Originally designed with utility use in mind, the Chevrolet Biscayne’s appearance was best described as underwhelming. Intended in large part for fleet sales, the exterior of the Biscayne line neither warranted, nor needed, a lot of brand recognition. Available in either four-door or two-door versions, and even a station wagon and an ultra-no-frills version termed a “Utility Sedan,” you could also surmise that performance wasn’t the first check-box on the order form.
Then Comes The Hot-Rodder
Chevrolet knew where the lion’s share of sales were going, but they also didn’t limit their sales to only that market. Whether a conscious decision during marketing proposals or simply a power-pleasing check-box, overlooked by GM but exploited by enthusiasts, the full-sized fleet car was available with any of Chevrolet’s high-performance engines. While their numbers were low, as many high-powered enthusiasts sought a little more show with their go, their performance was unequaled, thanks to their stripped-down upbringing.
Simple, understated, and surprising to the unsuspecting brand-X owners. All photos by Adam Cha.
You could say that Lyle Lindquist sort-of fits both descriptions. He’s no stranger to high-profile, high-performance vehicles, as his previous ride before this Biscayne was a 1963 Chevy II that was given the “full tube-frame treatment.” A solid nine-second car, Lyle admits that it was an attention getter.
I don’t really beat on this car. I’ve had others that I’ve done that with. – Lyle Lindquist
But today, he enjoys the attention that his soft-spoken Biscayne garners from those in the know. The car is appreciated for its merits, not by any of the hot-rod marketing tactics that work so well in parking lots and fairground cruising. Don’t think Lyle’s Biscayne isn’t quick or capable of running with the best of them, it’s just that Lyle hasn’t concerned himself with such things.
From Biscayne to Bis-Quick
Prior to the Biscayne, Lyle and his son built that rambunctious Chevy II, but when it came time for Lyle’s next ride, he decided that he’d rather spend his time driving rather than building. He purchased the Biscayne from Cruisin’ Classics in Columbus, Ohio, after seeing an ad for the car. He drove out to look at it, and as soon as they put it on the lift, he said “I’ll take it!” The car is pretty much the way Lyle bought it, and it’s easy to see why he was so quick to make the sale.
True Chevy guys will notice the absence of a third light housing, reserved for the Impala.
The car was rust-free, and was painted the factory Ember Red color. Lyle reports that once he took possession of the car, he pulled the rear seat to install seat belts. With the seat out, he noted that the body of the car was indeed rust-free and “solid as a rock.”
There were several upgrades made to the car that carried it further from its fleet roots, such as the four-wheel power disc-brakes from The Right Stuff Detailing, a factory 409 tachometer, and even an air-ride suspension to give the car that “just right” stance for any occasion.
The Biscayne's red interior is still as low-key as the day it left the factory. A few upgrades increase its usefulness, while still keeping with the interior's original design.
Rather than running the oft-equipped straight six that so many base-model Biscaynes received, Lyles updated ride now features a Chevrolet Performance ZZ502 big-block that has been fitted with an Edelbrock 750 cfm carburetor, Hedman headers, and behind that, a TCI-equipped Stage-III Turbo 400 transmission with a 2,800-rpm stall converter.
A ZZ502 crate engine makes sure that Lyle gets where he wants as quickly as he desires.
Other upgrades include a dual, 3-inch stainless exhaust and Flowmaster mufflers, a Griffin radiator that keeps its cool via a Viper electric fan assembly, and specially-modified 15-inch wheels that allow use of the aforementioned disc brakes on each corner. When Lyle originally purchased his Biscayne, it was fitted with BFG drag radials on the rear, but since he’s mostly going further than a 1/4-mile at a time, he opted for more street-worthy BFGs out back. He reports, “I don’t really beat on this car. I’ve had others that I’ve done that with.”
Beyond Biscayne Basic
While the original Biscayne interior would easily be considered spartan with its available lack of basic options such as armrests and cigarette lighters, and going so far as eliminating some of the shiny stuff in lieu of painted surfaces, Lyle’s ride does a good job of making up for any shortcomings early in its life. His Biscayne now features upgrades that weren’t even a consideration on even the highest-optioned offerings from any manufacturer back in the day.
A complete line of Haneline gauges keep track of the crate engine’s vital stats, and a RetroSound stereo brings the tunes, whether from the nearby radio station or via the USB port or connected MP3 player. The RideTech air ride suspension’s settings are reported via a pair of pressure gauges that are fitted into a dual opening bezel that was original to a ’61 Chevy.
There are many cues to the car's original heritage and original Chevrolet parts.
Underneath, the car is equally detailed and designed for daily use. The entire frame was sand-blasted and coated with POR 15. As the suspension was being reassembled, a complement of front and rear PST G-Max sway bars were added to keep body roll to a minimum. Lyle reports, “It’s amazing! It’s a big car, but it doesn’t have any body roll”! To prove that the car was built right, Lyle explains that over the past five years that he’s owned the car, the only issue that he’s had with it was a flat tire, which is hardly a case of poor craftsmanship.
I pulled on the guy pretty good and when we met up again at a light, he shouted over to me, I run 12s and you pulled on me! – Lyle Lindquist
While Lyle admits that he doesn’t have much use for drag radials now, he does have a moment or two when he blows the carbon out of the car if the conditions are right. “One night, we were leaving a little, local car show, and this guy with a ’67 Camaro pulls up alongside me. It sounded good and we could tell it was on! I pulled on the guy pretty good, and when we met up again at a light, he shouted over to me, I run 12s, and you pulled on me!”
Whereas the Biscayne was originally noted for what it didn’t entail, Lyle’s example has made a tasteful statement of what can be added and still keep the low-key vibe going. While the air ride suspension triggers pretty quick that there is more going on under the surface than what the General offered, other items such as the chromed grille and headlight bezels makes a case for classy add-ons to a base model. Lyle reports that while most folks wouldn’t know the difference, those in the know often comment that it helps class up the car without getting overly showy.
Lyle likes not having a spotlight on him wherever he goes, and that’s why he likes the modified steel wheels wearing “dog-dish” hubcaps and blackwall radial tires. They are definitely keeping with the car’s economical upbringing, but the unnoticed add-ons bring the car’s ride firmly into the modern age. Since Lyle is more interested in driving his car than dragging home trophies or awards, the fact that the car runs and drives great without all the added hype is a definite plus for his personality.
Although, that doesn’t mean that he’s not occasionally blessed with some recognition by those in the know. His car was recently awarded an Editor’s Choice award at the Street Machine Nationals, and it also won the Orielly’s Best Daily Driver award. Even though Lyle was headed out for an event the day after we spoke with him on the phone, he’s not going for any additional tinware for his trophy shelf. He’s simply looking to put a few more miles on his Biscayne; enjoying the undemonstrative car for what it is, for as long as he can. In that sense, he’s not so different than those folks who originally purchased the Biscayne back in the day, and the car continues to serve the purpose quite well, albeit with a little more spring in its step.