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Big-Block Chevy Powered 1961 Impala Convertible: A Couple’s 5-Year Restomod Project

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 4/30/2020 Taylor Kempkes,Reader Submitted Photos
a car parked on the side of a road: 001-Big-Block-1961-Chevy-Impala-Convertible-Readers-Rides © Reader Submitted Photos 001-Big-Block-1961-Chevy-Impala-Convertible-Readers-Rides

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We've all heard it said, "A couple that restores a 1961 Impala together stays together." Maybe that's not exactly how the saying usually goes. Regardless, that's been more than true for Jerry and Maryann Headley of Ridgefield, Washington. The couple are 82 and 79 years old and spent the last five years giving their big-block Chevy powered 1961 Impala convertible a complete restomod overhaul.

a close up of a motorcycle engine © Reader Submitted Photos

When they purchased the 1961 Impala, it appeared to be in decent condition and maybe just needed a few finishing touches to get it right. Unfortunately, that was not the case at all. According to Jerry, "The car looked OK, but what a surprise. We had to start over and completely redo everything." He jokingly added, "I think the car was built by Larry, Moe, and Curly."

The list of things that had to be reworked or replaced on the 1961 Impala convertible is a long one—trust us. But some of those things included a new steering column and steering shaft, a complete rewire with an American Autowire kit, repairing the soft-top bows, and touching up the paint.

a red car parked in a parking lot © Reader Submitted Photos

Luckily, the project wasn't entirely consumed with fixing someone else's neglect. While they were in there, Jerry and Maryann also had some fun turning the Impala into their own version of a restomod with upgrades such as tubular control arms and Hydra-Boost brakes. They even installed a 200R4 overdrive transmission behind the big-block Chevy and rebuilt the rearend, adding 3.55:1 gears.

"I have been working on this car now for five years," Jerry tells us, "and we have driven it over 5,000 miles in the last two years," even driving out to Hot August Nights in Reno, Nevada. But Jerry didn't build the 1961 Impala alone. "This is all done with my wife's help," he told us. "My wife has always worked on cars with me. She has been under the car and under the hood—even helped me change motors—she is a true car gal."

So, if you and your significant other need some bonding time, just start a project car together! Although we make no promises that it will end as well as it has for Jerry and Maryann.

a red car parked on the side of a road © Reader Submitted Photos

Jerry and Maryann's 1961 Impala Convertible Build Specs

  • 427ci big-block Chevy engine making 425 horsepower
  • 200R4 automatic overdrive transmission
  • Four-wheel disc brakes with Hydra-Boost
  • Borgeson steering box with Global West steering linkage
  • Tubular control arms with 2-inch drop spindles
  • QA1 coilover shocks
  • Rebuilt rearend with 3.55:1 gears
  • Dakota Digital gauges
  • American Autowire wiring harness
  • Roman Red leather interior

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