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Only 456 1961 Chevrolet Impalas were equipped with the SS package!

1961 Impala SS and 409

When it comes to big Chevy muscle cars, the first Impala SS with optional 409-cube big-block V8 might be the purest strain of the breed. A big engine stuffed in a small car is the classic formula for a muscle car and the '61 Impala was, in relative terms, a downsized car. This gave the big-block versions super high-performance abilities. For example, the SS two-door hardtop with a 409-cid/360-hp engine was good for 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds and a 15.8-second quarter mile time!

The very first SS option could be ordered for Impala two-door sedans, four-door sedans and hardtops and no "factory assembly" was required. The package was strictly a dealer-installed item, costing around $54 for a few basic ingredients like "SS" emblems, a padded dash, spinner wheel covers, power steering, power brakes, heavy-duty springs and shocks, sintered metallic brake linings, a 7,000-rpm tachometer, 8 x 14 narrow whitewall tires, a dashboard grab bar and a chrome shift housing for the floor-shifted four-speed gearbox.

Two V8 engines were available at prices between $344 and about $500. The Turbo-Thrust 348-cid bigblock came with 11:25 compression in 340-hp (four-barrel carburetor) and 350-hp (three two-barrel carburetor) versions. A new 409-cid Turbo-Fire engine was available with 360-hp (four-barrel), 380-hp (three two-barrel) or 409 hp (dual-quad) options. It had 11:1 compression and a four-speed close-ratio transmission was $188 extra.

Some Chevy experts warn that the 1961 Impala SS is not the easiest car to restore. Only 456 Impalas were fitted with the "SS" package (including 142 with 409-cid engines), so parts are hard to find. This is something to seriously consider if you have your heart set on becoming a Super Sport buyer. But take heart because a 409-cid '61 Chevrolet Impala without SS equipment is also a desirable muscle car.

According to the Standard Catalog of Chevrolet (1912-2003), a 1961 Bel Air Sport coupe with the 409-cid/409-hp engine zipped down the quarter-mile in 12.83 seconds. Don Nicholson was also Top Stock Eliminator at the 1961 NHRA Winternationals behind the wheel of a 409/409 Chevy!
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