Don Ruhff • Orange City, Florida
You don’t see too many 1959 Chevy Biscaynes on the roads these days. But, add a 348 ci motor with 320hp and you have a car that is very rare.
Back in 1986, while working at Late Great Chevys, I found a rare ’59 Biscayne for sale locally in Orlando, Florida. This car had the 348ci motor with a Carter AFB carb sitting atop an aluminum intake. Solid lifters and a high lift cam completed the factory setup for 320hp output. My plan at the time was to build my ’59 Biscayne to be just like the one Ray Fox built for Junior Johnson to drive to race at the Daytona 500 in 1960. Ray told me that he built the car in only eight days, but that he doubted Junior would be able to keep up with the big block Pontiacs in the race. I asked Ray why he built a Biscayne and he said, “That’s the car they gave me to build.” He said that he changed out the cam four times until he found the right grind. Junior went on to win that race even though the big block cars had more power. What Junior discovered that day was “drafting” – the technique of getting behind other cars in the negative air pressure bubble built-up behind them at high speed. Junior found that he could not only keep up with those big block cars, but he could save fuel at the same time.
During that 1960 race, Junior got behind Gary John’s ’60 Pontiac, that was built by Smokey Yunick. About midway in the race, the rear window of the Pontiac blew out and Gary lost control of his car, which spun into the infield. Junior took over first place and went on to win the race running what Ray Fox called, “That little nothing 348 motor.” Having witnessed this race myself, I never forgot that spectacular win by Junior Johnson and his 320hp 348 winning motor. That’s when I vowed to someday build a car just like that one. Junior Johnson’s #27 now resides in the Daytona Beach Living Legends Museum along with seven other race cars of that era.
That brings me to today and my ’59 Biscayne. I began rebuilding this car in 1994 to look like Junior Johnson’s ’59. My friend, Gene Showers, built the motor and another friend, Gene Reed, painted the car. I did the rest of the work on the car with help from my pal, Stan.
The car has been a lot of fun to own and drive. I’ve had the car on the tracks of Daytona International Speedway and Richmond Raceway. It has also been at Sears Point Raceway in California as part of the Living Legend Cars event at the NASCAR 50th Anniversary. This year my ’59 is being featured at the Daytona track during the 50th running of the “500”. It has been a great ride. I sure do love those 348s!
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