The 1961-1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport introduced America to the concept of a sporty full-size car. Continue reading to learn more about this powerhouse.
Yearning for a certain automobile wasn't a new phenomenon among American teens when the Beach Boys released their hit single "409" in 1962. But focusing on a specific engine -- now that was something different. Few V-8s have been immortalized at all, much less recalled so fondly as the 409-cid motor that growled within big Chevrolets of the early 1960s.
Up to that time, the sporty full-size car was a virtual oxymoron: two concepts that just didn't work together. With its Super Sport edition of the restyled 1961 model, Chevrolet was out to change that perception.
Toning down the Impala/Bel Air/Biscayne trio had begun in 1960 by subduing their broad tailfins. This year's body finished the job. Three rooflines were created, led by a Sport Coupe with gently sloping front pillars and plenty of glass.
Though still on the gaudy side with its creased bodysides, tapered trim strip, jutting fender tops, and rear-deck sculpturing, the Impala's lines were undeniably cleaner -- ready to usher in a new era. One paragraph of the 1961 sales catalog summarized the Chevrolet Impala Super Sport as the "highly personalized version" of any Impala body style.
Priced as low as $53.80, the option package included special trim, simulated knock-off spinner wheel covers, power brakes and steering, heavy-duty springs/shocks, metallic brake linings, a 7,000-rpm tachometer alongside the steering column, and narrow-band 8.00 × 14 whitewalls. Inside was a front-passenger assist bar (as on Corvettes), but ordinary bench seats.
This initial Super Sport came with a choice of 348-cid engines (305, 340, or 350 bhp) and a four-speed manual gearbox; or the 305-bhp could get Powerglide. Farther down the Impala lineup, the top engine choice delivered only 280 bhp.
Target market: "customers who like sports car flair and go, teamed with big car elegance." That was just the start of what would become the "SS" phenomenon, for at the same time, Chevrolet was preparing a massive 409-cid engine. What better place to introduce it than beneath the hood of a Super Sport?
Go on to the next page to find out about the styling and mechanics of the 1961-1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport.
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The 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport featured a massive 409-cid engine, giving it much more power than any other car on the road. Essentially a bore/stroke job on the 348-cid V-8, the 409 wielded 360 bhp (at 5800 rpm) along with an energetic 409 pounds/feet of torque. It looked the part, too, painted red with silver rocker covers, topped by a dual-snorkel air cleaner.
The first 409-equipped Super Sports hit the showrooms in mid-1961. Most of the 453 examples built that year were Sport Coupes, with a handful of convertibles, though the package was theoretically offered on any Impala body. Only about 142 carried the big engine.
"Without trying hard," declared Motor Trend in its trial of the 409, "the SS will shoot away from practically anything else on the road." Testers achieved 0-60 times as quick as 7.0 seconds with a 4.56:1 axle. An ordinary Impala with 250-bhp 348 required more than 10 seconds.
More 409s became available for 1962; but curiously, the Super Sport turned into a $156 trim package offered with any Impala engine, even the 135-bhp six. However, SS body styles were strictly limited to the Sport Coupe (hardtop) and convertible. Styling grew cleaner yet, with a more squared-off profile and trailing body creaseline.
SS interiors now sported front bucket seats with anodized aluminum edging. "Swirl-pattern" anodized aluminum inserts adorned bodyside moldings, versus painted trim in regular Impalas.
Chevrolet's familiar 283-cid V-8 was bored and stroked to 327 cid to replace the 348. Top dog of the 409s gulped through a pair of four-barrel carburetors to yield 409 bhp.
Motor Trend roared its 409 test car to 60 in 6.3 seconds, blasting through the quarter-mile in 14.9 seconds. A 380-bhp edition took an extra second to hit 60 in the hands of Car Life. Sales virtually doubled those of the rival Ford Galaxie 500XL.
Impala's body was boxier yet for 1963, as a 427-cid V-8 arrived, intended for professional drag racers. Most customers had to be content with a 425-bhp enhancement of the 409.
A new "police option" 409 was rated 340 bhp. All SS Impalas had floor shifters for 1963. As usual, the $161 option could be ordered with any engine, down to the new 230-cid six. Inside, the grab bar was gone.
Super Sports were considered a distinct model in 1964. By this time, the SS owner could tune in to the Beatles on an AM/FM radio, and grasp a rarely seen twin-spoke walnut-grained steering wheel. "Any of three big 409 V-8's," said the 1964 catalog, "is especially saucy in highway passing situations." Impala fans couldn't agree more, and the Super Sport phenomenon was well underway.
For 1961-1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport specifications, go to the next page.
For more information on cars, see:
1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport Specifications
The 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport was a powerful and sporty full-size car that quickly started a phenomenon.
Engines: ohv I-6 1962 235.5 cid (3.56 × 3.94), 135 bhp 1963-1964 230 cid (3.88 × 3.25), 140 bhp; ohv V-8, 283 cid (3.88 × 3.00), 170/195 bhp; 1961 only 348 cid (4.13 × 3.25), 305/340/350 bhp; 1962-1964 327 cid (4.00 × 3.25), 250/300 bhp; 409 cid (4.31 × 3.50) 1961 360 bhp 1962 380/409 bhp 1963-1964 340/400/425 bhp
Transmissions: 3-speed manual; overdrive, 4-speed manual, and Powerglide 2-speed automatic optional
Suspension, front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs, stabilizer
Suspension, rear: live axle, coil springs
Brakes: front/rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 119.0
Weight (lbs.): 3,265-3,565
Top speed (mph): 103-140
0-60 mph (sec): V-8 6.3-12.8