Can a guy who
hates holds a healthy dislike for early ’60s Chevrolets as much as I do give one a fair shake here on CC? Well, I guess we are all about to find out.
Most of you already know that I am not among the many fans of the 1961-64 Chevrolet. Alright, pretty much the opposite of a fan. In fact, I am on record as naming this car’s slightly younger brother as the car I hated driving above all others.
You must understand that 1961 Chevrolets were around in moderate numbers during my childhood. But they were old cars then. In fact, I am trying hard to remember seeing a ’61 in some color other than that metallic beige that had lost every hint of a shine after about four years in the weather. It being northern Indiana, the dull, colorless paint jobs were accented with sizeable rust holes above those eyebrow-mounted parking lights. And they were invariably Biscayne or Bel Air sedans with at least one broken taillight and one missing hubcap.
The result of nearly every sighting seemed about the same. After the metallic grinding of the starter the tired 283 would fire. The high-pitched whirrr of the Powerglide in Park would be followed by the loud “Clack Clack Clack” of the shift into Drive and the old Chivrolay would start moving in front of the little wisp of blue smoke that would follow it until it went out of sight. To be fair, most other 8-10 year old northern cars were not in much better shape. ’61 Fords were a lot less common and were just as unappealing as a chalky, rusty dark blue Fairlane 500 sedan with a weak cylinder or two in the worn-out 292 causing the “thub thub thub” sound it made as it reluctantly began its forward motion.
I only share these memories to set the stage for just how uninterested I have been for most of my life in 1961 Chevrolets. But then I saw this one.
I forget where I was going, perhaps back to the office after a lunchtime stop by the house for something or other. On my route is a McDonalds that has been the site of a couple of previous CCs (like this) (and this) and so I have learned to gaze over into its parking lot as I pass by. This lovely Impala was right by the road and pretty much impossible to miss.
For the first time in my life I found a ’61 Chebby that made me want it. Is it the car? Or have I finally put Jackie DeShannon’s advice to work and “put a little love in my heart”. Either way, let’s savor this one together and make the world a better place.
First off, I love turquoise cars. There is something about that shade that makes almost any car more desirable in my eyes. Yes, it is not a common sight in today’s roadscape, which makes me appreciate them all the more. And boy is this Twilight Turquoise a beautiful formulation of the color. Which, by the way, I don’t seem to remember seeing on the elderly ’61s of my youth.
Another peeve of mine is a moderately interesting car that has few individual details worth photographing. A mid 1970s Cutlass, for instance, or most anything from the 1980s on up. This old Impala, however, is just a symphony of fascination. The side sculpting that kicks up both in front and back and makes it appear that the top portion of the body sets down on the lower part. Or the chromed fake exhaust vents under the rear window.
There is also the “V” shaped dip in the middle of the decklid. The bullet-shaped taillights. And the front parking lights mounted up high in one of the few designs where that trick actually worked.
I have also never been as enamored as are many of you by the “bubbletop” hardtop design of 1961. The way that the deck and belt line had to rise up to meet the C pillar never quite worked for me – I much preferred the execution of the other thin pillar hardtops of the period like the Ford Starliner and the Chrysler/DeSoto/Dodge 880. On GM cars, I much preferred Bill Mitchell’s fresh hardtop concept that took hold in 1962. But everything else about this car makes me stand back for a moment and decide that it’s really no big deal, and perhaps the lack of a contrasting roof color makes this work better for me. And did any of the other GM Divisions nail their ’61 B body hardtop coupe like Chevy did? I don’t think I see a thing I would change on this car, something I cannot say about the others.
Inside is one of GM’s great mid-century interiors on full display, restored to perfection. Yes, I know that it carries the “GM Full Instrument Package” (speedometer and gas gauge) and has a seat low enough to make you feel like you are 10 years old again when you try to look over the steering wheel. But if a guy has to stare into a steering wheel hub at eye level, what better one than this? And was this a 1961-only design? Perhaps those who speak Chevy more fluently than I do can tell us why this one disappeared after a single year.
So much about this car seemed to be completely unique, all new from 1960 and yet so thoroughly changed for ’62. How often did a car make such a big change from the year before and be changed so substantially again the following year? Really, without those teardrop-shaped vent windows and the basic dashboard layout, who would guess that this car and the ’62 model are so closely related. Oh how jealous Chrysler and the other smaller manufacturers must have been that GM had the wherewithal to dump that much money into totally restyling an already attractive and popular car.
I am also encouraged by the purely stock treatment on this one, which is quite rare in my part of the world. Wheelcovers and period-correct whitewalls are so much more appealing to me than the ubiquitous Chevy rally wheels and white letter tires. And is this car breaking some kind of law by not being retrofitted with bucket seats, a 4 on the floor and the ever-present “USA-1” front license plate? I have shots of a ’61 in my stash with some of these “upgrades” (as well as the flat black paint treatment that was so popular a few years ago) but I could not work up any enthusiasm over it. As much as Chevy fans want to pull this car forward into the era of 409s and the Beach Boys, the ’61 predated all of that stuff. So while the Super Chevy Crowd may look askance at this car’s owner, I offer him (or her) a big ol’ CC Salute!
Looking over this Impala I am freshly reminded of the attraction that these must have exerted in Chevrolet showrooms so many years ago. Did you know that Chevrolet sold nearly 80,000 more Impalas (411,000 , which did not include the Bel Airs, Biscaynes, wagons Corvettes and Corvairs) than Plymouth managed with its entire lineup, including Valiant (332,000)? But then beauty has always sold cars.
Whenever I see and photograph an old car to share here, two questions invariably come to mind: Would I have bought this when it was new? And would I own and drive this now? Being completely honest, I might not have bought this car in 1961. I have always been a function over form guy and the roadable but, um, interesting looking Fury or the sleek Ford Starliner might have swayed me from the undeniable visual appeal of the Chevrolet. And let’s not forget the V8 bucket seat 4 speed Studebaker Hawk. But today? This is one early ’60s Chevy that could overcome my generally negative disposition towards the breed. Because the dull rusty smoking Biscayne sedan of my youth this car is most assuredly not.
1961 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Sedan (Paul Niedermeyer)
1961 Chevrolet Brookwood (Dave Skinner)
1961 Buick LeSabre 2 Door Hardtop (Paul Niedermeyer)
When I was 15-16 years old with a yearning for an old GM car (Dad was really a GM guy even though I grew up with Chryslers, but that’s a different story) we stopped to look at a ’61, with the (then) big block 348. I shall never forget, as we were trying to start it, him saying that “these were always cold natured bastards”. From a man who had and loved a 57.
I ended up with a 69 camaro (perhaps 1993 or so?) which I subsequently stuffed, again a different story…
But to the point: I’ve always loved a 61. And I was introduced to this planet in 79.
Safe travels ladies and gentlemen!
I like the ’61-’64 Chevys more than Mr Cavanaugh, but the ’61 is definitely my least favorite of the group. On the other hand, I am having trouble thinking of a car I wouldn’t like in that color.
While styling wise the ’61 was a one year thing, The basic shell would carry over into ’62. It’s still amazing as Chevrolet had just done a 1 year wonder not to long before with the 1958.
Count me as a fan with a much better memory of a ’61 Chevy. My first girlfriend had a ’61 Bel-Air 2 door sedan with a flattop roof rather than the more popular (today) bubble top. It had Power Glide and probably a 6, I’ll be honest, what I was interested in inside of that car wasn’t the engine! ?
Oh, does this car bring back memories. Take the exact same car but paint it in a deep metallic brownish gold with that little color insert on the rear fender in tan. For some reason or another we ended up with that car at home during the summer of 1966 (I think it had something to do with a relative), and I remember mom trying to talk dad into giving me the car when I got my driver’s license later that summer.
Which still floors me as a thought – as it went against every fiber of how mom was trying to raise me: Keep me at home, controlled, dependent on her, etc. Somehow it never occurred to her that giving me a car would be giving me all sorts of freedom she sure didn’t want. Then again, the cynic in me says they’d give me the car (and brag about it to the neighbors) but not give me the keys. They pulled pretty much that same stunt in the fall of ’66 when the Camaro RS arrived in the driveway. Made a complete fool out of me at school.
That interior carried over to the ’62’s. If you looked at both years really closely they were the same car, just a different front and rear clip. But it said something about how GM’s styling was at that time that they could take two identical cars and make them look so different.
The ’61’s and ’62’s were the last full sized Chevrolets I ever liked. Starting with the ’63, the big Chevrolet starting getting too overblown (back to the ’59’s and ’60’s) to the point where a ’65 looked like a much larger car than the ’62, ever though there was some real effort to make them look like close family.
I thought you might like this one.
For most of my life I thought the 1963 was Chevrolet’s postwar styling peak. It is certainly cleaner than this car, but after days of staring at these pictures, I have come to appreciate the skill with which this fairly complex design was carried out.
My first car was a dark green ’63 Impala Super Sport with the 409 & 4-speed….purchased for $850 in September 1969. It was a LOT of car for me and I was always in fear of speeding tickets! One cool feature was the radio’s reverberator mounted in the trunk…sounded like an echo chamber.
IMHO, except for Cadillac, the ’61 full-size GM cars represent a final break with the dogleg & tail-fin ’50s look that lingered into 1960. But the ’61s have their own distinctive, flamboyant style, with the curves, teardrop vents and chrome. While I liked the 62 – 64 styling as well, to me, those cars looked a bit squarer, plainer, and perhaps cheaper as the years passed.
Of the ’61 – ’64 full-size Chevys, the bubble-top coupes have become my favorite.
And I believe that roof was offered on the ’62 as well.
Happy Motoring, Mark
Most of Cadillac card dropped the “dogleg” for 1961 except the 75 limousine who keeped them to the 1965 model year.
Interesting to note while Ford and Dodge dropped the dogleg for the light pick-up truck for 1961. Chevrolet and GMC keeped them to the 1963 model year.
I had forgotten the rear treatment of the 61, and prefer it to the 59 and 60 gull-fin look, which bust became much more subdued in 62 thru 64.
Just a nice interesting feature without the gimmicking of earlier. Plus the bullet taillights.
I’m not from this era for what it’s worth but to me these cars just scream optimism. Today’s cars go for precision or scandanavian chic, these had such a daring boldness.
And that’s probably why they look all the sadder rusty and raggedy.
Thats a nice car we only had the four door variety here new which I’m not a fan of but that two door looks great in that colour, yes ours rusted too and without salt just high humidity where I grew up and limestone roads covered in cowshit farmers loved Chevs they had the overseas funds to buy them.
Found this nice survivor at Maldon, Vic a few years back.
Taken as a (small) group, I like the 61 better than it’s “sister” cars, the 59 and 60. And while I like these cars for some of the reasons JPC says he dislikes them, I don’t care for some of the “bits” he finds so delightful. To me, this cars is loaded (overloaded?) with styling details to the point it looks like a child’s birthday cake. And yet, when I try to mentally remove the things I think are “too much”, like those chrome bits atop the front fenders, this car comes off as a bit plain.
I would agree that these cars are helped, or REALLY hurt by the colors they are painted….or sometimes just the trim level.
This? Or a 61 Ford or Plymouth? I think it would have to be a pretty special 61 Chevy for me to pick it over a 61 Ford. And this is a pretty special example.
You got that right, 61’s were miles ahead of their ’59-’60 older sisters. The bat wing was gone, only hinted at by the tasteful V in the back of the trunk lid. And the grace full hardtop with its elegant styled wispy thin pillars, almost a floating in air look. And I am a person who cam take or leave most Chevrolets.
Great find, JPC! PRNDL approves!
This Impala & I share a birth year and I can categorically state that the Impala has held up better than I have . 😉
Only one year older than me, I spent my childhood in a fawn beige 61 4-door Impala hardtop with 235 6 and Powerglide. I got carsick once and it left a stain on the front seats.(No child seats then). Something I was repeatedly reminded of after I outgrew car sickness.
Solid sex appeal stem to stern. Great looking car. (Personally always liked all Chevys thru 1973 and again from 1977 on.)
As much as I consider myself a “Mopar Man” from this time period; THIS bubble top Chevy could tempt me.
As I think about it, both Chevy and Plymouth had a similar concept out back with a flat deck that finishes in a blade that overhangs a concave rear. Chevy carried it out so much more successfully in the details, not least being that V dip in the middle that breaks it up so much better than Plymouth, which puts the license plate there almost as an afterthought. This car truly killed the tailfin.
That V dip looks like the last hurrah of the batwing Chebby from 1959. Very nice car indeed! Thanks for sharing this.
Grrrr-8 looking car, color, and year………..
Rare to see a 1961 Bel Air like this anywhere anymore.
See way more 62 models that can’t compare for style IMO
Luv that Bubble Top.
More than just the beauty here, it’s the association with the optimism that was still America in 1961. The color is a plus.
The antithesis to a ’61 Biscayne sedan in almond beige. While never a particular fan of the ’61, these have always been preferable to a ’62 to ’64. And, while they are all roughly the same physical size, the ’61 has always appeared to be more svelte. Credit is due to the design staff for pulling that monkey out of a crankcase.
This turquoise is also the definitive color for this; for that matter, this is the definitive ’61 Chevrolet.
It hit me when writing this that CC’s coverage of 1961 GM cars (with the exception of the 61 Buicks) has been quite thin. Which is amazing, considering how well they sold when new.
I agree – this is *the* ultimate 61 Chevy.
We had a ’61 almond beige wagon until ’64, base Brookwood 283 pg, am radio, maybe ps and not much else. An ugly duckling, for sure.
Seeing this well equipped ’61 2 door bubbletop in this great Turquoise color shows what a really great looking car it is dressed up nicely. I always likes the ’63/’64 version of the shoe box but this car really makes me rethink that now.
Had a neighbor when I was 12 or 13 that had a ’62 Chevy 2 door post in a medium blue color. I was always impressed with his speedometer which was broken and stuck on 120 MPH. He told me he really did go that fast once and that’s when it stuck.
As a teen, I dated two girls whose family cars were ’61 Chevies. Maybe that’s why I like the ’61 bubble top so much. If I win the lottery, I’ll be looking for a white one with a red interior and black side stripe.
But I also like the ’61 Pontiac bubble top, so maybe the two girls had nothing to to with it.
Not bad at all, but I prefer the ’62 Chevy with the bubble top, even though it wasn’t available as an Impala.
Count me in as one with more pleasant memories, too. One of my uncles…Dad’s younger brother…bought one of these brand-new for himself and his new bride. It was the same car as featured here, but blue instead of turquoise. He kept it until 1967 when he traded it for another new Chevrolet..
Grandpa had the ’61 Bel Air in four door and black; Dad had the ’62 in four door and “Autumn Gold,” and cruising buddy Camel had the ’62 in four door in this turqoise (faded), so this series is etched into my brain. Yes, with the small block and Powerglide you piloted it more than you drove it, but it always got you there, in comfort and confidence, and with more than a bit of style. I do not mind all the extra little surface details, as on this car they work together to suggest the wind flowing over the surface at speed. The only thing I would change would be that steering wheel-I find it, especially at this size, too sculpted and overwhelming for the rest of the interior. I find the more understated Bel Air wheel more suitable.
After looking at that ’61 steering wheel closely, I wonder if the two little horn buttons near the outer rim were unpopular? The 62-64 wheel went back to a more conventional shape with a normal hub and horn ring.
“Can a guy who hates holds a healthy dislike for early ’60s Chevrolets as much as I…”
JP, I didn’t realize you were that ill!
Truth be told, the only 1961 models that looked good were the pillarless bubble tops. The styling wasn’t my favorite, either, but the top trims were the best. 1962? Many of the 61’s sins were cured. I preferred the 1964 over the 63s because the pointy ends didn’t appeal to me, plus I had a splendid 1964!
I don’t know how old you are, but these 1961 Chevy models were rusted out by the mid-60s! I had a 1961 Bel Air two door sedan, and it was a rust bucket when I bought it in November, 1968!
The 61 post coupes with the flying wing roof look ace to me now.
Nice work, Jim. Oh, how I love that color!
Love those thin rear pillars, anyone ever notice the 90’s Cavalier and Sunbirds had a rear window treatment that went up into the roof like the subject car?
Beautiful car in the perfect color for it. Of the ’61 thru ’64 Chevy Impalas, I used to think the ’63 was my favorite of the lot with these coming in a close second. A neighbor up the street had a pearl white ’63 that captured my attention as a young boy. I also like the move in ’63 away from “That 50’s Windshield” and the way it wraps around.
But after seeing this car, I may have to rethink my favorite of that generation.
Great find, JP.
At least, that Impala didn’t got the same fate as the one in the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World. 😉
I was just thinking about that scene. 😉
The photographer who created that brochure image is some kind of genius. Why are the car and the lady on a railroad trestle? Who the hell cares!
Better late than never, Jim. 🙂
These, and the ’55s, have always been my favorite big Chevy. They came out just weeks after we arrived in the US, so I might be inclined to think that was part of it, but it’s not. They’re just the most interesting and delightful of the whole era.
And unlike with their blander successors, the designers were having fun here. The whole concept of having that slightly wider upper half (of the lower body) draping over the lower half, at an angle, is bold and imaginative. Thos qualities are quite missing in the ’62-’64s.
Its the all-too common case where a lot of energy and creativity went into the original version of an all-new design, and then the designers have to find some way making “new” versions in subsequent years. Never works out well, with maybe some few exceptions.
I obsessed on ’61 Chevys for way too long, and I’d still be happy to take one in. Just let it be a 283 four barrel and a four speed stick. Which was not all that rare of a combination; Chevy was pushing the four speed as the sport alternative to the pokey PG. And I remember seeing some in the wild.
Loved your very evocative descriptions of the sounds of these cars and especially the “thrub, thrub thrub” of a ’61 Ford with the weak cylinders. So true, and common.
I wish someone had made hi-fi tape recordings of old cars back in the day. Wouldn’t that be something?
I go back and forth the 61 and 63 personally, the pointed ends and the skegs were bold and imaginative enough on those, and I do prefer the front end treatment to the 61 hands down. 62 and 64 looked like bland successors to the 61 and 63 individually.
^^^ THIS ^^^
+1 for this comment. I loved the bubbletops. The formal roof worked better on Pontiacs, IMO (especially ’64, like the Grand Prix).
Saw this one recently, going to a new home. Not sure if it’s a biscayne or bel air.
I think its a Bel Air – as far as I can tell the Biscayne did without the side trim altogether. From the looks of that trunklid emblem, this one is a six.
Beautiful car. I ran into one recently here in Burma – a sedan, probably Bel Air. CC effect is truly global! Took a couple pics, which I’ll probably share with you in a little while.
I read this on my morning commute – simply fantastic. I love your writing style – especially your use of onomatopoeia. Like Paul said, I can totally hear those sounds you wrote about.
Nothing else to add to what others have said except for that this car is a beauty, and like Imperialist said, the car’s color is outstanding.
Thank you, Joe! You remind me that I forgot to add the loud “skronk-kunk” of the long-ago ’61 Chevy’s door closing as it overcame the rusty door check mechanism. I had also forgotten that this was called an onomatopoeia, so thanks for that. 🙂
I’m also a more recent convert to the 61-era Chevrolets. I was in my prime impressionable-kid years when they came out, and to me at the time they looked cheap and insubstantial in many ways. The grille seemed only barely ‘designed’ (possibly sourced from an HVAC parts bin), and virtually waiting for the odd piece of road gravel to throw out its inexpensive symmetry. That sharp crease in the trunk lid, combined with what looked to me like undersized taillights, also contributed to a look which struck me as flimsy.
What’s obvious in retrospect though is the lightness and elegance of line in these cars, and these days I’m really struck by the overall beauty of them. Perhaps at the time I was still in awe of the more solid-chrome fantasies of the 1950’s.
Yes, pure elegance and also sporty looking at the same time. My favorite year of Chevy cars, at the very top of my lottery list! Color and trim are just right in my opinion also.
I didn’t know it was possible to dislike these, the contempt for ubiquity I can understand, but the design was just magnificent for a car that was that mainstream, and coming from my upbringing of jellybean beige appliance sedans it’s amazing to me there was a time a design like this was their direct market predecessor. Sporty, elegant, and utilitarian traits are often diametrically opposed but the 61, and the whole 61-64 generation really, have it all, just like the tri-fives a few years earlier, just longer and lower.
My friend Rob had one awaiting restoration, real deal SS bubbletop coupe in red. He ended up selling it to buy a 04 GTO 🙁
You evidently have never driven one? 🙂 https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/qotd/qotd-what-was-the-one-car-you-have-hated-driving-above-all-others/
They are beautiful beyond doubt. But I have disliked every one I ever drove.
Just the usual, well-written article by JP. While the ’61 Chevy bubbletop wouldn’t make my all-time favorite Top Ten list (most of those spots are taken by old Mopars), it’s definitely in the top five favorite Chevrolets, along with the ’62 Corvette, ’66 Nova SS, ’66 and ’69 Chevelle SS396.
With that said, there were other GM division cars I liked better in 1961, with the front runner being the Pontiac Ventura. But in the category of favorite, full-size Chevrolet, well, it’s the bubbletop for me.
What a glorious car.
I had one like this long ago. Bubble top, light (baby?) blue with a white roof to go with the white inset. 283 2 barrel w/PG. Mostly I remember paying $295. for it, enjoying it for a year or two, then selling for $500. I had forgotten about the horn buttons. Very quiet, smooth and dependable car. It’s the car I owned when I got married to the ex. Fortunately she never got the chance to total this one. 🙂
’60’s and ’61’s have always been favorites of mine.
My only regret is that GM chose not to build a sedan delivery for 1961. One of the most beautiful clone cars I’ve ever seen was a ’61 station wagon converted to to a sedan delivery by someone who knew what they were doing. I.e., it looked like a factory car/truck/whatever GM considered sedan deliveries.
I wish the turquoises would come back for automotive colors. They’re beautiful!
the car is just stunning love the correct whitewalls the bubble top was wonderful
no matter what GM car it was on !
I was delighted to see this first thing Monday morning. A terrific way to start the week.
When my car consciousness started forming in the mid ’70s, I was well aware that the ’63-’64 Chevy was venerated, and any other year of big ’60s Chevy was just a used car. I’m pretty sure that our neighbor’s rotation of four door hardtop Impalas (new, well used, and non-operating) in the driveway next door included a white, beat-up ’61. I barely noticed it.
Somewhere in the early ’80s, I “discovered” the beauty of the ’61 Impala. When poring over the pages of my trusty Standard Catalog, a grainy black & white promotional photo of a ’61 Impala convertible caught my eye, and I was smitten. How could I have not ever really noticed this car?
Appearance wise, the ’61 looks to be the smallest big Chevy of any built from ’58 through ’76. A taught, trim design that looks simple, even with quite a bit of detailing. No small part of me wished that this would have been the car introduced as the new ’77 Chevy. I would have really enjoyed seeing this design around for the next dozen or so years.
TL;DR- I like this car!
Enjoyed your description of how a Powerglide sounds at start up in Park and when you move it into gear, I remember that well! Mom had a ’61 Chrysler (with push button shift) until about ’70 and so I was plenty familiar with turn-of-the-decade Mopars and liked them. I knew what the ’61 Fords looked like from Andy Griffith but these ’61 Impalas were in a whole nuther world even to me as a kid. Impala was starting to mean even top-of-the-line could be sporty. That gorgeous ’61 was getting us ready for the ’65 Impala SS which was a super hot car in our neighborhood. If you didn’t have one, you wanted one. Then along came Caprice, and the gorgeous GM intermediates, and Impala went back to being more like a Bel Air.
The ’61 Chevrolet Impala always has been at the top of my favorite cars. And the convertible version is the stuff of dreams.
The current Impala is a really good-looking car…only one thing suffers and that’s the bland, generic taillamps. How anyone inside GM Styling hasn’t put the iconic triple-lens on the Impala baffles me!
I think this is a trait suffered by a lot of modern sedans, even the ones that stand out everywhere else have that same generic tail lamp design, the only one distinctive and identifiable is the Charger. This is the most visible exterior area the public will be exposed to on a car’s design, and one of the hands down advantages of sedans over liftgate vehicles is the styling possibilities of the rear end and tail lamps are virtually infinite, be distinctive!
I’m of the mind that Chevrolet has no right to call a car without triple element taillights an Impala. The 96 was the last to use them, every one since 2000 should be called a Bel Air or Biscayne.
Yep, I’ve called every 2000+ “Impala” “Bel Airs” because I’m a snarky jagoff, No Impala should have less than six lights back there. I’m sure that’s in some Scripture somewhere! ?
I think you are right. 🙂 “There went in two and two unto lights into the deck, the Biscayne and the Bel Air, as God had commanded Noah.”
Yep! I believe I read that in the same book where the Big Guy is a MoPar fan, For he drove them out of the garden in a Fury. OTOH, His Son was a Honda guy,but on the “down low” as he never spoke of his own Accord!?
The same guy that put RECTANGULAR taillights on the C7 Corvette.
IF only this good looking Bubbletop Chevy drove, handled and stopped as well as the same year Mopar!
Absolutely! Can you imagine if Virgil Exner had designed the 60 Plymouth to look like this? Suddenly it’s 1963! 🙂
One of those designs that just nailed it–one of the the best tail designs of the 60’s and the rest of the car is no slouch either!
When I was a college freshman (1998-99) a student who lived in the same cluster of dorms as me had a ’61 Impala. Same color turquoise even, slightly oxidized, and a white roof. 4-door rather than 2, but that hardly diminished the cool factor for me. Never did find out who the owner was, but I admired it every time I had the occasion to walk past its parking spot.
The way the roof meets the rear deck looks funny . . . until you consider the alternative of having the roof meet the deck without that intermediate surface between them. Look at it with that in mind, and you’ll realize that transition surface is pure genius.
Wow. I forgot just how GARISH these cars were. All the tacked-on brightwork reminds me of a four-year-old wearing a bath-towel cape, jumping up and down, and screaming, “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” Add to that the Power Slide transmission, the 25-year-old siamesed-port six (the manual-shift versions not even having fully-pressurized oiling!), and GM’s wet-noodle X-frame design and flaccid suspension…yuck. For 1961…I’d rather have a Valiant. Make it a Valiant 100 wagon with the 225, 3-speed (floor shift!), and A/C.
I really don’t like this design, especially the coupe. The only one I find pallatable is the ’64. And the difference with the ’65 and later cars is dramatic.
That said, this car is a jewel. I think it’s because it’s next to impossible to find one in that condition that’s actually on the road.
And, I agree with Mr. Cavanaugh on the color. Even a lemon would look great.
Give me a ’67 Sport Sedan in this shade, 307 (no need for a powerhorse), PS, A/C, PW, PB, and I’ll be much more than happy. Of course, I’ll have to use my Renault Sandero as a daily driver as I wouldn’t be able to pay for gas and garage. But that’s another issue altogether.
A question I always ask, have you ever seen an original 60’s sedan with a three or four on the floor? I understand it was an option, but I’ve never seen one on any Chevy but a Corvair sedan. Come to think of it, i’ve never seen an automatic sedan with floor shift either.
The only 3 speed floor shifts I am aware of in the early 1960s were in Chrysler cars. With their pushbutton automatics, the larger models were not designed to accommodate a column mounted gearshift. Any 3 speed 1960-64 DeSoto, Chrysler or Dodge 880 with a 3 speed would have shifted it with a floor stick.
The 4 speeds were very rare in sedans. They were theoretically offered, but they mostly came in 2 door cars which were considered sportier. In that era a 4 door sedan would have been seen much as a minivan is seen today – something for Mommies and old people. I know that Ford offered a console and buckets in the 1964 Galaxie XL 4 doors and I believe that Chrysler offered a console and buckets in the 1965 Three Hundred 4 door, so those likely had floor shifters. So in general, I agree with your observation that floor shifts in sedans were rare, rare things.
This is my favorite Chevrolet styling year. While the 55-57 were a great size, the 1961 GM cars are beautiful and quite original. The 1961 Oldsmobile is also superb but the 1961 Impala was perfect. I like it better than the 1965, although that year was beautiful as well.
The bubble top. It doesn’t do what the Skyliner top did on a Ford. The bubble top dared to take a risk while the Ford was quite nice – but predictable and uninteresting.
The 1961 Chevrolet is filled with perfect Chevy-touches. The triple tail lamps, the perfect side accent curving around into the rear deck lid. Even the bumper trim is perfect.
GM didn’t need to ape a Hyundai with the latest Impala. Chevy has a rich design history that is uniquely Chevrolet on sight. It is a shame that GM designers couldn’t take a single element from the 1961 design and update it for 2017. Any of the early 1960 million-selling designs are loaded with terrific styling uniquely Chevy. The new Impala didn’t need to be an homage to their best selling cars from fifty years ago, but what Chevy stylists did to these amazing Jet-Age vehicles would be better looking than the Korean-auto styling seen on the newest Impalas today.
In my personal pantheon of early sixties Chevies the ’61 comes first, followed by the ’63, the ’62 and then the ’64, in that order. I can’t really explain why I like the ’61s more than the rest, I just do. However, my all time favorite full size Chevrolet has to be the 1965, especially the two door hardtop. I find the ’65/’66 GM B body hardtops to be among the top five all time, at least in appearance. One of these currently holds the top spot on my Powerball list.
if this was my car I’d be fired from work because I would be spending all day in the parking lot looking at it gorgeous! And thank you for the period correct whitewalls! Ford,Plymouth get outta here!
from my father’s jewelry box of tie clips, pins and cuff links regularly handed out by the Chevrolet District Manager to Chevrolet dealership personnel
From my father’s jewelry box of Chevrolet themed tie clips, pins, and cuff links regularly given out in the day by the Chevrolet Motor Division District Manager to Chevrolet dealership sales management and salespeople
Perhaps my favorite Chevy of all time. The bubble top, tear drop vent windows, dip in the trunk molding, other touches – a complex design that had to be perfect to have worked, and it was. Loved the full wheel covers and ring-less steering wheel, both which disappeared after this year. The ’63 was a pleasant design and has its admirers, but the ’61 is far more interesting. This was right in the middle of Chevy’s glory days. Not only did they offer Belair 2 and 4 door hardtops, but Impala 2 door sedans. Something for everybody. As American a car as there ever was.
Sleek, beautiful, and looking so much more expensive than it would have been.
It’s a mad mad world the show was stolen by Phil Silvers and Don Knotts!
Doesn’t get any better than Phil going to the bottom in the 48 Ford convertible
Yes, that Chevrolet is nice! Really a looker. Great color. I would normally say that I like the 1960 Chevys better, but…., this is just so perfect and just like new.
Beautifully done – you made me see the ’61 with new eyes. I was never much of a fan, but I’m with you on this one.
Dear Sir –
You picked the perfect ‘61 Impala to change your perspective.
Please email me with any contact information you might have on the owner which might allow me to acquire this beautiful Chevrolet. I too, would love to leverage my credit so I could burn through my vacation time drooling over this car in my driveway.
Did I mention this is my favorite color?
Sorry J B, I saw the car unattended in a McDonalds parking lot and had no idea who the owner might be, either then or now. I guess we will both have to continue to drool over the pictures.
In a circuitous way I just ran into the Curbside Classic website and Mr. Cavanaugh’s review of the 1961 Impala Sport Coupe. I could not resist the opportunity to present my 1961 Impala Sport Coupe also done in Twilight Turquoise. I’m of the opinion with bias that the 1961 Impala is the winner of that Chevy era. Gone were the fins, and it was trim and streamline before becoming bulky in the later years. Styling details are so striking as the many earlier posts have detailed. I did a full body-off restoration about six years ago with the goal of preserving the original exterior and interior appearance with the exception of aluminum wheels and radial tires. Mechanical was upgraded to more modern standards (350 ZZ4, 2004R tranny, disc brakes on all four, and vintage air routed to original interior vents). The wife chose the Twilight Turquoise which really pops. The crowd is all over it at the car shows. Reading the article and the many comments reaffirmed my satisfaction in having restored and now owning this Impala.