Cohort Outtake: 1959 Chevrolet Biscayne – Bat Wings for Cheapskates

posted at the Cohort by Stephen Pellegrino

I have to wonder how folks in 1959 that looking to trade in their weary 1952 Chevy sedan for felt about the new ’59 sitting at their Chevy dealer? Quite the contrast, for just seven years later. Did middle aged farmers in Iowa really want something that looked like this?

The answer was obviously not, for a good number of them.

1959 sales increased for pretty much everyone since 1958 had been a recession year. But Ford sales shot up by a mighty 46%, whereas Chevy sales increased by 31%. That was enough to almost tie Chevy, something that would not happen again for a very, very long time.

There’s little doubt that Ford’s relatively subdued and boxy 1959 styling had a lot to do with that; probably everything, actually. I think a lot of folks felt a bit more comfortable driving this Ford into town on Saturday morning than a bat wing Chevy.

The contrast was even more acute with the top line Impala and Galaxie, although it undoubtedly worked the other way around, as the Impala coupe handily outsold the Galaxie coupe.

Well, that probably rather sums up Ford’s issues at the time, which was that it pretty consistently looked more conservative (1960 excepted), and once Chevy sheared off the wings and trimmed itself down a bit for 1961, it quickly ran away from Ford in the sales. In 1962, the big Chevy outsold the big Ford by a bit more than 2:1.  Ouch; that must have hurt.

That giant windshield just doesn’t work well with the rather conservative six-window sedan upper body. These need to be hardtops, two or four door. They sure could have used a bit of Pontiac’s Wide-Track magic too. Those little wheels look so lost under there.

Of course wider wheels and bigger tires along with all sorts of other go-fast goodies like a 290 hp fuel-injected 283, four speed on the floor, Positraction and HD suspension were on the options list. Yes, the ’59 Chevy was the first mass-market American car to offer an optional four speed, never mind the fuel injection. A Corvette…for five.

Yes, the ’59 Chevy, in the right trim and body style, could work, in its own crazy way. But just not on a six cylinder Biscayne sedan.