We first saw this incredible Olds over a year ago, and it almost ran as a feature then. After talking extensively with owner/builder Rick Cox of Lansing, Michigan, he told us about the future plans up his sleeve, and we decided to wait out the winter and see the results.
We encountered the car once again at the PHR/Goodguys Street Machine of the Year competition in Columbus, Ohio, and were duly impressed by the results. We were not alone, as the car garnered enough votes from all the judges to become a Finalist for this prestigious award. While the car did not win the annual title, it certainly earned itself the space on our pages we'd been waiting for.
The PHR staff is as guilty as any for developing and using specific terms to define the various styles cars are built in, and very rarely can a builder cross lines, mix styles, and still end up with a truly killer car. Cox has taken elements from the custom crowd, infused them with the proven appeal of Pro Street-style steamroller rear tires, and stirred in a dose of technostalgia to complete the recipe for this outstanding '61 Olds Dynamic 88. The combination of these elements under a non-traditional car like the Olds just plain works, and keeping the powerplant based on the original 394-cube V-8 tickles the purist in us.
The 394-inch V-8 was the largest and last variant of the groundbreaking 303-inch "Kettering" V-8 introduced in 1949. The re-named "Rocket" family of engines boasted such technological innovations as overhead valves, hydraulic lifters, oversquare bore-stroke ratio, forged crank with counterweights, aluminum pistons, full-floating wrist pins, and a dual-plane intake manifold, and proved to be the engine of choice for rodders and racers of the era. The early NASCAR records tell the tale, as Olds OHV V-8s won 8 of the 10 NASCAR races run in 1950. The rich performance history of the engine adds to the overall flavor of the car, as precious few speed parts have survived from the time.
Fortunately, Rick was able to locate and acquire a rare Hilborn stack fuel injection manifold to top his 394, and to add yet another twist to the car's definition, it's been plumbed for modern (read: reliable and drivable) electronic fuel injection. Fuel Injection Engineering performed the upgrade, which is the modern name Hilborn is going by these days. The result is a truly nostalgic engine with plenty of flavor and enough performance to pull the Dynamic 88 down the freeway with ease. Rick claims 425 horses at 4,400 rpm, thanks to a healthy ignition system (consisting of a Mallory Unilite electronic ignition conversion on the stock distributor, an MSD 6A amplifier, a Mallory coil, and Pertronix plug wires) an Olds "Starfire" grind camshaft, and some basic cylinder head porting work from Rod's Machine Shop in Lansing. A big Be-Cool radiator keeps temps below 210 in the Michigan summer heat.
When Rick first bought the car (as a clean, original $8,000 find), the rear framerails were narrowed in the Pro Street tradition to fit a wide pair of Mickeys. A Ford 9-inch rear with 3.50:1 gearing was mounted between the new 2-inch by 3-inch rails, and a triangular four-link keeps it located. To nail the low stance, Rick supports the chassis with Air Ride Technologies Shockwave airbag/shock absorber units at all four corners.
Now sporting Colorado Custom wheels (20x10 in the rear, and 18x7 up front), the Olds has the proper attitude and altitude to grab your attention and keep it. The flashy details of the '61 have been retained and restored, like the freaky bumper designs and a single slice of bodyside trim. The doorhandles and scripts have been shaved, and the resulting smoothness works wonders with the bubbletop roofline and ultra-low stance to keep you wondering what's been done.