1961 Impala: Bad To The Bone

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1961 Impala: Bad To The Bone

1961 Impala: Bad To The Bone. My interest in cars started when I was about 10 years old, back in 1957. My father was a body and fender man at a small Chevy/Olds/Cadillac dealership in Tama, Iowa. I’ve never gotten over the car thing!

I have had over 50 cars, most of which were Chevys. I still have a ’65 Chevelle and this ’61 bubbletop Impala. This car was one I had wanted for years, but I couldn’t find one that was affordable (that was any good).

1961 Impala
I went to a Mecum Auction in Dallas about five years ago, and there it was. It was beautiful. It was just what I liked and looked just like the day it was on the showroom floor. Only modifications to the car are the 454 motor and bigger wheels and tires. One reason I really like this particular car is because it was restored by a guy I knew out of Tennessee. I had bought a ’66 Chevelle that had been done by him years ago.

When I purchased the Impala that weekend at Mecum, I did not bring my car trailer because I had no intention of buying anything. I just went to look at the cars, which I do quite frequently. But low and behold, I got attached to it and was not going to leave without that bubbletop! So, I drove the car from Dallas to Boerne, Texas (almost 300 miles)– hoping for no rain or hail. I made it safe and sound and the car never missed a lick.

1961 Impala rear view
This car has won several Super Chevy shows and Super Nationals in Albuquerque, NM. It scored 986 points, Platinum award, modified restored at the 38th International Convention in Norman, Oklahoma this past July. This may not be the best car I’ve ever owned, but it sure gets more attention than any of the others I’ve had!

1961 Full-Size Chevrolet: Did You Know?

Of course, we all know what a “bubbletop” Chevy is, or do we? Google the term “Bubbletop Chevy” sometime and see what kind of results you get. About 678,000 or so of them, many with differing opinions! The best response we saw on a forum was this one: 1961 and ’62 Impala and Bel Air Sport Coupes were never called “bubbletops” until about 20 years after they were manufactured. Chevrolet never used that term and they were commonly referred to as an Impala or (Bel Air) Sport Coupe. 4-door models were not “bubbletops”, and were officially named “Sport Sedans”.

Chevy’s full-size line offered 7 different V8 options and one standard six-cylinder:

  • Hi-Thrift: 235 cubic-inch six-cylinder, 135 hp (standard equipment)
  • Economy Turbo-Fire V8: 283 cubic-inch, 170 hp
  • Super Turbo-Fire V8: 283 cubic-inch, 230 hp
  • Turbo-Thrust V8: 348 cubic-inch, 250 hp
  • Super Turbo-Thrust V8: 348 cubic-inch, 280 hp
  • Turbo-Thrust Special V8: 348 cubic-inch, 305 hp
  • Super Turbo-Thrust Special V8: 348 cubic-inch, 350 hp

Due to its late arrival in the 1961 model year, the 409 was not mentioned as an available engine option in the brochure intended for the dealership sales people. However, this was the first year the legendary 409 was offered, in a 360 hp version. Only 142 Chevrolets were equipped with the 409 for 1961.

1961 was the first year the Impala SS was available.

1961 Chevrolet color palatte

1961 Chevrolet color palatte

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  1. Great and accurate article on the ’61 SS! Although the piece did bring back not-so-pleasant memories of my moment of shear stupidity when I cannot believe I sold my very low mileage ’61 SS to the owner of a Chevrolet and Buick dealership in 1999 who was bugging me to buy the SS for his show room. The car was all original and perfect, right down to the SS spinner wheel covers and factory Sun tach and sending unit. It had the “Super Turbo-Thrust Special V8” (solid lifter, tri-power, 350 hp 348 ci) and of course, 4-speed and Positrac. I tripled my investment…but, no where near what that car is worth today. And, it was a really fun car to drive… Geez! I will be reliving my weak moment for weeks now!

    Factoid: The 1961 Chevrolet Impala SS was the first U.S. production automobile to come with the “new” one inch white wall tires.

    • Whoops! On closer look, the featured ’61 Impala is not an SS. I just simply got carried away when I noticed the correct appearing tachometer on the steering column…but, should have noticed the badging and missing SS passenger grab bar.

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