The Incredible Discovery Under the Hood of the 1961 Chevrolet Parkwood After Decades of Obscurity

Introduced in 1949 as a range-topping model for the Chevrolet full-size line, the Bel Air lost that privilege to the Impala in 1958. But the nameplate remained a popular choice and sold millions of units until it went into the history books in 1981. Not surprisingly, many of those Bel Airs are currently rotting away in junkyards.

Hard to find examples of the SS variety usually get saved at some point, but the more mundane cars, including the four-door sedans and wagons, are usually doomed to rust for eternity. Unless a crazy dude like the one from “Puddin’s Fab Shop” steps in to save an example that no one really wants. In this case, we’re talking about a 1961 station wagon.

Yes, I know, there was no Bel Air wagon until 1962, but Chevrolet did offer a similar equipment level on the 1961 Parkwood. If you’re not very familiar with this nameplate, it was only produced from 1959 to 1961 and slotted between the base Brookwood grocery getter and the range-topping Nomad.

When Chevrolet discontinued the wagon-only nameplates in 1962, the Parkwood went into the history books and never returned. Its replacement, the Bel Air Wagon, remained in production until 1981. Yup we’re looking at one of the rarest wagons ever made by Chevrolet.

Back to the 1961 Parkwood you see here, the oldtimer was saved from a junkyard that kept it prisoner for decades. It’s unclear how much time it spent off the road, but the condition of the body tells us it’s been parked here for at least 30 years.

But it’s in surprisingly good condition for a vehicle that spent so much time fully exposed to the elements.

Yes, the white paint is almost entirely gone, but there are only a few rust holes on the lower body. And all the chrome trim, including the cool, V-shaped ornament that adorns the rear fascia is still there.

The interior, albeit loaded with parts, junk, and rat poop, still looks decent and the blue upholstery took all these years of sitting almost in one piece. I can’t help but think how gorgeous this Parkwood was when it left the factory back in 1961.

But you know what’s really cool about this wagon? As our host discovered upon opening the hood, the previous owner hot-rodded the engine.

Yeah, it’s in a sorry state and it’s missing some parts, but that V8 packs a four-barrel intake and adjustable valves. He also found further evidence on the front fenders, which used to have Mr. Horsepower decals.

Don’t know what that is? Well, it’s a caricature of hot-rodding legend Clay Smith and the cartoon mascot of his shop, Clay Smith Cams.

He built many race-winning engines, he helped Troy Ruttman win the 1952 Indy 500, and his shop became famous for fine-tuned auto parts. Often confused with Woody Woodpecker, Mr. Horsepower is a sneering, cigar-smoking bird.

Granted, this Parkwood won’t run fast anytime soon, but our host seems determined to get it road-worthy again. And given the nice patina the wagon displays after getting its first wash in decades, it should make a really nice rat rod.

Until that happens, check it out in the video below. I also added a second video of a proper 1961 Parkwood survivor just to see how nice these cars were when new.

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