These shots of a ’65 Biscayne posted at the Cohort by robadr are the perfect follow-up to the ’59 bat-wing Biscayne we looked at the other day. In both cases, Chevy (and all of GM) were debuting bold and dramatic new styling. In 1959, it was all about fins, wings, jet intakes and exhausts, and other such such frippery. After a relatively subdued four years (1961-1964), GM was ready to shake up the big car styling status quo again, this time with Coke-bottle curves featuring voluptuous hips and long, swoopy semi-fastback roofs (mostly on the coupes).
And just like in 1959, this all worked best on the high trim models, but come off a bit overwrought on the low trim versions, lie this Biscayne. That one single piece of bright trim on its hips was surprisingly controversial, as I know from personal experience, having been at the Chevy dealership in Iowa City on the night they were revealed in the showroom, which was a genuine event. Folks loved the Impala coupe, but groused about the Biscayne.
I more than paid my respects to the ’65 Impala coupe here. Way more, actually. I modestly titled it “The Peak Full-Size American Car Experience”. That piece has become a precursor to my “Who Killed the Big American Car?“. Let’s just say that 1965 was the big car’s last hurrah, even though its market share had been shrinking since 1957.
I’ve written about what a big deal new car reveals at the dealers were back then. I remember that September 1964 evening at the local Chevy-Buick-Cadillac dealer in great detail. Hot chocolate and donuts were served; no wonder I remember it so well! And of course the ’65 Chevy Impala coupe in the showroom was the hot item, more so than the Buicks or Caddilacs. But I also distinctly remember being among some folks just outside the showroom, where there was a Biscayne, and overhearing a dour man grousing about the chrome strip on top of a Biscayne parked there. “Why do they have to accentuate that big hump with that chrome strip?”
Maybe it was done on purpose to get more folks into a slightly more expensive Bel Air, which had a very conservative horizontal strip, which had rather the opposite visual effect, to attenuate the bulging hip.
From the front, they all looked the same. And mighty good, what with that floating delicate bumper, something very new and bold. It rather changed the face of big cars, until the wretched 5 mile battering rams came along.
This Biscayne was bought by a cheapskate, but at least they sprung for a V8 version, with the venerable 195 (gross) hp 283. That’s if the badge is original. By the way, 1965 was only year the 283 numbers graced the top of the croossed flag badge.
What’s not original are the wheels, which appear to be the 15″ ventilated wheels that came with the optional disc brakes that were first available in 1967. They’re very familiar to me, as Baltimore County bought a huge fleet of 1967 Biscaynes for police and other uses, and they all had those wheels and disc brakes. Or maybe they’re reproductions. I don’t blame him for putting them on, as it’s a whole lot easier finding suitable 15″ tires than 14 inchers. And they look good, a lot better then the wretchedly undersized 7.35 x 14″ (comparable to a P185/80R14) that were originally mounted on this car.
I wrote up that issue of undersized tires here, and it was specifically triggered by my memory of how tiny those tires looked that evening in 1964 at the dealer. It left a lasting impression.
That upholstery looks rather original to me. The Mennonite family I used to spend time with every summer bought a demo ’65 Bel Air sedan in 1965, and I spent some time riding in it that last summer I was with them (1965). It had the 230 six and three speed manual, natch, and it was still serving them when I went back to visit them in 1973, although looking a bit worse for wear.
This Biscayne owner also splurged for a Powerglide to back up the V8. he wasn’t such a total cheapskate after all.
For those of you who perpetually grouse about how outlandish modern cars are, rest assured that if you had been there at the dealer on that day in 1964, you might well have though the same about the new ’65 Biscayne.
I like em but we only got BelAirs and Impalas four doors 283 no hard tops coupes or ragtops those have arrived more recently used, I dont think Ive ever seen a Biscayne, very popular cars here that lasted quite well.
I had a 66 just like this. Mine was a dark green. 283 powerglide.
Really nice car!! the sheer simplicity of it is stunning to me. i miss when you could buy a stripper car without all the bells and whistles. it just looks so simple.
The chrome strip on the Biscayne not only accentuates that big hump, it also reveals the slightest misalignment of the rear doors.
I can’t look at this car and not see each of the trim’s mounting holes – on the top of the fender and door – as a point of entry for water into the door panel and trunk, and as a perfect breeding ground for rust spots. Of course, new car buyers of that time typically didn’t keep their cars nearly as long as we do today, so I doubt it concerned anyone.
I know that the 65’s sold extremely well (across the board, wasn’t it a record number of US built cars sold?) But I never got used to the taillights on the big ’65 Chevy’s. They always looked like they were just tacked on.
“But I never got used to the taillights on the big ’65 Chevy’s.”
I’m right there witcha. They look particularly bad on the low-trim car. FWIW I didn’t like the look of round lights poking out of sheetmetal in the back of the 63 Tempest either.
The taillights seem to be almost “floating” on the deck lid. I loved them at the time, and still do. (We had a 1965 Bel Air wagon, and my beef as a kid was that we didn’t have the Impala, which was obviously the better version, as it had three taillights!)
They are definitely controversial, but also memorable. For 1966, Chevrolet went the other way and made them too bland.
+1 I really never knew the 65 taillights were controversial until I started reading here, to me they were actually one of the highlights of this whole 65-70 generation. Tacked on? No more so than any other round taillight design as far as I’m concerned, and that the lens comes out straight from an angled bezel to match the trunklid instantly diffuses that accusation.
66 was a very boring followup, thin nondescript taillights where the 65’s filler trim would go and a plain flat trunklid. It always surprises me that others find that preferable, a cardboard box is more stylish.
I’m with you XRMatt – I was a teen when these cars came out and I thought the styling details were fantastic. My first encounter with negative views of the taillights was here as well. Even in small town conservative Indiana where I grew up the 65 Chevy was very popular, in all configurations.
Unlike you I also liked the 66 but in those days we were trained to expect differences from year to year and the changes could have been worse. I thought the 66 grille was handsome and the taillights sleek if not imaginative.
It was a great decade for car-crazed kids in terms of styling and most of us did not think about how bad the cars were (undersized wheels/tires, weak brakes, awful suspensions, et al) underneath the stylish exteriors. I had some clue as my first cars were VWs and they were agile and fun to drive, and somehow the swing-axle rear suspension never did me in.
One of the reason I love this site so much is that I get too see the bottom feeder models, something I never noticed as a kid. Of course, when your dad is the local Chevy dealer, and gets at least one new car every year, it’s easy to get your priorities skewed.
Like, keeping a car for more than three model years is obviously the mark of a poor person, and there’s something obviously wrong with them. Or, why would anybody buy the stripper model? Yeah, I could understand owning a Chevy II 100 if you were truly broke, but the natural progression in my eyes was Chevy II Nova, Chevelle Malibu, Chevrolet Impala if you were playing the price structure. And that wasn’t the musings of a little kid, either. I was 15 when dad came home and announced he wasn’t working for Hallman’s Chevrolet anymore.
Reality set in rather quickly. We got a new 66 Caprice Estate Wagon (I get the feeling it was part of dad’s termination agreement) and for a year the Paczolt’s only had one car. And kept it for the next five years. (Insert shock here.). The following fall dad got his (after bragging to other parents in my school district that it was going to be mine) Camaro RS, and suddenly we were just like every else. Sort of.
“Like, keeping a car for more than three model years is obviously the mark of a poor person, and there’s something obviously wrong with them.”
We have two cars — a 2004 and 2005 — and we bought them in 2012 and 2013. Yep, we’re constantly broke. Definitely something wrong there.
Never really bothered me to drive and hold onto the same car for awhile. I had a ’66 Chevelle that I bought in ’78 and drove until ’85. I didn’t get rid of it as much as rust snatched it away from me (trunk, floor both rusted through).
I agree; deffo part of this site’s charm is seeing the bottom-feeder models pictured and analyzed. It’s amazing what these old cars *don’t* have, especially the stripper models.
I have more appreciation for the 65 than I used to, but they were controversial cars at my house too. I laughed when you referred to “the hump” because I heard that phrase over and over when my mother would critique new cars. She must have liked the straight lines of our 64 Cutlass because many was the time Mom said she didn’t like the looks of a car because “it has a hump”.
Maybe it was just growing up in an Olds/Pontiac family, but so many details of the 65 Chevy seemed off to me. The wheelcovers (shown on the black Bel Air) were too busy, and the dash was really odd – so much real estate used for a speedometer and a gas gauge. And what was with that big fat rubber boot at the base of the shift lever? It always looked like something out of 1956.
Here is a question I have never seen addressed: The sedan greenhouse was so cleanly styled. From 1965-70 the sedans were attractive, either with the stainless cladding or without because of the clean styling. Then the 1971 sedan came along with a horrible cluttered sedan greenhouse. It seemed so retrograde for the B pillar to be exposed again between the window frames. The 77 continued that sin. Was it the Taurus that finally took us back to a cleanly styled sedan greenhouse that concealed the B pillars behind the upper doors?
Wild-ass guess- thicker pillars for upcoming rollover standards combined with cost-cutting.
I’ve always thought that every 1965 GM full-size car was a winner, save one – the Cadillac. Without the prominent tailfins it looks like an overblown Lincoln Continental – except for the front. But the 1965 Pontiac did the stacked headlights much better.
Agree with you on the Cadillac. Very dull, especially compared to the ’64 and especially the ’63.
With the ’71s, the optimal greenhouse design really seemed to be the four-door hardtop, which also got the lion’s share of attention in the brochures. (See for instance: http://oldcarbrochures.org/North%20America/Chevrolet/1971-Chevrolet/1971-Chevrolet-Dealer-album1/slides/1971_Chevrolet_Dealer_Album-02-07.html) The two-door hardtop was clean enough, but the proportions looked wrong.
I think the sedans suffered two issues. First, it looks like the sail panels, roof, backlight, and door outers are the same for sedans and four-door hardtops, presumably to save tooling costs. It’s pretty clear the design was optimized for the hardtop, so when you added the B-pillar and in particular the window frames, it ends up looking cluttered. (I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as the pillared Malibu/Chevelle sedans of the same period, which were a strong argument for just buying a Monte Carlo.) Second, the usual chrome hierarchy kind of backfired. The Biscayne, which had body-colored window frames, was relatively clean, although the combination of the body-colored window frames and the bright trim of the wraparound windshield and door tops still made it look rather unfinished. (See http://oldcarbrochures.org/North%20America/Chevrolet/1971-Chevrolet/1971-Chevrolet-Dealer-album1/slides/1971_Chevrolet_Dealer_Album-02-12.html) The Impala’s bright window frames were supposed to look more expensive, but ended up contributing to the sense of clutter, which again is absent in the hardtop.
The ’77s I think were trying hard to lunch off the ’75 Seville, which in turn was notionally aimed at the W116 S-Class, but with the crisper lines of contemporary Italian designs from Pininfarina and Giugiaro. Looking at the Fiat 130 Maremma from the same period — see Don Andreina’s analysis here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/1974-fiat-130-maremma-breaking-bella/ — suggests where they were at aesthetically. (I’m not implying the Maremma influenced the Seville, which was done by the time the Maremma appeared, but if you look at the full-size clays that preceded the Seville, you can see the Cadillac studio exploring similar themes.)
I don’t love the chrome strip, but man, everything else about that Biscayne – the body color, the blackwalls and hubcaps, the stance – it just works.
I feel the same way. When these were new, I wouldn’t have given a Biscayne a second look, but there is something about this combination that looks pretty fabulous to me in 2019. The colour clearly works well, but ‘stance’ is a good descriptor – those big blackwalls and limited trim are a great counterpoint to the sensuous body lines. “Yeah, I’m pretty, but don’t f*ck with me.” 🙂
I was a graduate summer hire at IBM in Cincinnati in 1968. A very successful sales rep had this car exactly (albeit a lighter shade of green). When I asked Pete (last name redacted) why he drove this car when most of his peers were driving Pontiac Bonneville’s, Olds, a stray VW for the eccentric, and a few Buick’s and Cadillac’s?
He said “My territory is small businesses. When I take a customer (business owner) out to lunch and offer to drive, they say, “Let’s take my Cadillac”. That gives me time to think about the sale while he drives.”
Later when working on staff in Atlanta he drove a 911S!
I often wonder about that today. If you are in a sales job, and pull up in something expensive (nicer than what your client is driving), does that help sell the image that you are very good at what you do and successful, or does the client tend to think that they are paying you too much in commissions, etc.? It used to be old school thinking that you didn’t really want to flaunt your wealth needlessly.
My folks bought a ’65 Biscayne in ’67, with a 283/powerglide combo. It seemed like a nice car right up to the point where a gas station attendant commented to my old man that he must have a retired cop car due to the oversize breather, etc. A few phone calls later and the Chevy was replaced by a ’65 Strato Chief with similar options!
When one is a self-employed businessperson, image is absolutely vital. I am one of those self-employed business people. I strongly believe that how I present to clients is absolutely vital. That’s because I charge a lot for my services.
It means shaving every day, monthly haircuts, working out in a gym to keep fit and yes, a car. The car doesn’t have to be ostentatious: it just has to look good and out of the ordinary. I also must be clean when you arrive.
Image is 90% of the game.
Maybe it’s age, but I have come to appreciate abject simplicity as beauty at its most basic. The Biscayne — particularly examples such as this — serves as an ideal illustration of my grizzled, grumpy philosophy. Keep your bling; just let me drive this threadbare masterpiece.
One of the many great things about living on Canada’s West Coast is loads of clean, rust-free cars. Just last week a low-spec 1971 Mustang Mach I was parked on the street in front of my house. It even has a 302 in it.
The first car I remember as a kid was a 1965 BelAir. It was a 283 and Powerglide, as were about half of all the Chevrolet cars of the era. The other half had the 230 six, half of those having three-on-the tree.
I never once say anything else.
Those extra two doors may be the only reason this one is not now sporting a 396 and a 4 speed. Low spec “sleepers” with monster engines and 4 speeds have become as big of a bore at car shows and cruise ins as Mustangs and Camaros.
I would love to see how many Biscaynes with the Hot Rodder’s Special powertrains were actually produced. Like you, every Biscayne or Bel Air I ever saw was equipped just like the ones you describe.
Big block Chevrolet cars are the reason I have stopped going to cruise-ins. Most are just pot-bellied boomers who have a pot full of cash to dump on a car so they can have 500 hp in a car that wasn’t terribly strong to begin with.
I personally know, and have touched with my own hands, exactly ONE Big Block Chevrolet that wasn’t in a truck. That was in a beautiful 1969 Impala 427 which we serviced for its meticulous owner.
My uncle had a 327 in his Pontiac Laurention and we thought he was profligate with his money.
My dad’s first new car was 1961 Biscayne with Stovebolt and three on the tree. The only option was the mandatory for Canada heater.
His 1965 was a BelAir, lightly used. Because it was lightly used, he decided he hated it. It was a 283 and Powerglide. We had risen slightly, but not that much since the car was bought, gasp, used!
The last of this era was a 1970 Pontiac Strato-Chief. It had 350 V-8, Powerglide and nothing else. Not even power steering and it had the small steering wheel. I used to help mom parallel park by reefing on the wheel with her.
You’d probably like the ’73 Monte Carlo a good friend of mine has, it still has its original LS4 454 residing under it massive hood.
I’m not a fan of the proportions, the front looks stumpy and the bumper has a weak chin. The battering ram bumpers were much better suited to a car of this size. Too bad about the crappy X frame, because the six-fo had presence that these really don’t. These could be mistaken for a Malibu.
1965 Chevrolet–“A completely NEW look time CAN NOT wash away!”
Did the car start rusting during the commercial?
That Biscayne is a great color and in beautiful condition (I miss living in the Pacific NW), didn’t realize that model had the partial chrome strip on top.
I was never was a big fan of GM’s new full sized ‘65s, they looked so much bigger than the ‘61-‘64 models. My memories of the ‘65 models are when the cars were used. Growing up in Wisconsin I saw lots of ‘65-‘68 GM 2dr hardtop fastbacks (and long deck ‘67-‘68 Cadillacs) covered in rust by the end of the seventies. The boxier, yet still curvy ‘69-‘70 GM full size cars seem better styled in my opinion.
I’m sure one of the reasons Japanese cars started to sell big by the start of the seventies is that they offered a plethora of standard equipment rather than offering an el cheapo special. I imagine quality control would be better if the majority of cars coming down the line had the same equipment. Of course by the eighties popular car options would be bunched into packages rather than a car company selling separate models.
Odd that this is a 2-door sedan. I was only 1 when the ’65s came out, but I can’t make much sense out of it. The ’65 Bel Air was only $100 more, and added quite a few features. If you were really cheap, why not buy a Chevelle or Nova instead?
4-door Biscayne, that makes sense for fleet/cab/cop buyers, shave every penny on a 50-car order.
I remember drag racers would have bought a 2-door Biscayne sedan, for the “added lightness”, but they would have ordered a 409 with a 4-speed.
Nope, I can’t quite fathom who the buyer was of a 283, 2-door Biscayne.
Well, my son, you have obviously never been to Canada.
Stripper sleds used to be the conveyance of all Prairie farmers. A truck was just too crude for the family to go to town. This could easily be 500 km of driving in a day.
These hardy folks were hatched in the Depression. They went hungry a lot. They had no cash to spare for anything. It was utter poverty for a long, long time.
After the war, conditions improved a lot, but these folks were mighty thrifty. Dealers usually stocked strippers because they were in demand.
A lot of salesmen still had 2 door sedans as fleet cars. Although Chevrolet no longer offered a business coupe/utility sedan, some were still ordered without rear seats and had a raised floor for sample cases.
Also, some state highway patrols used 2 door sedans as crusiers, although Chrysler and Ford had most of that market. And some people just wanted the cheapest big car they could buy.
“This Biscayne owner also splurged for a Powerglide to back up the V8. he wasn’t such a total cheapskate after all”
The car also has “Soft-Ray” tinted glass al around, including shaded windshield. I don’t know how much that cost, but it was an option.
The cynic in me says CHEVROLET added that chrome strip on the ‘hump’ of the Biscayne to make it look ugly on purpose; an indirect way of urging buyers to go a step up and select a Bel Air as their next purchase instead. That said, I do like the look of that simple Biscayne despite the obtrusive piece of chrome trim. I think Chevrolet would have sold more Biscaynes if the trim piece was in the same place as it was on the Bel Air. I think the trim piece looks quite nice on the Bel Air model pictured. 😀
A dream car for me would be a 1968 Biscayne with a Powerglide and that’s it for extra ‘goodies’.
I agree about the chrome strips on the fenders. Ruins the whole look on an otherwise very attractive car.
The taillights on the 1965 Biscayne and Bel-Air always reminded me of those Moon Eyes racing stickers.
They always reminded me of the small bowls Auntie Grace used to set jelly – just kid size, she thought.
That’s my actual 1965 Biscayne sedan in Taihitian Turquoise in the photo. Looks like the author took the photo in 2019 in front of 33 Acres beerhall in Vancouver Canada where I live. I’ve had the car about four years. I’m the 3rd owner and bought it from a guy in Alberta. It has only 35k miles, possibly original miles. It runs great. I’ve replaced the windshield, new tires, rims, exhaust, rubber seals, and discs on front. It’s a cruiser and gets lots of thumbs up driving around Vancouver. Here’s another photo I took.