Avid readers will recognize the name Robert McGaffin as PHR's photographer extraordinaire. Squashing the competition like Walmart in what's left of capitalist America, Robert's endless assignments have brought him face-to-face with the hottest muscle cars featured in this magazine in recent years. Eventually, he couldn't bear standing on the sidelines any longer, and had to get a project car of his own. That itch has materialized in the form of a '65 Olds Cutlass, and he's determined to transform it into a pylon-clipping autocross beast.

While shooting Randy Johnson's LS7-powered '66 Chevelle for our November 2008 issue, McGaffin contracted an A-body fetish that he couldn't shake. Disenchanted by the astronomical price tags affixed to the typical Chevelle, McGaffin realized a change of plan was in order. "I always wanted to build an A-body due to the availability of go-fast parts, and because they have plenty of room inside for my kids. Since Chevelles were so expensive, I started looking at Skylarks and Cutlasses and was amazed by how much more car you could get for the money," he recalls. "I've always been the guy who likes oddball stuff, and I liked the idea of building something that wasn't mainstream. I found this '65 4-4-2 clone on eBay, struck up a deal for $7,500, and a few days later it was sitting in my garage. The car had already been restored in the past, so all the metal was solid and it needed no bodywork at all."

By opting for a not-so-common body that's attached to a very common platform, McGaffin essentially purchased a solid two-door post Cutlass for the same price as a jalopied-out Chevelle. That means he can focus less on restoration and more on performance. "My goal is to build something I can beat on around an autocross course that I can also take to cruise night and enjoy with my kids," he adds. "The stock 330 small-block is going to be replaced with a 500hp 455 big-block, and the suspension and brakes will be upgraded with hardware from DSE and Baer. Above all else, this car needs to be reliable, and I want to keep it on a reasonable budget." The best part is that you'll be able to read all about it right here in PHR as the project develops.

By far, the biggest challenge in building Project Olds will be getting a two-ton A-body to deftly negotiate tight autocross courses, and the big-block plopped up front will only compound the degree of difficulty. Consequently, it only makes sense to tackle the suspension first, and for guidance, we contacted Kyle Tucker at Detroit Speed and Engineering. Although best known for its cutting-edge suspension bits for first-gen F-bodies, DSE has recently expanded its product offerings to encompass GM A-bodies, X-bodies, and Chevy IIs as well. In light of our predicament, Tucker set us up with DSE's Rear Speed Kit, which includes a set of upper and lower control arms, coilovers, an adjustable sway bar, and a chassis brace kit. Lending a huge hand in the parts installation was Brent Jarvis of Performance Restorations in Mundelein, Illinois. Jarvis is no stranger to muscle car restorations, and he's done his fair share of competitively road race A-bodies. In the months ahead, we'll cover the build of Project Olds' engine, rearend, front suspension, fuel system, and brakes, but for now, here's how to transform your A-body's antiquated rear suspension into a laterally lethal combination.

THE COST SO FAR
Description: PHR Issue: Price:
'65 Olds Cutlass January 2010 $7,500
DSE four-link suspension January 2010 $2,345
Total: $9,845

SOURCE
Performance Restorations
1500 McCormick Blvd
Mundelein
IL  60060
847-566-7469
www.performancerestorations.com
Detroit Speed Inc.
185 McKenzie RD
Mooresville
NC  28115
704-662-3272
www.detroitspeed.com
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