Car Feature: Throwback Impala SS

photos: the author/ video: Sam McConnell

The Owner’s Love for the Impala SS Goes Way Back

One car that’s always been a secret crush of your author, is the ’94-96 Impala SS. Looking sinister with its large body, monochromatic black paint and the rumble coming forom its dual pipes, it was the ultimate bad boy car. Throw in the then-popular LT1 powerplant and its booming aftermarket, and the Impala SS would capture the imagination from hip-hop stars to hot-rodders the world over.

In the last twenty years, the car has maintained something of a cult following but the performance world has moved on. Well, perhaps most it of. There are still plenty of us out there who have had a undying admiration for the car, and there are still shops willing to bring them up to speed. The owner in this case is Tony Elliot, and the shop in question is Hawks Motorsports.

As we all know, Hawks has made a name for themselves over the years in specializing in third- and fourth-generation Camaro and Firebird performance upgrades. They’ve since expanded into Corvette, CTS-V, G8 and basically anything LS powered. You’ve also noted quite a few LS swaps come out of their shop in recent years too, including the Impala SS you’re looking at on this page.

Owned by Tony Elliot, the blacked-out GM B-body looks subtle on the outside, but hides quite a few updates beneath its smooth black exterior. The updates come by way of default. As he tells us, the 65,000-mile LT1 started giving him problems and had become something of a nuisance until he found Hawks Motorsports in Easley, South Carolina.

Bruce of Hawks convinced him that if he sought power and reliability, a great bang-for-the-buck option was an LS-swap. Sourcing a donor drivetrain, ECU and harness from a 2006 GTO, the Impala SS is as reliable as can be. Naturally, being a Hawks build, they wouldn’t let a simple swap like that leave the shop otherwise untouched — they had to turn it up at least a little!

So before the car hit the pavement, the crew at Hawks slid in one of their own custom-grind camshafts for more rumble, more power and more torque — which is needed in such a heavy car. Uncorking the restrictive breathing included utilizing a K&N filter, intake tube and Hawks LS-swap headers. They’ve also bolted on an H-pipe, Magnaflow mufflers and 2.5-inch tubing from headers to tailpipe.

The fuel system needed some changes, too, especially due to the swap. Hawks turned to the stock LS2 injectors, a 255-lph Walbro pump, an Aeromotive regulator and 58-psi. for the fuel system keeps the right amount of 93-octane gets to the eight cylinders. The stock coil packs are still in place, but the OEM plug wires and spark plugs have been upgraded with parts from MSD and NGK, respectively.

Backing the LS2 is the same 4L65E that was behind all automatic-equipped ’05-06 GTOs, that sends its power through the OEM Impala driveshaft and into the original 10-bolt that spins the 3.73 gears. The power hits the pavement with a set of 22-inch IROC-Z style rollers, that are wrapped in sized in Toyo Extensa in 265/35/22 dimensions at all four corners.

The factory brakes are still in place, as is most of the suspension. The only notable changes underneath the car are a full set of KYB gas shocks and struts. Tony doesn’t really race the car — and he admits that its primary purpose is to daily drive it and take it on weekend cruises. Anything more than what’s already in place would be overkill in his case. As a result of that, he doesn’t have any quarter-mile times to boast — he’s just happy with his car.

Impalas are arguably on-point aesthetically, so other than the IROC wheels and the blacked-out taillights, this B-body is essentially stock appearing. It’s one of those cars that just have that particular look — they’re simply perfect as is. Very few cars have it, such as the GNX and the GMC Syclone, but the Impala SS from 1996 certainly does.

We couldn’t tell you if another full-sized Chevy sedan will have the same pop culture and hot rod status that these cars did, but one thing we do know, is that this one has left its mark.


  • CAR: 1996 Impala SS
  • OWNER: Tony Elliot
  • PISTONS: Stock
  • CAMSHAFT: Hawks Motorsports; custom-grind
  • CYLINDER HEADS: 243 castings
  • INDUCTION: K&N air filter, Stock intake manifold, stock 90mm throttle body, Stock MAF
  • IGNITION: Stock coil packs, MSD 8.5mm wires, NGK TR6 plugs
  • EXHAUST: Hawks stainless steel LS-swap long-tube headers and H-pipe, Mufflex 2.5-inch tubing and Magnaflow mufflers
  • FUEL DELIVERY: Stock injectors, 255-lph  Walbro pump, Aeromotive regulator, 58-psi
  • OILING: Stock pump, F-body pan
  • TUNING: Stock LS2 ECU; tuned by Hawks
  • TRANSMISSION: Stock; 4L65E
  • CONVERTER: Stock
  • REAREND: GM 10-bolt; 3.73 gears, stock axles
  • SUSPENSION: Stock; KYB shocks and struts
  • CHASSIS MODIFICATIONS: SLP driveshaft loop
  • BRAKES: Stock
  • WHEELS: IROC-Z replica wheels; 22-inch diameter
  • TIRES: Toyo Extensa (265/35/22, front and rear)
  • BEST 1/4-MILE ET: N/A

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