51K Original Miles? 1972 Chevrolet Impala

Fresh off covering a fourth-gen 1970 Chevrolet Impala, now it’s time to review its successor, the fifth generation (’71-’76) in the form of a 1972 Impala Custom – the changes were significant! Considered by the seller to be a “mostly original survivor“, this 51K miles example is located in Tucson, Arizona and is available, here on craigslist for $18,500, OBO. A tip of the hat goes to Scott Z for this discovery!

The fifth-gen Impala, at least through ’72, came with the same six configurations as the last of the fourth-gen did, specifically a two-door Custom, Sports Coupe, and convertible, and then a four-door sedan, hardtop, and station wagon, still known as the Kingswood. The big change, however, was in dimensions with the fifth-gen picking up 200 lbs. (more after the federal bumper mandate was activated in ’73), about three inches in length, two and a half of that stretch in the wheelbase.  Beyond that, there were notable suspension improvements incorporated and a more “Cadillacesque” image bestowed upon the sheet metal. Production was robust with about 597K Impalas of all stripes rolling off of Chevrolet’s many assembly lines that year. As for overall standing, domestically speaking, Chevrolet regained its number-one production position from Ford with 2.4M units of output.

Powering this Custom is a 170 net HP, 400 CI small-block V8 engine (not to be confused with the 402 CI big-block Mark IV motor). The seller states that it makes the hook-up via a Turbo-Hydramatic 400, three-speed automatic transmission but I question that assertion. A Turbo 350 should be the correct transmission for the small-block motor whereas the T-400 would have been employed with the 402 or 454 engine – and it’s not a quick or easy swap as the cross member would need to be relocated, the wiring harness altered for the inclusion for the 400’s kick-down switch, and the driveshaft shortened. An image would need to be provided to know with certainty. Anyway…the seller claims, “Runs and Drives Great!!” and then further adds, “This Vehicle was driven to Connecticut a couple of years ago and made it back in one piece, really reliable, could be a daily driver“. A more recent progress report would be appreciated but I get the gist of what he means.

What would the ’70s have been if we didn’t have brown and gold exterior hues, in this case, what appears to be Placer Gold? This Chevy has been repainted and the vinyl top replaced (so I’d nix that survivor description) but it presents beautifully – until you get to the trunk lid, I don’t know what happened there, it looks like bad clearcoat deterioration and that little matter is completely glossed over. Unlike the fourth-gen cars, these fifth-gen members had less of a tendency to rust – I’m not certain why, better steel coating and cowl drainage perhaps? Whatever the reason, this Impala is clean – all of it, the stainless, chrome, and glass – no problems noted. The seller states that he can make an underside video available and it would be worth reviewing (and it would answer that transmission question too). Fender skirts? A matter of preference but I’d likely ditch them.

Bet you’d like to know what the interior looks like, right? So would I but all I have is this image of the speedo attesting to the mileage claim. There’s also one of the HVAC controls and the Delco AM-only radio but that’s it. The standard fare in ’72 was a cloth and vinyl mash-up with all vinyl as an option. The seller states, “interior is clean but there are small blemishes“. Hmmm, suspicious, I’d prefer a look-see and make the determination as to what constitutes “small blemishes”.

OK, so final thoughts? The rear deck’s condition is surprising, even more so that it’s not referenced (though I appreciate the picture) so I’d definitely want to see the underside and the interior. Price? It has an OBO component to it and that’s good, $18,500 is too high for what this car is, 51K miles or not. Fifth-gen full-sizers are nowhere near as popular as fourth-gens (’65-’70), which are further outstripped by third-gens (’61-’64). That’s my two cents, what’s yours?


  1. Stevieg Member

    I disagree with the statement that the 4th generation rusted worse than these. I had a few of these that strongly resembled Swiss cheese when I had them and I never seen a ’65-70 that rusted that bad.
    This is a beauty. I wonder how bad the interior is. I know what happens to them down in Tucson.

    Like 1
    • BONE

      69 and 70s were the ones that rusted horribly , at least here in CT

      Like 2
    • Bob C.

      I had a 73 coupe like this that resembled Swiss cheese. I paid $300 for it in 1982. I know it came from Buffalo, NY, so I assume it was a swimmer. Rusty, but ran like a top.

  2. Tort Member

    Overall I purchased somewhere between twelve to fifteen new cars throughout the years and the worst ever was a 72 Impala and the only difference mine was bronze in color. Asked myself many times why did I trade in a perfectly good running 70 Chevelle for this pile of junk.

    Like 3
  3. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    I had a 1973 Caprice Estate Wagon with those huge bumpers, but, I have always liked the styling of the ’72 front end. The one thing I would change is put a split bumper on it, open up that grill like the 1970 Camaro. Give it that shark mouth coming for your rear-end! LOL

    Like 4
  4. David

    The skirts somehow blend with pacer gold. I always liked the generation, but all these questions and 18k??? I bet if this is what you want, there are finer examples for the asking price.

    Like 6
  5. Davey Boy

    My mom had the 4 door version of this exact car and being the one who pulled the 400 small block and the t400 trans for my elCamino I know hers came with the t400. Don’t know if it’s because it was a 4 door that gave it that trans but it definitely was the t400. New cam and lifters, aluminum heads and intake, Holley carb and that motor motered. Waka Waka.

    Like 3
  6. Frank M

    This looks just like the one I traded in at Jim Click Ford in Tucson, back in 1979. It had 125,000 miles but the speedo said 25,000. I wonder…

  7. Keith D.

    I like the skirts, which gives this Impala a conversation piece when someone says “Nice Caprice” In all my years I’ve not seen an Impala with skirts. Except a neighbor when I was a little kid. He had 71-73 Blue Impala coupe, with no skirts then all of all sudden I would say after two years he pops up in the parking lot with skirts on his Impala. He didn’t buy another Impala, I didn’t know the term “skirts” at the time I just called them “wheel covers” and I asked Mr. Walton where did you get the wheel covers and he replied “I always had them, I kept them in my trunk” So I suppose it was a factory addition or a requested order from the buying customer. Clean car Nice.

    Like 1
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      You got me wondering so I looked around a bit. The skirts were known as option RPO T58, and since there is an option number, they would have been available on models besides the Caprice where they were standard equipment.


      Like 2
      • Keith D.

        Great informative content you provided. Glad I had you wondering Thanks Jim O!

  8. RobA

    If only this was a 4 door hardtop. The 2 door cars just don’t have the looks, in my opinion.

    1971-72 are probably the best looking Impalas ever.

    Like 3
  9. Cary S

    My Dad had a 72 Impala 4 doors white top blue bottom . 350 under the hood was one of the best cars he ever owned and all 3 of his kids had no problem fitting in that big back seat.

    Like 1

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