“Demise of A Legend” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’
On Saturday, February 8, 2020, the last Impala rolled out of General Motors (GM) Hamtramck-Detroit assembly line. I won’t say that I was devastated to hear that, but I was certainly sad at the demise of a legend.
I first came to know Impala in the 1960s. I remember that the ’65 Impala was a dream car of all Indians. In fact, GM sold more than a million Impalas world-wide that year. It was a car of the Bollywood stars and a status symbol for the rest. Not many people know or may not remember that Impala was also assembled in Calcutta (now Kolkata) between 1961 and 1964. As a matter of fact, Impalas from the 1960s are still in circulation in India, showing up regularly at vintage car rallies.
I, as a young man in India dreamed of driving an Impala someday. So far, I have driven 6 Impalas including Generation IX that I own now. I remember at least 2 Bollywood songs dedicated to Impala. One being “Karon me Kar Impala,” meaning Impala is the best among all cars.
I also had the good fortune to work at the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan where Ed Cole, Chevrolet’s famous chief engineer in the late 1950s, introduced and defined the Impala as a “prestige car.” That was, of course, before my time. I personally worked on some of the manufacturing details of Impala and visited all its assembly lines in the US and Canada.
The lore of Impala was not limited to India alone. From 1958 through 1996, Impala sales were in excess of 13 million world-wide, more than any other full-size car in the history of the automobile. When it comes to popular cars in music, not many have the range that the Impala can claim. From rap songs to rock videos to one-hit-wonders, the Impala has been a staple for music videos for quite some time. I can count close to fifty Impala songs by various singers. Some of the most famous ones are, Kevin Connolly’s “Chevy Impala, Lolo Zouai’s song of the same name and Beastie Boys’, “So What Cha Want?”
Impala was the last symbol of the greatness of the American car companies when they were building cars that Americans wanted to buy. I don’t wish for a return to that time. On the contrary. I like much of what is happening with cars today and all the jazz, but I do hope that Impala will take another avatar in the future in the form of an EV and an autonomous car. Heroes get remembered but legends never die.