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1961 Chevy Impala - Hand-Me-Up

This Bubbletop Floated To The Top

Kevin Lee Aug 1, 2002
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Cars seem to have a way of passing from generation to generation. In most cases these vehicles have spent the better part of their time shuttling the family around until the time came to buy a new car. If the old one didn't get traded in, it may have been relinquished to a spot beside the garage or out in a field where it wasn't in the way. Then, as the teenaged son approached driving age, any motorized vehicle was a ticket to newfound freedom, and so the old sedan was brought out of retirement and passed down.

Very common situation but in the case of this '61 Impala it was just the opposite. Tom Schultz's son-in-law owned it for several years, and between him and Tom's son, Lon, the two boys had managed to wear the old Impala out. Tom was looking for a project to occupy some of his free time, and although it had been quite a few years since his last project car, he felt that he could get the Impala back into shape in no time. A deal was made and the Impala was bought home with Tom where it would be safe.

Tom started on the suspension, rebuilding it back to stock with the exception of some lowered springs front and back. Tom then managed to find a shop near his home to do the bodywork and paint, as well as the interior. Chinto's Auto Body blocked the expanse of sheetmetal to perfection and then laid down several smooth coats of DuPont Flame Red Metallic. Not limiting themselves to just body and paint, Chinto's also recovered the stock interior in gray cloth and vinyl. The only other deviations from stock were a couple of VDO gauges and a Moon tach to monitor the 409.

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The crowning touch of Tom's Impala is the dual-quad 409. This era of Chevy full-size just begs for a dressed-up 348 or 409, and Tom took it 65 steps further by stroking the 409 to 474 ci. Curt Harvey at CH Automotive was responsible for the machine work, and Lon handled the assembly chores. The 474 puts out approximately 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque and looks sharp, thanks to the Moon valve covers and Billet Specialties air cleaner topping the dual Carter carbs and polished aluminum factory manifold. The engine gases exit out Doug Thorley headers and a Flowmaster Delta Flow 2 1/2-inch exhaust system.

Six years and too many costly redo's later, the Impala was back on the road looking better than new. Once Tom got it back on the road, he soon found that some of the items that sounded good during the buildup just weren't livable, like the 4.11:1-geared rear (later changed to 3.42s) and the stock cooling system (replaced with a Griffin radiator). The exhaust system was changed three times until he found one that was right for him.

Tom and his wife, Jean, are both thrilled with the final product and are enjoying it immensely. Tom says he has learned several lessons for the next car, not the least of which is to do a little more investigation so it's done right the first time.



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