Cars

White ’61 SS bubbletop a change of pace

'61 Bubbletop

Norm Hacker has a thing for classic red Chevy convertibles of the 1950s and '60s, but when he saw this Ermine White 1961 Impala SS hardtop roll across the auction block, he knew he had to have it. (Mike Berry / kansas.com)
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Norm Hacker has a thing for classic red Chevy convertibles of the 1950s and '60s, but when he saw this Ermine White 1961 Impala SS hardtop roll across the auction block, he knew he had to have it. (Mike Berry / kansas.com)

Norm Hacker’s white 1961 Chevy SS “bubbletop” hardtop was supposed to be a red 1960 Chevy convertible.

“When I was a kid, I was kind of fond of convertibles, especially red convertibles,” he explained.

One of his uncles had a convertible and that was the seed for his passion. To date, he has owned seven Chevy convertibles from the 1950s and 1960s, all of them red.

He was after another one when he journeyed to Branson, Mo., to attend a collector car auction about 15 years ago.

“I went to look at a ’60 Chevy convertible, but the ’61 was selling right before the convertible crossed the block. I just couldn’t pass it up. It’s kind of a rare car,” he said.

“Rare” sums it up nicely. Chevrolet churned out approximately 491,000 Impalas in 1961. Of those, only 453 were equipped with the first-year Super Sport package, according to Hacker.

“They started building them the latter part of the year. The ’61 SS has a bench seat … they didn’t put bucket seats in them until 1962,” he added.

The SS sport coupe had been well cared for, with the original red upholstery and headliner in place and in pristine condition. It had been repainted once, by a previous owner, in the factory Ermine White.

There’s no center console to speak off, just a metal plate surrounding the thin, curved 4-speed shifter, which is topped by a small white ball. An original factory tachometer is mounted on the left side of the steering column.

The two-spoke, two-tone steering wheel is a thing of beauty, giving easy view of the horizontal speedometer and the round gauges beneath it.

Hacker’s car is equipped with a 348 cubic inch V-8 with the Tri-Power triple 2-barrel carburetor intake and dual exhaust. It is rated at an impressive 350 horsepower, with 364 foot-pounds of torque on tap for instant acceleration. There’s a Corvette-style grab bar in the righthand side of the dash for just such occasions.

The bubbletop roofline, with its ultra-thin rear roof pillars and curved rear glass, gives the car a streamlined profile, especially when all the windows are down. The red insert in the side spear and the SS badging add to the performance look.

Interestingly, it is equipped with factory air conditioning, as well as power steering and power brakes.

“Everything is stock … the hubcaps are special on the SS,” said Hacker, who prefers restored, factory-correct machines. Even the tires, 8.25x14 Goodrich Silvertown narrow whitewalls, are period correct bias ply reproductions.

“I really don’t drive it too far,” Hacker says, noting that he occasionally shows the car at Wichita area events. An office full of trophies and plaques attests to the fact all of his cars have been consistent show winners.

When he does take the Super Sport to a distant show, it’s loaded on a trailer behind an RV, to minimize wear and tear on the car.

It has made jaunts to Oklahoma City and Ennis, Texas. But perhaps its most memorable outing was to a National Impala Association gathering in Spearfish, S.D.

“We got to take cruises to the Black Hills, Rapid City and Mount Rushmore. That was a lot of fun,” Hacker recalled.

But to top it off, he was interviewed by Dennis Gage of the “My Classic Car” television show.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” Hacker grinned.

So does he regret not waiting for that red 1960 convertible to cross the auction block? Not really. He is happy with his white 1961 SS hardtop.

In fact, his vanity plate on the car says it all: “61348SS.”

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