September 28, 2023

Classic Wheels Spotlight: 1961 Impala SS


Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1961 Impala Side

Back in 1961, consumer research was not quite as focused as it is today. Because of this shortcoming in marketing, the 1961 Chevy Impala Super Sport (SS) was offered with a four-door variant that never quite resonated with consumers. The result – Paul Iannarone of Palos Heights finds himself with one very collectible car.

As the new car shows appeared in late 1960, the 1961 Chevy models were unveiled. Initially, there were 55 of the four-door SS versions produced, but due to the higher cost of the SS, only 17 were purchased by the public. Having missed the mark with the four-door Impala SS, Chevy accepted the loss and rebadged the remaining 38 back into standard Impalas.

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1961 Impala Dells Raceway

One of the 17

With ‘one of the 17′ 1961 Chevy Impala SS four-door models in his possession, Paul says the process of obtaining it took time. He found it online and, on several occasions, he tried to contact the owner, a retired NYC police officer who had some health issues that didn’t allow him to drive stick shift anymore. When Paul finally reached the owner, he had to convince him that he didn’t just want it for parts. Only then was the deal made.

When the car was delivered to Paul in Illinois, all the paperwork came with it. Turns out the NYC police officer was the original owner. There was no title for the car, just a certificate of origin, which apparently was the norm in New York at the time.

Better for cruising

The car came with a 348 cubic-inch engine with a tri-power intake and carburetors. It also had a three-on-the-tree setup and a 411:1 Positraction unit. The original drivetrain is being rebuilt and features a 355 small block with a four-barrel carb, headers, electric cut-offs, Pertronics ignition system, turbo 350 trans, and a 3.24:1 posi rear end. The car also has a 4-core radiator to keep it cool. The smaller rear end is better for cruising says Paul, who does a lot of cross-country road rallies.

After the first couple of road trips, Paul added some creature comforts to the car. It features power disc brakes, a bench console with cup holders for those road trips, an upgraded stereo that’s been put in the glove box in order to keep the dash as original as possible, and door pockets for road maps.

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1961 Impala Route 66

The suspension has been beefed up for better handling on highways and back roads. More accurate and dependable gauges have been added, including a smaller version of the original tachometer. The charging system has been updated with an alternator, again for dependability. Another addition was a set of period-correct headrests that slip over the back of the seats, courtesy of a friend who picked them up at a swap meet in California for him. The car now rides on 15-inch rally wheels with spinner hub caps. Another small detail is the custom-made eyebrows over the headlights with the crossed flags on them.

When he bought the car from the NYC officer, Paul promised to keep him apprised of the work being done. Paul has sent pictures during the process and for the finished product. Paul says that he always liked the body style of the ‘61 Chevy, so much that he has a ‘61 Chevy convertible, red with a white top. Paul is a member of the Worth Cruisers, Late Great Chevy, Tri-Chevy, and Lemont Classic Car clubs.

If you have a car you would like to see featured in Classic Wheels, contact Rudy Host, Jr. at