This '64 Olds F-85 is owned by Fletcher Dragge, who plays guitar for the SoCal punk band Pennywise. While most of the killer rides we've seen owned by musical luminaries have been pro-built, blank-check expressions of wretched excess, this car is different. So is its owner. Rather than dropping the car off and waiting for the phone call when it's finished, Fletcher chose to do much of his own work. Sure, he called in assistance when he needed it, but Fletcher is more like the rest of us. He enjoys turning wrenches. He knows more about the inner workings of his Olds than most, and he finds great solace in dreaming up, designing, and creating the modifications himself. Simply put--he gets it.
Hot rodding, like music, is all about personal expression. Turning sheetmetal into high-performance sculpture is much like taking a simple melody and building it into a complete song. In this vein, we can see this car as a stripped-down, smoothed out, high horsepower punk rock tune. There's not many frills or luxuries, and trust us when we tell you this car is driven hard on a regular basis. Hard driving is what it was built for, and Fletcher is only too happy to oblige.
The car has not always been so pretty, and how Fletcher came to possess it is a story unto itself. Fletcher explained it to us.
"I found this car in Palmdale, California. It's a high desert community that's known for not having rust or rot due to its dry climate. I went out and saw the car, and while I was actually thinking about getting a '67 Chevelle, this Olds was even more what I was looking for. I love the Buick, Olds, and Pontiac stuff since it's different, and this car was a really clean example."
"While I was test driving it, the teenage owner kept saying 'I don't want to sell this car' and I told him that I didn't want to buy it, if he didn't want to sell it. I know what it's like to have a car you love, and it was obvious the kid was way into the car. But, he also told me his Dad told him he had to sell it--there was no question. So, I assured him I'd take really good care of it...I tried to reassure him that if he had to sell the car, at least I could give it a good home, and know I'd make it into the cool ride he knew it could be. He agreed, and I bought the car."
The drivetrain was ailing, and the previous owner made the deal even sweeter. "The original 330 had a cracked block, and the owner and his Dad said they didn't want me to take the car that way. They offered to install a 455 from a later Delta 88 they had, and that's the engine I drove it home with. It's still the same engine in the car today, but we've been through it since then."
In fact, the crew at Hot Rod Performance in Torrance, California, has been instrumental in guiding Fletcher toward his goals. The talented crew at HRP shared the needs of a strong Olds with Fletcher, and worked with Mondello Performance Products to secure the necessary oiling system mods, camshaft, MSD ignition, and Edelbrock aluminum cylinder heads the 455 needed to gain the 470 horses he was after. Backed by a beefy Turbo 350 transmission (built by Del Amo Transmission, also in Torrance), the car now gained the cooks to back the looks. Thanks also go to Lucky Costa at Auto Electric (again, in Torrance, next door to HRP) for rewiring the car from head (lights) to tail (lights). Although it wasn't pretty, it was straight, and Fletcher took to enjoying the newfound power.
Unfortunately, a block-long burnout resulted in a loss of control and the car ended up hitting a house! Rather than give up, Fletcher decided to jump in, and do as much of the repair himself as possible.
"I had a friend weld a new quarter panel in place to repair the damage, and I spent the next two months learning the finer points of bodywork. I sanded for eight hours a day for six weeks straight. It's therapeutic, and I really connected with the car."
Most of the factory trim was removed, and what was kept was restored. The car was sprayed by Scott Benowski in a '98 Corvette silver tone, and the bumpers were re-chromed. Once back together, Fletcher re-focused on the suspension.
"One of the first things I did after I bought it was lower the car, and I loved the look. I wanted to go even lower, so we teamed up a narrowed dropped spindle and custom coil package up front, and got some custom Eibach springs for the rear which, were also cut further to get the stance where I wanted it. Now it looks the way I want it to, and I've got clearance to turn the wheels fully without worrying about ripping into the tire sidewall."
Matched pairs of KYB gas shocks were added front and rear, and the dropped spindles provided a home for a modern front disc brake upgrade. Edelbrock rear control arms (both upper and lower) were added to control the 10-bolt rear axle, which has also been upgraded. After snapping an axle, the housing got treated to a Posi-Traction unit, 3.90:1 gears, and a new pair of Tom's axles for insurance against breakage. The wheels and tires are timeless and classic. American's vaunted Torq-Thrust II wheels live up front (16x7s with 4.5-inch backspacing) wearing Continental 225/50-16s, and another pair out back (16x8s with 4.750-inch backspacing) with Michelin 235/60-16s.
The interior was the last portion of the car to get done, and Fletcher farmed this portion of the build to Willy's Interiors, again in Torrance. He consulted with the upholsterers at length to get the look he was after.
"I really wanted a vintage style to it. The dash of the Olds has a great '60s feel, and I didn't want to lose that. I needed seats with more support. I'm a big guy and the stock seats weren't cutting it. I found some Honda Prelude seats that fit me better, and I wanted them upholstered along with the rest of the interior. The material has the look I was after, and after re-covering the seats and door panels with it, I'm very happy with the results."
Interestingly, this rocker has no stereo in his hot rod! He explained that the song of the 455 was plenty for him, and when driving this car it's always playing his favorite song.
What does the future hold for this slick '64? "I think I'm ready for more power. I'd like to supercharge it. I read PHR all the time, and I've seen how far the centrifugal blowers have come. That's what I want next."
Since no kit exists for adding a centrifugal to an Olds, Fletcher is talking to the HRP crew about adapting a universal kit. That sure sounds like a cool tech story to us. Look for it on the pages in the future. Like other Olds fans, Fletcher needs to be different and there are no compromises to his performance desires.
For a guy who probably didn't need to get dirty to have the car of his dreams, we've got full respect for Fletcher. He needed to build as much of his own car as he could so he could call it "his" car. We like that, and we know our readers can look at the dirt under their own fingernails and relate just fine.