My friend Joe has had a lot of cars, and some pretty interesting classics have come and gone in the 14 years that I’ve known him. The current stable includes a 1969 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Town Sedan, 1968 Volkswagen, and a 1983 Porsche 911SC Targa. But perhaps the most photogenic car is this handsome Roman Red 1962 Impala SS convertible.
He had been looking for a nice one for some time, because a 1962 Impala convertible was his first car. There are plenty out there, but one after the other, they were eliminated from consideration. Either they were modified, or needed restoration, or were priced too high. Eventually the right one came along, and he snapped it up.
1962 was a good year for Chevrolet. The compact Chevy II debuted that year, the Corvair was selling well, and the first generation Corvette made its final appearance in showrooms. Oh, and there were the full-sized Chevrolets.
The standard size Chevrolets received a handsome, squared off restyle. As usual, they were available in a multitude of trim levels and body styles. The Impala was once again the top model, with a Super Sport package that was available on Impala Sport Coupes and convertibles.
Super Sports added engine-turned, full-length side moldings, special wheel covers with spinners, quarter panel emblems, a locking center console and passenger grab bar on the instrument panel. The package cost $53.80, but required ordering bucket seats, which were a $102.25 option.
The Impala convertible had a base price of $2919 with the six-cylinder, and $3026 with the base, 170-hp 283-cubic-inch V-8. Naturally, there were several optional V-8 for maximum motivation. First up was a 250-hp 327 with four barrel carb and dual exhaust, for $191. A 300-hp version was $245.
But the top dog in 1962 was the 409. Two versions were available, a 380-hp version for $428 and a 409-hp, the most powerful available, for $484. The 409-horse 409 got its extra oomph through twin four-barrel carburetors; the 380-horse version made do with a single four-pot carb.
Joe’s car still has its 327 underhood, kind of a rarity with the temptation to drop in a 350 or 502 big-block into these ’60s Chevys. It has some unusual equipment, too. It hasn’t been confirmed, but I have a suspicion that this car may have been a ”brass hat” car when new. Or it was simply loaded up by the selling dealer as a showroom draw.
How so? It has a ton of options on it, such as factory air conditioning, which was not a cheap option in 1962. It also has power windows, cruise control, and the rarely-seen auto-dimming headlights.
Power windows weren’t common on Chevys until the ’70s Caprices. Oh, you could get them, but most people didn’t order them, or they spent a little more money and opted for a Bonneville over an Impala.
Perhaps the oddest thing is the cruise control. Not only is it an uncommon option, but not too many people would have sprung for it when ordering a car with a manual transmission. Pretty interesting, though!
So, how many of these were made? Well, it’s not strictly cut and dried. Chevrolet counted production by body type only, so there are no breakouts on total Impala or Bel Air production. But 75,719 convertibles of all types were built, and 99,311 Impalas came with the Super Sport option (including the Sport Coupes as well as the convertibles.)
The most popular Chevrolet was the four-door sedan; 533,349 were built, split among Biscayne, Bel Air, and Impala models. All full-sized Chevys rode a 109-inch wheelbase and had a 209.6-inch overall length.
Chevy won the sales race this year by a substantial lead, with 1,424,000 standard Chevrolets, 326,600 Chevy IIs, 306,023 Corvairs and 14,531 Corvettes. As the advertising of the day proclaimed, “See the USA in your Chevrolet!” And many did. Joe still does, with his well-preserved Impala convertible.