Along with Packard, Buick was one of the two leading proponents of the straight-eight engine in America.
Introduced in 1931, Buick’s straight eight engine replaced the automaker’s trusty inline six and then took its place as an essential part of the Buick brand identity for more than 20 years. Buick chief engineer F.A. “Dutch” Bower and crew were responsible for the design, which that first year was produced in three sizes: 220.7, 272.6, and 344.8 cubic inches, for the four Buick car lines. With eight firing impulses per cycle—twice as many as a four, and 50 percent more than a six—the engines quickly asserted themselves as smooth, silent, and powerful, elevating Buick’s reputation as a maker of high-quality automobiles.
Arguably, Buick’s eight was even more advanced than its General Motors stablemate, the Cadillac V8, boasting overhead valves and compact combustion chambers rather than the Cadillac’s traditional L-head layout. Buick advertising campaigns sang the praises of the straight eight’s high-turbulence “Fireball” combustion chamber design: “Every spark sets off a cyclone!” Marketing labels for the inline eight over the years included Silent Oil Cushioned, Valve-in-Head, Fireball, and Dynaflash.
While the Buick eight was continually developed and produced in a number of displacements over the years, its basic layout remained fairly constant, with the intake and exhaust systems on the left (driver) side and the distributor, camshaft, and fuel pump on the opposite side of the block. For the first few years, an updraft Marvel twin-venturi carburetor was employed along with an elaborate, driver-adjustable manifold-heating system (above).
In 1934 a modern downdraft carburetor was adopted, and in 1941-42 the senior models were equipped with Compound Carburetion using a pair of two-barrel carbs and progressive linkage (lead photo at top of page). In 1952, as the inline eight neared the end of its production life, a four-barrel was added, which Buick marketed as the Airpower carburetor. With 320.2 cubic inches, this big eight was rated at 170 horsepower.
In 1948 the straight eight was coupled to Buick’s new Dynaflow automatic transmission, which was specifically engineered to capitalize on the engine’s muscular torque curve and utter smoothness. (See our feature on Dynaflow here.) Along with Packard, Buick was one of the two great proponents of the straight eight engine in America. But nothing is forever, and in 1953 the Buick division joined the growing crowd and adopted an up-to-date high-compression V8. For its final year in 1953, the straight eight was offered only in the Series 40 Special, the junior model in the Buick line.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage
There’s a lot to be said for clean and simple. Let’s take a quick look back at the Biscayne, the unadorned base model of the Chevrolet full-sized line.
Here’s an interesting little secret of the Motor City’s styling studios: Car designers tend to prefer the base models of their creations over the fancier deluxe versions. In their view, the relative lack of ornamentation allows a more unobstructed look at their work. Hmm, we see where they’re coming from. Plain and simple works. Yards of chrome trim won’t make a car run any faster or handle any better. Maybe that’s one key to the gearhead community’s fascination with the Biscayne, the plainest and cheapest full-size car in the Chevy lineup for more than a decade.
The Biscayne name was first applied to the 1955 Motorama show car above. A four-door, four-passenger hardtop with a luxurious cabin and European proportions, the Biscayne dream car (internal designation XP-37) was billed as “an exploration in elegance” and didn’t foreshadow the eventual production Biscayne in any serious way. The name was possibly inspired by the Key Biscayne Hotel in Florida, a favorite haunt of Harley Earl and other General Motors executives.
The first use of the Biscayne name on a production car came in 1958, but oddly enough, not at the bottom of the Chevrolet model line that year. That honor, as it were, went to the Delray, not shown, which featured less chrome trim, a plainer interior, and a $2155 base price, $135 less than the Biscayne. Two body styles were offered on the Biscayne: a two-door sedan and a four-door sedan. There were station wagons at the Biscayne trim level in ’58, but they wore a Brookwood emblem.
In 1959, the Delray was dropped and Chevrolet arrived at the familiar Biscayne formula: Little or no bright-metal side trim, rubber floor mats in lieu of carpets, dog-dish hubcaps, inexpensive plastic upholstery fabrics, and minimal standard equipment overall. The leaner content allowed Chevrolet to list the ’59 Biscayne at $2301, more than 10 percent less than a comparable Impala. Dealers, in turn, trumpeted the low pricing in their newspaper ads to lure customers to their showrooms—and, they hoped, upsell them to the more profitable deluxe models. The Biscayne was a boon to the Chevrolet marketing strategy at multiple levels.
With its low cost and spartan equipment, the Biscayne was a natural favorite with fleet operators, including cab companies and law enforcement agencies—for example, this ’61 two-door operated by the Ohio Highway Patrol. In volume, fleet buyers could order vehicles with a nearly unlimited variety of powertrain combinations and heavy-duty hardware. Available body styles were often limited to two-door and four-door sedans, but in some model years wagons were produced with the Biscayne emblem. For a few selling seasons, Chevy also offered a Utility Sedan, a two-door with a package shelf instead of a rear seat, and the Fleetmaster, an unbadged variant of the Biscayne that was stripped down even further, lacking even arm rests and a cigarette lighter.
Just like the fleet operators, hot rodders and racers were quick to recognize the Biscayne’s virtues. Cheaper, and best of all lighter, than the deluxe models but available with all the same performance options, Biscaynes were drag strip favorites in the ’60s. Baldwin-Motion Performance of New York, above, seized on the trend, offering its SS-427 Street Racer’s Special, which in 1968 featured a 425-horsepower L72 V8, a Muncie four-speed gearbox, and heavy-duty equipment for only $2998. What a deal.
By 1970, as buying habits changed and GM product platforms proliferated, it became difficult to find the Biscayne in the Chevrolet division’s marketing materials. For ’71 and ’72, the Biscayne was officially available only to fleet operators, and now the Bel Air was holding down the bottom of the Chevrolet full-size line. (1971 Biscayne taxi shown below.) There was a Chevrolet Biscayne in ’73 through ’75, but it was available only as a four-door sedan or wagon and only in Canada.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
In an effort to make an indelible impression on potential customers as to how new, exciting, and desirable an automaker’s cars were, dealer brochures of the 1960s could vary significantly in style and content. Some focused on pretty pictures and flowery text to convey how each model would make buyers feel when they experienced it, but the descriptions could be light on specifics.
Others kept the daydreamer content to a minimum and got right to the point, while still including high-quality art. Literature for muscle cars and low-priced models tended to lean in that direction. Manufacturers that catered to those prospects recognized the importance of describing the equipment provided for the money spent. Just about every company pushed “value” in one form or another, however. Numerous brochures of the era also created extraordinary visual presentations through their photographs and/or renderings.
For its 1965 full-line catalog, Pontiac ticked important boxes that would appeal to its customer base, since at the time, the division seemed to be keenly aware of what the public desired in its cars. The new full-size models wore exceptional styling—the personal/luxury Grand Prix included. GTO sales were taking off like a rocket, and Motor Trend would choose Pontiac (all its models) for its 1965 Car of the Year award.
The dealer brochure, which I acquired several years ago, measures a little larger than 11 x 14 inches and features a thick and textured cover. Inside are 48 pages of art and information. There are even renderings by the famous duo of Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman that depict low, long, and Wide-Track Pontiacs in exotic locales. Large body and interior pictures are also provided for each model.
The copy is fortified with useful facts, and at the back of the book there’s a thorough breakdown of engine offerings with small photos of each one, so you can even see the types of air cleaner housings and rocker covers (painted or chrome) used. Charts for transmission gear ratios, rear axle ratios, and powertrains are also included. Printed recreations of exterior color chips and a breakdown of interior choices that best match them for each model cover a full two-page spread. General specifications, options, and vehicle dimensions are found on the final page. There’s also a suggestion to pick up the 1965 2+2/GTO performance catalog to get even more in-depth specs on those muscle cars.
Pontiac went the extra mile in creating this detailed brochure that served to educate potential buyers and enable them to make wise choices when purchasing a car.
My copy has some wear and tear on it, but better (and worse) examples are still available. Currently, you can find the 1965 full-line Pontiac brochure for sale online, ranging from about $7 to $32, with the condition of the cover often playing a key role in the price. If its content is important to you, but you don’t need to hold the item in your hands to enjoy perusing it, you can search online for a free download of the brochure.
Article courtesy of Hemmings, written by Thomas A. DeMauro