Love at first sight

BY Larry D'Argis. Jan 06 04:00 am

Chevrolet dealer showrooms were all abuzz while unveiling a completely new model for 1958, the posh new Impala. An exclusive model marked by a distinctive badge, the Impala was more than a trim option and it differed structurally from other garden variety Chevys. It was available in only two body styles, convertible and sport coupe, the coupe had a slightly shorter roof and longer rear deck than the Bel Air hardtop.

Beginning in 1959, the Impala model had grown to include the four-door sedan, four-door hardtop and a station wagon. By 1961, the Impala had proven so popular with buyers that all the full-size Chevrolet cars could be ordered in the Impala trim. In 1961 the Super Sport or SS option package were introduced — dealer installed on any Impala model, it consisted of SS emblems on the rear fenders, deck lid, dash pad and special wheel covers with spinners. The $54 package also included some great performance upgrades such as heavy-duty springs, shocks, sintered metallic brake linings, power steering, power brakes, 7,000 r.p.m. tachometer and whitewall tires.

Under the 1961’s long flat hood there were a plethora of options. The 135 horsepower, 235.5 cubic-inch, six-cylinder was available as the base engine, with the venerable 283 V-8 two-barrel and four-barrel coming in with 170 and 230 horsepower respectively. For those with a yen for even more performance, there was the 348 cubic-inch Turbo-Thrust V-8, available in 280, 305 and 340 hp states of tune. Top of the pile was the new for 1961 Turbo-Fire 409 cubic-inch V-8 with a pavement scorching 360 horsepower. A late January 1961 entry into the engine lineup, there were only 142 Super Sport Impalas equipped with the 409 V-8.

The Impala two-door hardtop Sport Coupe was a popular model, and for about $2,700, before optional extras it was affordable. Thanks to General Motors’ options list, it also offered buyers a building block approach to personalizing their Impala as their very own unique vehicle.

For Randy Urbanski of Lockport, Man., he’s been a passionate car guy from way back. Like most people, there comes a time in life when raising a family, owning a home and planning for the future, take precedent and the car hobby tends to get shuffled to the back of the deck. For Urbanski, around 2010 he started to get that old car feeling. “I went to the local shows and it wasn’t long before that passion re-ignited and I thought about finding an old car I liked,” Urbanski says. While he was open to several makes and models, he really wanted to find a 1962 Impala SS and even flew out to see a car in Ottawa, but he wasn’t finding the right vehicle.

In 2013, a show at South Beach Casino had a fully restored, ermine white, with red side accent 1961 Impala Sport Coupe for sale. Following the show the owner agreed to bring the car to Urbanski’s home so he could have a good look at it. Urbanski says, “There are times when some things just look right and when I saw the Impala turn into my driveway I knew this was the car.”

The Impala also has some interesting options, including dual rear antennas, front and rear bumper guards, dual side-view mirrors

Fitted with red and white cloth and vinyl interior upholstery, the Impala looked like a time machine. Equipped with the 283 V-8, Powerglide automatic transmission and power steering it was a great car for cruising. With the deal completed, the only thing left was for Urbanski to make the Impala his. Over the prairie winter he added five-spoke, polished aluminum Riddler wheels, from Selkirk Tire and the cross-flag Chevrolet emblems are a special decal that almost makes the wheels look like a factory GM option. New 17-inch Goodyear radial tires complete the rolling stock.

Under the hood, the original two-barrel carburetor gave way to a four-barrel intake, including the correct Rochester carburetor from Able Automotive. Urbanski credits his friend Al Bodnarchuk with tuning the small-block 283 V-8. Front and rear sway bars from Classic Industries were installed and greatly reduced body lean and aided handling. For greater stopping capacity, Urbanski also added power assisted front disc brakes from Motion Performance. Inside the old AM radio gave way to a new Retrosound stereo with Sirius XM radio, to keep those vintage tunes alive. Even with the subtle modifications, Urbanski has carefully stored the original parts and vows to keep the originality of the car.

Over the past two years, Urbanski and his wife, Rae, have taken in Rodarama and several local shows. “At the shows, it’s really a social day and we’ve met a lot of great people,” Urbanski says.

Impala production for ’61 was 177,969 Sport Coupe models and with its ample glass area and flowing styling it was one of the most striking. The Impala name would go on to be almost synonymous with Chevrolet and has served as a marketing success for many years. With the 10th generation Impala now in showrooms, it’s a familiar name that’s sure to be with us for years to come.

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