1962 Chevrolet – Ascends to Power with Formula 409

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1962 Chevrolet – Ascends to Power with Formula 409

by Tom Shaw, photography by Colin Date

Chevrolet in previous years was different things – reliable if stodgy transportation, two-tone dreamboat, far-out finned ’50s favorite– but it was about to reinvent itself again.

62-Impala
All the individual pieces– new body style, powerful new engine, and a high-profile package to put it in– had been crafted previously. But ’62 was a breakthrough year. For ’62, those pieces gelled and began to have the impact the designers had hoped for.

An annual facelift gave the ’62 an updated look with cleaner, smoother sides and rear end– a look that previewed the styles of the next two years. Every year’s styling has a certain appeal, but ’62 seemed to hit a sweet spot, helping drive a sales spike that put Chevrolet at over two million in sales, a giant jump from 1961’s 1.3 million production volume. That put Chevrolet way out front in the sales race, far ahead of rival Ford that outsold Chevrolet in ’61 by a whisker. Ford’s ’62 sales volume of 1.4 million was more than 25% less compared to Chevrolet.

62-Impala-rear-view
Besides the attractive restyle, Chevrolet addressed the powertrain too, and the flow of new, larger and more powerful engines continued. The basic 235 six-cylinder continued unchanged as the base engine, and a 283 2-bbl remained as the entry-level V8 rated at a mild 170 hp. But a new member of the small-block engine family was appearing as an option in the full-size lines– the 327.

409-engineThe 327 small-block added bore, stroke and compression to boost power output to 250; 80 more than the 283. That kind of power was the exclusive territory of the 348 just a year earlier. A second 327 (Turbo-Fire Large 4V) took things even farther, with an output of 300 hp. No wonder the 327 was an instant hit. Development wasn’t just limited to the small-block. Good things were also taking place on the big-block.

Top horsepower for the 409 was now up to 409 for the 8V version with dual Carter carbs. A second version with a single 4-barrel was rated at 380 hp. So the two tamest engines stayed that way, but everything else was getting a lot hotter. Again and again, the market has proven that more power translates to more sales.

With Chevrolet leading the way, the industry was moving into a period where power was the prime directive. Gas was cheap and plentiful, and buyers like plenty of power for passing, towing, for bragging and prestige, and for running more and more power accessories.

Because the W-engine series had flat cylinder heads, the combustion chambers were completely within the cylinders. That made the engine respond oddly to cam changes. With the exploding popularity of NHRA and NASCAR, engineers knew its potential as a performance engine sufficient for the coming years was limited. A new one was on the drawing board. The 409 would soldier on for a couple more years, making even more power, but for ’62, it would carry the torch high and show the way.

Funny thing about the ’62 Super Sport – you could get any engine, from the burly 409 hp 409 right down to the grocery-getting 235 6-banger. That would change soon enough, but for now, the Super Sport could be ordered with engines of varying degrees of Super.

Big changes were on the way. But ’62 would go down as a great year for Chevrolet and for Chevrolet’s performance leadership.

1962 Chevrolet Essential Specifications
Dimensions (inches)

Overall Length 209.6
Width 79.0
Height 56.0
Wheelbase 119.0
Track, Front/Rear 60.3/59.3

Engines
HP @ RPM
235 I-6 135 @ 4000 (Hi-Thrift 1V)

283 V8 170 @ 4200 (Turbo-Fire 2V)

327 V8 250 @ 4400 (Turbo-Fire 4V)
300 @ 5000 (Turbo-Fire Large 4V)

409 V8 380 @ 5800 (4V Turbo-Fire)
409 @ 6000 (Two 4-bbl Turbo-Fire)

Passenger Car and Station Wagon Models
Biscayne
Bel Air
Impala
Station wagon-specific names Brookwood, Parkwood, Kingswood, and Nomad were discontinued and wagons were incorporated into the passenger car lines.

Assembly Plants
Atlanta, GA
Baltimore, MD
Flint, MI
Janesville, WI
Kansas City, MO
Los Angeles, CA
Norwood, OH
Oakland, CA
St. Louis, MO
Tarrytown, NY

Check out this commercial for the 1962 Chevrolet

“409” by the Beach Boys, 1962
She’s real fine my 409
She’s real fine my 409
My 409

Well I saved my pennies and I saved my dimes
(giddy up giddy up 409)
For I knew there would be a time
(giddy up giddy up 409)
When I would buy a brand new 409
(409, 409)
Giddy up giddy up giddy up 409
(giddy up giddy up 409)
Giddy up 409
(giddy up giddy up 409)
Giddy up 409
(giddy up giddy up 409)
Giddy up 40…

Nothing can catch her
Nothing can touch my 409
409 ooooo
(giddy up giddy up oooo)
(giddy up giddy up oooo)
(giddy up giddy up oooo)
(giddy up giddy up)

When I take her to the track she really shines
(giddy up giddy up 409)
She always turns in the fastest times
(giddy up giddy up 409)
My four-speed dual-quad Posi-Traction 409
(409, 409, 409, 409)

Giddy up giddy up giddy up 409
(giddy up giddy up 409)
Giddy up 409
(giddy up giddy up 409)
Giddy up 409
(giddy up giddy up 409)
Giddy up 40…

Nothing can catch her
Nothing can touch my 409
(409 409 409 409)
Giddy up 409
(409 409 409 409)
Giddy up 409
(409 409 409 409)

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