MotorCities National Heritage Area

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of Robert Tate's collection
Posted 07.18.2018

1961 Chevrolet Tate Collection 1

The year 1961 was a great year in the history of General Motors. With 85 million drivers accumulating over 700 billion vehicle miles annually, America was certainly a car-traveling nation.


1961 Chevrolets Tate Collection 2 

In 1961, Chevrolet continued to meet the growing demands of the great driving public by offering the greatest variety of passenger cars ever sold under one nameplate and introducing a totally new full-size car design. Many consumers thought the 1961 Chevys were great looking vehicles. GM Chief Engineer H.F. Bar said this about the 1961 Chevrolet designs: “The Engineering Department is rightfully proud of the 30 different Chevrolet luxury cars, sports cars and economy cars; a new vehicle line that is specifically designed to meet every motoring need.”

1961 Chevrolet station wagons 3

Chevrolet offered 20 new models, which was an increase of two over the 1960 model lineup. The model changes were reflected in the Impala Series and the Station Wagon Series. A new Impala two-door sedan was added and a total of six 4-door station wagons which included three 6-passenger and three 9-passenger models. The models that were offered in the series were the Impala, Bel Air, Biscayne, Fleetmaster and the popular station wagon models. New front pillars of all Chevrolet passenger cars gave a totally new appearance to the windshield and ventiports. In addition, the Impala Convertible offered a compound curved windshield. All Impala models, with the exception of the convertible, had a bright simulated exhaust port at the base of the rear window. The triple light arrangement on the Impala models featured two tail lights separated by a back-up light. Both tail lights included stop and direction signals. A new sculpted rear deck treatment had extended to station wagon models. The Chevrolet nameplate in block letters provided identification on the tailgate. The power-operated tailgate window was standard equipment on the 9-passenger models and available as an accessory on 6-passenger station wagon models.


1961 Chevrolets 4

The interiors offered a great appearance that many consumers enjoyed. For example, wide bolsters gave the Impala series a bucket seat effect look. The seats of the Bel Air 2 and 4-door sedan models were distinguished by an embossed crest on the backrest, and the side walls were accented by three horizontal ivory stripes. On the Biscayne models, a basket-weave pattern cloth and leather grain vinyl trim distinguished the seats. Similar in appearance, Brookwood models offered an all vinyl interior. Tastefully designed to suit the character of the vehicle, the Fleetmaster seat trim was all vinyl, and the side walls were vinyl-coated as well. 


1961 Chevrolet Tate Collection 5 

One of the most popular 1961 Chevy models was the Impala 4-door Sport sedan. It cost $2,769 and was considered Chevrolet's style leader. The Sport Coupe model cost $2,704, and the Impala Convertible was priced at $2,704.

A great advertising campaign was used to promote the new 1961 Chevrolet models, featuring taglines like “Jet-Smooth Chevrolet” and “No need to look farther than your Chevrolet dealers to find the car you're looking for.”


Today, the 1961 Chevrolet Convertible models are very rare and collectible.




Dammann, George H. “Sixty Years of Chevrolet.” Crestline Auto Books, 1972.