1963 Chevrolet SS Impala - Reader Ride

By: James Secher

P1040342 P1040342
P1030621 P1030621
P1030647 P1030647
P1030739 P1030739
P1030838 P1030838
P1030860 P1030860
P1030871 P1030871
P1030882 P1030882
P1030897 P1030897
P1030912 P1030912
P1030914 P1030914
P1030923 P1030923
P1030986 P1030986
P1040356 P1040356
P1040394 P1040394
P1040429 P1040429
P1040440 P1040440

The gen-three Impala was an instant hit and arguably the first muscle car.

The Chevrolet Impala has been a popular car for decades with generations of motoring enthusiasts.

Known for its street presence and powerful engine options, the Impala appeals across genres and clubs. It’s not uncommon to see them crammed with hydraulic suspension, bouncing up and down, or cruising a rockabilly show in standard trim.

The first two generations of the Impala were produced from 1958 to 1960 and featured the universal, curved body lines and fins of the 1950s.


In 1961, Chevrolet restyled the third-generation Impala that became an instant hit. The new design featured a fresh, boxy profile with well-defined horizontal body lines and a revamped rear end, with a triple-unit tail-light assembly. A far cry from the ‘stoned vampire’ rear-end of the 1959 model, you can’t unsee it once you’ve seen it.

Despite the Impala being the length of a medium-size yacht, it had a race-winning pedigree, excelling in less corner-intensive racing such as NASCAR and NHRA drag racing.

Available with some heavy-hitting engine options, Impala was arguably the first muscle car of the time, with the Pontiac GTO and Ford Mustang still in the stables before their 1964 debut.

Nice luxury touches.

Impala buyers could choose various engine sizes, ranging from the lowly 230 cubic-inch straight-six, up to the raucous 409 cubic-inch V8 big block.

The 409 pumped out serious power and was capable of over 425hp; however, word on the street suggested the numbers may have been significantly underestimated, with it being closer to 500hp, which would explain the spirited quarter-mile times recorded. 

The 409-behemoth engine was optional across the Impala range; however, the Super Sports (SS) Impala received the lion’s share of the Big Block/four-speed manuals,  available until 1965, when it was replaced by the 396 cubic-inch big block.

The SS optioned Impala came with an array of interior and exterior upgrades, from full-size spinner wheel covers, SS badging, bucket seats, a tachometer, and a Powerglide or four-speed manual transmission.

Mario and his Impala SS.

The owner of our SS Impala feature car, Mario, has been the custodian of this
third-generation 1963 Impala for the last four years, with the keys changing hands of the lowriding V8, in the most gentlemanly of ways, Mario explained. 

"The previous owner of this building, Neil, had the Impala here. I used to always admire it and think how can I afford this? One day he said, ‘Mario, it’s yours; just pay me when you can’." 

With such a generous offer, Mario couldn’t refuse, he picked up the Impala, and the two have been good friends ever since.

Horizontal speedo runs to 120mph.

"Neil saw the car at the US Verta Classic auction in 2013, and bought it. It’s an absolutely immaculate SS with matching-numbers 409, and a factory four-speed Hurst shifter," Mario said.

Having amassed a collection of cars and memorabilia to rival the most avid collectors, Mario’s passion for all things automotive began back in Sri Lanka as a kid. 

"Dad always had motorbikes, from Triumphs, Nortons, to BMWs, and as kids, we used to ride five on one bike, mum with all the kids on the back.

"It was just a beautiful memory growing up in that country. Dad used to go out on his Triumph with his brothers in his khakis and pith helmet, hunting leopard and deer, with double-barrelled shotguns. It was a different time back then."

Looks elegant with the roof on.

After immigrating to Australia in 1970, Mario acquired his first classic while studying at university.

"I bought this old 1950s ‘Roundie’ Mercedes when I was about 20. I picked it up from this guy’s house, but it had no seats, so I drove it home sitting on a five-gallon drum. I had to go somewhere else and collect the seats. That was my first old car."

Mario has had quite an eclectic list of vehicles, from an AC Cobra and a Cadillac to a kombi and a few Corvettes. But the Impala is one of his all-time favourites.

"It is such a classic car with a rich history as an early muscle car. I love the old footage of them in the Beach Boys film clip, for the song 409, launching on three wheels with all that torque. Quite the sight."

The 409ci V8 shoves the SS along effortlessly.

Not only does the SS have bucketloads of torque, making for some spectacular launches. But Chevrolet managed to get a fair bit of that power to the ground for some respectable quarter-mile times.

Famous in the USA, the Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins-tuned Impala NHRA cars could run the quarter-mile in under 13 seconds. Quite the feat for a car as almost as long as the Titanic.

You can’t miss the interior of Mario’s Impala, with the 100 per cent original ‘button and biscuit’ motif bucket seats and doors awash with colour-coded vinyl. Chevrolet stylishly matched the dash, steering wheel, and almost every inch of the interior.

An entire red interior like Mario’s SS had the potential to be somewhat gaudy; however, Chevrolet pulled it off, and the end result is a contemporary masterpiece.

Mario enjoys driving the Impala with the top down, in the Queensland sun. 

"We have such beautiful weather here. It’s just the perfect car, and the fact that it’s such an original car with a factory Hurst four-speed is a bonus."

The '63 Impala sure has presence.

Year 1963 Impalas have become highly collectable and loved by the lowrider scene. Around two years ago, Mario picked up a trophy at Lowrider Sunday, an annual event celebrating the lowrider lifestyle and culture.  

"I won the most original car there. It’s not a lowrider, but it was the most original on the day. I also picked up the OG 63 number plate from someone in the lowrider club."

With an iconic classic like the Impala, Mario is spoilt for choice in the number of clubs and events the big chrome kahuna fits with. 

"I get invited to join a few different car groups, each one of them has its own values and its own ways of how they run the clubs, which I quite like, but I don’t know that I officially belong to any of the clubs, but I hang out with all the groups."

Any colour you want, so long as it's red.

You would expect the left-hand drive Impala would be quite a handful to muscle around town, but Mario reckons there is nothing challenging about it.

"People ask me, ‘How do you drive all these cars left-hand drive?’ Well, my view on these things is you’ve just got to keep a car between two lines. That’s all you’ve got to do.

"So, it doesn’t matter which side of the car you’re sitting on. And the Impala is just a lovely car to drive."

Mario is happy to let friends and family enjoy the matching-numbers beauty, regularly loaning it out.

"Friends will ask whether they can use it for their kids’ formals. So, it’s used for those purposes. All I say to them is, ‘Mate, wash it, clean it. That’s all you got to do. And you take it.’ So, I’m not precious about my stuff."

The sheer size and condition of the Impala can’t be missed, and Mario says it always gets great reactions from kids to adults.

The definition of long wheelbase.

"The older generations that were around when this era of cars came out, absolutely adore its originality. It just takes them back to the days when they were dating. It doesn’t matter which old car I’m driving; someone will tell you a story about their life in that era."

The Impala is in such good original condition, Mario has had minimal maintenance issues during his custodianship, which has given him time to focus on some exciting hotrod-style builds to tick the ‘project car’ box.

"I’ve got a 1950 Ford Single Spinner with Charlie Folksie’s garage right now, going through a body-off resto. We pulled the flathead out of it, and it will be fitted with and injected 347 Windsor, a few front-end changes, and bagged; it’ll sit right on the ground. That will be at least a six- to twelve-month project."

Plenty of elbow grease to keep it sparkling.

Owning old cars can be fraught with headaches, but many of us know that if you surround yourself with the right people, the headaches can be replaced with shared knowledge and laughs. 

"There’s lots of vices people have. Me, I just love old cars, and I love hanging around people in those scenes. I am lucky enough to have people around me who know what they’re doing.

"When I don’t know what I’m doing, I seek help from my friends, who’ll help me work on my cars."

From Unique Cars #485, Nov 2023

Unique Cars magazine Value Guides

Sell your car for free right here


Get your monthly fix of news, reviews and stories on the greatest cars and minds in the automotive world.