1961 Chevrolet Impala
8-cyl. 283cid/170hp 2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
In common with other GM products, Chevrolet downsized its 1961 models, but mechanically they were unchanged. The fins were gone, and the grille was fairly plain and flat with a full-width ventilated panel above it. A full-length body crease sloped down from the top of each front fender, then kicked up at the rear to imitate fins. That same styling line crossed the trunk at the top, dipping down in a V in the center.
Two Door Hardtops featured a smooth “bubble top” roof with a huge back window, while four-door Hardtop rooflines were squared-off T-Bird style. Four-door Sedans had a flattop roof with a reduced wrap-round back window.
Chevrolet sold 1,204, 917 units for the model year as well as 297,881 Corvairs. The 1961 Chevy Impala remained the top-line model, with 491,000 units sold, including 64,624 convertibles. All Impalas were recognizable by triple taillights, and contrasting color flashes along the side. Crossed racing flags were placed in the rear V and in the side flash with the name.
The Impala total included both 6-passenger and 9-passenger Nomad Station Wagons, as well as two- and four-door Sedans, two- and four-door Sport Hardtops. The two-door Sedan was priced from $2,536.
Base engines were still the 145 bhp 235 cid six and the 170 bhp, 283 cid V-8. Optional powerplants included the 230 bhp, 283 cid Super Turbo-Fire V-8 ($136), 250 bhp 348 Turbo-Thrust V-8 ($201), 280 bhp Super Turbo-Thrust tri-carb V-8 ($271), 305 bhp/340 bhp Special Turbo-Thrust 348 V-8s with 9.5:1 and 11.25:1 compression ($317/$344), and 350 bhp Special Super Turbo-Thrust tri-carb 348 V-8 ($365).
Three 409 cubic-inch V8s were also offered. The 360 bhp model had one four-barrel carburetor, the 380 bhp model had three two-barrels, and the really hot 409 bhp V-8 had dual 4-barrels and 11:1 compression plus solid lifters. It cost about $500. The 360 bhp 409 V-8 allowed a 0-60 mph time of 7.8 seconds with a 15.8-second quarter-mile.
Popular options included air-conditioning ($457), four- and six-way power seats ($65 and $97), power steering ($75), power windows ($102), power brakes ($43), and pushbutton radio ($62).
Chevrolet offered 16 exterior colors for 1961 and 10 two-tones. They were Tuxedo Black (900), Seafoam Green (903), Arbor Green (905), Jewel Blue (912), Midnight Blue (914), Twilight Turquoise (915), Seamist Turquoise (917), Fawn Beige (920), Roman Red (923), Cobonna Cream (925), Ermine White (936), Almond Beige (938), Sateen Silver (940), Shadow Gray (941), and Honduras Maroon (948).
Two-tone color combinations included: Ermine White/Tuxedo Black, Ermine White/Seafoam Green, Ermine White/Jewel Blue, Ermine White/Twilight Turquoise, Ermine White/Roman Red, Ermine White/Sateen Silver, Seafoam Green/Arbor Green, Jewel Blue/Midnight Blue, Seamist/Turquoise/Twilight Turquoise, and Almond Beige/Fawn Beige. Interior colors were Cardinal Red, Brigade Blue, Neptune Green, Silver Gray Metallic, and Charcoal Metallic. 1961 Impala convertible tops were normally black or white and color keyed interiors were a mix of cloth and vinyl.
The biggest news for 1961 was the introduction of the Super Sport or “SS” package. A total of 456 Impalas of all body styles except the Station Wagon were fitted with the dealer-installed SS package. It began at a modest $54 and for that you got SS emblems, a padded dash, spinner wheel covers, power steering and brakes with sintered linings, heavy duty springs and shocks, a 7,000 rpm tachometer, grab bar on the passenger side and chrome house for the four-speed floor shifter. Only 142 Impala SS models were fitted with the 409/409 combination and were capable of 12.83 second quarter mile times approaching 115 mph. Don Nicholson won Top Stock Eliminator in such a car at the 1961 NHRA Winternationals, and with the right gears the coupes could nudge 150 mph.