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1961 Impala SS409, Holy Grail?

wvkwvk Posts: 18

Is this the Holy Grail for collectors of post WW2 Chevys?



  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,379
    It's between those and the 1970 Malibu SS with the 454/LS-6.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I'd say the '57 fuelie convertible is still the Holy Grail.

    That 409 looks a lot like the 348 4 speed convertible I had, only I think the color is a shade lighter (hard to tell from the great photos).

    My guess is that the later 409 SS ('62-64) is worth more because, as the ad says, hardly anyone knows about the '61s. It's hard for people to fantasize about owning a car all their life when they don't know it exists.

    It would be interesting to know if the 348 3x2v was the 280 or 320 hp version. With the mild hydraulic cam the engine is no world beater, but with the solid lifter cam it's pretty lively.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,633
    No, I think the '57 Chevy convertible. The 409 is a rather crude car and not in a terribly handsome body. Certainly, it is a desirable automobile but it's not the Holy Grail like the '57 Chevy is.

    The 409 is about the engine, the '57 Chevy is about the whole car, is what I mean. It's a BIGGER chocolate bunny for the collector.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Yeah, and the reason they called the 348/409 a truck engine isn't out of respect, as the ad implies. It was literally a truck engine, having been designed initially for large trucks. The '61 409 was in a fairly mild state of tune, especially compared to the '62-4 dual-quad solid lifter versions that were marginally streetable.
  • wvkwvk Posts: 18
    As I recall the lowest power rating for a 61Impala SS was the 335 hp 348 "police engine" with auto, then 340, 350 (348) and 360 hp 409.

    Out of curiosity how does a 61 Impala SS 409 compare to a 57 Convert on pricing.

    I remember some years ago Super Chevy (?) making a big deal about this car.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,633
    A 1957 Chevy convertible with fuel injection or 2X4 would be worth about double a '61 409SS convertible. If it was just a "normal" '57 Chevy belair convertible, it would be worth about 50% more.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,379
    but then I've never been that big on the '57, IMO
    the '56 is much nicer.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Yeah I think I remember now that only the hotter 348s (and the 409) were available with the SS package in 1961. I thought the "police" engine, only available with HD Poweglide, had 305 hp, but maybe they boosted the power for '61. I know they kept improving the two hottest 348s, the four barrel and 3x2v with solid lifter cam.
  • There are few '61 SS 409's around. So few the CPI price book only talks about a price (mint) of $42,000. If this one is worth restoring and in the opinion of your trusted expert can be done right, it may be worth your money. How much? How much do you have to restore this car properly? '61 and '62 bubbletops are rare. Keep that in mind. I saw a '61 bubbletop with a tripower 348 sell for $22,000. That help?
  • wvkwvk Posts: 18
    now that you mention it, 305hp for the police unit sounds correct
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I'm home now so I can look at the ever-reliable Bill Carroll's Chevrolet V8 Performance Guide, 1969 edition.

    The Turbo-Thrust 348 was the boat anchor in my car, rated at 250 hp with small WCFB four barrel from '58-'61. Then there's the Super Turbo-Thrust 348, same engine and years but with three Rochesters--same carbs as Pontiac Tri-Power and also probably the Olds J-2 and Cad 3 deuce setup of that era. Both the 250 and 280 have 9.5:1 CR and mild cam.

    Then there's the Special Turbo-Thrust, a "special order high performance engine" with special main and rod bearings. Hydro cam and 9:5:1 CR, so it was detuned from the '59-60 version that had solid cam and 11:1. That's the one that came only with the HD Powerglide.

    At the top are the Special (Super) Turbo-Thrust 348 with either 340 hp (one AFB four barrel) or 350 hp (three deuces). 11.25:1 CR, "pistons relieved for valve clearance, special main and rod bearings", mechanical cam. I heard that this cam was so aggressive it wore out valve springs, and when they compensated by increasing the spring tension the cam lobes wore down. Maybe that's when they realized they'd gotten everything they were going to get out of the 348.

    These were early musclecars in a sense, but the idea behind what most people call the first true musclecar, the GTO, was a strong but relatively mild big block in a lighter car. That way people didn't have to put up with lopey cams and dual quads to make 4000 lb. cars go fast. There aren't that many people into high maintenance engines, but the engines in the first GTOs didn't need any more maintenance than the average Bonneville.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    To me the Holy Grail of post-war Chevies would be (drum roll please)...a '59 Impala convertible with 290-hp fuelie and four speed. Last year for the fuelie in sedans and first year for the four speed in sedans. I happen to like the styling but hear that not everyone does ;-). Must be red on red with white top, no continental kit please.

    Shifty, have you ever seen a '59 with either fuelie and/or four speed? Do you want to?
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    .....was the only two-door hardtop style offered in '61, in both Bel Air and Impala trim, so that style 'in and of itself' isn't all that rare. Now, if it's an SS or especially an SS409, it IS super rare, but more because of the trim/model designation and engine than for body style. In '62, the 'bubble top' was offered only in Bel Air trim and is rather rare (and the best looking '62 Chevy, IMO).

    As for value vs. a '57, I have to guess if anyone could even locate a '61 SS409 convertible for sale (a real one, documented, etc.), it would cost the moon and the stars, if complete, regardless of condition. Keep in mind, a total of 453 SS cars (by all accounts, available on ANY Impala that year only), and only 142 409 cars (all SS) were built for the '61 model year, so how many surviving 409 convertibles could there possibly be? I also wonder if any there were actually any '61 SS made that were not two-door hardtops or convertibles.

    The '57s are probably more 'desirable' to most collectors, but not all that rare, unless we're talking a fuelie or one of the other 'hot setups' offered that year. There were over 47,000 Bel Air convertibles and over 166,000 Bel Air hardtops made for '57; desirable, yes, rare, no.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,633
    Supply and demand drive the prices and the desirability, not the rarity. Rarity can be really meaningless actually for some cars, because they are ugly or incompetent or whatever. The reason a 61 SS convertible 409 is worth about the same as a more common '57 Chevy convert, and the reason a FI '57 Chevy is worth double the SS is because more people want the '57 Chevies. People determine the market for the cars ultimately.

    And this supply and demand thing changes, as the type of collector changes.

    speedshift--no, can't say as I have ever seen a FI '59.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,704
    A Chevy-loving friend of mine considers the '66-'75 Impala/Caprice Classic convertibles to be the Holy Grail of Chevys. I'll have to disagree on that one, as I've looked at numerous convertibles from that era, and the cars still appear to be crude and overweight. Any thoughts?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,347
    I've never seen a '59 with fuel injection either. Must be super rare.

    The strangest 59 I ever saw once was a 59 Biscayne Station Wagon with a 348. It had tri-power, and a three speed on the column with overdrive. As a kid working in a gas station, this old man would bring it in (often)to buy ten gallons of premimum!

    Now, how wierd is that one?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    That's one of the great things about the old days, you could get oddball combinations like that. With OD it was probably just the 280 hp version (IIRC you generally couldn't get OD with the hottest engines, must not have been strong enough) but even so, whoever ordered that car had a lot of imagination. Now that I think of it, that combination makes sense: cruise on the middle 2 bbl. and put it in OD over 45 or so for best mpg.

    At least he bought ten gallons, not "check the windows, check the tires, check the oil, a dollar gas". Of course in those days ten gallons would have cost, what, $2.50?
  • wvkwvk Posts: 18

    Would you translate that to an earthly sum?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    The essential characteristic of a Holy Grail is that it's theoretically possible but practically unattainable. This makes a '59 fuelie four speed convertible the odds on favorite for Holy Graildom. It could exist, it should exist, but it doesn't ;-).

    As for the '65-up convertibles, they're just too big. The earlier ones are smaller but still feel ponderous. I had a '65 Impala SS with 327 and four speed and while I probably would have enjoyed it more if it had run on more than seven cylinders, it was not one of the handful of cars I'd like to have back.
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