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AJ's Car of the Day '61 Chevrolet Impala Convertible
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Car: Chevrolet Impala Convertible

Year: 1961

What makes it special: A completely new look for the 1961 Chevrolet Impala's exterior was carried out for the model year. In the course of this reshaping, the spectacular, free-flying fins gave way to a more refined, integrated appearance. To counter this, the trademark sweeping side spear was emphasized; the result was arguably the most distinctive and handsome of all Impalas. For the same year, a two-door sedan joined the Impala family. The sedans lacked some of the sex appeal of the hardtops and convertibles, but contributed to the Impala's growing sales numbers.

What made it famous: The big news for 1961 was the emergence of the legendary Super Sport package. At first glance, this might have seemed to be just another dress-up option, complete with special hubcaps and badges, a padded dashboard with passenger-side grab bar, and a large tachometer clamped to the steering column of manual-shift models. The Super Sport, or SS, was no boulevard poseur as the order forms made it clear: Anyone wanting an SS from the factory had to take a high-performance 348 engine along with it. At minimum, that gave the driver 305 bhp to play with, from which level 340- or 350-bhp variants were an easy and relatively inexpensive step up. Unless the buyer wanted to go for the strongest weapon, a new 409-cid powerhouse. Right out of the box, the 409 was developing a hefty 360 bhp, and by the following season, improvements to cylinder heads, camshaft, pistons, and intake manifolds raised that to 380 with a 4-barrel carburetor or a whopping 409 bhp with dual quads, one horsepower per cubic inch, the Mt. Everest for factory-stock engines of the day. If you went for the 305 hp 348 V8, a beefed-up Powerglide was available, but all other SS buyers were required to take the 4-speed manual transmission.

Why I would want one: I've always loved the early 60's Chevrolets. To me, they define GM's place in the decade's finest cars produced.

Fun fact: As a mid-year addition to the line, the 1961 SS was produced in limited numbers; fewer than 500 reached customer hands, of which only 142 were 409's.

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