Museum Find: 1961 Chevrolet Impala Convertible

If most of what turns up here on Barn Finds are true barn finds, then this 1961 Chevrolet Impala convertible is more like a Palace Find. A 23K mile museum exhibit and located in Norwich, New York, this unusually equipped Impala is now available for sale, here on eBay, for a current bid of $50,000; 61 bids tendered as of this writing.

The ’61 “B” body Chevrolets were the logical progression away from the overwrought ’59 “bat-wing” model and its slightly subdued ’60 successor. While still maintaining the same underpinnings and power teams, the ’61 settled into a more buttoned-down appearance that would be the Impala’s hallmark throughout the very successful ’60s.

The seller claims this as a 23K mile example, TMU. Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a Luddite and had to look up TMU – to my understanding; so maybe the mileage is original and maybe not. Whatever the case, it’s in fantastic shape but it is not original as it is referenced in the listing as having been “restored”. OK, no worries, it still looks great. Was it restored to its original configuration? Don’t know. The seller adds, “This restored Convertible has excellent paint, bright trim, new interior, new top and boot, and good tires.” Nothing on the exterior looks out of place, skipped-over, patched, or missing, it is an accurate portrayal of a ’61 Impala convertible. There is probably no point in discussing rust or rot, none is evident and the restoration would have covered that. While not a fan, at all, of wide whitewall tires, they are correct for 1961 and work well with the deep white finish. The exterior mirror placement is curious, there was no requirement for exterior mirrors in ’61, so they are an addition, and for the sake of safety,  a good one. Most images of ’61 Impalas that I could scavenge generally show outside mirrors being placed in their more traditional, door-mounted location, but since these are not original, I guess placement doesn’t matter.

The interior of this Impala matches the exterior for condition and may match it a bit too well as it seems the steel dash and “A” pillars should be finished in fawn, to match the interior, and not white to mimic the exterior. Granted, this Chevy isn’t an attempt at a 100 point restoration, so it’s a small issue, but we’re talking a not so small price so correctness comes into play. All of that said, the interior is very sharp and presents as a simple and clean environment. Speaking of simple, note the instrument panel with the center-mounted glove box, not much to it.

The surprise to this convertible is the 135 gross HP, 235 CI in-line, six-cylinder engine under its hood. In an era when horsepower was a defining promotional point, and at a time when Chevrolet just announced the introduction of their new 409 CI “big” V8 engine, a six-cylinder seems an odd choice for an Impala convertible. A Biscayne or BelAir maybe, but an Impala? Nevertheless, that’s the way things rolled in those days; it was all about building it your way. To add to the unusualness, the transmission is a three-speed manual with a “three-on-the-tree” shift lever. The seller states that there are no known issues and that this Chevy has been driven in parades and exhibitions.

This Impala is being sold, by auction, from a car museum and the proceeds are supposed to remain with the museum, which is a 501(c)3, not for profit corporation. The bidding started at $20K and there are still almost three days to go. For what this Chevy is, and it is an excellent example, its current bid is a whole lot of money. A V8 powered version and/or an SS equipped variant could justify it; this is an “out there” number based on current trading trends. Let’s hear from you, worth the price or better to look elsewhere for one with a bit more oomph and personality?

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  1. Scott Williams

    “TMU” to me means Total Mileage Unknown.

    Nice car, but having driven a 62 Impala with the Stovebolt, that’s going to be quite slow.

    Like 5
    • Jim ODonnell Staff


      Probably makes even more sense. Thx!


      Like 2
      • CJinSD

        Is it Total Mileage or True Mileage Unknown?

        Like 2
  2. Dusty Stalz

    I really liked this car until the underhood shot. Way too small a motor for this car, and I feel weird saying that as the 6 worked in the Nova featured recently. Someone really wants this at 50 grand.

    Like 5
    • jerry hw brentnell

      well back in the day a school teacher in lindsay ontario canada ordered up a 1963 Impala SS convertible loaded to the nuts, no air! bright red red bucket seats! sound good? well 235 6 powerglide auto! why ?who knows? her money so didn’t matter! the same dealer had stripper 63 chev biscaynes no radio, rubber floor mats, no spare tires or jack, 6 ,stick power train, he had several of these dogs on the lot

      Like 1
      • Chuck Dickinson

        No matter how much of a stripper, cars were never shipped w/out a jack and a spare.

        Like 2
      • Stan Marks

        When Kia Souls came out, they were not equipped with a spare.

  3. 19sixty5 Member

    My neighbor bought one very similar, 3 speed manual, 6 cylinder. They traded in their 1955 Chevrolet 150 2 door sedan 3 speed 6 cylinder. The 61 was Midnight Blue Poly, matching interior, white top car. I believe the only options were a clock, radio, and whitewalls. Always loved the looks of it. As kids, on bad weather days our neighbor would give us rides to school, otherwise we walked or rode bikes. What I remember the most was that mom frequently had a tough time letting the clutch out smoothly at a stop, we always got a kick out of it. But what a beautiful car in that color combo, with the white fill down the sides.

    Like 5
  4. Chris in Pineville

    50K? guess I’m not the only wierdo who prefers 6-cyl stick cars…..

    clearly an uncommon option for convertibles.
    scarcity = some increase in value.

    Like 5
  5. Maestro1 Member

    Yes, the drive line needs to be changed but the rest of the car is beautiful as
    far as I can see. I’ve always loved the ’61 and ’62 GM line, the hardtops especially beautiful.

    Like 2
    • Marshall

      Same here! I’ve always loved the curved wing window design on the ‘61 and ‘62 GM cars.

  6. Will Fox

    Given what it needs in order to be correct, $50K large is way too much for this. And besides, it’s a six! I’d save my money & look for one more correctly restored or original. That white dash/steering wheel are horrible!!

    Like 10
    • jerry hw brentnell

      what are you whining about? that what chev did in 61 nothing new here!

      Like 1
  7. Steve Bush Member

    Glad to see the museum is getting the proceeds from the sale. It’s a beautiful car but $50k with this drivetrain is nuts. I think the wide whitewalls look good on a large convertible of this era but agree the mirror placement is odd although I’ve seen small Brit 2 seaters with the same setup.

    Like 2
    • Norm

      My father had mirrors put on his ’61 Impala coupe. They were installed by the dealer
      Same exact location as this car.

      Like 1
  8. doone

    I had one of these for my first car. 283 4bbl, 230 hp (which was also the base Corvette engine that year). But mine had that turbo-glide transmission that always had a leaky tail seal. That was Chevys version of the Dynaflo, found in earlier Buicks. What a power robber it was. 2 selections, D and G ( they said the G stood for Grade ). As I can recall the side trims were always a contrasting color to make them stand out. Never saw one with the same color fills as the body, sort of dulls down the intended effect and the seat covers don’t look to be factory either. Nice specimen though, brings back alot of memories.

    Like 4
    • local_sheriff

      The Gr on the Turboglide stands for Grade Retarder – engine brake for descending hills

      Like 1
      • Dave

        My father used to say that brakes were easier to change than transmissions and cheaper as well. Experience earned under a 1952 Buick.

        Like 6
      • doone

        I stand corrected, I didn’t like that trans so I must have put the r out of my memory. Mine was roman red with red interior with white accents and white side fills. Like many of the other cars in my family shoulda kept that one. Sold it in 65 for a grand Probably worth a hundred grand now. Lots of options.

        Like 1
    • Paul S

      You are correct. The fills were usually a different color. A friend of mine had the 61 Bubble Top, silver with red fills. A beautiful car. He damaged the differential on ice and junked it. I told him I would have bought it from him when he told me what he did.

      Like 2
      • Marshall

        Am I missing something here? Why would somebody junk an otherwise “beautiful“ car, when the differential was the only thing wrong with it? (even if it did not run any more)

    • local_sheriff

      Doone; I’ve never driven a Turboglide nor do I think there are many Chevs with that tranny around nowadays either. Of those guys I’ve talked with old enough to remember it no one really had much good to say about it. However it’d be ‘interesting’ to try one so that I personally could compare it with the PG.

      As late as yesterday a spoke with a ’58 Impala 348 owner, still with the ‘Gr’ on its quadrant – needless to say the Turboglide was gone many years prior to his ownership

      Like 1
  9. Mark

    The audacity to ask $50k!!!!!
    Man, for that kind of money you can get a zillion window VW van (once unearthed) or a rusted, burnt, crushed, clapped out Porsche VIN #.
    I’m in agreement with the 61 bidders…this car is worth the money. How many are out there in this configuration? I was born in 61 and as I get older I find myself less concerned with power and speed…… I’ve always been a big fan of the the Chevy 6 having owned a few. My 2 door 67 Biscayne got around fine. I’d be content with the 235, in this, too bad it’s doesn’t have the 3 on the tree. Now, I’ve said my piece and stay out of my yard.

    Like 7
    • Stevieg

      It does have the 3 on the tree.

  10. Steve

    That’s way too much! Nice car though!

    Like 1
  11. arnold

    Those mirrors are a bit more common than you think, but yes very hard to find, even in pictures. Had a 61 with similar mirrors and placement, maybe even further towards the front…. they did not work well.

    283 4V column shift 4 speed… for reals!!!!

    Like 4
    • Arnold

      To be clear… it was 3+1, the overdrive was automatic and added a coast feature. The 61 is a proper 4 speed now.

      Like 1
  12. local_sheriff

    I own a ’64 SS however I still think the ’61 is the sweetest of all ‘palas ever! If this is what a ’61 vert sells for it seems that dream will become more remote for each day.

    OK, I too expected a V8 under the hood but don’t underestimate that six. A bone stock 283 wasn’t exactly a killer either if coupled to the PG. With a 3spd manual this one won’t be any tire shreder but it will work nicely for backroad cruising (and isn’t that the whole point with a vintage convertible anyway…?)

    Fender mounted mirrors is IMHO a hopeless location – it seems that was very common practice with Pontiac. I really like the quirkiness of the six/3spd combo found here; unfortunately I suspect a V8 will find its way between its fenders very soon…

    Like 1
  13. Paul S

    My 1962 Chevy Impala Sports Coupe had the same power configuration, Blue Flame 6, with 3 on the tree. I was also radio delete. I was the second owner. The original owner was a friend of my parents. Mom said he was frugal with his money.

    Like 3
    • Paul S

      Also I forgot to mention, no power steering, was fun when trying to park it.

      Like 1
  14. Rob P

    The car is sweet but totally not worth 50 grand. For that price I can buy ss 409 327 all around my area. That person must want that ride bad. They are just not a true old school Impala person.

    Like 3
  15. Ed Stull

    Worth every cent in today’s Monopoly money. Perfect parade car for the Homecoming Queen; or Dairy Queen for that matter 😃 The ear to ear grins this ride evokes is priceless! Wish she were mine and that’s a fact!

    Like 2
  16. Rich Logan

    Had a ’61 bubbletop Impala with 348/tri power, and 3 on the tree…loved it then, and still do. Sold it while on active duty, got out, bought a ’65 GTO…actually hated it, and tried to buy the ’61 back…wouldn’t sell it back to me!! Go figure !!

    Like 1
  17. Stevieg

    I saw this and my first thought was Joe Pesci driving a similar car in Casino, tearing out of Ray Liotta’s parents driveway after Ray’s character got chewed out by his Mother in law lol. But seeing what this has for a drivetrain, absolutely no way lol.
    I love the car though. I would cruise around with it all day long, big grin on my face. Eventually I would get the dash board & “A” pillars done right.

    Like 2
    • keith carson

      That was Goodfellas. I thought the same thing.

      Like 1
      • Stevieg

        Yeah, your right. Goodfellas. At least someone knew what I was talking about, even if I was wrong lol.

        Like 3
  18. Bob McK Member

    I loved this until I saw the engine. Nice sleeper. But 50 large is a lot for this.

    Like 1
  19. SquareLeft

    Having sold Chevys ‘back in the day’, I can tell you that this was almost certainly a ‘promotional’ car. Dealers would order a desirable model (here, an Impala convertible) with the fewest options possible. This would let them put out newspaper and radio ads saying something like: “Brand new Impala convertibles in stock from $X,XXX! Available for immediate delivery!!” These ads never failed to draw in bargain-hunting buyers. Some would be disappointed with the 6-cylinder; but others were only looking for the combination of style and low price.

    Like 3
    • Chuck Dickinson

      You are absolutely correct about dealer strippers for a low-ball price. A local Chevy dealer would do that–order an Impala SS convert with NO options, except whitewalls. Even here in Oregon, he would order the cars heater delete for the lowest possible price. I saw 63, 64 & 65s equipped this way on his lot.
      The featured 61 is way overbid. A 23K car should not need to be restored, and so incorrectly done. ALL Impalas had a contrasting side stripe. Early production white cars all had black, as they did in 59 & 60. Early-on, that was changed, and the side stripe matched the interior. This would’ve had a black or a fawn stripe originally.

      Like 2
  20. Stan Marks

    It’s interesting how our tastes change over the years. I never cared for the ’61 style, back then. I loved the ’60 & ’62. Something about the tail lights & rear design, that didn’t appeal to me. Especially the ugly Biscayne.
    59 years later, this conv. is sharp. Much nicer than a hard top.
    I think dual rear antennas would set it off. but it’s NOT $50K sharp JMO

    For those of you, who hate wide WW. Hey, during the 50’s & 60’s, it was the style of the times.

    Like 3
  21. deak stevens

    $50,000 for a six cylinder,NO WAY!!! Also so many people are living in their cars today,that their trying to make them worth the price of a house.this car is 4 times what I paid for my house.yes in 1973 I paid $13,000 for my house,but back then that was alot of money unless you had a ba or I’m glad I paid 13,000 for my home.still I can almost afford to buy a car like this.ha-ha!

    Like 2
  22. keith carson

    Don’t knock the 3 speed tranny. Back in the day me and a couple my friends in high school ordered new Chevrolet Impalas and Pontiac Catalinas with the 3 speed transmission. Wish I had any one of them back today and no way would I change out that cool 3 speed. My ’58 Impala, friends ’60 Catalina, friends 61 Impala, friends ’62 Catalina, etc. Otherwise full options and v/8’s of course.

    Like 1
  23. TimM

    The back end of these cars are truly awesome!! I love the interior too!! I don’t think she’ll win many drag races but that’s probably why it’s lasted as long as it has!!! I would save the original parts so it could be put back to its original glory and try to locate a period correct 409 and mate it to a 4 speed!! Then someone might actually see those taillights!!!

    Like 2
  24. Roy Blankenship

    I was in the used car biz in Ohio, TMU meant “True Mileage Unknown”. Every older Mercedes was sold that way, for some reason their speedos died. Our Scoutmaster had one like this, white, 348 4 barrel, three on the tree. When we would go to the local YMCA to go swimming, he would put the top down and we were the coolest guys on the planet! Did Chevy have a HD three speed that they put behind the 348/409 cars? His tranny whined like an M22.

  25. arnold

    Pops goes to a dealer in October 1960 looking for an Chevy, with the most important feature being it be a manual. Being stranded in a shady part of a border town due to a dead battery made him unload his 55 Bel Air. All they had was a blue 61 on a trailer and he didn’t think twice. Now what is left of the car is 1000 miles south of the border… but dad lives with me now so i might have to “borrow it” for a bit. Still registered to him… maybe we can freshen it up a bit?

    Like 2
  26. AMCFAN

    There is a scene in Good Fellas where Joe Pesci is driving what looks to be the same car. Wouldn’t that be a great surprise. I wouldn’t complain about what’s under the hood. It is still a beautiful car.

    Like 1
    • John Oliveri

      Yes he was, when he’s by Henry Hills mother in laws house in 5 Towns Long Island, pretty sure different car, cause this one 3 on the tree 6 cylinder

      Like 2
  27. John Oliveri

    TMU is True mileage unknown, for 50 large I’d want a auto York a 4 speed and not a blue flame 6, w/o power steering

  28. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:Jun 28, 2020 , 8:27AM
    Winning bid:US $53,300.00
    [ 73 bids ]

    Like 1
  29. Glen Beeman

    I had a 62 nova with a 6 cyl, it ran great until the pin on the distributor shaft broke on me three times.I would never own another one.

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