Image credits: © Chevrolet. GM Corp

1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37

1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37 Sedan
GM touted this four-door, four-passenger, pillarless hardtop as 'an exploration in elegance.' With a panoramic windshield, long fairings for the headlamps, a series of vertical grille bars baked by fine mesh, distinctive side coves that wrapped around the rear, thin-shell, swiveling front seats (to aid entry and exit), suicide rear doors and thin mustache bumpers, and painted in brilliant Atlantic Green, the Biscayne hinted at a few future Corvette styling nuances. The essence of the Chevrolet Corvair is evident in rear views of this concept. The sedan's 'Stratospheric' wraparound windshield curved into the roofline which in turn flowed rearward into triangular-shaped C-pillars. Chevrolet's new V8 was prominently featured. Partially restored, the Biscayne made its public appearance in half a century at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

The 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne began life as a super star to showcase the new Chevrolet 265 cubic-inch V8 engine and was featured at the 1955 Motorama where it wowed the world with its futuristic design and styling cues. This car would influence future General Motors vehicles, including the Corvette, Buick Riviera, Corvair, and Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, well in the 1960s. Most of the conventional components of an operational automobile were appearance-only items in concept cars. There were no side windows, and the power windows switches were dummies as were instruments. In fact, apart from some motors and servos to open the doors on the show floor, there were effectively no electrical systems. It didn't even have a conventional car battery or fuel tank.

The current owner of this vehicle, Joe Bortz, is a respected collector of many historically significant cars - mostly concepts. He believed that this vehicle was no longer in existence, but his son luckily spotted the car in a photo in Automobile Quarterly. The photo was of an auto scrap yard in Sterling Heights, Michigan. After a frustrating negotiation process, that ended up costing him 'dearly', the car was purchased from the scrap yard - along with three other cars including a Cadillac Town Car and two LaSalle II concepts.

The car had no powertrain or chassis and missing many pieces. Much of the body and interior were scattered around the yard. It was in need of restoration, but the work was put off for many years. After receiving photos from GM Design, that gave a better idea of what the chassis had once looked like, a restoration began. The work was contracted to Kerry Hopperstad of Hopperstad Customs in Belvidere, Illinois. The process of molding the structure-less fiberglass body together took three years to complete.

The partially restored Biscayne Concept was shown at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours where its exterior appeared 'fine', but the interior was nearly empty. A seat had been formed from wood, there was a steering wheel, but little else was in there. Work continued on the car, and the spectacular result for the long restoration was put on display at the 2010 Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance. It was certainly one of the highlights from the show. In 2011, it was prominently displayed at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.

The car is currently powered by a standard 1950s-era V8 engine.

The current owner learned of the parts from his son and was able to retrieve them 30 years later. With the help of the GM Tech Center and 22 years of restoration, the owner was able to produce this unique concept car.

The Chevrolet Biscayne was among the concepts that were showcased as GM's vision of the future in its traveling Motorama. The Motorama was GM's way of taking concept vehicles on tour through cities throughout the U.S. that invited viewers to ‘enter the future' by viewing these amazing concepts. At the 1955 Chicago Auto Show, a young boy, Joe Bortz saw one of these ‘dream car's' and later salvaged the remains in a Detroit-area junkyard. His results were later displayed at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concourse as part of the 100th Anniversary celebration of GM.

The Biscayne's chassis had been crushed, but the junkyard owner had managed to save all of the pieces from the original body. Bortz had had to dig pieces out of the ground, thankfully the body of the vehicle was made out of fiberglass, so it didn't oxidize, and many of the parts had to be glued together from all the bits and pieces.

Described by GM as 'An Exploration In Elegance', the 1955 Biscayne was Chevy's Motorama Dream Car for 1955. A four-passenger, pillar less four-door hardtop with suicide doors, the Biscayne featured front fenders that wore a gold anodized 'V' logo that indicated a V8 engine under the hood. Incorporating many Corvette design ideas, the Biscayne featured side covers on the rear quarters that appeared on the front fenders of the 1956 Corvette.

A series of automobiles produced by Chevy for model years 1958 through 1972, the Chevy Biscayne was named after a show car first displayed at the 1955 GM Motorama. The Biscayne was least expensive model in the Chevy full-size car range that included the Bel Air, the Impala and the Delray. Also available to the regular public, the Biscayne's were produced mainly for the fleet market. The Biscayne was great for those consumers that wanted a low-cost, no-frills transportation with room, power and convenience.

During the late 1960's, most Biscayne's were sold with a six-cylinder engine while in the early 1970's the V8 engines became the most popular powerplant. In 1970, power steering and brakes became standard, while the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission was standard on all vehicles that were ordered with a V8 engine halfway through the 1971 model year. Biscayne's were easily recognized by their two taillights per side on the rear panels.

The Chevy Biscayne featured very little exterior chrome trim and was fitted with small hubcaps, various exterior trim pieces, and upgraded wheel covers were available for an additional cost. The trim on the inside was very limited and was decorated with lower-grade cloth and vinyl or all-vinyl upholstery trim. A very standard steering wheel with a center horn button was fitted inside along with rubber floor mats. The 1964 model came standard with deluxe steering wheel with horn ring, foam-cushioned front seats and deep-twist carpeting.
The Biscayne did not feature many of the prestigious features normally found on more expensive full-sized Chevy models, features such as power windows. But, any of Chevy's high-output big-block V8 engines could be purchased for the Biscayne, along with performance-oriented transmissions that included the floor-mounted 4-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter and low-ratio final drive.

A trimmed down version of the Biscayne was introduced in 1960; the Biscayne Fleetmaster. A inexpensive version of this vehicle, the Fleetmaster was aimed mainly at the fleet market, and included a lower grade of upholstery than the standard Biscayne. Convenience items such door armrests, passenger-side sun visor and a cigarette lighter were not included in this model. Rather than chrome plated, numerous parts were painted. Two and four-door sedans were both offered. Economy-minded options were available exclusively to the Fleetmaster model, though performance-oriented engines and transmissions were also available. Unfortunately the Fleetmaster was dropped after 1961.

The Biscayne was offered as either a 2 or 4 door pillared roof beginning with the 1958 model year. Newly named the Yeoman and the Nomad, the station wagon versions were not called Biscaynes from 1958 through 1960. The entry level wagon was called the Brookwood from 1959 through 1961, while the Parkwood was the high-end wagon.

From 1962 through 1968 there were Biscayne, Bel Air and Impala model station wagons, before they were replaced in favor of the Townsman, Kingwood and Kingswood Estate. The final year of the 2-door Biscayne was 1969. The only Biscayne model available from 1970 through 1972 was a 4-door sedan, meanwhile a convertible or hardtop Biscayne was never made available.

In 1972 the production of the Biscayne ended, though the Biscayne name survived in Canada up until the 1975 model with a 350 cubic-inch V8 engine and Turbo-Hydramatic transmission that was made standard in 1974.

By Jessica Donaldson
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