When it comes to factory power, durability and sheer intimidation, ex-police cars are about as good as it gets. While modern variations are more focused on items like power steering coolers and electronics, there is no shortage of automotive mythology based around the law enforcement support of yesteryear. If you’ve ever heard tales of hopped-up cruisers going head-to-head with the hottest cars of their day, vehicles like this ’59 Biscayne are likely the basis of those legends. Sleek, subtle and believed to be 1 of just 40 cars to have received the Zora Arkus-Duntov-spec V8, this ex-Patrol car is a unique chance to own something entirely different. The beneficiary of an extensive restoration, the car has presence, history and, of course, some fun auxiliary lighting. If that sounds like the perfect combination, settle in and take a closer look.
This sinister pursuit vehicle started life at GM’s Oakland, California assembly plant where, according to the trim tag, it left with specially ordered paint. For this Biscayne, “special” meant a rich coat of dark blue. Today, the car wears that very same color sprayed over a laser straight body massaged to perfection during the three-year restoration process. The paintwork presents well and gives the car an intimidating look most Chevrolets of this vintage struggle to pull off. An initial first impression of quality is backed up by even panel gaps all around and doors that shut with an authoritative thud.
Though the end was in sight for the chrome and fins era, even the base model ’59 Chevrolets had plenty to talk about. The front of this Biscayne features a show-quality chrome bumper mounted below a distinctive front grille, framed by two pairs of round headlights in polished bezels. Behind the grille, a pair of amber flashers alert other drivers when official police business is happening on the highway. Above, long horizontal “eyebrows” sit between the hood and grille, giving the appearance of vents. The sleek side profile is accented by chrome spears down the front half of the car as well as chrome door handles and a large CB antenna affixed to the driver side rear fender. Around the cabin, factory glass is surrounded by new stainless trim for a crisp, showroom-clean look. To the rear of the cruiser, a dramatic pair of fins sit above a pair of cat eye taillights and a second show-quality chrome bumper. Back up lights are fitted under that bumper, just above two chrome exhaust tips.
What truly sets this car apart from its siblings is the Duntov-spec 348cid V8 planted between the fenders. While most associate Zora Arkus-Duntov with the Corvette, his knack for warming up mild mannered cars translated across the GM catalog. This mill starts with an original GM block that sports a fresh coat of orange paint, a 3755011 casting number and a June, 5th 1959 date code. Inside that block, Duntov left the bore and stroke alone but upped the compression from 9.5 to an impressive 11.1, utilizing solid lifters, a one-off cam, heavy-duty main and connecting-rod bearings and high-compression pistons. Topped off by a unique intake manifold, a single four-barrel carburetor and a single snorkel air cleaner, the upgrades added up to 55 horsepower over the production 348. That means 305 bias-ply annihilating horsepower from the factory. At the front of the engine, a Delco generator and fan borrow from that power while cooling is provided by a large stock-appearing radiator. In the corner, a fresh Delco battery caps off the stock look. Turn the key and the Biscayne fires to life with a sedate rumble through reproduction factory dual exhausts.
Put this cruiser on a lift and a satin black X-frame comes into view, surrounded by new components and freshly painted surfaces. In the center, a column-shifted Saginaw three-speed manual dated May 19th, 1959, corresponds nicely with the engine’s June casting date. Behind it, a factory rear end with 3.36 gears puts the power to the pavement. The ground pounding stance comes courtesy of a heavy duty suspension unique to police cars and export models. According to literature included with the car, the package includes heavier coil springs with matched shocks and stronger rubber bushings. When the roads get twisty, manual steering offers a direct connection to the front wheels while braking is supplied by drum brakes at all four corners. According to a review of the police package from the December 1958 issue of Motor Trend, these brakes handled the rigors of track testing without fading. At the corners, body-matched steel wheels are capped off by dog dish hubcaps and modern Goodyear 215/70R15 tires
Inside the Biscayne, law enforcement received little in the way of amenities, but GM styling more than made up for it. Seating is provided by a standard bench seat wrapped in a mixture of light blue and gray vinyl. Combined with the rubber floor covering, it’s safe to assume that ease of cleaning topped the priority list when it came to choosing materials. Above the seating area, a new gray headliner stretches across the roof with a chrome-trimmed dome light in the center and dual sunshades at the front. At either side, simple but attractive door panels split blue and gray down the center with clean chrome window cranks and door handles adding some visual appeal. From the driver seat, the beautifully styled dash hosts an array of familiar gauges that keep tabs on generator output, oil pressure, speed and fuel. A blue two-spoke steering wheel connects the driver to the front wheels, while a period-correct Motorola CB radio remains within easy reach under the dash. Behind the rear seat, a cavernous trunk is just as minimal as the cabin with only a trunk mat and spare tire filling in the space.
The sale of this Biscayne includes literature going over the finer points of the police package as well as a packet of part numbers that include information such as crankshaft and camshaft casting numbers for the car. The history of the Duntov-equipped police cars is fully covered between the February 2008 issue of Muscle Car Review and the aforementioned December ’58 issue of Motor Trend. There is a copy of each of those magazine as well as a sturdy storyboard that lays the stories out in a more presentable way.
This was a one-year design for Chevrolet that collectors have grown to treasure over the years. Factor in the 1 of 40 powerplant, quality restoration and sinister look and this Biscayne starts to look like a very good idea. If you’re ready to hit the road with Duntov engineering, don’t miss the opportunity to bring home this unique ’59 Biscayne.