What is America's fascination with big cars and big engines? Maybe it's the call of the road and the lure of hitting the highway in a large-by-huge street machine with too much torque and plenty of legroom so there's a place for all those Burger King wrappers. Gerald Seger isn't just a big-car guy, 'cause he also owns a '33 Willys. But he does like to go fast. And this '66 Biscayne was born into that role.
This 56-year-old fabrication-shop owner lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and way back in 1967, when he was only 17, he bought this factory-original, 425hp, 427 four-speed with factory 4.88 gears because it had a big motor. "I only drove it one block. Then I pulled the engine and stuck it in my '37 Chevy race car." Today, most car crafters wouldn't think of ravaging a two-year-old car by stripping the engine and trans to put in a 30-year-old hot rod, but that's what Gerald did. A couple of years later, Gerald sold the now Mouse-powered Biscayne to a neighbor kid after he received one of those dreaded greetings from his local draft board inviting him to participate in the conflict in Vietnam. After his two-year U.S. Army tour concluded with a Purple Heart decoration, Gerald returned to the world and bought the Biscayne again, but the honeymoon was brief. Gerald's brother-in-law bought the big sedan and raced it at dragstrips in the Cedar Falls and Cordova, Illinois, tracks all the way through the '70s and '80s.
Like in one of those tear-jerker chick flicks where the jilted lover never completely disappears, Gerald heard about the car when potential buyers tried to verify the Biscayne's factory 427, four-speed lineage. Gerald immediately offered to buy the car for the third time. When it came time to put the Biscayne back on the road, he mapped out a meticulous plan. Talk to any good car builder, and there's always some kind of theme or thread that ties the whole car together to make it successful. The same is true here. "I tried to keep this car looking like it comes from the '60s but with updates. That meant that anything I added to the car would look like it belongs there." Because the car was originally a 427 four-speed, it made sense to plug in a huge dose of displacement and an overdrive manual trans. The GM Performance Parts aluminum-headed 572ci Rat motor seemed like a natural.
Since Gerald is a fabricator by trade, slipping in the Viper six-speed manual and four-wheel disc brakes was no big deal. Those decisions were easy. When it came time for the sheetmetal work, that was when it got intense. "I ended up putting quarter-panels on it because they were so beat up." That effort extended to cleaning up the firewall and floorboards as well. "There must have been 400 different coils and MSD boxes installed in this car over the years. There were holes drilled everywhere." Gerald also had to weld in all-new window channels that had long ago succumbed to the rust monster. The finishing touch was a completely fabricated cowl-induction hood that directs air through a fabricated air-cleaner housing.
The beauty of Gerald's Aztec Bronze meat grinder is its unique blend of subtlety and sledgehammer power. Sitting in a cruise-night parking stall, the OE 427 emblems on the flanks of the front fenders are no true test. Even the Hurst shifter sticking up through the floor doesn't say six-speed, and the steroided tailpipes are not really a clue, since anyone can bolt those on a car. But once on the road, there's no mistaking the sound of massive Rat motor inches blessed with the smack of compression that burbles out of the tailpipes. This is a machine that begs to be driven. Our photo shoot was one of the Biscayne's first outings in public, so Gerald has no e.t. slip to pin on the wall of his shop. This takes nothing away from the car's road manners-the overdrive takes care of that. Just look for a streak of bronze sheetmetal laying back those corn stalks on some deserted two-lane highway on a warm summer night on the outskirts of Cedar Rapids.