Junkyard Find: 1966 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • DEUSVULTbuddy DEUSVULTbuddy on Jun 06, 2017

    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.

  • Rpol35 Rpol35 on Jun 22, 2017

    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.

  • Tassos Most people here who think it is a good idea have NO idea how much such a conversion costs. Hint: MORE than buying an entire new car.
  • Zipper69 Current radio ads blare "your local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer" and the facias read the same. Is the honeymoon with FIAT over now the 500 and big 500 have stopped selling?
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh hmmm get rid of the garbage engine in my chevy, and the garbage under class action lawsuit transmission? sounds good to me
  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):