The Late Greats – A Guide to Full-Size 1958-70 Chevrolets
Chevrolets from the mid-1950s – the ’55, ’56, and ’57 models affectionately known as Tri-Fives – have undoubtedly earned their place in the classic car and hot rod history books. Game-changing designs combined with the introduction of the now-legendary small-block Chevy V8 have made the cars favorites of rodders, racers, cruisers, and restorers for decades. As popular as they are, however, another group of Chevy cars might be equally, or almost, as popular at Goodguys events these days. We’re talking about the Late Great Chevys, those full-size Bow-Ties from the post-Tri-Five era.
The “Late Great” designation was originally given by enthusiasts to 1958-64 full-size Chevys, but we’re expanding that scope a little for our discussion here and focusing on big Chevrolets produced from 1958 to 1970. These full-size cars lived up to their description at the time, especially when compared to their smaller siblings such as the Corvair, Chevy II, Chevelle, and eventually, the Camaro. They were great choices for families, businessmen and fleet service, with plenty of interior and trunk space and a comfortable ride. And they could be absolutely loaded up with the latest options and accessories, especially when the new Impala badge showed up in 1958.
Through 1957, the Bel Air was Chevy’s top dog and on the high end of the brand’s luxury and performance scale, but all good things must come to an end. When the Impala emblem, with its cross flags and leaping antelope showed up in 1958, the Bel Air was stepped down a notch. Impala was all about advanced styling, loads of options, a smooth ride and performance thanks to a new 348c.i. W-head engine that joined the 283c.i. small block on the V8 option list.
The Impala was joined by the Biscayne as the base model at the bottom of the food chain (with a one-year Del Ray model below it). But over the next decade, the Bel Air, Biscayne and Impala (later joined by the Caprice in 1965) made up the full-size Chevrolet line. The full-size platform evolved with changes every year or two resulting in a bunch of different body styles, options, and performance packages for enthusiasts to work with and enjoy today. The dozen-year span of cars have proven incredibly versatile when it comes hot rodding. Impalas are favorites of the lowriding community, muscle car fans love a stripped-down Biscayne with a big block, early years absolutely stand out in a crowd, and they all fit the entire family for long, comfortable cruises and road trips.
We took a look at what’s new for your late great Chevy and were pleased to find a robust offering of everything from door panels and floor pans to emblems and grilles. Take a look and reach out to any of these companies to help with your full-size Bow-Tie ride.
Thinking about a new fuel tank for your full-size Chevy? Tanks, Inc. has you covered with a heavy-duty fuel tank for each example from ’58 to ’70 models! The company’s latest addition, for ’69-’70 models, is ¾-inch deeper and 5-inches shorter than the stock tank and features internal baffles to support EFI systems (or carbs). They even offer their tanks with an internal fuel pump in sizes ranging from 109–450 LPH.
Each tank accepts a common five-bolt sending unit for the fuel gauge and is stamped from galvanized steel then powder coated silver for a clean, restored appearance. The fuel pump and sending unit are positioned in a recessed area at the front of the tank to ease connections while providing extra clearance. Chances are that your Biscayne, Bel Air, Caprice, or Impala is due for a fuel tank and Tanks has them all.
Full Size Cool
Classic full-size Chevys have a lot interior space with a lot of glass, so when it comes to keeping you and your occupants cool, turn to Vintage Air. The company’s SureFit systems use Vintage Air’s efficient Gen IV evaporator technology and are designed to bolt in place without any major modifications or custom fabrication. The model shown is for ’65-’66 Chevy B-bodies.
The Gen IV air conditioning system is Vintage Air’s most popular climate control system and employs exclusive fly-by-wire, fully electronic servo motors to eliminate a tangle of cables and vacuum connections while providing infinite blower fan speed adjustments. The SureFit kits include a bolt-in condenser, an integral drier bracket, safety switch, and hard lines, as well as a new electronic control panel with LED backlighting that fits OEM die cast bezels. There are different SureFit kits for cars with factory A/C and those without, so be sure to note which you have when ordering.
If you’re thinking about upgrading your late great Chevy to modern performance standards with electronic fuel injection, FiTech now offers a complete EFI swap package for ’61-’64 and ’65-’66 models. The new Total Package systems include a new fuel tank and pump, lines, and the company’s proven self-tuning TBI fuel injection technology all in one part number.
These new Total Package systems are based on FiTech’s Easy Street throttle body system that can support up to 600-horsepower. A direct-fit fuel tank is included and fitted with a high-pressure internal fuel pump and a set of steel braided hoses helps to complete the fuel delivery system, including a high-flow serviceable filter and AN-style fittings. Part Number 38009 is for ’61-’64 models while PN 38010 is for ’65-’66 Chevys. Expect to see more FiTech Total Package EFI kits coming soon.
The Super Sport is Born
The Super Sport option that is so desired on Chevelles, Novas, and Camaros was first introduced on the 1961 Impala. The package included Super Sport trim inside and out, a dash pad, 7,000-rpm tach mounted to the column, power brakes and steering, metallic brake linings, tri-blade spinners on full wheel covers, and a passenger grab handle on the dash. There were also five engine options ranging from the 305-horsepower 348 to the new 409c.i. 360-horsepower option. It’s estimated that less than 500 Super Sports were produced in ’61 due to the option being rolled out in the early summer, but come 1962 the trim package took off and found its way onto tens of thousands of Impalas in the years to come!
The steering effort and feel of these large vintage Chevys leave a lot to be desired by modern expectations. If you’re lucky, you may have a model with power assist, but that twitchy one-finger steering is likely worn out by now. And if you’re running manual steering, enjoy the bicep workout to park!
Borgeson Universal offers its Street & Performance quick-ratio steering box for ’65-’70 models that makes a huge change in the way your full-size cruiser drives. The all-new power steering box provides a quicker 12.7:1 ratio for a modern, more controlled steering action. The new unit, PN 800130, bolts directly into the stock location and fits to the original power steering pitman arm, though a new rag joint (PN 990012) will be required for installation.
By now, you can guarantee the rubber door seals of your classic Chevy are either brittle and baked or torn and missing. Either way, they are failing to keep wind noise, heat, and weather out of your interior. Steele Rubber Products has the solution with a full line of tight-fitting rubber seals like this 9-Piece Body Weatherstrip Kit for the ’62 Chevrolet Impala
The seals are crafted from 100-percent EPDM rubber for exceptional durability and UV protection, ensuring longevity and proper sealing for your full-size ride. Each piece is molded from the original design including fully molded ends for a precise fit and superior sealing. The 9-Piece Body Kit includes the Hardtop Roof Rail, Side Window Leading Edge, Trunk, Front Doors, and U Jamb Lock Pillar Filler. Manufactured in the USA, Steele Rubber Products stands behind its parts with a satisfaction guarantee.
Having a restored full-size early Chevy can be a fun reminder of the old days but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a few modern upgrades installed. There are now radials that look like stock bias ply tires, you can always install a hot cam or better clutch for improved performance, and when it comes to the charging system, Powermaster’s PowerGEN will give you vintage looks with the charging consistency of an alternator.
The PowerGEN looks exactly like a generator but with the efficient internals of a modern alternator. This means no more dimming headlamps at stoplights or drooping-charge gauges while sitting at an idle. The PowerGENs feature one-wire charging capabilities and bolt right into the factory brackets for an easy installation. Plus, they only weigh a fraction of what the factory generator weighs while producing 65 amps at idle with 90-plus amps at top rpm. In short, they look right and work right.
1967 Front Trim
Every year of the B-body Chevy has its own unique trim pieces, which can make it difficult to find the right parts to replace your tattered or missing pieces. The ’67 model is particularly difficult to find nice used pieces, which is why Classic Industries stepped up to produce a new grille complemented with headlight bezels, corner lamp trim, and new lenses!
The grilles are manufactured from quality stamped aluminum to exact factory dimensions for a great fit and original appearance. The grilles are available for the Bel Air, Biscayne, Caprice, and standard Impala as PN 3885962, or for those with a Super Sport, PN 3885962SS with black vertical grille bar accents. Kits are also available that include the grille, headlight bezels, corner lamp trim, and lenses so you can update the front of your classic ’67 all at once.
Are your dash lights out or missing a few gauges from the factory offering? Rather than have extra gauges hanging under the dash, why not update the entire instrument cluster with updated looks and performance? Dakota Digital has you covered with complete systems for ’58-’70 Chevy full size rides!
Dakota’s popular RTX gauge series combines the original styling theme of your dash with today’s technology, including a large message center that brings a wealth of information right in front of you, (and is perfect for late-model engine swaps). Their HDX lineup blends modern looks with advanced technology such as user-programmable backlighting and Bluetooth technology for simplified setup and programing. They also offer a VHX series which is available with a black or silver alloy face with blue, red, or white backlighting. Each series includes a limited lifetime warranty and they’re all built in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
They don’t call them full-size Chevys for nothing – these cars are long, wide, and heavy! One of the first upgrades an owner should consider is to the braking system. Original drums and a one-pot master cylinder are just not safe on today’s roads. Whether you’re looking to upgrade to big rotors and six-piston calipers, or an effective disc brake upgrade that fits behind your 15-inch wheels, check in with Wilwood.
Wilwood’s Dynalite forged aluminum four-piston calipers and 12.19-inch diameter rotors provide plenty of stopping power for a full-sized Chevy and fit nicely behind most 15-inch wheels. For lowered customs with 14-inch wheels, an 11-inch brake rotor kit is also available. These kits include forged aluminum dual bolt pattern hubs, proprietary brackets, performance brake pads, and premium hardware. Wilwood also offers dual port master cylinders (for manual or power brakes), proportioning valves, and everything else needed to upgrade your Impala’s brakes.
Innovation, engineering, and design were at full throttle through the era of late great Chevys. Not only in the design and aesthetics, but also under the hood. This 12-year run of full-size Chevys included a plethora of V8 engine options (along with a couple inline six designs). It’s safe to say that no era of cars has had so many different drivetrain options, here’s a few notables:
- The 348 ‘big block’ was introduced in 1958 and was available with a single carb (250hp) or three two-barrels to reach up to 280hp.
- The Rochester RamJet mechanical fuel injection system could be ordered with a 283c.i. V8 on ’58 and ’59 models.
- The big block wasn’t just for Corvettes and Chevelles; it also appeared in full-size Chevys starting in 1965 alongside the 409 as it phased out that year.
- Small blocks of nearly every configuration were used throughout the late great Chevy run, including displacements of 283, 305, 307, 327, 350 and even 400c.i.
- In 1970, a 454c.i. big block could be ordered in a full-size Chevy, though it was only rated at 345hp.
- Skipping ahead a few years, the ’94-’96 Impala SS was equipped with a reworked 5.7-liter LT1 from the Corvette.
- And a few years later, a 5.3-liter LS engine was available in the final years of the SS package from ’06 – ’09 in a front-wheel-drive configuration.
There is absolutely no benefit to having the original wiring in place on your classic Chevy – especially if you’ve been updating your ride with current-pulling amenities such as A/C, EFI, electric fans, and others. An updated wiring harness will route the electrons safely where they need to go with no splices, pinches, or brittle lines that can lead to problems.
For full size Chevys with the ignition mounted in the dash, Painless Performance recommends their Pro Series 25 Circuit kit, PN 10412. This harness features a grommet-style firewall pass through with the fuse block mounted inside the vehicle on or near the firewall. This harness has the extra circuits you’ll need for EFI, A/C, electric fans, and more, plus it uses LED ATC-bladed fuses get you away from the old hard-to-find glass fuses, and will light up if blown to make troubleshooting a painless task. To ease routing or custom panel mounts, Painless provides extra length wires which are pre-terminated.
Looking to get quicker steering action on your full-size Chevy, without completely changing the frame? Speedway Motors offers a rack-and-pinion steering upgrade kit for the early full-size Chevy X-frame models that will change the way your ’58-’64 drives and handles.
The kit includes a new power rack, mounting brackets, and hardware, a new power steering pump, intermediate shaft, and two U-joints. It is designed to work with the stock steering column and is available for small-block or big-block engines. Once installed, you’ll have a fresh steering feel with only three turns from lock-to-lock.
Looking for interior parts for your Impala? Hubbard’s Impala has you covered with interior restoration components and nearly anything else for your big Chevy. When you call with a question, you’re going to get an answer because they’ve been living and breathing Impalas since 1990, so they have the knowledge to help you get the job done right through their deep line of hard-to-find restoration products and even some NOS parts.
For the interior, Hubbard’s has a huge selection of door panels, seat covers, headliners, carpet, lenses, switches, and so much more. Not only do they offer complete door panels, but they also have the panel water shields, panel moldings and emblems, rails, boards – and in a variety of factory colors and trims. Whether you’re working on a Biscayne, Bel Air, Impala, or Caprice as a hardtop, post, four door, convertible, or wagon, be sure to look up Hubbard’s.
Windshield wipers are not something you tend to think about updating until you need them. Not only is it important to have nice quality wiper blades that can stroke away the rain, but a squeaky, slow wiper motor isn’t going to do you any good, either.
New Port Engineering has focused on wiper motor technology for years and their Clean Wipe Wiper Drive is a direct bolt-in for the stock one- or two-speed motor. The company’s proven and powerful two-speed motor is compact and mounts with a heavy duty bracket in the original mounts. A switch or an extension is available if you want to use the original knob and bezel. Wring is a breeze, and they also offer a remote washer pump kit, intermittent operation kit, and wiper arms and blades to complete the system.
Bags for B-Bodies
RideTech has long been a proponent of making big ol’ Chevys handle and look great with an ultra-low stance thanks to their proven air-suspension technology and components. This combination is available for all the late great Chevys but let’s take a look at the Complete Air Suspension System for the ’67-’70 models.
This kit is supplied with RideTech’s heavy-duty front upper and lower StrongArms that work with stock style spindles, front and rear MuscleBars to reduce body roll, front HQ Series Shockwaves, rear StrongArms with an Adjustable Panhard Bar, a rear CoolRide setup, and rear monotube HQ Series shocks. The benefit of buying a complete suspension kit is that RideTech has already done the R&D to put together a system that is designed to work together.
Rebuilding the front suspension of your late classic Chevy is important not only to achieve a smooth ride but also for safety reasons. Worn out ball joints, bushings and tie rod ends lead to sloppy and wobbly handling, premature tire wear and a possible part failure that could leave you stranded – it’s just not safe!
There are plenty of tubular control arms and performance parts available, but for many cruisers, a fresh rebuild of the OEM components will do the trick. Classic Performance Parts understands this and offers two different Front End Kits to rebuild your stock control arms – a rubber bushing kit and a Polyplus kit. The Polyplus kit features polyurethane components for improved durability and each kit is supplied with new upper and lower ball joints, inner and outer tie rod ends and sleeves, an idler arm, and control arm bushings.
The Last of the Super Sports
The Impala nameplate was originally retired in 1985, though the B-body platform continued in variations with the Caprice emblem. In 1994, the Impala SS was launched with a three-year run featuring a Corvette-based LT1 5.7-liter V8, only to be retired again before reappearing in 2000 with front wheel drive and V6 power. Noting the cult following of the ’94-’96 SS Impala package, Chevy brought back the SS badging in 2006 and offered the Impala with a 5.3-liter, 300-horsepower V8! For whatever reason, this version of the SS package floundered and was dropped in 2009. The Super Sport option ended, but the Impala soldiered on until production was officially halted in February 2020.
Finding a classic Chevy with a rock-solid floor has always been tough but these days it’s nearly impossible. If you find the perfect project, but the floor is like Swiss cheese, Eckler’s Classic Chevy is there to help with a complete stamped steel floor pan.
These floor pans reach from rocker to rocker and toe panel to the rear seat. Each pan, the ’61-’64 model is shown, is stamped from correct gauge steel to ensure rigidity with all the contours to match the originals. Note that the floor pan does not come with the inner rockers and braces, but those are items Ecklers Classic Chevy can help you with to finish the restoration of your full-size Chevy.
The music from the LA-based band The Doors continues to be played and heard by new generations, which is kind of the same goal for your classic Chevy doors – let them be opened for the next generation of car enthusiasts to explore and enjoy. But just like an old record, these doors can get beat up or rust out over the years so it may be time for new shells from Golden Star Auto Parts.
Golden Star, based in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area, offers completely new door shells that are manufactured from high-quality automotive steel and modeled directly from the original Chevrolet design. The doors are guaranteed to fit, and Golden Star offers many of the components needed to finish their installation such as new hinges,which they have available for the finishing touch.
Keep it Cool
Sure, driving a late great Chevy is cool but you have to make sure to keep your engine cool on those hot summer days,too. H&H Classic Parts specializes in full-size Chevy restoration parts and offers a full line of radiators, fan shrouds, correct-fitting hoses, and even electric fan assemblies, all designed to bolt into your GM B-body.
H&H has a complete line of Cold Case aluminum radiators designed specifically for your full-size Chevy. They’ve done the research to know what fits each model, such as this radiator with a driver’s side notch designed specifically for ’59-’63 models equipped with the popular 500 or605 power steering box. Each radiator is 100-percent TIG welded and features two oversized cooling rows with two 1- to 1.25-inch tubes per row for the most efficient cooling possible. Most radiators are also available with a dual electric fan shroud assembly to really keep those temps in check. And be sure to check the condition of your core support, too, because H&H has factory-correct models to replace any rusty pieces.
There’s just something cool about looking at the interior of a big Chevy only to find a stick shift poking up through the floor. If you have the itch to grab some gears in your Late Great Chevy, Silver Sport Transmissions is here to help with kits to convert an automatic, or update a four-speed to anew five- or six-speed trans.
These kits provide the right parts for your application to upgrade to a TREMEC TKX five-speed, or their Magnum six-speed gearbox. The TKX is a compact-housing transmission that requires no cutting and is capable of 7,500 rpm shifts while handling up to 600 lb-ft of torque. The trans is available with an rpm-dropping .81,.72, or .68 overdrive and is supplied with a shifter that fits in the factory position. A hydraulic clutch system is supplied along with a McLeod fly-wheel and clutch, a new crossmember, and everything needed to complete the swap.