Barn Find! 1961 Chevrolet Impala “Bubble Top”

Barn-fresh and shopping for a new owner here on craigslist in Inland Empire, this scrappy-looking 1961 Chevrolet Impala hard top from south of Milwaukee looks like it’s survived more than one episode of “Bodywork by Blatz.” Call it “Down but not out,” though. Someone will see this iconic coupe’s crooked mug and whisk it away to the good life:  a rodent-free garage, gleaming chrome, and an occasional romp en route to a pastoral setting where its gleaming paint will reflect toddlers and Labrador Retrievers at the charity car show.

Missing windows guarantee flow-through ventilation. Thankfully the complex windshield remains. These coupes became known as “Bubble Tops” for the airy cabin with nearly 360 degrees of glass, thanks to the super-thin C-pillars. Those details combined with the hard top (no B-pillar) greenhouse made these Impalas, like this first-year 1961, very futuristic in the space-age early ’60s. My Dad had one of these in a darker blue, back when I was too young to remember.

As interiors go I’ve seen worse… and better. At least you know what you’re getting into. The minimalist description indicates either the seller’s lack of motivation or lonely need to converse with the small subset of potential buyers willing to embark on a 20th-century sale by phone.

If a lusty 409 lurked under this Bubble Top’s ping pong table-sized hood, the number “409” would have appeared about 17 times in the 63-word listing. As we might expect, the engine bay holds the shell of what’s probably a 283, along with the shells of nuts stored for countless Wisconsin winters. At $3500, though, you could do worse. The bare minimum work required to return this classic to the road could range from “not as bad as we thought” to “OMG,” and a close-inspection of the frame and drive train is highly advised before rolling the dice on this cheese-country coupe. In my daydream for this car, it would get glass and everything new for the fuel and brake systems, I coax the 283 into life and (it’s a miracle!) the transmission works well enough to drive it around more or less as it looks here until I decide what to do next. How often do you see a car like this on the road that isn’t nearly perfect? Sure; my story is full of holes, but it’s my daydream. What’s your vision for this working man’s ’60s sport coupe?

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Comments

  1. sir mike

    Well it is a bubble top…better stop there…

    1
  2. Dick Johnson

    Outstanding. These nasty Chevys have a well earned and well deserved reputation on the strip. Historically, I ‘d like to see her in race trim. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a 348/409 miss a 2-3 upshift, and still watch the car win. Especially when you are in the next lane.

    1
  3. ben dobreuenaski

    Parts car or scrap yard.

    • Richard Ochoa

      I Offer 100 Bucks AS IS!!!!!!

      1
  4. Dave

    Can you graft the roof/glass on a regular impala?

    • JRP

      Dave, I know a guy with a small BodyShop in central Michigan that is doing just that for a customer. I saw it a couple months ago. The roof graft was completed while on a rotisserie for a frame off restoration. I sure wouldn’t want to pay for that. The owner of the shop told me the customer agreed to pay him $1200.00 per week until completed and this is no 6 month job.

  5. jimbunte jimbunte Member

    Why does someone in Milwaukee post this to the Inland Empire Craigslist in Southern California? So odd…

  6. Madmatt

    61 and 62 are my favorite impalas,and I
    have dreamed of owning one since I was
    10yrs old or younger.This car is probably only saveable
    because there is so many reproduction parts available,
    although that rear glass may be very difficult to obtain!
    I think the lines on 61 and 62 are absolutely timeless.
    Also that “X” frame was notorious for rust
    and rot,buyer should check it over well.At 50yrs old now
    I still want a 61/62,but I realize that I want one far “closer”
    to being done and drivable,This is a great project for
    someone with time and money,young or old!,but man….
    what an awesome car this could be..!

    1
  7. memikeyounot

    It looks kind of like the one used in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” in the chase scene between Milton Berle, Terry Thomas and Dick Shawn in the red Dodge convertible.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CbAnIQZ-rA

    1
    • Dan

      That is what I always think of when I see these! Such. Good looking car.

  8. newfieldscarnut

    Too bad .

  9. 86 Vette Convertible

    First car I owned was a 61 Chev but a 6 cylinder 3 speed. Too bad this one will take so much work to get it together. 283 was a good engine and about as bulletproof as you could get and a lot of fun to run through the gears with.

  10. Morley Member

    You are right, 61 Bubble Top is the only way to go. But this 348/350 horsepower, solid lifter , tri-power, 4 speed is not going anywhere!!!!!!–except back into my garage.

    2
    • Mountainwoodie

      I’ll take it! One of the most beautiful cars of the Sixties.

  11. Joe

    I had a 61 Impala convertible, worst car I ever owned. Over 4000 pounds with a 283 it couldn’t get out of it’s own way. Coil springs on all 4 corners made sure you floated like a boat. Take the $20,000 this will take to fix and buy something else.

  12. Maestro1

    It was a beauty. I remember seeing them new, in showrooms. I have a soft spot for these cars, even with a 283, but the condition here makes me pause. At length. Assume the market somewhere between $25,000 and up for very special cases, and you are in the $25,000 range for restoring to a nice driver. And if you don’t like the 283, and opt for a 327 or some such, i would change the transmission no matter what’s in the car currently. If you love the car and intend to keep it go ahead and do it. In it’s current condition it’s a $500.00 piece.

  13. DonS

    The Inland Empire ad references one on Las Vegas Craigslist. The Vegas ad references back to the one at Inland Empire. What the heck. These are all clearly in Wisconsin and one for sure is at Fraaza Rock and Sand (you can see the photo on the background of the Vegas car). Must be trying for a more moneyed audience, but they have to add in shipping. Selling local allows for top dollar if you can find the buyer…

    Vegas: https://lasvegas.craigslist.org/cto/d/61-impala-bubble-top/6342431223.html
    Inland Empire: https://inlandempire.craigslist.org/cto/d/61-impala-bubble-top/6341842234.html

  14. Fred Bowers

    now thats a barn find

  15. 55chevy Chuck Foster

    My first car, a $75 62 Impala with a 6cyl 3 on the tree was fun to drive, lot of torque to spin the tires, the bubble tops are just a neat looking car art. I didn’t pursue a $500 61 Impala body in Mississippi a couple years ago, but these 60s classics seem to be dropping in value like 55-57 Chevies, oh well, I have too many projects as it is.
    You think I can preserve the patina on this 55?

    1
    • Clinton

      Maybe. What’s the price?

    • Kenny Edwards

      I like that 55! Trade?

  16. Dickies Hot Rods

    Buy a 9 C1 Caprice. Remove all the body panels and cut off upper body supports saving the floor pan and rockers. Channel the 61 body over top of the 9C1 floors and tie in using new 61 rockers and patch panels. Use the Caprice steering column and master cylinder brake booster and abs 4-wheel disc brakes. Build some fender supports , put on fuel injection badges and you have yourself one great Cruiser. Two easy boys.! You read it here first.

    • Yoopermike

      You first .

  17. scottymac

    Wasn’t every hardtop built in ’61 a bubbletop? I don’t understand the excitement. Chevy built the ’62 Bel Air with a bubbletop, and the Impala with the Thunderbird roof, so I see the rarity there. Didn’t 348s break a lot of cranks? Didn’t 409s tear the back axles out of the frame? Help me with my history here.

  18. lawrence

    Yes Scottymac your correct….don’t see where the hard on is for a 61 hard top….a 62 carry over bubble top was the hot set up with the 409…little lighter that the 62 hard top

  19. Tyler

    Not all 61 Impalas were bubble tops, you could also get an Impala sedan. The market is very soft on these right now, unless it’s an original 348 or 409 car. You can get a good running finished car for well under $20 grand.

    The car above was purchased in Pigeon Forge about 10 years ago in need of restoring, but drivable with a nice tune port 350 & 4 speed for $5500. Rust free California car. After paint, interior, rechrome the bright work, disc brakes & other suspension upgrades, my dad was in well over $35k. Sold it last year at a $10k loss. Lesson learned!

    • Mountainwoodie

      My Dad bought a 4 door stripper new in 1961. Black. I can actually remember as a 7 year old driving with my Dad from the dealer and wondering why it had 4 doors! LOL

  20. Troy S

    Would make a hell of a hot rod, sure to turn a lot of heads at shows or just cruising down coastal 101. I’m sure the first thing everyone will want to know is if it’s got a 409, guaranteed, in which I’d reply- “427”!

  21. JP in WI

    Too many babies here.. Looks like a helluva project.. Full floor pans are cheap and easy.. X-frames are plentiful.. Rear glass–expensive.. One of the most beautiful Chevy bodies..

    I’ll just sit over here with my Biscayne..

  22. Don

    Sold

  23. Roland Via

    Would probably make a great NASCAR repli-car…

  24. Michael P. Hoyt

    Ive got one way better than that! Tons of parts for 1961 Impala

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