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Projects The Consolation Prize - '61 Olds Super 88

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by 57JoeFoMoPar, Jun 21, 2022.

  1. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 5,383


    Perseverance. It's both a blessing and curse. Having the mental fortitude to fight through obstacles has helped to make me successful in school, work, and many other endeavors. But there have been other times where, let's face it; the smarter move is to just take the L, cut your losses, and move on. Well, Momma didn't raise no quitter, and while I'd like to say that I have perseverance, my wife and mother would probably just tell you that I'm stubborn. Either way, here goes.

    (I will try to keep this thread as on-topic as possible since there is a significant amount of work I did that runs afoul of HAMB standards)

    I bought this '61 Olds Super 88 about three years ago, which I thought would be a basically turn key driver. In other threads I've mentioned a lot of the issues I had with the car just to get it to run and drive, but I worked through those enough to get at least part of the 2019 season out of the car. When push came to shove though, there was simply too long of a list of issues that needed to be rectified to keep playing "whack-a-mole" with, and the decision was made to just pull the whole car apart and start over.

    The 394 had virtually no oil pressure at hot idle and would flicker the idiot light, which was confirmed by multiple different mechanical gauges. The 50/50 mixture of VR1 SAE50 and Lucas stabilizer was basically like molasses, and gave me some much needed oil pressure, but also collapsed the lifters at highway speed. The Slim Jim actually worked fine once adjusted properly, but was still a god-awful slush box choking out that monster engine. A cost/benefit analysis was made to abandon the Olds and go with a new crate 350 and 700R4.

    I pulled the engine out in February of 2020, right before the shit hit the fan in the world.

    While transitioning over to a Chevy drivetrain may have been less expensive route in the grand scheme of things monetarily, it likely made up for that in amount of work and fabrication required to get the engine in there. The Olds chassis is a VERY difficult chassis to do this engine swap on.

    Also, the PS pump setup that was on here when I got it was a Rube Goldberg machine of a Borgenson pump, a remote reservoir tucked into the battery tray that leaked, and bunch of extra hydraulic lines. I wanted to clean all of that up with a standard Saginaw pump with integrated reservoir. I notched the chassis and boxed it all in to accommodate the new PS pump.

    Because the Olds has a perimeter frame, and the Chevy drivetrain needs a rear trans crossmember, I had to do something that was strong enough to do the job, but thin enough to not drop below the frame rails. The car being as low as it is (at least some of the time) was a constraint that created many an engineering conundrum. I looked into my pile of metal and settled on some solid 2"x.75" bar stock, beveled it out real good, and laid into it with the TIG. It's about 5 and a half feet long.

    Lots of time was spent on mock up. I cut up a bunch of mandrel bands and was able to route the exhaust around the center link (accounting for the movement of the pitman arm), and mated it to the rest of the exhaust with some spring clamps. That way if something needs to be serviced, the forward pipes can simply drop out .

    132260911_10106659001434654_8006721041793815761_n.jpg 132046459_10106659001439644_9203705937746749413_n.jpg

    I also added what felt like miles of wire to this car. The factory harness was completely overtaxed with all of the new electrical accessories that were added to the car, and really should have been replaced. It was to the point that the windshield wipers would blow the fuse if the headlights were on, which means that it's both dark and raining. In an effort to get some of the circuits off of the main panel under the dash, and considering I was only making the problem worse with compressors, and electric fuel pump, etc., I put an auxiliary fuse block in the trunk. I used this to power the compressors, electric fuel pump, trans lockup, and windshield wipers motor. It was $35 off of Amazon and worked awesome.

    I painted the engine in HOK KD3000 and then Shimrin2 Celestial White with an effects pack I mixed up, and buried it in Show Klear. Then I mated it up to the trans and slid it in.

    273279293_10107376766118474_5855010996283490591_n.jpg 273541972_10107381117009254_4613973510533596517_n.jpg

    After rerouting both the heater hoses and throttle linkage, not to mention the desire to cover the brutal painted seam-sealer not he firewall, I decided to upholster the firewall. The backing also served the dual purpose to serve as a mounting platform for the fuel block and ignition coil.

    After what felt like a damn eternity, I was finally able to fire this thing up and take it for a drive. First stop... the car wash to clean off 2 years worth of shop grime. I haven't put the hood back on yet because I'm superstitious that if I do, some SNAFU is going to happen to make me have to take engine back out. That's on the agenda for this week.

    286129083_10107545015185994_2111782857542478386_n.jpg 286328166_10107545015181004_8896047494261308308_n.jpg 286406715_10107545015176014_6826854238326396887_n.jpg

    This project is far from done. Right now I'm in the feeling out phase where I'm just trying to shake it down, make adjustments and tweaks, and try to dial it in.


    Next on the agenda is to recharge my A/C, replace my gas pedal with a better set-up, possibly convert over to a solid linkage on the dual-quads and 86 the progressive linkage, and put a little more timing to it.

    Once I'm happy with the reliability and performance, then it's onto some body and paint correction. But I'm feeling pretty good to finally roll this thing out of the garage under it's own power and see some light at the end of the tunnel. The fact is I've lost a lot of time and money on this car, and would have been better off taking the L, selling it off as a project, and moving onto the next car. But I didn't. I suffered through the work, and the consolation prize will be a pretty tough custom car when I'm done.
  2. I really like that Olds! :cool: My brother is driving it’s close Buick relative. Will be following along as you make more progress.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2022
    chevy57dude likes this.
  3. williebill
    Joined: Mar 1, 2004
    Posts: 2,974


    Gorgeous car, love the color!
    57JoeFoMoPar and guthriesmith like this.
  4. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 5,383


    Thanks man, the color is House of Kolor candy pagan gold, in the old Shimrin1 formula. It's a true candy. Most of the body is over a silver base, but the cove on the side is over root beer base. The true candy paint is what is going to make it so difficult to fix some damage on the hood, and some issues in the base on the trunk. By the time you blend the hood onto the fenders and into the doors, and the trunk onto the quarters, 3/4 of the car has been repainted. So I think I'm just going to have the whole car resprayed in the Shimrin2 version of the same color, with a little twist I have planned.
    chryslerfan55, Okie Pete and brEad like this.

  5. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 5,383


    Your bro has that killer 61 I was checking out in Detroit, right? Killer car top to bottom
  6. Yes, my brothers Buick resides in Michigan.

    And, you just need to design some other kool kustom paint that can mask the areas you mention. :cool:
    SS327 likes this.
  7. straykatkustoms
    Joined: Oct 30, 2001
    Posts: 17,720


    Very Kool thread. Congratulations getting it to move out of the garage. Major accomplishment and guys will enjoy the details showing what was involved. Please keep us posted with your progress. You have many miles of fun to look forward too.
    57JoeFoMoPar and chryslerfan55 like this.
  8. Nice ride. I will follow along.
  9. One of the most bitchin cars ever built…and this one is killer…there’s one locally I stare at every week..plain Jane beige with beige steel wheels and dog dish caps, but lowered…

    If you grow tired of it…give me a shout
  10. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 16,047


    Looks great. I don't know how bad the paint damage is but it still looks great in pictures, if that were mine I think I'd drive it until it needed paint, but that's just me. I know the feeling well of having sunk a ton of effort into a car that I'd hoped wouldn't need it, but that's all part of the experience I guess. Will taste all the sweeter in the end.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  11. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 5,383


    It's not great. When the car was put together there was seemingly no consideration as to hood clearances. The air cleaner, radiator cap, and alternator all hit to the hood to varying degrees. Here the dual quads tuck under the hood without issue, and I had a custom aluminum radiator made by Superior Radiator in Michigan, who did an absolutely killer job. I had them recess the filler neck, reverse the upper inlet for the Chevy, and add an integrated trans cooler. I honestly couldn't be happier with it and that solved the problem of the hood interference there, not to mention the car hasn't even hit 180 degrees yet.

    The alternator was a bigger problem. When the belt drive on the 394 was reconfigured, the upper boss on the case pointed straight up. When the hood was shut, it slammed into the alternator and dented the hood from the bottom up, which cracked the paint. Though I fixed the issue with the hood clearance by making a new mounting bracket to lower it, the damage was already done to the paint. It's a shame it cracked the paint, otherwise I probably could have gotten a paintless dent removal guy to massage the dent out.

    I've come to the realization that when it comes to paint, a car needs to be virtually flawless, or unabashedly imperfect. It can't be anywhere in between. This car presents extremely well, and the color is so vibrant it truly stands out in a crowd and commands attention. But inevitably, for all the work that is done to the car, I constantly get the question, "what happened to the hood?" . It drives me fucking crazy. So it has to get fixed. And generally speaking, I'm trying to put together a very high-quality car here and the body and paint just isn't up to what I'm trying to achieve. The sting of the price to fix it will long be forgotten when I'm rolling this into the Detroit Autorama or some other show and looking tight.
  12. Subscribed. My 1st two cars were a '64 and a '62 Olds. I'd also would take a '61 if a decent one came along.
  13. MMM1693
    Joined: Feb 8, 2009
    Posts: 793


    Great job and great car! Love the gold and white combo.
  14. Super job Joe! Luv everything about the car. That had to have been an arduous journey. Glad you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  15. stinkity stoink
    Joined: Apr 25, 2005
    Posts: 205

    stinkity stoink
    from new jersey

    Beautiful car !!
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
    Joined: Jul 30, 2009
    Posts: 2,377


  17. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 5,383


    I've been logging some miles out there, about 350 so far, and for the most part, it's been great. No leaks, no cooling or oil pressure issues, ride is firm but comfortable...

    The gas pedal is kind of weak and I bought a new one to replace it with. I tried to use the factory pedal that attaches to the floor and use a spoon-style pedal behind it for the cable, but it wasn't really working. The spoon by itself is working, but less than optimal, so I bought a 69 Mustang pedal assembly that I can modify into what I need and has a nice rubber pad with chrome trim, sort of reminiscent of the factory pedal.

    I set my initial timing according to GM's recommendations, but it wasn't really working with the dual quads. I added a few degrees of initial timing and it has helped significantly. I think it could probably even use a few more.

    After driving old cars with either a TH350, Jetaway, Slim Jim or Torqueflight for the past 15 years, this 700R4 is a different animal. It was a bit of a process getting the TV cable dialed in, but I got it to shift on time. The 3.08 rear is really too tall for the transmission gearing, and a 3.73 would really wake the car up, but whatever. I'm not out here trying to win races. I also wouldn't rule out the idea that I may have wounded this trans with a little too little line pressure for the first half mile I drove it, or it could just be a little softer trans than I was expecting. Either way, it's shifting as intended and holding gears fine, so it could just be in my head. This is my first old car with overdrive, and honestly, this shit is life-changing. What an absolute joy to get on the highway, have it drop into OD and hum along at 80 mph at 2100 rpm, and not having to constantly keep my foot down to maintain speed or rev the snot out of the engine just to keep up.

    As an aside, it's been great having the car back on the road because it feels like I got a new car but I didn't have to buy one. It's been off the road so long that it just sort of became that thing in the garage.

    In keeping with my thread about my 56 Olds, here is the obligatory shot in front of the world's greatest convenience store, Wawa.

  18. Man, that thing looks good! :cool:
    41 GMC K-18 and Baumi like this.
  19. 41 GMC K-18
    Joined: Jun 27, 2019
    Posts: 2,381

    41 GMC K-18

    Very impressive !
    Great to see a non cookie cutter car, that has some style and class !
  20. rod1
    Joined: Jan 18, 2009
    Posts: 1,054


  21. NashRodMan
    Joined: Jul 8, 2004
    Posts: 1,824


    Amazing car! Nice work.
  22. 47 ford
    Joined: Oct 15, 2007
    Posts: 239

    47 ford


    great to see the car back on the road.
    Perseverance and Determination, 2 great qualities that many people lack
    41 GMC K-18 likes this.
  23. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 5,383


    Thanks buddy, I appreciate it.

    This project has certainly not been without it's hiccups. Some of them self-imposed. I'm not too proud to admit that, nor am I ashamed of my mistakes, and there are few better ways to learn a lesson than screwing something up royally. For example...

    I snapped the balancer bolt off in the crankshaft.
    IMG_5518.jpg IMG_5519.jpg

    The engine here is a brand-new, GM 350/290 hp crate engine. Literally never fired. Correct or not, the way I have always put a balancer on was to set the balancer on the snout with the keyway lined up, put a block of wood over it, put a few swift hits from a hammer to set it, put the bolt in, and hammer it on with an impact wrench. Yes, I know it's not the right way to do it, but I couldn't argue with results. Until now. I bought a nice new Scat balancer for this engine, and put it on the way I always have to mock up my belt drive. I used my basic balancer puller to get it off before paint and final assembly, but it was tough as hell, and wound up stripping the threads on the puller. After paint and on reassembly, I did it the old way again, but this time the balancer didn't go on all the way. When I put the impact in reverse to remove the bolt and see what was going on....SNAP. An ARP bolt nonetheless. Snapped it about 1/8' outside of the crank.

    I tried everything. Welded nuts to it with the TIG, torch, heat, left hand drills, easy outs.....nothing was getting it out. I had to pull the pan off my freshly-painted engine and remove my 0 mile crankshaft. I was able to snake the crank out carefully with all of the pistons and rods still in. I took it to my friends at BBC (Bontempo Brothers Competition) who somehow were able to machine out the carnage and keep the threads. They were also kind enough to get me the crank back the weekend before I had a hernia repair scheduled so I could get it put back together again. Doctor's strict instructions were to lift no more than 25 lbs for 8 weeks, so I wanted to get this 45 lb crank back in before I had to take a short hiatus. I had some good help.

    IMG_5520.jpg IMG_5530.jpg

    Mike and Joe at BBC did tell me though, that new balancers are overly tight from the factory, and often need to be reamed to size to fit within appropriate tolerances. This one was probably .003" interference or so, and that's why it got stuck so hard. A lesson learned though. Don't install balancers like that. I bought a proper balancer install kit and had much better luck afterwards. All part of the process.

    I will say though, for as much custom shit as is in this install, it's pretty cool that it has just worked. I reminisce about doing engine swaps when I was a kid. You'd get the car to run, then it would break, then you'd fix it.... and you'd keep repeating this process. I took a lot of time here to make it right the first time, even if it was hard.
    Okie Pete, brEad, Algoma56 and 7 others like this.
  24. Jacksmith
    Joined: Sep 24, 2009
    Posts: 934


    Daaaaaaammn!!! What a slick cruiser!!!
  25. rukwikenuf
    Joined: Apr 21, 2006
    Posts: 15


    Loving this! I have a 1961 olds 98 that has a 394 and 700r4 trans. I have all the adapter stuff, but i don't know what I'm gonna need to make the factory shifter work. Is yours a column shift or a console shifter?

  26. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 5,383


    That car is awesome man. I used the stock column shifter, and just converted it over using the Lokar column shift conversion. It worked perfectly and I only needed to put a small bend in the rod to make it all work. For the $90 the kit costs, it's well worth it
    brEad likes this.
  27. Jeff Norwell
    Joined: Aug 20, 2003
    Posts: 14,005

    Jeff Norwell
    Staff Member

    Looks so good Joe!
    Spoggie likes this.
  28. The car has character. Not all can say that. :)
    Spoggie likes this.
  29. rukwikenuf
    Joined: Apr 21, 2006
    Posts: 15


    I didn't even pay attention... your car is a column shift, mine is a center console. I'll see if Lokar has what i need though
  30. stpaulsdealmaker
    Joined: Sep 29, 2009
    Posts: 231


    That car is SWEET !!

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