Cohort Classic: 1965 Chevrolet Biscayne – Voluptuous Hips For Cheapskates

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.