Curbside Classic: 1961 Chevrolet Impala 4-Door Hardtop–Staying Close to Home

I call this one “The Time Machine”.  I’m tooling along Route 46 in Denville, and I see this car parked just off the highway on Legion Place next to a Sunoco station, and it’s as if I’m back in the early ’70s when this would have been a common sight.  This is not one of those over-restored, hopped-up, antiseptically clean Chevy Impalas seen at car shows.  No, this is how they actually were in “The Real World” after a few years had passed:  no hubcaps, mis-matched tires, some rust forming, a few dents–but intact and running.  A true Curbside Classic.  What is the secret to its longevity?  I think I have a clue . . .

But first let’s see what we have here:  a 1961 Chevrolet Impala 4-door hardtop in Ermine White.  If you order a white Impala, you get a Roman Red sweep-spear along the side.  While I like this car overall, I’ve never been a fan of the optional bumper guards this car has.  I think they clutter up the purity of the original design.  But let’s not quibble–finding this car is a delightful surprise no matter what!

Massive and sparkly–Detroit Iron!

There’s this little Chevy emblem up front which I never noticed before.

The iconic six taillights (Bel Airs and Biscaynes only had four).

It’s a nice look.  But see how the bumper guards clutter things up?  Oh, well–we won’t dwell on it.

Impala, baby!  The best-selling American car of all time!

The hardtop roof has this landau-like crease in it, which I also never noticed before.

I tried to get an interior shot, but it’s hard to photograph through a dirty window in direct sunlight.   Fuzzy dice–because, of course!

To make things a little more interesting, I pulled my ’59 Chevy next to the ’61 so you can see the dramatic style change after only two years.  The ’59 looks so much bigger! 

Walking along the sidewalk, suddenly it’s 1970! (Except for the modern car in front).


Mechanically and chassis-wise, I believe the cars are the same–it’s all styling!  However, it is true that the ’61s were 1.6″ shorter and 1.5″ narrower, but on the same 119″ wheelbase.

Now here’s that interesting clue I was telling you about.  Apparently this car was sold new at Gearhart Chevrolet in Denville, NJ–just about a mile down Route 46 from where the car was today!  So here is a car, 61 years later, being photographed within such a short distance of its point of origin.  I think that’s pretty rare, considering that cars typically get traded from owner to owner as time marches on.  No wonder it survived this long–it stayed close to home.  I’m sure there is a story here, but I don’t know what it is.

Gearhart (now Schumacher) Chevrolet, Route 46, Denville NJ


So keep cruisin’, brave ’61 Impala.  You’re one of the few remaining originals.  Just don’t travel too far from home–it’s a dangerous world out there!