Garage Find: 1961 Chevrolet Impala


Another quasi-survivor with original paint, this 1961 Chevrolet Impala has been hiding out in where else, you guessed it, California. Do you west coasters hog all the nice original cars? It’s currently in Los Angeles and is listed for sale here on eBay, where bidding is currently just over $8,000 but has not yet met the reserve. And note — it only has two doors for all you sedan haters!


Yes, the paint is faded and worn. But somehow this one just looks right. It’s a garage find with 58,709 miles on the odometer, and according to the seller they can document those miles. They even have the scribble paper that the original salesperson figured out offers on!


Here’s where the wear of the paint is most evident. Chrome looks good, though, and panel fit is good. The car has it’s original black plates and dealer plate frames. I like the look. What do you think?


Now here’s where things change from survivor to at least partially restored. The seller has replaced the entire interior with new replica components and to be honest, it looks really nice, but clashes with the outside of the car. Does that mean you need to repaint the car? This is similar to the Oldsmobile Starfire I wrote about the other day.


Here’s the engine, which is the original one according to the seller. However, they tell us that it’s attached to a rebuilt Turbo 350 transmission, which of course can’t be original as they didn’t exist in 1961. That being said, it’s not something that most folks would notice, and it probably improves the driving experience with three speeds versus two. I’m going to ask you the same question that I did in the Starfire post: Would you repaint this original car? Or would you leave it original and just enjoy it? Be sure and tell us all in the comments, and why you’d make that choice!



  1. RandyS

    I would paint it. The cleared patina look that has been all the rage the last 2 years is fine on a purpose built rat rod but not a nice car like this.

    Assuming there is no dents and lower paint is salvageable I might just paint the top half of the car (hood, top, and trunk) a white color and keep the original aqua on the lower half. Otherwise a whole repaint.

    Like 3
  2. Bingo

    I love the outside ratty and the inside pristine. An interior needs to be nice…I’m funny that way.

    Who wants a spring poking you in the seeds?

    Like 1
    • Loco Mikado

      I had one poke me in a friends 1950 Chevrolet on the way to our high school graduation in 1969. My dad wasn’t to happy that I had a hole in the pants of my brand new suit bought for my graduation. When my daughter graduated 2004 I saw nobody in a suit.

  3. Fred W.

    17K already with 6 days to go! As patina machines go I kind of like the look of this one. Just looks heavily over polished.

  4. Johnni B

    I’d leave the paint just like it is cause it is so cool looking that way. Plus the fact it’s a bubbletop is another feather in it’s cap. I love it.

    Like 2
  5. Mark S

    As I’ve said in other posts single stage paint isn’t that hard to do and is the correct paint for this car. Paint is part of the maintenance of the car, you replace the tires when there worn out so why wouldn’t you replace the paint. RUSTINA is nothing more than the early attack of the tinworm. So my vote is to repaint but no base/clear paint.

    Like 3
  6. dirtyharry

    I agree with Mark. It wouldn’t be a mistake to thrown down the original color. I think the turbo 350 is a nice upgrade. By the way, California does not hog all the old cars. The ones we have last because of the weather and So Cal car culture. What a great find!

    Like 2
  7. Trent Poole

    I would paint it. My reason is simple. I don’t find rust attractive. This Bubbletop and the Starfire from the other day are really nice cars.

    Like 2
  8. JW454

    I’d paint it back the original color with single stage materials. Even though the transmission is not original I’d leave it or possibly replace it with one with an overdrive design. That would let the engine relax to about 1500 to 1800 R.P.M.s at highway speed.

    Like 2
  9. wuzjeepnowsaab

    I’m not a fan of patina…I think it’s great when buying because you can see what’s there but I’d pull everything and give it a proper single stage paint job. And I’d paint it white to set off that killer blue interior too.

    So there.

    Like 1
  10. Vince Habel

    It might be a turboglide instead of of a turbohydarmatic.

    • 70kingswood

      great car and I bet you are right, the problematic Turbo-glide was probably replaced with the T-350 after it failed.

  11. Rando

    Wow, that is beautiful. I would be hard-pressed to decide on paint or not paint. I love the originality, even though I also agree that this car needs to be protected from further decay. If you paint the outside nice, then how do you address the underhood and little nooks and crannies to make them just as presentable. I would hate to blow the car apart to restore. Good thing I can’t afford it, I guess. I would be totally overwhelmed with just that one decision.

    Maybe just a little paint and clean the rest up… but then again, to be able to show it off in that state of originality….

  12. bob

    I think its a two speed powerglide . Look at the shift indicator .

    • Gene

      Yes, it was a two speed Powerglide. However, it was a cast iron Powerglide.

  13. Joe Haska

    I don’t think it matters, this car is just too good. I would like to own it and then decide, I have a Patina P/U , and I like it allot, and it gets lots of looks. This car could do that too, but I think if it was mine, I would end up painting it. And as you said, and being president of the 2-door haters club, there’s nothing about this car not to like!

    Like 1
  14. Woodie Man

    I love me a bubbletop………..already at 17 K…..kinda high imho but a beautiful design.

    Like 2
  15. angliagt

    I love the bubbletop designs.
    Too bad that you’ll never see modern cars with
    that kind of flair.
    Our neigbors had one just like this,but
    White with a Red interior..

    Like 1
    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      Style disappeared when efficency took the pens out of the hands of artists and cars started to be designed in wind tunnels and computer models

      Like 1
  16. Bill

    The only thing I would do is……DRIVE IT !!!!!! Don’t mess it up.

    Like 1
  17. Glen

    Such a nice looking car. Yes I would paint it.

    Like 2
  18. moosie Craig

    Turbo-Glide with the GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR ?

  19. GOPAR

    Since the interior has already been replaced and the transmission has been upgraded, its pure survivor status is gone forever. With that in mind, I’d finish the restoration with a paint job and a really good under-hood detailing.

    Like 2
    • starsailing

      Good point…Since it’s not the original Tranny, and someone played around with the patina as sides don’t match rest of patina….Yank the small block, drop in a tri power 348 or 409, shift kit the TH350, tri Y headers w.electric cut outs…, change to posi, lose the hubcaps paint the wheels to match the new paint, Air Lift air bags the rear coils, raise front with cheap spring spacers in coils, 8 track it, add Moon tach and pie crust cheater slicks…Been there done that with a 61…, waiting to do again….All cars in photos were mine, my Roman red 61 Bel Air Bubble top in my graduation photo 348 4brl, glide, HUGE Cheater slicks, etc. Have pics of my red white 62 Bel Air bubble top here somewhere….

      Like 1
  20. pappy2d

    It’s way cooler the way it sits. Make it safe and drive it. There’s less originals than restos. Drive it, and enjoy the crowd it draws.

    Like 1
  21. Richard Ochoa

    I totally agree with GOPAR, Since the interior has already been replaced, may as well go all the way & do a complete restoration! My wife is the proud ORIGINAL owner of a ’61 Impala 2 Dr. Hdtp also! White w/Red stripe & Red Interior. No modifications other than dual glass packed mufflers! Would like to know just exactly what the car goes for???????? Can anyone let me know? Thanks very much! Richard & Carlene Ochoa C’da, Idaho

    Like 1
    • Rocco Member

      Just watch the e-bay ad that’s in red letters in the first paragraph. It will let you know the final/winning bid.

  22. Mark

    Beautiful design, unlike the same old cookie cutter cars made today because of lawyers and politicians. The ’61s had the best looking steering wheels ever made.

    Like 1
  23. Bob C.

    Repaint it the same color. Interior is nice so why not make the outside match? Plus it is a bubble top which is sought after.

    Like 2
  24. Marty Member

    Only original once. No repaint for me.

    But I digress. Rather than search for the missing cast iron PowerGlide, I’d be tempted to bolt in a 200R4.

    • Rocco Member

      If you HAVE TO put an overdrive in it, that’s the best choice.

  25. Chris in WNC

    I vote for giving it a CORRECT repaint.

    make it look like 1961, not the overused base- coat- clear- coat – way- too -shiny that too many people infliuct on old cars…..


    Like 2
  26. Tim W

    My Dad bought a ’61 350hp 348 Tri-Power stick brand new. Standing in the back floor board, I couldn’t hold on to the back of the front seat when he hit third. He sold it in ’71 and bought my Mom a new Nova(6 cyl). Nice car, but nothing like the Impala.

    Like 1
  27. Dave

    This was my first car with a 348 and Turboglide. I would definitely paint this car back to original. It’s the right choice since it is so clean. A nice 2 stage paint to get rid of the original lacquer would be just the ticket !

    Like 1
  28. Bish

    Just Relisted on eBay with a Buy it Now of $24,500.oo!

  29. Dave S.

    If it were mine I’d paint it. Nice work on the interior.

    Like 2
  30. Michael

    First find a ‘ 62. Belair. Only series still with bubbletop I’m told. My birth year. Bubbletop mandatory. Repaint. ( if like this car condition wise ) Original colour. ( Australian spelling ). Engine bay revamp. Put original trans back in. Don’t care if it’s troublesome. Get it back to absolute factory spec. All original chalk marks, underbonnet A/C tags, etc etc or as close as can be obtained. Ship it Down Under. Keep it L.H.D. Drive it around. Show it. Die happy. Thanks for reading. :)

  31. Frank Llamas

    How do I bid on this car and is it still available please let me know

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