Solid Project: 1961 Chevrolet Be Air Bubble Top

This 1961 Chevrolet Bel Air Bubble Top is a pretty forlorn-looking sight at present, but it appears as though there is no reason why it couldn’t be returned to its original glory, or even transformed into a pretty tough looking custom. It is said to be an essentially solid and complete car and is just waiting for the right person to come along and weave their own kind of magic on it. Located in Spokane, Washington, you will find the Bel Air listed for sale here on eBay. It has been listed with a BIN of $6,000, but the option is available to make an offer.

The exterior of the vehicle looks generally tired, but the photos tend to indicate that rust problems might be quite minimal. Externally, prone areas such as the rockers, lower quarter panels, and the lower fenders all look remarkably clean. The owner admits to there being a hole in the corner of the floor on the driver’s side, but that the rest of the vehicle is solid. He also says that there is a hole cut in the transmission tunnel for a floor shifter, but this should be pretty easy to repair. That distinctive and attractive body wears a few minor dings, but all of the external trim appears to be present, and once again, it appears to be in quite decent condition. The same appears to be true for the majority of the factory tinted glass, although the windshield does sport a pretty sizeable crack, and will require replacement.

The owner says that the interior trim is all original and that the dash is uncut. What we can see of the interior suggests that a full restoration is going to be on the cards. The seats will all require new covers, new carpet will be required, while miscellaneous trim pieces will either need to be reconditioned or replaced. We also get no photos of the engine, but this is for one very solid and logical reason. The car doesn’t come with either an engine or transmission. It isn’t clear what combination was fitted to the car, but this should not be difficult to ascertain from personal inspection. At least it will leave the next owner with plenty of choices to make, depending on whether they are planning a faithful restoration, or if they plan on some form of custom transformation.

While it might currently cut a sad looking figure, there is no reason why this Bubble Top couldn’t be transformed into something pretty special. It appears to be a car with solid bones, and it is perfectly suited as either a restoration project, or it could be turned into a pretty tough custom. Today it is virtually impossible to find a really nice example for under the $40,000 mark, and if this one is as solid as the owner indicates, then that leaves a fair bit of room to move on a restoration at the BIN price. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the 36 people currently watching the listing snaps it up pretty quickly…unless one of our Barn Finds readers can beat them to the punch.

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Comments

  1. Michael

    Should be preserved back to original as possible , or at least preserved. Mainstream cars anywhere never got much better looking than these. The Fords too.

    13
    • PatrickM

      I agree. But, for this one, now bid to $6,000.00, it looks like someone took it out of the field, emptied out the inside, blew off some dust and is expecting a fortune. They might get it. This one of my dream cars. But, with no under side pics, no engine pics and a lot of work to be done, I’ll pass.

      5
      • Richard Ochoa

        At that price, don’t blame you! I would pass too! I bought Nicer nearly complete parts cars out of a field & people’s back yards for my ’56 B.A. for anywhere from $200-$500!

        3
  2. Bob

    The grille emblem indicates it was a 283 V8. Too bad it sat on dirt!!

    2
    • Mountainwoodie

      I hear banjos playing……..

      1
  3. Gaspumpchas

    Coming from the state of Wash it might be ok underneath. Love this bubbletop. Stick anything you want in there for a mill, this ol gray hair loves a 327 4 speed with a solid lifter cam. Good luck to the new owner. might be a tad overpriced but these are getting tough to find in good shape.
    Cheers
    GPC

    13
    • 68custom

      No disguise a 409 as a 348 with three deuces and a set of lake pipes and a T-10 of course. love 61 to 63 the most!

      2
  4. stillrunners

    It’s a 1961 GM hardtop – they were ALL bubble tops or just HARDTOPS for that year ….gezzzz……….

    1962 was the year of the two different hardtops with one referred as a bubble top !!!

    6
    • William Calhoun

      NOT true!

      4
      • Will Fox

        Correction, VERY true.

        3
  5. Mike

    Was the same roof used on other GM models ? Ty

    1
    • 86_Vette_Convertible

      Yes you could find other full size GM products that had a bubble top option available. Whether it was exactly the same top, I can’t say for sure but suspect they were.

    • Will Fox

      In `61, the Olds 88s, Buick LeSabres & Invictas, Pontiac Bonneville/Catalinas, and to a lesser extent, Cadillac’s Coupe DeVille all used some form of what gear heads call the “bubbletop”.

      4
      • Richard Ochoa

        Gear heads is a good name for these people. My wife has had her ’61 Impala 2 Dr. HARDTOP (or as GM named them the Sport Coup) since Brand New. Who in the world ever coined the stupid name of Bubble Top???? Can anyone show me ANY Literature from 1961 or ’62 indicating Either of these years produced a “Bubble Top” ?????

        5
      • local_sheriff

        Richard – stupid name or not I’m confident no one will ever find any period literature referring to it as a ‘Bubble Top’. Regardless of its name it’s one of GM’s iconic designs.

        However there’s a widely accepted belief that its designers were highly influenced by the look of spherically shaped canopies found on jet fighters or other experimental airplanes of its day hence the ‘bubble top’ nomenclature. Probably had it been up to the designers the ’61 ( but also ’59-’60) roofs would have been all plexi glass!

        There are car design features that have been nick’d far lesser names down the line than the Bubble Top. Considering you guys aquired the Impala when new and still own it after 58(!) years I’d say you’re a fortunate bunch. Hope you’ve enjoyed it and will do for years to come! 👍

        6
    • Richard Ochoa

      Correction again Will Fox. The ’61 Bel-Air ALSO had a 2 Dr. Hdtp. which some people call a Bubble Top!!!

      1
  6. Chris in Pineville

    this body style is very uncommon in Bel Air trim.
    plus green cars are usually my favorites.
    anything less than a stock restoration would be shameful.
    save the mods for the common-as-dirt Impalas…….

  7. TimM

    Car seems clean but a good look in the trunk might tell the tale for sure!! Still though $6000 for a shell with waisted interior seems like a lot for what there is to do to the car!!

    4
  8. Chris in Pineville

    Original green would make a stunning car when completed.
    My choice would be a six cylinder, 3 on the tree with overdrive but I know that’s a minority position.
    Was B-W overdrive still an option in 61?

    1
    • Richard Ochoa

      Yes, wish my wife’s 61 had it. it’s slip ‘n Slide Powerglide!

      1
    • Marty Parker

      Overdrive was available in ’61 with 6 cylinder and 283 V8 only.

  9. local_sheriff

    Yup,same roof design utilized on other GM cars that shared the B-body. I actually had the opportunity to have a thorough look at an immaculate ’61 Le Sabre at a car show as late as yesterday – identical top.

    I’ve always found the ’61 Chevy to be the prettiest of any Chevies. This one is somehow unusual in that it’s a Bel Air hardtop rather than an Impala. Spokane is not the worst place to pick a car from as climate is either hot’n’dry or very cold, however I fully agree this is a comprehensive resto object. That should reflect the price on this one, however any bubble top car is highly valued nowadays

    4
    • Will Fox

      I have to agree Sheriff. Chevy’s `61 models were the nicest looking IMHO. Especially from the rear on Impalas. A textbook example of the ‘original is still the best’!

      7
      • local_sheriff

        Yeah and this comes from someone who owns a ’64 Impala!!

        1
  10. 71FXSuperGlide

    Would it kill these sellers to take a few more photos? You likely have buyers around the country and elsewhere who might be interested in a car like this if the car’s underside, trunk etc. had some better images.

    1
  11. Wayne

    As much as I like the ’61 Chevy, I like the ’61 Pontiac more! Just classier without being gaudy.

    2
  12. Dusty Rider

    A buddy had a red and white ’61 convertible back in the day with small block auto. Man that was a nice car…but I like the hardtop a little better. I had a ’63 Bel Air with a 6 stick with hang down air. Had to turn the air off to climb hills or pass. Good times!

  13. Georgmattar@yahoo.com

    Better looking than any new car. Tons of work, but a beauty when done. No dumb USB. No dumb computers. No dumb tv screen. A real car. Easy to fix when something goes wrong.

    4
    • Troy s

      No “back up for dummies” camera either! New cars have Way too much stuff that will eventually break.

      3
      • Richard Ochoa

        For Sure, For Sure Troy! Waaaaaay too much Junk!!! So much Unnecessary stuff too!!!!!!

        2
  14. Wayne

    Chris, I would say yes as a gal that I went to high school with had a 1963 Wagon with a 327, 4 barrel Rochester, 3 on the tree with overdrive and dual exhaust. And it did go faster in overdrive than it did in third. It really flew! Thank God the right front wheel fell off just AFTER a huge brake effort to get it slowed down to creep over the very bad railroad tracks. It could have been a really bad situation.

  15. Andrew Franks

    Oh boy, somebody jump on this and throw a big number at it. With a 327 or a 350 with a 4 speed automatic. If the chassis is no good call Art Forestman. These cars have very strong upside when restored (not in this condition) so somebody go for it. I would but I have no room and I have a project I must finish.

    1
  16. Troy s

    Seems there was a bit of a resurgence, early maybe mid nineties, in the 348/409 Chevy’s. This car would have made a fair candidate for such a build. I know of someone who is still heavy into racing/building those engines for drag racing since practically they were new. I believe his is a Biscayne.
    Reason I bring it up is the bubble top name,, I just thought that it was slang used among the racers-gear heads. I am way too young to know what people really called these at the dealership.

  17. Richard Ochoa

    Sport Coupes!!!! In Early 1962 I was in the market for a second car for my 1st wife at the time. The salesman told me he had a Convertible and a Sport Coupe that were used at loan cars & he could give us a Great Deal on either, as opposed to buying a New car. Wife chose the Convertible…..White w/Red interior! Got divorced in 1964. Married my current wife in 69. Guess what she drove when I met her in ’68? A White w/Red interior 61 Impala 2 Dr. Hdtp!!! We STILL have it!

    3
    • Troy s

      Congratulations on staying together all these years!
      Yeah, kind of struck me odd, I really tried to imagine some nice prospective car buyers walking into a Chevy dealer and asking if they had any nice new bubble tops for sale, hmm, No, no, no. That’s ridiculous.
      Sport Coupe, got it.

      1
  18. Richard Ochoa

    Thanks Troy! Just had our 50th in July! Yeah, that sure WOULD have been funny>>>The dealer would have looked at you & called the man in “The White Suit”!!!!!!!! Wife got it for Graduation in ’61 from her parents!

    1
  19. Edward Skakie

    Guys, what the hell is a bubbletop? In the early summer of 1963, I attended a drag meet in Deseronto, Ontario, Canada, at a WW11 training airport. I turned around to see the front of a black Chevvy coupe that looked brand new, and did a double-take to see each side of the roof, over the front seat driver & passenger, having a huge tear-drop shaped bubble. They were not small, but did not meet/overlap in the centre. I have never talked to anyone else who has ever seen one. Can anyone enlighten me, or supply, or point to, any pics.

    In those days, I travelled sober! Still do.

    Great website, great comments.

    2
  20. Fred Alexander

    Maybe the Proto Type of the PopeMobile ?

  21. Dean

    As a really old fart, the bubbletop was used as a slang for the 2 different 1962 hardtops of the impala’s more formal hardtop and the Bel Air “bubbletop”…..both great looking hardtops with completely different roofs. Was kinda the word that the 62 Bel Air hardtops were left overs from the 61 cars…

  22. Charles White

    My favorite car of all time…1961 Impala Sport Coupe, 2door hardtop, or Bubbletop. Whatever you call it, it’s just Plain Classy! Guess that’s why I still have my black one that I dated my high school sweetheart in 1963. She became my wife….and I’m happy to say I still have them both.

  23. Richard Ochoa

    Charles, My wife & I Did date in her ’61 Impala back in ’68 when i met her. Way after high school. She SOMETIMES let me drive it when we went out! She’s class of ’61 & I was Class of ’57. Married in July of ’69 & Also happy to say……I still have Both too!!!!! :-)

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