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Dan Gurney's 1961 Chevrolet Impala Racer That Outgunned Jaguar

By Tyler Heatley Apr 10, 2019
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By Tyler Heatley Apr 10, 2019
Legendary racer Dan Gurney imported a police-spec Chevrolet Impala to race in the 1961 British Saloon Car Championship

When you think of racers of the 1960s, you think of sleek Jaguar E-Types and potent Aston Martin DB4 GTs elegantly sliding from corner to corner. However, racing Legend Dan Gurney had other ideas that came to fruition when he imported a Chevrolet Impala to the UK to use as his steed in the British Saloon Car Championship. This car is the star of Petrolicious’ latest film.

While Impalas are impressive machines, they dwarfed British performance models of the day, and certainly aren’t as agile as something like a Jaguar MKII. That said, a thunderous V8 under the hood could outgun the competition, and this was Gurney’s plan. He ordered a police spec Chevrolet with uprated suspension and brakes, and then brought it to the UK for the May round of the British Saloon Car Championship in 1961.

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Dan qualified the big Chevy on pole position at Silverstone and lead almost every lap of the race itself — immediately silencing critics. Just laps from the finish line and outright victory, a wheel broke leading to the car’s retirement. Frustrated but determined, Gurney fitted NASCAR specification wheels to the car ready to shame the grid of supposedly superior European models once again. However, angered rivals had other ideas.

The effectively standard Impala has shamed marques such as Jaguar, and Dan held them responsible for getting the car banned from the series after a mixup with paperwork. A public letter to the UK’s Autosport magazine highlighted his anger at the situation.

The car eventually made its way to Australia where it continued to race for a while, was then fitted with an inline six-cylinder engine, and even served as a tow car. It was then shipped back to America where it was to be sold again, this time intercepted by its current owner, Ed Foster.

Ed was looking for the iconic Chevrolet to feature at the famed Goodwood Revival, however, he was also looking for a car to invest in. After missing the opportunity to buy classic Porsche before prices skyrocketed, Ed decided to take a chance on the Gurney Impala. Today it has been restored and can be verified as the very model driven by the American racer.

Check out the video of this historic car roaring through the British countryside where it now resides.

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