Chevrolet Lightweight Impala SS
The Impala SS, with its 409-cu. in. V-8, was the top of the muscle car food chain in 1962, but it was the purpose-built “lightweight” models with extensive aluminum upgrades that earned Chevrolet’s big-block its legendary status.
Chevy introduced its W-series cast-iron engine family in 1958 as a next performance step beyond the popular 265-cu. in. and 283-cu. in. small-block V-8s. The first “W” was a 348-cu. in. powerplant that could be mated to three two-barrel carburetors for a total output of 315 horsepower. On December 17, 1960, Chevy announced it was enlarging the engine to 409 cubic inches and would offer the new V-8 with its full-size 1961 Impala Super Sport (SS) model.
Don Nicholson won the 1961 NHRA Winternationals in the Stock Eliminator class at Pomona, California behind the wheel of a 409-powered Impala SS, proving very quickly that Chevy’s new big-block was a superior piece of engineering. Twelve stock car victories that year added to the car’s reputation.
Nicholson and a 409 Impala SS repeated their Winternationals Stock Eliminator victory in 1962, but Chevy kept developing speed parts for its big drag car. Unable to get more power from the 409, engineers focused on making the car lighter, which meant shaving pounds from every conceivable part. They replaced the sheet-metal hood, fenders, bumpers, brackets and other associated pieces with aluminum units, trimming 120 pounds from a 3,500-pound automobile. Lightening the car’s front end helped transfer weight to the rear tires under acceleration, which reduced quarter-mile times. Only 18 Impala SSs received the aluminum components in 1962.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in November of 2010 at the Robson Estate, Gainesville, Georgia.
425 hp, 409 cu. in. V-8, twin four-barrel carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 119"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel