Impala enthusiasts sad legendary car slashed from GM lineup
Detroit — Derrick Jones was driving on Interstate 75 on his way to Cedar Point in 1996 when he saw a new, dark-cherry Impala and instantly knew it was his dream car.
Two years later, he found one at a dealership for $24,500 and had to have it. Jones, a material handler for Chrysler, said he'll never sell it.
"It's been my baby ever since and she only comes out of the garage from May to October," said Jones, 56, of Roseville. "It was the last General Motors full body car. They don't make cars like this anymore. It's solid, safe ... room to zoom as they say."
Last week, GM announced it would slash six four-door cars from its lineup following the automaker's decision to idle three assembly plants and two transmission plants to save $6 billion by 2020.
The Buick LaCrosse; Cruze and Volt; Cadillac CT6 and XTS; and the legendary Chevrolet Impala no longer will be produced when GM's Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, Lordstown Complex and Oshawa Assembly plants go dark next year.
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Debuting in 1958, the Chevy Impala was Chevy’s most expensive passenger model and was one of the best selling cars in the United States. It introduced the Impala SS (Super Sport) in 1961. It went unseen for almost seven years after producing the sixth generation in 1985, but was resurrected by GM designer Jon Moss as a concept car in the 1993 Detroit Auto Show, according to Complex.
The Impala grew more popular when it was used for taxis and as police cruisers and was named the best-selling single nameplate in history with well over 1 million Impalas sold in 1965, according to Motortrend.
After a short hiatus after 1996, the Impala was reintroduced as a 2000 model, production on the model has been planned to end on June 1, 2019.
The Impala recently entered its 10th generation of production, becoming the sedan of choice for countless families, including many in Metro Detroit, over its five-decade-long run.
Jones and Daniel Gersch are members of the Michigan Impala SS Legends club. The two became friends during club meet-ups 15 years ago.
Gersch of St. Clair Shores built his 1984 Impala with his father in the early 1990s and by 2002, he'd spent $15,000 on a 1996 Impala.
"When I got hired at Ford in 2002, I could finally afford it and it's something I've always wanted and it's been my baby," said Gersch, 41. "It has never seen snow and barely any rain. I was offered $20,000 in front of my wife, and I want a Mustang Convertible very bad ... So it wasn’t easy, but I realized I can buy a Mustang any day of the week, I don’t even want to try finding another 1996 Impala."
His uncles, Richard and Robert Lisiecki, have worked at the Hamtramck plant for 42 years, alongside all of Robert's children. Gersch said news of the impending plant shutdown devastated the family.
"Losing the Impala is heartbreaking and such a shame, but we'd rather lose that than lose GM," Gersch said. "It's breaking the family apart and they all have to look for work elsewhere."
Gersch has taken his metallic Impala cross-country to compete in autocross, and road and drag races through Impala SS Clubs of America.
"The furthest I've taken it was Atlanta to race it. On a closed track with an ambulance, I got it to 137 mph in Charlotte, North Carolina," he said. "But it's not made for that; more of a short runner and autocrossing we often do in Livonia."
Antonio Clegg from East Pointe has won multiple awards for his 1996 Impala SS that he found at an Ohio dealership in 2007 and purchased as a wedding present to his wife, current GM executive Cathy Clegg. He paid $13,000 for the car then and after fixing it up to car-show condition, he now has it valued at $25,000, he said.
"For me, it was more my dream car, the car you see in the movies ... a more urban car that showed you had a good job and were really cool," said Clegg, 48. "On a good weekend, we take it to car shows. Right now I'm getting the trunk redone and installing a new sound system so I can attend the Chicago Midwest Mayhem competition next year.
"I'm disappointed and it's very sad if you follow it's long history," he added. "My son is only 4 now, but he already wants it."
Antonio Yelder from Detroit bought his 2018 Chevrolet Impala Premiere V6 in May and said he likes to stand out from the multiple Dodge Chargers and Challengers he sees along the streets.
"It is stylish, nice curves, and is a modern-day Impala," said Yelder, 35. "I paid $41,000 for my car and I always get compliments."
He considered the Dodge Charger that offers a small V8 Hemi option starting around $38,000, but considering he is a truck driver, he said: "I do not need anything that will possibly get me any tickets."
"In my opinion, if GM updates the Impala to the next generation, they will be back in the game. They continuously update the Malibu, which in my opinion is a ladies car, why not the Impala?" Yelder said. "Bring back the rear wheel drive and or give it a V8 option. Market it your product right ... and you'll have a hit. I love sedans, and i would love to see and purchase a new model Impala.
"Don't drive us (the consumers) to the other brands (like) Dodge, Toyota, Mazda," he said."