Rarest Muscle Car? 1965 Chevrolet 396/4-Speed Biscayne

I’ve heard of these, but this is only the third one that I have encountered. What’s that you ask? A full-size (B-Body) Chevrolet from 1965 with a 425 HP, 396 CI engine. And it’s the only one with four doors! A rare bird? You bet, let’s look it over. This 1965 Chevrolet Biscayne sedan is located in Indianapolis, Indiana, and per here on Hemmings, it will be available at Mecum’s May auction, the 14th through the 22nd. Thanks to Mike A for this tip.

The big news for Chevrolet in 1965 was its entirely new “coke-bottle” styling perched upon a perimeter frame as opposed to relying on the clunky X frame that had been in use since 1958. But also new, was the late January ’65 introduction of the Mark IV, 396 CI “Turbo-Jet” V8 engine. While it was new to production, it wasn’t exactly hot off the press as it was based on the Mark II, 427 CI “Mystery Motor” that Chevy campaigned at the ’63 Daytona 500. Two Impalas powered by Mark II engines earned the pole and second starting position for the big race but unfortunately, as a result of mechanical failure, neither finished. But Chevrolet was on to something, just not something that they could actively support at the race track. As a matter of fact, when the 14th floor brass at GM’s Detroit headquarters found out about Chevrolet’s Daytona racing antics, they told Division Manager Bunkie Knudsen to knock it off – no racing! All was not lost, however, as the Mark II ultimately became the production Mark IV, replacing Chevrolet’s stalwart 409.

The new 396 CI motor was offered in two flavors, a mild 325 (L35) HP version and a wild 425 (L78) HP thumper though the initial belief was that the L78 was the province of the Corvette only. Not true, as it could be had in a Caprice, Impala, BelAir, or Biscayne too and about 1,800 big Chevies were so equipped that year. One of the more notable external features of the engine is the idler pulley which can be seen in the engine images provided on the Mecum Auction site – it’s always a giveaway. One thing that is not provided is an image of the engine code which always helps to authenticate the legitimacy of a rare bird like this Biscayne. The ownership, however, is documented and this Chevy is believed to have only experienced 16K miles of use. Transmission choices with this engine selection were a three or four-speed manual, and the latter, in close-ratio form, is what’s in place.

As noted earlier, the four-door sedan body style is a surprise as cars of this nature were usually ordered for racing purposes, street or otherwise, and a two-door sedan would have been considered a more appropriate selection. The story goes that the original owner wanted the engine and not really the car, so he ordered the Biscayne and assumed that he’d yank the engine, swap it with something more sedate, and then sell the car with the transplanted engine. As it turns out, an L78 engine was eventually sourced from a Chevy dealership, so pulling the big block from the Biscayne became superfluous. Anyway, this Biscayne has been in a private collection for years and still presents beautifully. It looks today like it did back in 1990 when Muscle Cars magazine covered it.

Ditto the interior, it is a spartan cloth and vinyl environment that gives no hint of anything sublime other than the four-speed floor shifter. And I know from having a Biscayne or two in my household when growing up, there’s not much to write home about when it comes to a Biscayne’s interior. An no, ours’s were never overpowered, a 283 V8 was about as good as it got. It does appear that the original owner sprung for a radio, however.

So, rare? A two-door? Maybe, but not as much as originally thought. But a four-door? It has to be! Fast? Probably, but handling and braking will be another matter entirely. I’d bet that this Biscayne will not be inclined to see much real-world driving as it’s likely destined to disappear into another collection. But that’s OK, it’s a reminder of the type of factory hotrod that was once available so many long years ago, right?

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    Such a cool car. A real unicorn. Driving this car has to be a workout with heavy unassisted steering, unassisted brakes giving you effectively one good stop if driven hard, and a heavy clutch pedal owing to a heavy duty pressure plate trying it’s best to clamp that torque load. I’m raising my hand to be the next one for a test drive!

    Like 20
  2. AMCFAN

    Stories help sell cars in most cases. The story here doesn’t make sense. The original owner ordered the car but really didn’t want it whole just the motor. But then found another motor at a dealer. So why buy another motor when you already have one with the trans already bolted on. Makes me go hmmmmm?
    So wouldn’t ordering a two door Sedan be cheaper? Story seems fishy.

    Either way I do like the car. Very sinnister in Black. I think the four door sedan is more special in this case in its original form and condition. The four doors have been shunned by collectors and have been typically considered only parts cars. This really is quite the car.

    Seems like something GM should have in their Heritage collection.

    Like 16
  3. Dave

    Two words: police interceptor. This was the car that you couldn’t figure out why you couldn’t outrun it while you sat in a cell waiting for Dad or your crazy uncle to come and throw your bail.

    Like 24
    • Ralph

      Exactly amigo! I remember lots of different LEAs using these back then. My old man said he preferred the manuals when it came to a pursuit. Felt the ability to choose his gear, and resulting torque range allowed for better car control.
      The few times I rode with him and partner on shift they would scare the feces out of me with the crap they could pull with the pursuit vehicles. Remember seeing 140 mph several times (certified speedometers) in everything from MOPARS to Chevys even a Ford or two.
      Good times.

      Like 14
    • nlpnt

      That was my first thought, a cop car that for some reason never went into service. The bright-red interior would be a somewhat unusual choice for one even then, though.

      Like 5
  4. gaspumpchas

    too cool. stunning. Step up, you wont find another one like this. Willl be interesting to see what it brings at auction. Good luck and stay safe.
    Cheers
    GPC

    Like 8
  5. Autoworker

    This reminds me of a vehicle that a Mennonite family would have purchased in the day. Utilitarian, with maximum horsepower so it could be worked.

    Like 4
    • Jwaltb

      I think not

      Like 1
  6. Troy s

    Looks like something the FBI would have drove, definite law enforcement vibe….especially in that shade of black. Or….
    the getaway car or ‘shine runner!

    Like 7
    • Tom Crum

      I had a professor that drove a 1959 Chev Impala 4 dr HT 6 cyl automatic. I used to toast to Benko’s 6 cyl Impala when we would be partying

  7. Mike N

    I love the oddballs.Years ago while checking out a dealers back row;my favorite haunt, I ran across a 1965 Caprice,4 door hardtop,396,3 on the tree.Plus it was painted Orchid.

    Like 6
  8. Dave

    Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry.

    Like 5
  9. Lynn Dockey Member

    A local set of enthusiasts have the 427 2 dr version biscayne. Always been a 1/4 mile at a time driver.

    Like 4
  10. Troy s

    I suppose, if Chevrolet had been allowed to pursue professionsl NASCAR racing, this would be the street version? Except that race car would have been a two door version. I keep looking at this car and the more I look…..the more I want..

    Like 5
  11. John S Dressler

    There’s not a thing attached to that motor to sap its power except the alternator. This motor did nothing but produce monster horsepower and torque to the drive train. I’ve seen old police interceptors set up just like this. Their greatest shortcoming however was always the brakes. Three or four hot stabs on the brakes in quick succession during a car chase and your brakes were gone!

    Like 8
  12. Kevin

    I really like it, but I’m not too proud…or stupid to not upgrade to power disc brakes up front and power steering,a Hurst shifter if not equipped, and good to go.

    Like 5
  13. Loy

    When I was a Senior in HS, I bought a 1965 Biscayne 2 door post. It was all red. The interior looked just like this one. Mine had a 327 and 4 speed. It was a fun car!

    Like 7
  14. Len Treeter Member

    With out a doubt the perfect Peking to Paris rally car. For those of you that haven’t done it, you should, and this is the perfect car

  15. JoeNYWF64

    I wonder if any 4 door american cars were built with bucket seats in the ’60s either by mistake or “if you knew someone”.
    & i wonder if the police used any 4 speed big sedans like this biscayne in the ’60s – most likely would have had PS & PB tho. & maybe A/C.
    They did have some manual trans mustangs in the ’80’s, i believe.

    • Troy s

      Here in California all the CHP Mustangs were 5 speeds, one officer noted they kept them in fourth gear on the highway. Or at least that was policy, according to the lawman.

  16. Pappa J

    Galaxie 500XL & Merc Marauder & ’65-66 Chrysler (NY Salon or 300?) could be had 4-door with buckets.

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