Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I really am an Olds guy at heart.

I poured my heart, soul and a godawful amount of dough into a '71 Olds Cutlass S once. That car was originally owned by my Gramps. He sold it to me for One US Dollar on my 17th birthday.

The original car was a light metallic green with a factory white center hood stripe, hub caps, bench seat, AM only, column shift, 350 2 bbl, AT car with a one wheel wonder with like 2.33's in the rear. Far from  what a muscle car should be. And when I picked it up from him, he was in the sunset years of his driving career, and he used that car daily, in Wisconsin since it was new. Needless to say, there was some cancer.

I started modifying that thing as soon as I got it home. Off came the hub caps. Painted the wheels black. It still had whitewalls and a trunk with two studded snow tires in it!  It got the requisite headers and four bbl intake and carby. I saved up to build the rear end, scrimped and saved to get the trans done. Every time I drove the car, it got lighter, 'cuz it would spray rust chips everywhere. The original chassis was doomed. Spent every fall taking stuff out of the car to get built or upgraded over the wintertime...
But I kept on evolving my S, and by the time that original S chassis was put to pasture, it had gone thru two engine upgrades and was equipped with a Strange-axled 4.10 rear with posi and a badassed T350 with a B&M 2800 12 inch. I ran the car with open headers with small 'packs off the collectors, usually. And no hood, occasionally. God I was a loser, thinking that that was cool. The combo was never sorted out, and I was never happy with it. I lost a lot of races. Won a few too, but nothing to be proud of.

I found a '72 Salon hardtop as a parts car, (and damned if I should've built that one, as I prefer that body style) but I was a wet behind the ears twenny something and you couldn't tell me anything. So I cut it up, took all the good parts off it and started straight away on building the Olds 350 that was in it.

Right around the same time,  I found another S in town, took out a personal loan and bought it. It was a North Carolina chassis, solid and pretty danged straight. I took my running gear off my original S, and slapped the go fast goodies in my new one.
Since my original S was from Gramps, I had quite the attachment to it, and took the 71 only grille and taillights and put them in the new S, so as to keep the soul from the original car alive.
I taught myself how to paint using the new S as a first project, and layed down a silver job with the same-lined center hood stripe in a gunmetal grey for a nice, subtle nod to the original S and Gramps.

I got stupid(er) and thought I would make the car more strip than street... put a fuel cell in the trunk, along with a N2O bottle. (Effectively making the trunk useless for anything more than one bag of groceries and a 30 pack of beer.) Put in ladder bars, drag shocks, big-block springs on all four corners, those big-assed M/T dogbone tread meats on 10 inch Torque thrust D's. Man, the S has the best rear quarters of all the A models, that wheel well bulge is so pronounced... the body had shoulders with those meats under it... but it still wouldn't bust 'em loose with a simple stab of the loud pedal.
I spent years enjoying the car, but quietly being disappointed in how it was all bark with no bite.

I upgraded the engine severely. Essentially, when all was said and done, the only things factory in or on the engine were the accesory drive brackets and the thermostat housing. Everything else was upgraded. But, I was still a smart assed twennysomething and had something to prove so I built the 350, and did not listen to all the advice of "build a 455 and stop messing about with the 350."
My little 350 wound up as a 362. Essentially it was a 350 crank, 350 rods, with 455 bore pistons. Slapped on 455 Performer RPM aluminum heads which I needed to shave down like .125" to get the chamber volume right; when I was done it sat with 10.75 static compression. Roller rockers, custom one-piece tapered pushrods, Dave Smith cam...Had a Milodon gear drive for a coupla years, but that too is a sound for youth and I outgrew it.
Ran a Performer RPM manny which I had to plane like a .250" to get to fit the dropped heads. Full MSD ignition, Fluiddampr, all the best tricks done on the inside. Nitrided, chamfered and polished crank. Relieved and peened rods, super-dee-duuper oil pump with restrictors... ARP studs thru the entire engine, 12 point everything,  custom 2.5 stainless exhaust, two chamber Flowmasters...the bottom line was I had good credit at the time and I intended to put it to the test!!! I just kept buying more and more stuff, making minimum payments, but hey- I still had a bitchin' Cutlass outside in the garage!

All that, and the bastard would still not smoke 'em from a dead stop with just a stomp on the loud pedal.

Fast forward to a different cam this time: a Lunati, different timing curve, different carbs ( I think there was a month where I had a different carb on the car every week) and still no avail. All this, but the car just bogged off the line, real lazy.

Then I put in a Hughes 3500 converter and Schneider solid cam. Everything changed. The demon within was unleashed, my S was finally awake.

I enjoyed the full fury of my little creation for a season or two. I had so many more things to do- new roof, different interior, roll cage, stereo, big brakes, etc, etc. My life got to the point where other things were more important than my muscle car, and I had been wanting a shorty van to haul stuff for like ten years already. And you could tow a boat with the S, but why would you? (It would prolly just smoke the tires off the bastard trying to pull out of the water once those rear tires got wet!)
So I sold her off when I was 35.... She went to really good home, her new owner is keeping up with my vision and really doing the car justice ... The engine finally gave up the ghost after a big nitrous pull.. blew a head gasket and filled the number 8 hole with water which ultimately broke the rod. he sent me these pics.(Notice my engine assembly work shined thru, as the rod itself failed mid-beam and my big-end was still bolted to the crank!!).

Some days, I wake up and want that brutal, violent kick-in-the-ass that car would provide when you drove it in anger. These are the only vids I ever took of the car. My only regret is not having more documentation of my time with it.

As usual with any of my engine vids- Play 'em  LOUD!!!

1 comment:

  1. Great story. You are definitely the "Mark Twain" of the Fabricating Blogs. Keep up the good work.