Central Oklahoma Classic Chevy Club

The Dashboard A publication of the
Central Oklahoma Classic Chevy Club.
A not-for-profit corporation.
A chapter of Bow Tie Chevys
and Classic Chevy International.
March 1999

Chief exterior designer at Chevrolet speaks out.

General Motors

John Cafaro is the Chief Exterior Designer for the Chevrolet studio at GM's Design Center in Warren, Mich. A self-professed "car nut," Cafaro led the team that designed the next-generation Impala, as well as the current Chevrolet Corvette. Here Cafaro offers his thoughts on the evolution of the Chevrolet Impala and hints at the future styling direction of "America's most trusted brand."

What is your earliest memory of the Chevrolet Impala?
Cafaro: I grew up in a Baby-Boom suburb of New York. I have this picture in my head of my childhood street. It was Iined with all of these great GM cars of the '60s, and in particular I remember Impala rear ends sticking out between the houses. They were fixtures, they were everywhere. And they were objects of intense pride. An Impala in the driveway meant that you were doing alright.

Looking back, how do you remember those earlier Impala designs?
Cafaro:The'65 Impala was just so clean. It was sharp. Very fluid roofline. It had a nice stance, nice presence. It was a beautiful car. And it had the round taillights. You knew it was a Clievy. That was one of the great strengths of the lmpalas - and all of the Chevys of my childhood ... you knew they were part of a faimily.

What were your goals in designing this latest Impala?
Cafaro: The Impala nameplate has so much positive equity behind it, we wanted to build on that foundation. We knew we could do a flagship Chevy sedan and bring back the Impala name, but only if it had the right look, the right stance and the right performance. We infused a few design cues that are unmistakably Chevrolet - like round tail lamps and the chrome center bar in the grille. Both of which are executed boldly, as a matter of Chevy pride. In addition to that, Impala is a driver's car. It has a stiff structure and a stable ride. It was our job, visually, to tell the story of that stability. We've done that with a low and very wide stance, and by making the outside plane of the tires the outermost plane of the vehicle. Then we shaved the skin around that. Impala looks like it wants to be driven. Impala has a definite edge to it. It's gutty. You can see that in the front-end -- it has a kind of snarl to it.

Overall, we wanted to re-establish the Chevrolet sedan as an aspiration vehicle ... a car that represents a very smart purchase. And we wanted to recapture some of that swagger and that presence that were so characteristic of the Chevy sedans of my child-hood. I think we've succeeded.

What's unique about lmpala's interior?
Cafaro: We weren't after a four-passenger sedan. We really wanted the car, visually and physically, to tell you that you can get six people in there, comfortably. That's the key to our RoomFirst design approach. The instrument panel was designed with the right clearances to make sure there's plenty of legroom underneath. The back seat in particular was done in such a way that it emphasizes comfortable three-across seating. You can see that in the contours of the seats and the three well-defined "blisters" in the package shelf. That's visible from outside the vehicle, so there's never any mistaking that this car was meant to carry six people.

On the future of Chevrolet's family of sedans:
Cafaro: You're looking at the future in the new Impala. Impala is the new Chevy flagship. It's the first high-volume car to wear the new Chevrolet brand character and visual cues developed in the Chevrolet Brand Center. You're going to be seeing similar shapes - with greater consistency - not only in our cars, but our trucks as well. A little more attitude and slightly more aggressive.

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