1961 Impala 2 Door Sedan - Let's Get Started...


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Hello all,
I introduced myself in the "Introductions" thread. I have been here about a week, but already feel it's home for my Impala and I. Thanks for having me.

The Impala Find:
I had a Craiglist alert set on my phone to tell me of any newly added vehicles from 1928 - 1972.... just looking for my next project. I get a message that a vehicle in my search range was just added. All it said was "1961 Impala Pillared Sedan. 235 Hi-Thrift six cylinder, 3 speed, tuxedo black with turquoise interior. Been in the family for a long time". That was it. No pictures, no mileage, no mention of a city it was in. I actually love those adds. The very short descriptions have usually paid dividends in the past. So a email the person within 5 minutes of the add showing up on CL. Sure enough, it was their grandfather's car, willed to their mother, willed to them. Two owner! I ask for pics and they said the car wasn't with them, it was in a small town of 30 in central Missouri. I asked politely if I could drive the 2 hours to look at it and was told that they wanted to get the car out from under the cover and get better pics. Come to find out, they wanted to remove the car from the late mother's residence and take to their home for safe keeping. I completely understood, but was anxious because I wanted first chance at buying the car. I thanked the person and said I would love to see it when they could get a chance. That was it. No calls, no texts, no emails for 5 days. I figured it was gone.

Five days go by, nothing. Then I get a huge email file sent over to me. The person had went up to where the car was at and took pictures just for me. What I saw was an unrestored, original paint, 2 door Impala sedan. No obvious rust, a few dents here and there, a very tired interior, but all there! I always look closely at the engine pics. I am a stickler for originality. Some of the decals where still intact and most important, some of the tower hose clamps! The tower clamps are the first thing folks used to throw away when working on these cars. It was sooo much easier to install a worm clamp. If I see tower clamps, I'm fairly certain they have never been off!

The owner, come to find out, it was a lady whose mother willed it to her! I complemented her on her descriptions on the email. She said she looked everything up on a Google search. I told her she sounded like she was a fellow motorhead over the email! The only thing she knew about the car was that she, when visiting her mother, would drive the car around the small town just to "stretch it's legs". Her mother also drove it to get groceries at the small Co-op in town.

The following day, she arranged to have the car brought to her friends home, 100 miles away. Once it got there, she said I could come by and look at it. Sure enough, the next afternoon she asked if I would like to see it. Without thinking, I ran out of work, went by the bank, and was on the road. 2 hours later I show up. The Impala was just how I pictured it. It wasn't going to win a beauty award, but it was the most solid pre-65 car I have ever owned. The brakes went to the floor, the throttle wasn't connected, and the tires had seen better days. I crawl all over it and come to the conclusion: I am not leaving this driveway without owning this car. I've wanted and Impala/Belair/Biscayne for a long time! After a bit of back and forth, we come to an agreement. Cash over to her, title and bill of sale to me. Her friend even knew of a tow service who could deliver to my home the next day. Score!

So that's my story. I didn't find out until later that this is actually an interesting car. It was the only year Chevrolet built a 2 door sedan with Impala trim. There was only 6700 out of all 491,000 1961 Impalas that were a 6 cylinder, 2 door sedan. This car didn't even originally come with a radio. Granted this car is not a rare 409 powered Impala or a beautifully sculpted bubble top, but it is pretty darn cool in my eyes.

I plan several things with this car in the coming months. The interior will be getting completely refinished. The brakes will be updated with front discs and dual reservoir master cylinder. I am looking into 20 x 8.5 Intro or Billet Specialties rims. We will be installing air ride suspension. The trunk will get soda blasted and recoated with correct splatter paint. The original paint will be restored as much as possible. I will attempt to find a paintless dent repair person who can massage out the larger bumps in her. Eventually, I'm looking at a mild built small block, 275-300hp. Heck, I'd like to keep the original 3 speed, but that may be crazy talk. I want a family cruiser that can run interstate speeds but still have a little fun at stoplights ;) With a small garage things will take me a bit longer, but we'll get there!

Again, thanks to everyone who has offer help and advise. You all are great!

The first pics are of the car when the lady went to her late mother's home.

See the oxidation on the hood. I used a bit of polishing compound and it went right back to Tuxedo black. I'll show you a pic where a buffed the fender in a later post. Gotta love that old lacquer!

Thanks for looking. I will get some more pics on here as I have time. As one forum member said, "We love pictures!"

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Tom Kochtanek

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Supporting Member 9

I like that you're keeping the patina and doing the functional things first. Plenty of time to cosmetics at some later date :).

You have a good starter plan, but we're gonna tease you until you build a 348 or a 409 to put under that hood. Do a budget build 348, keep that column shift 3 speed and add an overdrive to the tranny. You'll have plenty of torque, will keep some originality, and have a great cruiser with a unique exhaust note. I guarantee you people will gawk under your hood when they see those special valve covers. Put multiple carbs on it and they'll oogle even more :). You'll see plenty of options at Phil's place :) :) :).

Good luck!



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Supporting Member 1
So, I got the car home and started sorting out the brakes. Well, if the brake fluid reservoir had anything in it, that may have helped. So I filled, flushed, bled, and tested the brakes. They are solid now. Wonder where the fluid went? None of the wheel cylinders were leaking. No obvious fluid from any of the connections. I'm stumped. Maybe it was a small town theft deterrent because the throttle linkage directly off the carb was mysteriously disconnected. Hope she (or he) isn't haunted!!

Brakes done, I move onto another important system.... the parking brake. The release rod was pulled way out and something looked wrong. Come to find out, someone had use force to release the brake and bent an arm that releases the cog off the brake teeth. So, I removed the parking brake assembly, sprayed it down with a few cans of brake cleaner, then lubed it up with PB Blaster and white lithium grease. Then as the factory did, I taped off the upper section and treated the bottom of the assembly to a fresh coat of 60% gloss black. Hooked everything back up, and I have a beautifully functioning parking brake. Side note, I have always been particular about parking brake functioning in manual transmission cars.

Onto the carb. The lady I bought the car from said "It needs a little carb work". Bet you've heard that before... So the initial startup got nowhere. It cranks over nice, but obviously no gas. So, I checked the filter on the 1 barrel Rochester. What filter!! None there, that could be an issue. So I then check the fuel pump and it's spitting gas to the carb.... barely. However, the pump is new. I knew what was going on. The tank and the sending unit. I was going to replace the sending unit anyway because the gauge was dead. It's inevitable, the tank has to come off. After battling several spiders and dirt clods, I get the tank off. I get the sending unit out.... wow, no wonder I have no fuel. The screen was gone and only 30% of the float was still there. Looking into the tank I saw the crusty bottom, I knew it was toast. With a new tank, sending unit, and new fuel lines, I was getting fresh, clean 89 octane to the pump. Now to the carb. I bought a rebuild kit and rebuilt the 1 barrel. I jokingly said to a friend that a 10 year old could have rebuilt this tiny carb..... I jinxed myself. As I was tightening the air horn back down to the bowl, I must have put a bit too much torque on them. I get in the car, and with 2 pumps, the mighty (lol) 6 roars to life. Funny thing, I'm smelling a LOT of fuel. I shut the car off and see the fuel running out of the bowl. When I over torqued the air horn to the bowl, I cracked the bowl. Way to go, Doug. I could've kicked myself. Thank goodness a gentleman on the east coast had a bowl and its in the mail as I write.

So the carb is completely apart for the second time on my work bench waiting for a bowl. I think this time I'll ask my 8 year old to tighten the screws, because this dummy doesn't understand the meaning of "snug the screws down".

Next installment is the gutting of the interior. Have a good evening all....
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Supporting Member 1
Believe me, I want to get a safe, roadworthy vehicle under me now. I am trying to be methodical and take it slowly, doing it right.

As for my future engine choice, I think sub-consciencely I really do want a W engine. I absolutely love the looks of them, but I am a small block guy. I'll admit to the fact I don't know too much about them, so if I go to look at one, I won't know what I'm doing. I know there several local gentleman who have offered their help in finding one, but I don't want to be a pest. And, I don't know what kind of money these engines run mildly built and turn key.

I have a lot of learning, that's why I'm here. You guys know your "stuff". I just need to sit back and start at the ground level learning about these killer mills!!

Don Jacks

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I'd think that with some careful planning ,one could build a mild :crazy 348 that gets decent mileage,and makes good power for about 5 thousand.I love Toms idea on the overdrive trans in this car for cruising.


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Doug, you might want to check the rear of the master cylinder,it could be leaking down the firewall or inside under the dash. Oh, I think Bob has got his eye on those hub cap"s .LOL
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blkblk63ss (forgive me, I'll get everyone's names in a few days!) I have been under the dash sorting out some transient wires and it's as clean as a whistle on the firewall. I thought the same thing about blow by out the rear seals, but nope. The single reservoir just needs to last until this winter. Brake upgrades are a' comin'! I swear, I still think it was small town theft deterrent! If it was, it was a pretty darn good one!

Tex63, I wanted that "Black Ghost" plate too! Guess I am going to have to ask the woman I bought it from. Side story: I bought a sinister black '60 Cadillac Coupe deVille out of Chicago few years back. When cleaning out the trunk, I found a temporary grave marker from the original owner. Kinda weird, but I went with it and named the car Harold. When I sold the car, I made sure that the new owner knew he couldn't remove it or Harold would come back to haunt him ;)
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Skip, I'm already have my eye on a disc brake setup, dual reservoir master cylinder and brake lines. The good thing is, after I get it over to the Kansas Highway Patrol for inspection, it's going back in the garage to start it's rebuild. If I can milk those silly, sticky, brakes 15 miles, I'll be good (fingers crossed)!

Oh and btw, I am going to treat myself to a new HYDRAULIC brake line flaring tool. I had a demostration on one a few months back and fell in love. It's a lot more forgiving than the t-handle/crank type. I see many new double 45 degree flares in my future.