"Full Size Chevy" is a term that's often mentioned by classic car enthusiasts, and it also appears throughout our Classic Industries web store and catalogs. However, the meaning of this term isn't always fully understood, especially by those who are new to working on classic cars, so we'd like to shed some light on it today. The short explanation is that it's a blanket identifier for Chevrolet's full-size passenger cars, including two-door, four-door, and wagon variants. This includes the Chevy Impala, Bel Air, Caprice, Biscayne, Delray, and several other models. It does not include the Chevy II / Nova, which was considered a compact or mid-size car.
In the broadest sense, the Full Size Chevy designation applies to a long list of vehicles dating back to the beginning of the company in the early 1900s. It also technically includes the 1955-57 150, 210, and Bel Air, but here at Classic Industries, we give those "Tri Five" models a separate catalog and product line. When we say Full Size Chevy, we use it to refer to 1958 through 1996 full-size Chevy passenger cars. Read on as we list a few of the most noteworthy examples that are included in.
Above: 1958 Impala two-door coupe
From 1958 to 1985, and again from 1994-96, the Chevy Impala was offered as a full-size rear-wheel-drive passenger car. When it was introduced in '58, it was the top-of-the-line model, with more features than even the luxurious Bel Air, which had been at the pinnacle of the lineup in '57. As with many great cars, the Impala's name and associated emblem were derived from the animal kingdom, specifically from a graceful African antelope of the same name.
In the first few decades of the Impala's production, the design changed dramatically with every passing year, making it quite easy to distinguish the brand-new model from its predecessors. Every one of these iterations was legendary in its own right, but the 1962, 1963, and 1964 Impalas might be the most famous of all. These three model years were embraced by gearheads across the entire spectrum, from hot rodders to lowriders. Super Sport (SS) models are especially desirable today.
The Impala name was discontinued in 1985, but made a resurgence in the performance-oriented 1994-1996 Impala SS. Chevrolet brought the name back yet again from 2000 through the present, but these modern Impalas no longer offer the classic combination of rear-wheel-drive and a V8 engine.
Chevrolet Bel Air
Above: 1966 Bel Air reference photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions
The Bel Air name was first introduced for the 1950 model year, and continued on into the 1955-57 Tri Five years. When someone refers to a "Chevy Bel Air" there's a good chance they're referring to the famous '55-57 years, at which time it was the top-of-the-line trim. However, the Bel Air moniker continued from 1958 all the way through 1975 as a mid-range trim level.
Above: 1967 Caprice two-door coupe
The original production run of this Full Size Chevy model spanned three decades, from 1966 through 1996. The Caprice name debuted in 1965 as a premium option package for the four-door Impala, but it became an official model in '66. Although the Impala had been the most prestigious Full Size model until that year, the Caprice took its place at the top of the range, featuring luxurious options such as Comfortron climate control and tilt/telescopic steering column. The Caprice later became known for its use as a patrol vehicle for police departments throughout the United States.
Above: 1959 Biscayne reference photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions
The 1958-72 Biscayne was Chevrolet's least expensive model in the Full-Size Chevy lineup, with the exception of the Delray (see below). This made it a popular car for families and businesspeople who needed practical, affordable transportation. Most Biscaynes were sold with economical inline-six or small-block V8 engines, but they could still be ordered with high-performance engines. This included the legendary 409ci V8 of the early '60s, although very few were built with this motor.
Above: 1958 Delray reference photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions
If the name Delray doesn't ring a bell, that's probably because it was much less common than the previous models we discussed. Chevrolet offered a Delray trim level from 1954-1957, but it became its own model for one year only in 1958. The 1958 Delray was the least expensive Full Size Chevy model that year, replacing the entry-level 1957 150 series. The Delray was discontinued at the end of the 1958 model year.
Other Full-Size Models
Above: This 1969 Kingswood was Chevrolet's mid-range station wagon at the time, and offered features comparable to the Impala.
Full-Size Chevy station wagons bore a variety of names over the years. Back in 1955, the Nomad was introduced as a two-door Tri Five wagon; this model would continue as a four-door wagon from 1958 through 1961. The Nomad was the top-of-the-line wagon. In 1958, the entry-level Yeoman wagon was introduced, along with the mid-range Brookwood. The Yeoman would be discontinued after one year, but the Brookwood continued from 1958 to 1961, and returned from 1969 through 1972. Other full-size wagon models included the Townsman (1955-57 and 1969-72), Parkwood (1959-61), Kingswood (1959-60 and 1969-72), and Kingswood Estate (1969-72).
Full Size Chevy VIN Decoder & Specifications
If you're interested in learning more about Full Size Chevy cars, refer to our blog articles below:
- 1958-80 Full Size Chevy VIN Decoder
- 1958-64 Full Size Chevy Specifications Guide
- 1965-69 Full Size Chevy Specifications Guide
Restoration Parts for Full Size Chevy Cars
Classic Industries offers a huge selection of parts and accessories for Full Size Chevy cars such as the Impala, Bel Air, Caprice, Biscayne, and Delray. Click the button below to get a free full-color Impala/Full Size restoration parts catalog.