

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    Ah, this sparks a few memories on my mind. Did a frame off in the 90’s so I really appreciate the assembly add. My high school buddy bought a 66 from another guy when he got his first post out of the Naval Academy. When he finished his training in Pensacola he was shipped off to Honolulu. He asked if I wanted to buy it. It had an engine rebuild but was otherwise mostly a rust bucket. I decided to tear it apart for the experience and do all the work myself, make it road worthy but not get to hung up in the looks department. Had to do some frame welding and most of the floorpans, trunk floor, quarters, etc. pretty much brought it back from dead. Why, well, it was a 2 door hardtop, numbers matching SS. 396, turbo 400, buckets, center console with gauges, AM radio with rear reverberator, AC, power steering and brakes. Black with Red Interior. When I moved in the early 2000’s I sold it on to a guy that was going to have it properly redone by a resto shop. I assume it has since gone on to a good life.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Nice touch adding the Lorne Greene commercial. For a number of years, each Model Year, Chev introduced their cars on Bonanza. It was a big deal for us to watch that episode (usually the season premiere) to see all the new Chevs.

    For those who were too young or from other nations, Lorne was known as “the Voice of Doom” in Canada as during the early part of WWII he read off the casualty figures/names on CBC radio’s national broadcasts.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Seems that dashboard clocks of that era pretty much always failed sooner or later.
    Kudos for finding that TV ad! I tried several times and failed.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      They’re “three-minute spring” clocks, that use a spring and a set of breaker points, to wind the clock. So you hear a light clunk every time the thing winds. Eventually the points get so burned that they stop working.

      When I had my ’76 Vega GT, I had a couple of spare clocks, and I would swap them out, file the points, and keep them in a rotation. Nowadays there are rebuilders that convert these over to a quartz movement.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My teenage owned ’68 Firebird was a 350cid car from the factory had the Powerglide transmission. And the rare 160mph speedo. Weird combo.

    No surprise but it was a dog off the line.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    Not exactly sure, but when GM went to the 350 in 1967, the oil fill was moved to the valve cover, eliminating the tube on the intake by the water neck. But the older intake could have been swapped over to a later model engine. Have to appreciate the “swapablility” of Chevy engines, particularly small blocks.

  • avatar
    Panzer

    In 1969, I bought my 1st car, an unaltered 1966 Caprice sport coupe with a 396 (325 hp) and 3 sp. Turbo Hydromatic transmixer, bucket seats, with shifter and guages on the center console. Since I was only 18 yr. old, the Caprice certainly got a workout, but unfortunately it burned about as much oil as gas. Good thing my Dad was in the fuel business (he delivered fuel and oil to farms, etc.). After the allure of the 396 engine wore off, I soon got tired of the Caprice because it looked and sounded like an old man’s car (single exhaust, vinyl roof, non-fastback rear window, hubcaps, and pucky beige color). I kept it for 2 years and sold it to get a 1968 Camaro (a pile of junk), then I bought a new 1972 Vega GT (my only new car in my life), then followed that up with two 1966 Corvettes and a 1972 Corvette. The Vettes were my last Chevies until 5 years ago when I bought a 2003 Tahoe with 42,000 miles (now has only 68,000 miles at 14 yrs old).

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Looking at the oil filler tube with breather cap, the four-barrel manifold, and Chevrolet script valve covers, I think this is a 327, and probably original. Sure, someone could swap over the intake and the valve covers, but I don’t see many doing that for an Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      The badge on the front fender is the give away. No badge was the six. Small badge was the 283. I think there were distinct badges for the 327 and the 396.
      If my decades long distant memory serves me correctly, this is the 327 badge.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        My memory is the same as yours. When I was in high school, my family car was a ’66 with the 283 and, wonder of wonders, a 3-speed manual. Even with the 2-barrel, the 283 was a nice torque engine, great for wafting even if it lacked the high-rpm kick in the butt that the 4-bbl 327 delivered with the secondaries of the carb opened up.

        The build quality was abysmal. The car was delivered missing the rear main oil seal, among other things. Once that was fixed, I don’t recall there being any reliability problems; and I like driving the car.

        My father traded this car for a new Volvo 144S in 1970, when I was in college. That was a completely different experience. The two best parts about the Volvo were the seats and the 4-wheel disc brakes.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          To this day if you ask my father what his favorite engine is of all time you’ll get the answer “Chevy 283” – he doesn’t even have to think about the question.

      • 0 avatar
        roger628

        Usually, the 283 badge was a flag with no callout, except for early ’65 models. The 327 badge was the same with 327 numbers on the top. The big-block flag was a different style, and can be seen on the blue car in the commercial.

  • avatar
    bultaco

    This Impala was built at a time when American cars were second to none in styling, reliability, and quality. Even Mercedes-Benz didn’t make anything in 1966 that would carry 5 people in comfort while idling quietly in LA traffic on a 90-degree day with the A/C on. It’s really too bad that the US auto industry lost its way so badly in the 70s and 80s by trying to be Toyota or BMW, when they’d have been better off sticking with building sturdy, reliable and attractive cars that anyone with a job could afford.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      The US auto industry didn’t try to be anybody. Arrogance, greed, hostility between labor and management is what killed the US auto industry.

    • 0 avatar
      Panzer

      I think the American auto manufacturers lost their way in the 70s and 80s by producing vehicles with very poor styling, bad gas mileage, and poor quality control. It took the Japanese to come along in the mid 70s to force American manufacturers to do a better job. I had a 1976 Honda Accord that was vastly superior in every respect to a 1972 Vega GT and 1978 Olds Starfire that I owned. After buying the Honda, I swore off American cars for 20 years or more.

      • 0 avatar
        hawox

        yes european cars in the ’60 were generally much much more primitive than american ones, and much slower. most of them also had tarrible handling.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Mom & dad bought a 1966 Impala Sports Sedan in February, 1968 – just before McDonald’s released on us the Big Mac, at least in the St. Louis area.

    That car was an absolute beauty. Red w/black cloth & vinyl upholstery, 250 Powerglide – my favorite engine combo of all time, second to a 283, of course. Our car had an AM radio and power steering – that was it! Padded dash became standard that year.

    I took outstanding care of that ride for dad because he let me cruise all over the place in it on certain days until I bought my first heap.

    You mention that the hardtops leaked. Ours never did, and it was a wonderful car until rust ate it away and dad let it go while I was away in the service. I eventually used it as a trade in for a 1972 Nova the day Dad retired in Oct. 1973. I gave my parents a 1970 Duster bought right after I came home two months prior. They actually liked that car, too.

    The Impala in question, according to the flagged emblem was a 327 originally, unless they were changed.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    What a parts bonanza .
    .
    It looks like the bottoms of the rear 1/4’s were rusted out completely otherwise this thing was worth saving .
    .
    Notice the forklift damage on the right side ? @$$hats .
    .
    Another one bites the dust .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar

    Powerglide road soda! Hilarious!!!

    A Cape Cod neighbor has one of these in mint condition. He also has a ’48 Plymouth in very good condition.

  • avatar
    2manycars

    Now this is my idea of a real car. If you do a lot of driving maybe retrofit electronic ignition (easy/cheap upgrade) so you don’t have to deal with points and frequent plug changes. Also pretty easy to fit better brakes. No damned computers or sensors to deal with, just a nice V8 and a simple transmission driving the rear wheels. Maintain it and do most repairs with simple hand tools.

  • avatar

    My first car was a ’66 Impala SS (in name only). It has buckets seats and a console, but it also had a 283 with a 2bbl carb and a 2 speed Powerglide. Not fast, but not slow for the day either. My brother and I put an 8 track in above the console.

    Before it was handed down to me in my senior year in high school, my dad tried to drive it to NYC to drop me off at the airport for a summer in Israel but we couldn’t make it past Toledo without overheating. I had a plane to catch so he, my brother and I ended up driving through the night, 600 miles in my brother’s convertible ’65 Buick Special. It was June and hot, so the roof was down most of the way. The only time my hair has been dirtier has been when I’ve gotten ATF fluid in it while under a car.

  • avatar

    It is truly amazing how cars look that haven’t been bathed in salt consistently.

    Walking around San Francisco and LA was a feast of “older” cars that don’t exist in NY.

    • 0 avatar
      Panzer

      Last year, I was in Juneau, Alaska where it rains about every day. I was walking around town and happened to observe that hardly any of the vehicles had rust on them, even the older junkers setting on concrete blocks. About the only rust I observed was on sheet metal that had been damaged in a wreck. I presume no salt is used on the roads in Juneau, thus no rust.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would agree that the above 66 Impala had a 327. My parents 64 Impala wagon had the same identical badge on the front sides with a 327 4 barrel.

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    All due respect to the tri-five Chevys, but as far as I’m​ concerned, 1966 or thereabouts represented the zenith of American car manufacture. I grew up with these 65/66 full-size Impalas,etc. My Dad never had one, but it seemed like most other folks did. They were probably more ubiquitous than Camrys and Accords combined today, and as a cohort seemed to hang around, albeit as squeaking rusting hulks, well into my middle age.

  • avatar
    wildbill236

    C’mon…can’t believe nobody’s mentioned “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry”. That 1974 film made these 4 door ’66 Impalas cool! Every teen and car guru who’s seen the movie undoubtedly wished they were like Peter Fonda…rompin on that blue sport sedan!! It was definitely a 396 big block car, yet 327 flags show on the fender, remember they were a racing team and into “cubic money”. But man, does that thing haul a$$!!!… It is 2nd in line of my favorite car/car chase film…behind “Christine” of course. This car makes me sick seeing it at a salvage yard…oh well.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    How about the TV series Baretta, Robert Blake drove a light blue 1966 Impala hardtop similar to the one in this article.

  • avatar
    DEUSVULTbuddy

    Even though I prefer the 67′ impalas, the 66′ impalas have a great styling that was pretty much the epitome of the mid 60s. In fact, 60s American cars are very eye catching in every way possible, which is why people love them. This kind of style is missing in American brand cars nowadays.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Late seeing this post; it actually kills me as I had, between 1997 and 2004, a ’66 Impala SS convertible with a 396 engine and TH-400 transmission that I was very fond of.

    This engine is a L77 – 283 C.I., 220 HP; crossed flags with no numerals are a 283; 327 would have been numerically present above the flags. Also it’s a Rochester 4 BC intake manifold flange, low power 327’s had moved to the Quadrajet by ’66.


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