011 – 1962 Chevrolet Impala SS: Discreet Charm Concealing a Big-Block Beast Within

Unveiled in 1958 as a glamorous offshoot of the Bel Air, the Chevrolet Impala took a swift detour towards full-sized muscle car status, marked by the advent of the SS package in 1961. By 1963, Chevrolet had unleashed the Z11, a featherweight Impala meticulously designed for the drag racing circuit.

Though the Z11 claimed the title of the fastest, most potent Impala of the era, its hefty price tag kept it out of reach for many enthusiasts. Despite being road-legal, it wasn’t a showroom best-seller, and Chevrolet produced a mere 57 units. However, the Z11 wasn’t the sole pumped-up Impala up for grabs.

Chevrolet’s lineup of the period also boasted a 409-cubic-inch (6.7-liter) V8 engine. A descendant of the W-series, Chevrolet’s inaugural big-block engine, the 409 was launched in late 1960 alongside the Impala Super Sport. The inaugural version churned out 360 horsepower with a single four-barrel carburetor, but by the 1962 model year, power escalated to 380 horses.

Chevrolet also offered a more robust version, equipped with two four-barrel carburetors and an aluminum manifold. With a whopping 409 horsepower, it delivered one horsepower per cubic inch, etching its name into automotive history and inspiring the Beach Boys’ 1962 hit song.

The 409 received further enhancements for the 1963 model year, raising the bar to a staggering 425 horsepower and 425 pound-feet (576 Nm) of torque. Despite its discontinuation in 1965, it’s still hailed as one of the Impala SS’s most revered engines.

As we venture into 2023, Impalas powered by the 409 are few and far between. Many met their demise on the drag strip or languished in junkyards during the muscle car boom.

Fortunately, a select few have been rescued and painstakingly restored. Yet the 1962 SS we’re examining isn’t merely a 409-powered Impala revived from the brink. It’s something much grander.

A vibrant tribute to the legendary 409, this radiant red hardtop is deceptively ordinary to the untrained eye. That is, until you notice the side-exiting exhaust pipes!

Beneath its unsuspecting exterior, a beast of a big-block V8 lurks. Based on an original 409 block, it boasts a substantial 480 cubic inches (7.9 liters), bolstered by an array of high-performance aftermarket enhancements.

The impressive list includes four-bolt mains, an Eagle rotating assembly, Ross pistons, Edelbrock aluminum heads, a hydraulic camshaft, an aluminum intake manifold, and a Holley Sniper fuel injection system.

These high-performance additions empower the engine to unleash a colossal 531 horsepower and 620 pound-feet (841 Nm) of torque to the rear wheels. Did I mention that the custom drivetrain also incorporates a five-speed manual gearbox?

This is one of the most impressive modified Impalas I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in a long while. Its unaltered exterior combined with the high-powered drivetrain make it an exceptional sleeper. While some may argue that the absence of a “bubble top” detracts from its status as the ultimate 1962 Impala, I find myself drawn to the “convertible look” hardtop.

Be sure to watch the video below and don’t forget to turn up the volume to fully appreciate the big-block V8’s symphony.

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