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Monday, September 27, 2010

1961 Chevrolet

The 1961 Chevrolet Impala two-door was easily identified by the trio of taillights. The two-door sedan listed for $3,629 with the optional V-8 engine.
The first Chevrolet was assembled in this country in 1916. The McLaughlin Motor Car Company Limited acquired the rights from William (Billy) Durant. The durable and economical little Chevrolet was built in Oshawa, Ontario alongside the fancy McLaughlin. Sales were good for both. 

General Motors bought the McLaughlin concern in 1919 and transformed it into GM of Canada, Limited. The entire range of company’s products was phased into production in Oshawa—even Cadillac. The only GM car never built here was the Marquette, a short-lived, lower-priced companion to the Buick.

Chevrolet appealed to the public and quickly bested Ford as the most popularly purchased automobile in the Dominion. The rivalry between the Blue Oval and the Bowtie to be Number One in the hearts and driveways of Canadians would continue for decades to come. General Motors marked its Golden Jubilee in 1958 and boasted that more than half of all cars driven in this country were GM products. 

Despite the relentless onslaught of small, cheap European imports, in 1960 Chev alone accounted for 15.5 percent of all new car sales.  To sweeten the pot, the GM division introduced a rear-engined compact car series that model year to do battle with Volkswagen and Rambler. The Corvair enjoyed modest success with consumers. It all added up to a banner year for GM as the manufacturer produced 175,086 passenger cars—the best year on record since 1953. 

The 1961 Impala convertible was the only ragtop that year in the full-sized Chevrolet family. The price tag was $3,533 when equipped with the six-cylinder mill and $3,658 for the V-8 version.
The 1961 Chevrolet family included a full-sized stable made up of Impala, Bel Air and Biscayne models. These cars were new from stem to stern. The compact-sized Corvair continued with minor changes. The image building two-seater fibreglass Corvette with its new bobbed backside rounded out the bowtie kinfolk.  

The graceful roofline distinguished Sports Coupes from other Chevs in 1961. This Bel Air cost $3,062 with a six under the hood and $3,286 for the V-8 model.
The full-sized envelope was styled under the direction of design chief William “Billy” Mitchell. They lost a few pounds and a few inches off the length, though they continued on the 119-inch wheelbase. Much was made of the  “slim new size” that made Chev “easier than ever to drive, park and garage.”  

 The car carried headlights integrated into the ribbon grille, emphasized by a uni-brow that defined the leading edge of the hood. Between that defining mark and the grille itself were the turn signals spaced nicely by a half dozen open vents that lined up with vertical grille depressions.

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Heavily sculpted flanks gave the impression of flight with a fin-like look in the rear quarter panel. Circular tail lamps set in a flat panel were distinguished by a heavy indentation dipping into a sweet “V” at the centre of the rear. The greenhouse featured curved and canted front pillars. Slim C pillars created a unique roofline for the Sport Coupe and the Sport Sedan was given a wide rear pillar to “add a touch of town-car luxury.”  The result was a trio of rooflines giving acres of viewing area. 

Impala was the posh Chev. It sported such thoughtful touches as an electric clock, a parking brake warning light, back-up lights, deep-twist carpeting, fingertip door releases and custom-length arm rests as standard equipment. Consumers were told the would be “hard pressed to find a reason for wanting any more car than this.” Interiors were upholstered in soft leather-grain vinyl over foam-cushioned seats. There was a four-door Sport Sedan, a four-door sedan, a convertible and a two-door sedan to choose among.

 The 1961 Chevrolet Impala boasted a capacious but compactly designed Instrument Console with all controls conveniently located within easy reach of the driver.

Bel Air was the mid-range beauty in the full-sized family. Billed as being popularly priced, it offered a glove box light, a dome light, foam for cushions fore and aft, deluxe door handles, window cranks and steering wheel and ash trays in the rear compartment. Each item was described as a Chevy virtue at a “price that makes buying too easy to resist.” The Bel Air was available as a Sort Coupe, a Sport Sedan, a four-door sedan and a  two-door sedan. 

The least expensive full-sized Chevrolets in 1961 were found in the Biscayne Fleetmaster series. The two-door listed for $2,730 and the four-door was priced at $2,797 with the six-cylinder engine.
The least expensive Chevrolet was the Biscayne. Offered as a two- or four-door sedan, it boasted dual sun visors, front arm rests and a glove box lock. Interiors were simple and colour-keyed to a durable rubber floor mat. Even less expensive was the Biscayne Fleetmaster, designed for business. This hardworking pair was available in two- and four-door models. 

Station wagons were listed separately and could be ordered with six or eight-cylinder engines. The wagon tribe included a very elegantly appointed Nomad four-door, six- or nine-passenger model, a mid-priced Parkwood six- or nine-passenger, four-door model and an inexpensive Brookwood four-door, six- or nine-passenger wagon. Each offered 97.5-cubic feet of cargo space. To add icing to the cake, a new concealed compartment under the floor provided additional space and out-of-sight safety for precious items. 

Options? You bet! Owners could load up on goodies galore including power steering, power brakes, power windows, a 6-way power seat, a deluxe heater with or without the All Weather or cool-Pack air conditioning. The E-Z Eye tinted glass was required with the air conditioner. There was  dual exhaust, a two-speed electric windshield wiper and pushbutton windshield washer, For listening pleasure, Chevrolet offered a choice of radios. A four-speed manual transmission was available and for the shiftless, PowerGlide or TurboGlide automatic transmissions could be had, too.

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Colours for the 1961 Chevrolets were all Magic-Mirror acrylic lacquer. The deep-down lustre was protected by the plastic base that promised to resist road sins such as sun, salt, road tar and chipping. Tuxedo Black, Twilight Mist Metallic, Ermine White, Sateen Silver Metallic #2, Midnight Blue Metallic, Jewel Blue Metallic, Tradewind Blue, Arbour Green Metallic, Seafoam Green, Honduras Maroon Metallic #2, Coronna Cream, Cherrywood Bronze Metallic, Twilight Turquoise Metallic, Seamist Turquoise, Almond Beige, Dawnfire Mist Metallic, Fawn Beige Metallic, Roman Red and Shadow Grey Metallic were the hues of the season. They could be applied to the Body by Fisher envelope in solid colours or in striking two-tone combinations.

When the calendar year was over, Chevrolet had done well for itself, racking up 70,072 deliveries of its full-sized cars and an additional 8,777 Corvair sales. The small car was here to stay but consumers’ love affair with the full-sized Chev was far from over.

The priciest Chev in the 1961 lineup was the eight-cylinder, nine-passenger Nomad wagon with a price tag of $3,929.


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Copyright 2006 to James C. Mays





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