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57k Original Miles: 1961 Chevrolet Impala “Bubble Top” Sport Coupe

At the risk of raising the ire of some readers, I’m going to make a bold statement; I feel that the styling of most new cars is bland and boring. Most manufacturers subscribe to what I call the “cookie-cutter” school of design, with many of their design queues carried from one model in their range to the next. Even retro designs generally fail to ignite the passion enjoyed by the originals upon which they are based. That brings us to the 1961 Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe. Affectionately dubbed the Bubble Top, the company followed a radical roof and glass design that allowed a large vehicle to look light and elegant. This Bubble Top is an unmolested classic with 57,000 miles on the clock. It has some minor imperfections, but the buyer could leave them untouched if they wish to retain its survivor status. It is listed here on eBay in Nampa, Idaho. Bidding has raced to $25,400 but remains short of the reserve.

At more than seventeen feet in overall length and tipping the scales at 3,590lbs, the 1961 Impala Sport Coupe is a relatively large and heavy car. However, Chevrolet achieved the almost unthinkable with its design. Employing thin and elegant roof pillars combined with enormous expanses of glass made the vehicle look light and airy. The only way they could have improved it would have been to cut the top off, which they did with the Convertible version. Our feature car rolled off the showroom floor wearing Twilight Turquoise and Ermine White paint that retains an impressive shine. It isn’t perfect, having accumulated a collection of small chips and scratches. The overall presentation is acceptable for a survivor, although some panel damage might prompt the new owner to perform some isolated restoration work. The most obvious is a dent in the passenger side door, which shows clearly in the supplied photos. Addressing this would not compromise the car’s originality, nor would repairing the minor rust in the lower rear quarter panel. The underside shots reveal this classic as rock-solid, with no signs of rust in the floors or frame. The dent in the door has also impacted the trim in that area, and the buyer may elect to source a replacement piece to improve the presentation. The remaining trim is in good order, while the glass is flawless.

Buyers in 1961 faced an enormous selection of engines to power their new Impala, but this car’s original owner selected the 283ci V8 producing 170hp. That power reaches the back wheels via a two-speed Powerglide transmission, while power steering is also part of this package. The two-speed impacts performance, with the car taking 20.2 seconds to cover the ¼ mile. Had they ordered the Impala with a manual transmission, that would have slashed two seconds off the ET. Leaving that factor aside, this classic has plenty of good news. It remains numbers-matching, although the owner has added a few upgrades. The motor breathes better thanks to the addition of an Edelbrock intake, carburetor, and air cleaner. There are chrome valve covers from the same manufacturer, while the aluminum radiator is also new. The changes should unlock some significant extra power that could make an 18-second ¼-mile pass possible. For those concerned about authenticity, the seller includes the removed original parts. That would allow them to return the car to its factory specifications, positively impacting its potential value. They claim it has a genuine 57,000 miles on the clock and judging by the enormous collection of documentation included, it appears the buyer can verify the claim. The buyer receives the original Sales Contract, Title, vehicle registrations, insurance information, complete service records, and parts receipts. The Impala had been sitting for a while but has recently been fully serviced to ensure it is roadworthy. It runs and drives well and has no mechanical needs.

This Impala’s interior presents extremely well for an original survivor with sixty-one years under its belt. It is trimmed in Turquoise cloth and vinyl with no significant rips or stains. There is some slight wear on the outer edge of the front seat and a few minor marks, but nothing of any consequence. The back seat is excellent, as are the headliner and carpet. The dash and wheel are immaculate, and the bright trim pieces sparkle nicely. There are no obvious aftermarket additions, and almost everything works as it should. The seller says the clock is inoperative, which is no surprise. The factory AM radio requires a new speaker, but neither problem will cost a fortune to repair or prevent a new owner from enjoying this classic immediately.

My criticism of modern cars does not extend to their mechanical engineering or safety because most now reach standards that manufacturers in 1961 could only dream of. If you want an insight into what I mean, consider the philosophical difference in headlamp design between today and cars produced in the 1960s and 1970s. Older models followed a set appearance, while headlamps today are a sculptural work of art. However, the body styling, especially on more affordable models, sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate one brand from another. There was no such danger in the 1960s when manufacturers were bold and daring. This 1961 Impala Bubble Top Coupe perfectly embodies that era and is a stunning survivor guaranteed to draw attention wherever it goes. We are unlikely to see vehicles of this type again, which is a crying shame. That is why we must preserve cars like this so future generations can appreciate what they have missed. If you tried to describe this car, many wouldn’t believe it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but there is no substitute for seeing one in the flesh. Do you agree?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Well said Adam. A look at this car and the present day fleets of look-a-like vehicles, most painted black, white, or silver, and the difference just jumps out at you. Anyone out there able to tell one brand from another these days? Nice car here.

    Like 34
    • David Frank David Frank Member

      Beautiful car, beautiful example. Perhaps this one will be driven and enjoyed. Sweet memories of New Mexico roads with the cotton fields and pecan orchards flying by.
      Well… My “modern car” is certainly an exception to the anonymous look!! My car is so ugly you just can’t mistake it for anything else. Only the “Jute” is perhaps more ugly than a first generation Leaf.

      Like 12
  2. Cadmanls Member

    Have to agree nice write up. Today it is all cookie cutter, silver, white, and black seem to be the norm. And they are all SUV’s for the most part which blows me away.

    Like 15
  3. Moparman Member

    This same car was featured on 9 July 2022, so I’ll just reprise my comment from then: “My first thought upon seeing this car was “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, although I believe the car in the movie had dog dish hub caps. This one looks good! GLWTA!! :-)

    Like 11
    • Bob C.

      Hey Russell, wait up! Ooh you’re bugging me man!

      Like 6
    • DON

      I thought it looked familiar !

  4. Sam Shive

    The Only Difference Between This And My First Car, Mine Was A 4 Speed. I still have a scar from the glove box door. The door was open for the 8 track and I missed a shift.

  5. Bick Banter

    I generally agree but there are 2 things working against the existence of cars that look like this today. Number one is government safety standards. Today’s cars have to have a certain distance between the hood and the engine, a front end of a certain design for pedestrian safety, high doors for side impact, and other things.

    Back when this baby was new, you drew out a car that looked good on a sheet of drafting paper and the only compromises that were made were so it could be mass produced on the required platform. It would literally be impossible to build something that looked like this now.

    Despite all that, I think there are some very attractive new automobiles. I think the new Nissan Z looks great, as does the new Supra and Corvette. I also think the current generation Camry looks very good for a sedan, as does the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

    That leads to difference number two. Consumer tastes! Cars do not sell in particularly high volume any more, even Camrys. For all the complaining that enthusiasts do about SUV’s and crossovers, I have noticed many of them have one in the garage themselves. When you ask them about this, they will point at the wife, or a need for space, bad back and knees, and so on.

    Automakers are going to build what people want – which today is CUVs, sport utility vehicles, and pickups. There is only so much you you can do with the basic styling of these utility vehicles, so they all look the same.

    And actually, if you go back to 1961, most full size cars had this “low long wide” look. Take a close look at the full size American cars from the era and you will see what I mean.

    Like 13
    • FrankD Member

      You are correct. Today they all look the same. Years ago I read an article in Automotive Engineering about the design of cars in the 21st century. Bottom line all cars will look basically the same for gas mileage and other Federal requirements. The article stated telling them apart was by wheel design and manufacturers emblems. Today cars all look about the same gas or electric. If you want a decent color you pay extra. Sad!

    • joenywf64

      Ironically, the small side windows, high beltline, big pillars, & IMPROPERLY LOCATED DOOR MIRRORS make it very difficult to see out, which would explain why there are so many drivers hitting pedestrians & EVEN BUILDINGS these day! That rarely if ever happened in the old days, even recently before distracting smartphones & video screens came out.
      The 3000gt for a sports car has outSTANDing visibility in all directions!!
      I did not want to test drive a modern challenger – i found it too “tomblike” inside.
      & as for the modern camaro, forget it.

      Like 1
  6. Butch smith

    Adam, you make a truthful statement. Today’s cars are so muddled masses of blah, it’s hard to be excited over any of them. Our current car is a Ford Flex. I love it. While it is boxy, that’s the point. You’re not going to mistake it for a RX350 or a Trailblazer. Plus i love station wagons. I’d be thrilled if Detroit would bring back wagons and dump the SUV image we have been forced into. Make ‘em green, too!

    Like 9
    • Bick Banter

      I’m sorry but I don’t think that’s true at all. I own a 2020 Veloster N and it’s a beautiful car IMO. A lot of sweeping lines and curves. It even sometimes gets compliments, which is rare for a current model car.

      They’re canceling it after this model year but they’re going to make the mid-engine RM20 N, which is similar in theme. And the N Vision 74, while not planned for production yet, is gorgeous. I would kill if Hyundai would make it

      Like 3
      • Psychofish2

        Adam is especially right in the Veloster’s case.

        An incoherent riot of lines going every which way.

        Looks like a movie monster stepped on the rear.

        A cock roach. One of the worst examples of “modern” styling, like the Leaf or Juke.

        But you do you.

        Like 7
  7. Kenneth Carney

    Guess that’s why I like making portraits of older cars. They’re much more interesting to look at than what’s being offered today. My question for the gentleman with the
    Voloster is how the hell can you see
    out the back window? Had a ’49 Chevy Fleetline with that same issue
    only his car is worse. And would I like
    to have one of these old beauties? You bet! But I’m one of those guys
    who are priced out of the hobby due to sky high pricing started by Barrett
    Jackson. Nowadays, they’re charging
    $25K for just a body shell. THAT’S why I only do auto portraits.

  8. Bill

    Reserve not met at $35,000. C’mon man!

    Like 7
    • FrankD Member

      Classic Car Market is Hot, Hot, Hot these days. Boomers are dumping and Youngers are paying BIG!


      And a lot of those bids were automatic bids, meaning someone really wants this car badly, putting a way high bid … that’s sometimes a friend or family member overbidding to drive the price up …

      Like 1
  9. Bamapoppy

    Adam, add me to the list of those who agree with you 100%. From my youth I could see a 1961 Chevy and instantly know it was NOT a Ford or Plymouth. As far as Bick goes, SUV’s can’t be different? Look at a 1961 Jeep vs an International. Look the same? No. Again, you instantly know the brand. Here’s the difference IMO; yesteryear cars came from pen and paper, today from computer.

    Like 6
  10. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Touching just on headlamps design the new Volvos I work with daily are $2k+ per side & oh yeah, new motors too & pull the front bumper to install & makes you wanna barf.

  11. Mark H

    Back in those days cars aged & depreciated real fast. My father bought a new ’60 Ford Wagon at the end of the model year. My mother wrecked it in fall of 1963 – was run off a gravel road in dense fog & hit a stump. Front clip was wrecked, but not worth repairing – this was a car that had been used for slightly more than 36 months. My father could not afford a 1964 at that point, because the ’60 Ford wasn’t worth much for insurance – basically 4 model years old at that point. There was a ’62 Ford wagon that was being repaired at the dealer – the 1st owner decided to move up 2 years – from a ’62 to a leftover ’63. So my dad bought the ’62 and it was one of the best cars he ever had. But in a span of 38 months of ownership, the ’60 Ford was redesigned in 1961, then in 1962, then in 1963, and then in 1964. And then 1965 was a redesign too. So, yes cars did not all look the same with some exceptions, like the “pony” cars), but back then people would trade on 2 to 4 year cycles.

    Like 2

    Thanks for your comments. I totally agree. Todays turtle shells on wheels will never replace cars like this one.

    Like 7
  13. John Phillips

    The radio, sans push buttons, was called “Straight Line Tuning” and was the last tube radio Chevy installed. The push button radios in 1961 were transistor. It looks like this one is the former.

    Like 3
    • Chuck Dickinson

      “Transistor-powered”, I believe they were, meaning there were SOME transistors. The “ALL-transistor” came with 62s, tho’ the radios were interchangeable in the cars for both years.

  14. Wayne

    Cars today look like they came out of the back end of a Wildebeast! I took my driver’s license test on a 61 Chevy so have real soft spot for these cars. The 61’s had the best looking steering wheel ever!!

    Like 4
    • Chuck Dickinson

      The holes in the steering wheel were not a good place for thumbs! Experience.

      Like 1
      • Taconix

        Or buttons on a cuff sleeve.

        Like 1
  15. Duaney Member

    I don’t agree that modern vehicles have better technology. There are lots of engine failures with modern vehicles that the good old Chevy 283 would never experience. The GM v-6 with low tension rings that pump oil around 70K miles and blow the engine, the Mopar hemi with valve train issues, A friend’s Nissan engine problems that he found were common, try visiting a pick and pull wrecking yard, thousands of mini vans that appear new, all of them have blown transmissions.

    Like 4
    • jay b

      It’s a good point. Any bets if a modern box will start and run in 2070?

      Like 5
      • Taconix

        Today’s electronics will probably be obsolete in 20 years, if not sooner.

        Like 2
  16. Mark Member

    Very nice. I have to pile on regarding the comments about bland and boring. Instead of cookie cutter, I think the modern cars are all cut from a “potato” with mild variations. They are as bland and boring as the finance dudes and dudettes that are in charge of the companies. My wife was looking for a new car, her 1996 Audi A6 wagon has 224K on it so we went to the Audi dealer to look at new Audi’s. After looking at the styling and selections she told the salesman they all looked the same and she couldn’t tell the difference between their Audi/’s and a Honda Civic. The salesman had no comeback. She put another 75K on her Audi before she bought another car. A BMW I3. Ah, the good old days.

  17. Roseland Pete

    No ire here. I’ve been complaining about modern-car design–of lack of–for years.

    Like 5
  18. Johnny

    This car has style and safer then any government would know about. Anything the government sticks their nose in. Gets screwed up big time. Let a computer go out on a new vehicle and you have no control over–driving down the road. . This 61 Chevy is alot better then any new vehicle .

    Like 4
  19. James Mulhauser

    To an old fart like me who grew up in the 50s and 60s, there’s nothing that compares with the incredible designs of the cars of that era. It’s so true about cars back then being designed with pencil and paper and cars today being designed by computers. You can teach a monkey to operate a computer but it takes someone with imagination to design a ’61 Chevy!

  20. Terry

    As a buddy attests, seeing taillights a mile ahead on a dark road, he could not only identify the car but could also detect slight production changes as it went down the assembly line. (Perhaps a slight exaggeration.) Admittedly, some new models have distinct styling, but it’s way to common to have no clue as to the year, or brand of, – as Psychofish2 said – “an incoherent riot of lines going every which way”.

    Regarding car radios, I’ve restored many of the tube-type and earlier t’sistor models. My backside bent over the hump is a reminder of the “physical pleasure” involved. I personally enjoy hearing the slight buzz of the vibrator doing its job at the click of the switch, and say there is nothing quite like the sound pouring out of that single speaker atop, in, or under, the dash. Elvis sounds just right!

    Like 4
    • Robert

      And the static of power lines and thunder storms.

      Like 2
  21. CaCarDude

    I’ve been saying for years now all the new cars that are mass produced by computers today are just a bunch of “Jelly Bean” cars, all look the same with just a handful of different colors in the mix.
    I have to agree about the Juke and the Leaf being a couple of not the best looking out of the bean lot,.. but what about the Prius, now that is one homely looking road rash, IMO.

    Like 5
    • 67Firebird_Cvt Member

      Besides the styling issues of new cars, what about the names?
      Juke? Flex? Prius? Leaf? And on and on…….

      Like 4
  22. Billy Miller

    There was a time when you knew what make you were looking at by the styling. Today if it doesn’t have the plastic…glued to it… guess is as good as the next. Also, I’ve noticed that the 57 Ford Fairlane side lines have made it to Buick. Other side lines are there to strengthen to doors, not add to the styling. My guess…the age of the stylists has dropped severely.

  23. Burt

    I have no faith in future generations appreciating things they missed.
    Beautiful car.

    Like 3
  24. stevee

    Fuel mileage, passive safety and exhaust emissions dictate a modern car. Modern car management electronics and security systems are a pain in the butt— environmental conditions and age deterioration WILL cause problems for the owner. Let’s face it— like so many things, cars built today are a consumable not a durable good.

    Like 1

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