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.
What: A gnarly, '66 427 Biscayne that won't go away
Owner: Gerald Seger, 56, an enthusiastic car crafter, car builder, and fabricator for 40 years
Hometown: The unlikeliest of places, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which just proves that horsepower is where you find it.
Short-block: It's what we really want to know about, isn't it? Gerald decided to make this part easy and merely stepped up to a complete GM Performance Parts, 620hp, 572ci Rat. At a 4.500 bore and a 4.500-inch stroke, this GM crate engine is guaranteed to make 650 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm and makes more than 600 lb-ft of grunt virtually from 3,250 to 5,250-all on pump gas. The parts spin inside a tall-deck 4.500-bore four-bolt main iron block with a forged-steel crank and shot-peened rods. Even though this is a race-type block, it comes machined for a mechanical fuel-pump boss. Compression is 9.6:1 with forged pistons, and the block is wide enough to stuff a 4.500-inch stroke if one were so motivated. That would push this Rat out to 588 ci.
Heads: The aluminum GMPP rectangle-port heads push 2.25/1.88-inch intake and exhaust valves and use springs specifically designed for the hydraulic roller camshaft. The intake ports are 310 cc, while the exhaust ports measure 118 cc and have been raised 0.625 inch over stock to improve high-lift exhaust flow. GM states these heads are not recommended for engines smaller than 572 ci, so don't even think of putting them on a 396.
Valvetrain: Valve action starts with a steel hydraulic roller camshaft with 254/264 degrees of duration at 0.050-inch tappet lift along with 0.632/0.632-inch lift and a 112-degree lobe separation angle. The cam works with a set of GMPP aluminum 1.7:1 roller rockers and all this is covered with a cool set of GM cast - aluminum covers.
Induction: The GMPP single-plane intake is cast to snuggle up to the tall-deck block and head combination and partners with an 850-cfm Demon.
Exhaust: Gerald custom-built the 211/48-inch headers with CNC-machined flanges to accommodate the tall-deck block and the raised exhaust ports followed by a complete 3-inch exhaust system damped by Flowmaster mufflers.
Transmission: Since the Biscayne was originally a four-speed car, it just made sense to run an overdrive manual trans. The only box that could handle this kind of power was the Viper-spec T56 six-speed along with a mechanical clutch linkage that actuates a McLeod Dual Disc clutch assembly.
Rearend: Gerald is proud the Biscayne still sports the original B-body 12-bolt spinning a set of 4.10 gears along with a clutch-type Posi and a set of Mark Williams axles.
Suspension: Gerald spent a little time on the suspension starting with his own custom-fabricated upper control arms for the front along with a modified set of stock spindles that mount Baer calipers. The steering uses a factory unit with a quick 12:1 ratio. The ride quality is then tuned by a set of QA1 adjustables front and rear. For the rear suspension, Gerald also fabricated a stiffer upper rear control arm crossmember to strengthen this crack-prone area on the B-body car.
Brakes: With all this power and suspension, Gerald knew he needed better brakes and stepped up to a complete four-wheel disc-brake package from Baer, including an adjustable proportioning valve to balance out the pressure front to rear.
Interior: C.a.r.s. Inc. supplied the interior material, and Gerald exhibited more of his fabrication skills with the custom dash filled with Stewart-Warner instruments. What is worthy of note is not only no air conditioning but also no stereo. If the 572ci Rat and six-speed don't make an impression, the lack of these creature comforts definitely points out that this Biscayne is more than just another street-rodded cruiser.
Wheels: They may be the typical American Torq-Thrust II wheels you see on hundreds of other cars, but these 17x911/42-inchers just look natural.
Tires: The beauty of a big car is that big tires fit without surgery. Gerald stuffed 275/60R17 Goodyears on the rear and only slightly less rotund 235/55R17 rollers on the front.
Body: Gerald performed all the sheetmetal work, including all the chain dents and rips caused by years of dragstrip abuse. Once the sheetmetal was straight, the guys at Premier Automotive in North Liberty, Iowa, sprayed a two-stage version of the original Aztec Bronze hue. Finally, AIH Chrome in Dubuque, Iowa, magically re-created the bumpers and stainless trim on the car to better-than-new condition.
Weight: Despite its massive image, Gerald's bronzed Biscayne comes in at a relatively svelte 3,901 pounds without driver.