Voted as the top venue to see a stock car race, Bristol Motor Speedway has provided lasting memories of burning brakes, crumpled fenders, hot tempers, and pure mayhem all going on at once. Nothing brings that back any quicker than the sight and sounds of a bat-wing Chevy on 36-degree banking reverberating off the track's 160,000 seats. This 1960 Biscayne reminds Lance South of Kingsport, Tennessee, of all this and more.
Men like David Pearson, Buck Baker, and Junior Johnson were all racing Chevys in NASCAR's Grand National series that year, but it was Rex White who finished the season with the championship in a 1960 Chevy. Both he and chief mechanic Louis Clements were original members of the Chevrolet factory team, which lost funding in 1957. Undaunted, they continued together. In 40 starts during 1960, the team won six races and only finished outside of the top 10 five times. They won $13,000 for their championship efforts.
While that was long ago, a lot of stories and tales of times gone by get passed down within families and friends. No doubt that left some strong impressions on a young kid growing up.
"Born into a Chevrolet family, the earliest of my memories are of a diamond-pleated interior and a shifter with a red button," South said. "I remember the interior of that car so well because I was too little to see outside the car. So, whether it was a 1967 Chevy II, a 1940 coupe, a '57 Bel Air, or a Vette, I was born into Chevrolet."
1960 was during an era when NASCAR was nothing more than a regional sport, but times were good. Elvis was king, Buck Baker, Lee Petty and Ned Jarrett were atop the points, and Chevrolet was the stock car champion. That particular model year closed out some of the most radical styling Chevrolet has ever known. Known in some circles as "bat wing" or "seagull" cars, this short-lived design trend began in 1959. While the fullsize models were all longer, wider, lower, and heavier, what really got people talking were the over-stated horizontal fins that were brows for the cats-eye taillights. These excesses were noticeably toned down for '60, although these models did feature a high-speed missile-style embellishment along the rear quarters. Eight different engine choices were available, highlighted by the Turbo Thrust and Super Turbo Thrust Special engines, which produced 320 and 335-hp, respectively.
Even with all these memories, seeing his dad and grandfather spending time together on a project car has been the most enduring. Yet the sudden prospect of losing that led to this car, when his father suffered a sudden heart attack at just 51.
"It wasn't until I went to college that I began honing my skills and knowledge as a gearhead," Lance said in looking back. "Everything my dad had tried to teach me was now of interest. I saw the enjoyment of spending time together as father and son and realized what I had missed growing up.
"My dad was well known as a hot rodder, and his friends knew that I had always liked the 1959-'60 Impalas," he continued. "My dad talked to a guy who had a 1960 Biscayne he wanted to sell. I talked my dad into floating me a loan, and he went to winch the car onto a trailer because the brakes were seized. Although the car was all original with a 235 straight six and a three-speed on the column, I knew the engine wasn't a keeper. A big-block would have been nice, but I didn't have the money for it at the time. It was more important to just start building the car with my dad."
Motivation for Lance's ride today comes from a 350 that was built by Daniel Minnick of Top Speed Performance in Blountville, Tennessee. Minnick bored and stroked the short-block out to a more potent 383 cubic inches. An Eagle crank pounds the Pro Thunder iron heads with Keith Black pistons, which are topped by an Edelbrock Super Victor intake with a single Demon 750 carburetor. The combustion chamber air/fuel mixture is lit up by a Pertronix Flame Thrower, which is then evacuated by a set of Sanderson exhaust headers with a Tech Line ceramic-steel coating. Benny's Pipe & Muffle of Bristol, Virginia, used their expertise to route the spent exhaust gases via 3-inch pipes and Dr. Gas Street Boom mufflers. Horsepower is estimated to be about 465 at the flywheel. Behind that is a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed assembled by Dennis Maroudas of DME, LLC in Williamson, West Virginia. Joey Tipton of Bowman Driveshaft in Johnson City, Tennessee, helped with the connection to the 9-inch limited slip rear with 3.50:1 gears, which was modified by Carl Dickenson of Performance Machining in Piney Flats, Tennessee.
Of course, no street machine is going to turn heads if it doesn't have the right look. Classic Performance Products of Placentia, California, helped with that when Lance installed its 2.5-inch drop spindle kit on the front with a 1.5-inch drop kit on the rear. Moog springs, KYB Gas-A-Just shocks and CPP big brakes with 12-inch rotors collect looks of approval from all observers. Eighteen-inch diameter Boss 338 rims from American eagle are wrapped in B.F. Goodrich T/A's for classic, yet modern muscle car look.
Pleasant tunes from an amplified Custom Autosound 10-disc changer blend nicely with the exhaust note as occupants settle into the interior, which was installed by Fred Hale of Bristol. The red and silver that highlights the interior works well with the Bright Viper Silver paintwork, applied by R&R Collision in Blountville, Tennessee. Tri-City Plating of Elizabethton, Tennessee, is responsible for all the chrome work, while HyTech Specialty Coatings and R&D Finishing helped with other powdercoating and plating. High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights from Delta Tech and LED lights throughout helps illuminate the car when the sun dips below the horizon.
Although his commuter airline job at the time required a loan from his father, that money has paid both father and son back many times over what the initial investment cost. The memories that Lance and his father have with this car will reverberate even louder over time.