Auto columnist Greg Zyla talks about the 1962 Chevy Biscayne 409 in this week's column. Follow the link to read what he says.
Q: Hi, Greg, I enjoy reading your articles and wonder about the 1962 Chevy Biscayne 409. When I was a lad of 5 years old, I went to the local dealer with my dad and he bought one right off the showroom floor. That 409 was one of the "baddest" muscle cars of that era, and it was a bluish green and had a factory four-speed, cut out exhaust and even a tachometer. I remember those beautiful huge valve covers, too.
I now live in the western part of New York and remember my dad driving to the Indianapolis where he raced it completely stock and just uncapped the exhaust cut outs. He came home with a first-place trophy!
If I remember, it had two four-barrels but forget what it said for horsepower on the valve cover. Could you tell me more about this car, and the different engines available? I am also a truck driver and years ago drove a Chevy semi-truck and it had a 409 under the hood. Thank you, Brian Lock, Silver Creek N.Y.
A: Brian, your dad indeed had the "baddest" street machine available that year, specifically the 409 with the 409 horsepower option, which were inscribed on those great valve covers. (See photo.)
As for the engines, all of the full-size Chevys in 1962 including Biscayne, BelAir and Impala offered everything from a small inline 120 horse six-cylinder right on through the 283 and 327 V8's to the powerful 409.
The 409 came in two versions, both at 11-1 compression. A single four-barrel 409 came with solid lifters and 380 horses, while your dad's 409 delivered 409 horses, although in 1963 the same engine came rated at 425 horses.
Perhaps the best ingredient of the 409 era was the ability of an owner winning a trophy at the drags right off the showroom floor. That year found lots of muscle cars, including the Ford 406 with 425 horses, Pontiac SD 421 with 405/410 horses and the Dodge and Plymouth 413 max wedge rated at 410/420 horses. With the proper rear end gearing, these cars were easy 12-second quarter-mile performers during perhaps the greatest era of Detroit muscle competition ever.
As for production, there were over 1.16 million full-size Chevys built in 1962, although the exact number of 409s delivered is not firm. Additionally, the 409 was an outgrowth of the 348, which was a successful truck and car engine for General Motors prior to the bore and stroke changes. Thanks for the memories of those great 409 Biscaynes.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media, and welcomes reader questions on cars, auto nostalgia or old time motorsports at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.