In July 17 IssueRussell County NewsBy Ron Cowell, Columnist
The Chevy Biscayne was the least expensive model in the Chevrolet full-size car range (except in 1958), which also included the Delray, Belair, Impala and Caprice. At its inception for the 1958 model year, the Biscayne was available as a 2 or 4 door pillared sedan. A Biscayne station wagon was available from 1962-68. The station wagon models used a different series of names than the other models from 1958–61, and again from 1969-72. The 2-door sedan was dropped after 1969, and consequently from 1970-72 the only Biscayne model available was a 4-door sedan. In 1958, the Delray was priced below the Biscayne, but was discontinued the following year.
Biscayne’s were produced primarily for the fleet market, though they were also available to the general public — particularly to those who wanted low-cost, transportation with the convenience, room and power of a full-size automobile. While most Biscayne’s were sold with a six-cylinder engine through the late 1960s, the V8 engine became the more popular by the early 1970s. Power stearing and power brakes were made standard in 1970, while the TurboHydramatic transmission was standard on all cars ordered with a V8 engine starting midway through the 1971 model year.
Like the slightly upscale Bel Air, Biscayne’s were easily identified by the use of two taillights per side; the only exceptions to this were in 1959 and 1972. The more expensive Impala , and later Caprice had three taillights per side. The Biscayne didn’t sport exterior chrome trim and was normally fitted with small hubcaps, though several exterior trim pieces and upgraded wheel covers were available at extra cost.
Interior trim was cheaper, with lower-grade cloth and vinyl or all-vinyl upholstery trim, a standard steering wheel with center horn button, and rubber floor mats. Slight upgrades were made throughout the life of the series — the 1964 models came standard with deluxe steering wheel with horn ring, deep-twist carpeting and foam-cushioned front seats.
Many of the luxury convenience options available on the more expensive full-sized Chevrolet models, such as power windows were not available on the Biscayne. However, customers could purchase a Biscayne with any of Chevrolet’s high-output big block V8 engines and performance-oriented transmissions, including the floor-mounted 4-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter and low-ratio final drive. Original production numbers of cars built this way were very low, and examples of these high-performance cars are highly sought after by collectors today. Notably, Baldwin Chevrolet of Long Island, New York, became famous for offering the “Street Racer Special,” a 1968 Biscayne coupe with dealer-fitted high-performance 427 cubic-inch V8, and heavy-duty suspension components, turning the Biscayne into a serious drag car.
However, the absence of most exterior and fancy interior trimmings remained through the life of the series, as the slightly costlier Chevrolet BelAir offered more interior and exterior trimmings at a price still significantly lower than the mid-line Chevrolet Impala.
In 1960, a lower-priced, sparsely trimmed version of the Biscayne called the Fleetmaster was produced. Aimed primarily at the fleet market, the Fleetmaster included a lower grade of upholstery than the standard Biscayne and deleted routine convenience items such as the cigarette lighter, door armrests, and passenger-side sun visor. In addition, many parts were painted rather than chrome plated Both two- and four-door sedans were available.
A number of economy-minded options were available exclusive to the Fleetmaster model, although the performance-oriented engines and transmissions were also available for police applications or performance-oriented customers who wanted the lightest car possible. The Fleetmaster was dropped after 1961.
Production of the Biscayne for the United States market ended in 1972. However, the Biscayne name survived in Canada through the 1975 model year, with a 350 cubic-inch V8 engine and Turbo Hydramatic automatic transmission made standard in 1974.
A total of 76,800 Biscayne’s were equipped with V8 engines compared to 16,700 six cylinder engine models years 1970, 1971 and 1972.
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Until next time… Keep Cruisin’ !