California is the home of car culture, so it’s no surprise that the car songs of the 1960s came out of the surfing crowd. Chief among them were the Beach Boys, whose “Little Deuce Coupe” and “Fun, Fun Fun…(‘til her daddy takes the T-Bird away)” ruled the charts for several years. It all began, however, with Chevy’s legendary 409, the inspiration for the song by that name released in June 1962 as the B-side of their first single for Capitol Records, “Surfin’ Safari.” Both songs became huge hits, and they appeared together on the Beach Boys’ first studio album, also titled “Surfin’ Safari,” that October.
The car that gave birth to the song was announced in December 1960. Coinciding with the debut of the Impala Super Sport option, the 409 was a bored and stroked version of the big block 348, introduced for the 1958 season. Initially rated at 360 brake horsepower with a single Carter AFB four-barrel, it had solid lifters, a new forged steel crankshaft, 11.25 to 1 compression, and a more aggressive camshaft. The only transmission choice was a four-speed manual.
The Super Sport package included both trim and chassis enhancements. “SS” emblems were prominently displayed, and the springs and shock absorbers were beefed up. Other ingredients were power steering and brakes, metallic brake linings, a column-mounted tachometer, spinner wheel covers, and narrow whitewall tires. Most prominent was a grab bar for the right front passenger, hinting at the g-forces that a Super Sport could deliver. Just 453 Impalas received the SS option in 1961, 311 with 348s and a paltry 142 with the 409.
There was a good reason for the latter number. Boring the 348 had created some problems, so production was halted while the casting was revised. Re-introduced for 1962, it was offered in both a 380 brake horsepower single-carb version and a one-horsepower-per-cubic inch 409/409 with dual Carter AFBs. The latter became a favorite of drag racers, who repeatedly broke and re-broke records in NHRA Nationals.
360 bhp, 409 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine (upgraded), four-speed manual transmission, coil spring independent front suspension, live rear axle with trailing arm coil spring suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 119.0 in.
Part of the RM Auctions event for John Staluppi in December, 2012.