The Corvette Impala Is The Chevy Concept That Was Ahead Of Its Time

A Corvette Impala, you say? But those are two wildly different cars. Why would Chevrolet combine one of the world's greatest sports cars with ... that oversized land yacht? Curious minds want to know, so let's hop into our favorite time-traveling DeLorean for a trip back to January 19, 1956, when General Motors was holding its annual Motorama at the esteemed Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.

On the show floor was a metallic green car that vaguely looked like a Corvette, with its similarly-toothed chrome grille bar and sloping teardrop shape that flowed across the hood, over the hardtop, and down the quarter panels. This prototype was wider than a Corvette and had the extended body of a five-passenger sedan.

Before that public reveal in 1956, General Motors had been futzing around with the idea of merging these two car types. The Corvette, which had been in production for three years, was considered a roaring success and had already made a name for itself as a fast, quick and agile sports car. But the Motorama was the first time GM showed a vehicle with the Impala nameplate to the public.

Ironically, an Impala in the wild is a graceful antelope capable of jumping 10 feet into the air and leaping distances of 33 feet. But there was nothing elegant about GM's Impala. Spoiler alert: a full-sized car by that name wouldn't officially hit the road until 1958.

A graceful Corvette land yacht?

This fully road-ready Corvette Impala was known at Chevy as the XP-101, and it was on display to test what the car-buying public thought about taking a two-seat Corvette and turning it into a five-passenger sports car. While the Corvette had a wheelbase of 102 inches, the Impala hybrid had a 116.5-inch wheelbase. At 202 inches long, the Corvette Impala was about 34 inches longer than a standard Corvette, four inches wider, and two inches taller.

It sat on standard Chevy sedan chassis with an "independent front suspension and a live axle with leaf springs at the rear." It was powered by one of Corvette's 265 CID V8 engines with two-four-barrel carbs pushing out 225 horsepower. It was also equipped with a Powerglide two-speed automatic gearbox (via Mac's Motor City Garage). The Impala crossover, as with all Corvettes at the time, was made out of fiberglass and had a "tinted, wraparound windshield with a panoramic view" (via Chevy Hardcore).

A folding armrest (with map case) in the front seat allowed for three people to sit (if tightly), and while you could conceivably get three in the back, a fixed armrest (with power window switches) there would have made it rather uncomfortable. In addition, the car came with seatbelts, a feature that wasn't nationally mandated until 1968, and one other interesting feature: as the car sped up, the speedometer progressively lit up with more intense shades of red (via Chevy Hardcore).

Despite making a second appearance at Motorama and the Chicago Auto Show in 1957, GM never made the Corvette Impala. In fact, according to reports, whatever concept cars still existed were turned into scrap sometime that year (via Mac's Motor City Garage).