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No car better represents the 1961 high performance scene better than a 1961 Impala with the rare (first year) Super Sport option. Mark Schwab's 61 Impala SS is a time capsule for that year.
1961 348 Chevy Impala SS - Mark Schwab's is the first of the Super Sports

By Society Staff – reprint with permission only

Seen at the Danville Hot Summer Nights Car Show, Danville CA August 2015

In 1960 Chevy’s full size line (lead by the Impala) was the bestselling car in America.  For 1961, the “bat-wings” of the '59 & '60 models were removed and a very clean and uncluttered body style developed. The 1961 Chevy was the recipient of the GM “bubble top” hardtop that added to the light and open looks of the car. New for 1961 was the introduction Super Sport option (SS) on the Impala line. This was the first of the famous “SS” packages that were made available on Chevy’s, Chevelles, and Camaros to this day.  

Mark Schwab’s  1961 Impala SS is all original and a “survivor.” The car is painted the original Ermine White with a vivid red insert in the side spear of chrome. Check out those discreet SS badges on the rear of the side trim and trunk emblem. The sheet metal is arrow straight and the chrome on the bumpers and trim is polished to gleaming beauty. The tires are stock spec white walls on stock rims and “dog dish” hub caps.

From the front, the very first thing that catches your eye is the crossed racing flags on the center grill badge. For those who understand “Chevy code” from the late 50’s and early 60’s. Those crossed flags indicate the car is equipped with one of Chevy’s performance engines. In 1961 this was the 348 cu.in. “W” series V8 available in 250 HP (single 4 bbl carb) or 280 HP (three 2 bbl carbs) versions. The notorious 409 was a mid-year introduction meant to keep pace with the 389 Pontiacs and 390 engines of Ford.

Mark’s SS has the 250 HP 348 engine and it is all stock. Mark has kept the engine compartment original even down to using the original generator (many replace those with more modern alternators). Upon inspection of the engine bay, you will note the lack of power steering, power brakes or A/C. It was very common “back-in-the-day” to order the performance package with the minimal amount of “power robbing accessories.” Mark’s car reflects that approach. The big 348 delivers power through a Borg-Warner T-10 4-speed transmission shifted with the original Chevy floor shifter. Out back are a set of 3:50 gears in a Posi-traction carrier. The whole drive train is topped off with a dual exhaust system with stock style mufflers. Mark started the car for me and the sound of that 348 through those stock style pipes was sweet music indeed.

Inside the Impala SS is finished in red with white trim on the bench seats and silver inserts on the door panels. The aluminum trim on the dash is showing its age but still looks good. An AM radio with the Impala rear speaker in between the rear seat plays nice tunes. The original floor shifter and trim plate (no consoles yet) has the Impala SS badge and the shift pattern for the 4-speed inscribed. That skinny shifter was often replaced by a Hurst and other conversions so it was nice to see an original. Notice the “Impala SS” badge on the passenger dash grab bar.

This is a very nice 1961 Impala SS with the 348 engine option and 4-speed. For those of us who were kids back-in-the-day, we remember “Dyno” Don Nicholson’s white 1961 Chevy 409 drag car that terrorized the strips around the county. This car is a vivid flashback to those days. Mark told me he has several cars from the '60s but chose to bring this rare Impala SS to the show. We’re glad he did !

To read a road test of the 1961 Impala SS -- click here:

To read about the Chevy "W" series of engines -- click here:


The rare first year SS badges on the Impala side trim.

The front grill emblem says "High Performance Engine inside."

The 250 HP 348 cu.in. engine is all stock.

The interior is as nice as the outside. Check out the grab bar and shifter.

Here is Dyno Don Nicholson's famous 61 SS 409.