Introduced in 1958 as a fancied-up version of the Bel Air, the Chevrolet Impala quickly morphed into a full-size muscle car with the introduction of the SS package in 1961. And by 1963, Chevrolet had already launched he Z11, a lightweight Impala built specifically for drag racing.
The latter was arguably the fastest and most powerful Impala at the time, but it was also an expensive rig. So while it was road-legal, enthusiasts didn’t rush into showrooms to buy it and Chevrolet ended up making only 57 of them. Thankfully enough though, the Z11 wasn’t the only beefed-up Impala available at the time.
Chevrolet’s engine lineup at the time also included a 409-cubic-inch (6.7-liter) V8 mill. Based on the W-series, the first Chevrolet big-block engine, the 409 was announced in late 1960 along with the Impala Super Sport. The original version produced 360 horsepower with a single four-barrel carburetor. But the power went up to 380 horses for the 1962 model year.
Chevrolet also offered a beefed-up version with two four-barrel carburetors and an aluminum manifold. Rated at 409 horsepower, it delivered one horsepower per cubic inch and it became so iconic that the Beach Boys wrote a song about it in 1962.
The 409 was further improved for the 1963 model year when output reached a whopping 425 horsepower and 425 pound-feet (576 Nm) of torque. And even though it was discontinued in 1965, it remains one of the greatest engines ever offered in the Impala SS.
Come 2023 and 409-powered Impalas are quite rare. That’s because many of them were either wrecked at the drag strip or abandoned in junkyards when muscle cars became available. Fortunately enough, some of them have been saved and restored, but I’m not here to talk about a 409-powered Impala that’s been brought back to life. The 1962 SS you see here is much more than that.
More of a tribute to the iconic 409, this bright red hardtop looks pretty plain on the outside. If you ignore the side-exiting exhaust pipes, that is! But it hides a monster of a big-block V8 under the hood that turns it into an unassuming sleeper. The mill is based on an original 409 block but it displaces 480 cubic inches (7.9 liters) and it’s loaded with all sorts of aftermarket goodies.
The list is quite long and 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. All these goodies help the engine send a whopping 531 horsepower and 620 pound-feet (841 Nm) of torque to the rear wheels. Oh, and I should also mention that the custom drivetrain also includes a five-speed manual gearbox.
It’s the coolest modified Impala I’ve seen in a very long time. And the stock exterior and the beefed-up drivetrain also make it the perfect sleeper. Granted, some of you might argue that the lack of a “bubble top” prevents it from being the ultimate 1962 Impala, but I actually like the “convertible look” hardtop.