Posted - 04/12/2007 : 1:25:51 PM
| A Spotter's Guide to 91-96 B-Bodies
by Garry T. Forman
Having been afflicted with the incurable disease of Impalaitise since 1994, I sometimes forget that new cases continue develop on a regular basis. While there is no known cure, knowledge is power, so understanding elements of the condition goes a long way in becoming comfortable living with Impalaitise.
My day job keeps me in an office in downtown Chicago, on North Michigan Ave., where I see hundreds of 91-96 Caprice taxi cabs every day. My most obvious symptom of Impalaitise is the need to check out each and every one that passes. While my friends are looking at beautiful women shopping on the avenue or power walking over lunch, I stare at dirty yellow and orange taxis. I can't help it, I'm sick! If you stare at enough cabs, spotting the difference between a 92 and a 93 becomes pretty easy and that is the point of this article. To the healthy, they all look the same. For those of us who have the disease, here is a spotter's guide to 91-96 Caprice and Impala cars.
The line starts in 1991, with a completely redesigned body on top of a chassis that was essentially unchanged from the previous line. At the time, most people were referring to the new cars as "Aero Caprices" or "The Bathtub" to distinguish them from the older "Boxies". The key styling element to look for in the early cars is the skirted rear wheel openings. Also at the rear, look for the C-Pillar to end in a sharp, triangle point. Inside the cabin, there was an incredibly wide, sweeping, analog speedometer. The section of the dash raised for instruments was correspondingly large and chunky; it is a dead giveaway when spotting older cars. Police issue 9C1 dashboards featured a digital speedometer & an analog tachometer, but the raised section is still large and chunky. There was one visual differences between 1991 and 1992, which might not be there if the car was repainted. The 91 model had the B-Pillars (between front & rear doors) black on all colors, while the 92 was painted body color. To truly tell the difference between 91 and 92 models you may need to look at the VIN# for the year code.
Chevrolet radiused the rear wheel openings, which most peoples opinion is the single most important styling change made to the line. The primary goal of the '91 redesign was to be as aerodynamic as possible and the skirted wheel openings were certainly better, but they made the car look like a bloated whale. Opening up the rear wheel wells made it look like a car again.
Chevrolet also changed the tail light lenses in '93. The early taillight lenses were smooth and have a blacked out region for each of the three bulbs; it almost looks like three separate lights. The '93 and later lenses have several horizontal ribs and are solid red in color. For 1993, the C-Pillar still retains the sharp triangle point and the instrument cluster in the dash is still enormous.
1994 marks the reintroduction of the Impala SS version of the Caprice and a turning point in styling. If radiusing the rear wheel openings was the most significant styling change, the next best change was to the C-Pillar on Impala SS models. Chevrolet still used the same sheetmetal as the 91-93 cars for both the Caprice & Impala, but needed a place to put the oval leaping impala emblem, so they came up with a small plastic piece that filled in the trailing triangle edge of the C-Pillar windows which significantly changed the styling by giving the rear quarter window a more rounded look. Also new for Impala SS cars was a much better looking grill that replaced the chrome Caprice grill was a body colored piece, split top to bottom with a single horizontal bar and a bow tie in the middle. Only Impala SS cars got the revised C-Pillar treatment and grill, but all 1994 cars had the instrument console and dash board updated. The new instrument console was digital and much more compact. The portion of the dash in front of the driver raised over the instrument cluster is much smaller and nicely rounded. Please note the mirrors on the 94 SS were mounted on the door as opposed to in the window of the later years.
While not really a styling change, 1994 was the first year for the LT1 engine in B-Body cars. All LT1 B-Body cars came equipped with dual exhausts, so if you see dual tips in the back, it is a 94 or later LT1 car. The "Baby LT-1" featured in most Caprices looks very similar, but featured a single exhaust.
In 1995, the sheet metal at the revised, so there was no longer a need for the plastic filler in rear quarter window. Also new for '95 were more aerodynamic outside mirrors. The old mirrors were pods mounted on stalks; a design that was unchanged since the mid-70's. The new mirrors flow out from the leading edge of the front windows and made rear visibility much better. That's it for 1995. Both caprices and Impalas got these changes.
The last year and arguably the best for Impala SS's. There were no changes to the Caprice, and no external changes to the Impala SS, but inside the Impala got its shifter moved off the steering column and into the center console. It also received a new instrument cluster with analog gauges and a large tachometer, very similar to the instrument cluster in Z-28 Camaros. With these final changes, the Impala SS was just about perfect!
In a long standing GM tradition, once the Tri-9 Impala SS was perfected, it was immediately discontinued. Given enough time, Chevrolet may once again introduce a performance Impala worthy of the "SS" designation. I personally don't see it ever happening on the current W-Body FWD Impala platform, even though I know they will be calling their front drivers "SS" with the 2004 model year. For now, I'll spend my time lusting after dirty and beaten taxis.
Copyright © 2000 Garry T. Forman & John P. Kelly