Bubble-Top Project: 1961 Chevrolet Impala

There’s no denying it, I like ’60s vintage Impalas. I have owned several and its easy to see how GM garnered so much market share back in the early ’60s, with plenty of help from the Impala, that the Justice Department considered separating Chevy from the fold. Those days are long gone and CUV’s seem to be the current flavor now but it’s always nice to take a look back at what was. The Impala really started to come into its own in ’61. Gone was the chrome excess of the ’58 and the take-flight fins of the ’59 and ’60. That being the case, this ’61 Impala two-door hardtop, located in Barnesville, Minnesota is worth a gander. It is available here on eBay for $3,600, twenty-four bids tendered so far.

This ’61 example is often referred to as a “bubble-top” due to its thin roof pillars and outsized front a rear glass. A few of the more notable aspects regarding the ’61 model include the first year for the SuperSport (SS) option, mid-year switch from the 348 CI “W” head engine to the new 409 and, until hardtops were phased out for safety reasons, ’61 was the only model year where both a two-door hardtop and a two-door sedan version of the Impala were offered.

To say that this ’61 Chevy is rough around the edges would be an understatement. It appears to be still wearing its original Almond Beige “Magic Mirror” finish though the sun has worked its usual voodoo on the roof. The seller has some sort of story about the rear of the car being lifted at one time when it was “froze” to the ground but this Impala just looks like it has been wacked hard in the rear, taking out all six of its distinctive Impala taillights. There is rust in the lower fenders and probably in other places too, the body damage confuses the look. Note, in the lead image, the ’68 Impala side marker lights tacked on to the front fenders, a way to “personalize” this Impala perhaps?

The front end has been kissed too with missing fender extensions, damaged or missing headlight buckets, a mangled hood leading edge, bent left fender and a broken grille. The hood is also showing the telltale sign of a carburetor fire somewhere in its past. But other than that…

The interior is one of the best examples of, “What the h&!! happened in here?” that I have come across in a while. I’m trying to figure out the floor in the driver’s footwell, it appears, besides the obvious rust, that it has been patched in some helter-skelter way. It’s either that or some of the torn sound deadening underlay is still in place. There are destroyed bucket seats from some unknown origin that have been added and the floor shift appears to be from a first-gen Mustang. What’s left of the steering wheel is unrecognizable, it’s not from a ’61 Chevy, and the backseat appears to have had something akin to a radiation blast occur. It’s doubtful that any of the dash instrumentation and switches are operable but at least in the case of the windshield wipers, it doesn’t matter – there’s no windshield. But other than that…

Under the hood is an iron lump. The aforementioned front marker light badge reads “327” and maybe that’s what this small-block is, a 327 CI V8 of some unknown provenance; hard to know for sure without spying the alpha code or the block casting number. The 327 CI V8 was still one year away, a 283 V8 being the mainstay in ’61. And while this block has desirable “camelback” heads that contain large(er) valves and is in keeping with the 327 spirit of things, the engine is topped with an incongruous two-barrel carburetor intake manifold. None of this matters, it’s doubtful that this engine has operated on its own on many moons. This is an automatic transmission-equipped car which probably means a Powerglide, two-speed automatic unit. The hope-to-be-forgotten Turboglide automatic was still around in ’61, it’s last outing, but they were very seldomly seen by this point. It would not be a stretch to assume that everything under the hood is unusable but other than that…

I’m searching for a reason for this Impala’s continued existence. I haven’t come up with one. Nevertheless, you always want to see an old car, especially one with some collectible cred saved. Is a ’61 Impala a desirable car? No doubt about it but this example has probably turned too far a corner to be considered viable and there really aren’t many useable parts if that were to become its ultimate fate. Beyond that, it has no title and the not all of the wheels roll, but other than that…I’m not sure what the bidders who comprise the 24 bids see here, but maybe I’m missing something. What do you think? “Resuscitable” or “Nothing to see here, move along!”

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  1. Moparman Member

    I think that I’d search for one in better shape to start with, this has all the earmarks of a money hole. :-)

    Like 31
  2. canadainmarkseh Member

    Man! That poor car has lived a hard life this thing is to bent up to be worth saving. Yes it could be straightened out but not without going on a frame straightening rack, and the bill for that will be large. Then there will still be rust repair and body work. It needs a full interior, it needs an engine and transmission total rebuild. It will need brakes and steering. It even needs a windshield. This is a total lost cause. JMHO.

    Like 24
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    All you need is time and money and a real love for the car. I’ve seen good driving examples for sale all over the internet for what it will cost to get this one the road.

    Like 12
  4. Arby

    “Rough around the edges”?

    The edges are gone…

    Like 23
  5. Benjy58

    Parts car at best. Junkyard at worst. too far to do anything with it. It has all the earmarks of some kids lot car.

    Like 7
  6. redwagon

    I am thinking that the rear end probably was bent trying to lift it from the frozen ground. It is North Dakota after all and the soils there are quite heavy (clays, silts etc) they will hold fast once frozen.

    Plus the sides are bent almost in the exact same place by the same amount, there is no obvious inward denting to the rear bumper or the rear trunk lid. In a rear end accident hard enough to bend the rear quarters like this I would think that the rear bumper and trunk would be toast. Still, this is nothing but scrap, a minor parts car at best.

    Note for 1961 the 327 was not yet available so the trim tags on the front quarters are incorrect. The engine (or what’s left of it) may be a 327 but that’s not what it came with from the factory.

    Like 9
  7. Kuzspike

    looks like the glove box door may still be straight, not much else.
    The floor shifter looks like something out of a Mustang to me, not sure what or even if this would have come with an automatic on the floor without a console.

    Like 4
  8. Dave

    All it needs is…everything.

    Like 7
  9. George Mattar

    I agree with Moparman. Look for a better one. You are looking at $5,000 just for interior pieces. He says he will help load it. Yeah. Into a dumpster. Sad. With each passing day, these get crushed as EPA is clamping down on junk yards. I know a place in Vermont. He had 400 cars rotting on his property. Barns full of big block engines, Muncies, NOS trim. He died. Kids said sell to developer.
    Everything crushed. This was in 2006.

    Like 2
  10. Chuck

    I want to know who these 24 bidders are? I have a bridge for sale.

    Like 7
  11. junkman Member

    Well that small block does have a pair of double hump cylinder heads on it. That’s about all on this one that is of interest to me, so…. I’ll pass.

    Like 1
  12. NovaTom

    So did it win the demolition derby?

    Like 7
  13. Mike Walden

    Hey guys ( whoever writes up these articles ) , I just thought I would take a minute and thank you for making my day every day. As a man of 71 and living in senior housing reading your write ups and seeing the old cars ,is like seeing old girlfriends as I have many fond memories of days gone by. I owned several muscle cars new ( 68,69,70,&71 Superbees and Chargers), but I must say my current model is the best, she’s been with me 52 years. Thanks guys

    Like 31
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Mr. Mike:

      Thanks for the nice words! Please stay tuned, we’ll have lots of new reviews for you to read daily; muscle cars and more!

      Stay safe!


      Like 9
      • Ed Muir

        What Mike said…

        Like 1
  14. 19sixty5 Member

    I always liked the GM bubble-top design. The 65-69 Corvairs have a similar look as far as glass area, minus the wrap-around windshield of course.

    Like 1
  15. i8afish

    Helen Keller’s teacher couldn’t help this one.

    • Mountainwoodie

      Big laugh………People will try to sell anything………

      Like 1
  16. Gaspumpchas

    Shame to see this cool impala in this condition. Looks like it had been manhandled in the junkyard with a fork lift and a front end loader. Even the mill could have possibly been saved if it had been sealed up . If you decide to take it on, good luck, not sure if anyone is making quarters for these, that would be the least of your worrie anyhoo. Stay safe.

    Like 2
  17. Maestro1 Member

    It’s a $500.00 car no matter how you look at it, never mind market values.
    Then you would be North of a large number to save it. I always loved this design, but I would look for something better.

    Like 1
    • Rich

      It needs to be parted out IF there’s anything left worth parting it for????

      Like 1
      • johnny

        The back glass is valuable, tinted and getting harder to find. Probably about $5-750 in parts with labor to scavenge, advertise, package, ship etc.

        Like 1
  18. Little_Cars

    Steering wheel looks like it came from an early Monte Carlo (70-72). What a shame one of the most unique features (one year only two-door hardtop and a two-door sedan version of the Impala) appears to be screwed up too. No windshield, roll up door windows askew.

    Like 1
  19. John Oliveri

    There’s no upside to this car, body is shot, interior shot, drivetrain shot, betcha frame ain’t too good, everything is bent, why it’s still here is a mystery

    Like 2
  20. TimM

    Got to love the bubble top design but this ones bubble has been popped for sure!! To much work in my opinion to make her go down the road again but there might be a couple useable parts before she sees the grave yard!!! I would want to see them all saved if it were possible but sometimes it’s just to far gone!!!

  21. BillM

    Has anybody else noticed that these guys in Minnesota always want a lot for their cars? Seems like their smoking something up there, even if it maybe for medicinal purposes. Or maybe it’s the bidders who are smoking something. Although we’ve all seen a car listed, it supposedly sells, and a few weeks or months later it’s back up for sale. Maybe that’s because when the buyer went to pick it up, it was worse than pictured or described. Makes me wonder what the seller isn’t showing us, if they’re taking photos of the good bits. Seems like much too much to pay for a bastardized car that doesn’t run, has no interior, and no undamaged body panels. So, you’re paying a lot for the roof, some stainless, the back glass, and maybe some engine parts. Has anyone thought about using this for a demolition derby? Still too much work to be done. If it rolled and ran, and didn’t stop, I could see $800 TOPS. As it is, it’s a real shame, as these are beautiful cars.

    Like 1
  22. Pete Phillips

    Not even a good parts car. Scrapyard value. Sad, but there are others.

    Like 2
  23. jim michlin

    love the bobble top cars,this one was beaten so badly,Would make great drag car.These had Best lines of any car ever.Some early 409’s in 61.and 348/350.But would need 6 figure investment.I would consider it!

    Like 1
  24. james marshall

    Unrestorable as far as I’m concerned. Almost bought one in 61 but 12 bucks away from my final offer after 3 hours in the box and 4TO’s.

  25. bone

    Definitely a junkyard find ; I’ve bent cars like that knocking them around with a forked bucket loader . It was sitting for years and maybe without wheels ; seeing two new lug nuts on rims with mismatched tires leads me to think that, and likely has been sitting without that windshield for longer than when it had one. I cant see what this car has to make it sell for over four grand.

    Like 1
  26. Al

    This is proof that not just anyone should be allowed to bid on ebay. This poor sap that bought this for $4200 shouldn’t be allowed to drive …anything! I couldn’t find a part worth $42.

  27. garry connors

    this car could be worth around 35k if you put 60 k in it

    Like 3

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