Oldsmobiles have historically conjured up images of family outings, cavernous grocery-swallowing trunks, comfortable seats, smooth rides, and reliable transportation-Dad's car. In 1964, Olds moved to snuff this conservative stigma with the introduction of the 442, a bold declaration denoting the new model's standard four-speed transmission, four-barrel carburetor, and dual exhaust. It was an in-your-face statement for those doubting the attributes of this new model A-body. A legend was born.
In 1987, 17-year-old James Kryta was starting his last year of high school and searching for a GM A-body. He was hunting for a '70 Chevelle with a 454 when he happened upon this rare '71 442 for $2,400 and drove it home. He didn't realize what he had right away, but he was sold on the idea of a 455 sitting between the framerails. Later he learned it was a rare W-30 model, which in 1971 meant a 455ci engine, four-barrel carburetor, aluminum intake manifold, fiberglass ram-air hood and air-cleaner assembly, and a slew of other performance options. The Olds had seen better days, but it provided James with a senior year he'll never forget, filled with cruising, mayhem, more cruising, and in his own words, "Not nearly enough gas money." The poor 442 was relentlessly thrashed and ended up sitting at his dad's house in Buffalo New York while James pursued a career as an aircraft mechanic.
James later wound up in Detroit and started his own business, Inline Tube, with his brother John in 1996. In 1997, he shipped the car to Detroit and started a painstaking restification, often using his A-body as a template for parts produced by Inline Tube. The project took on a life of its own, and James ended up replacing or refurbishing virtually every nut and bolt on the car. What he has succeeded in creating is a modern 442-a musclecar that not only hauls ass in a straight line, but also handles turns without wallowing and stops without heroics. The ultimate gentleman's hot rod got a makeover.
James Kryta's W-30 Olds is poised to thrive in the new millennium and to show future car crafters what modernized musclecars are all about.
Car Craft Q&ACar Craft: Your 442 looks like a 100-point restoration sprinkled with serious performance parts. In particular, you've paid quite a bit of attention to the suspension. What led you to create a 3,700-pound musclecar that handles well?
James Kryta: A number of years back I read in a magazine about how to make a GM A-body handle like a Trans Am. Then, a friend purchased an '89 TA and I was impressed with the way it took corners. I basically looked at a modern performance car and compared it to my classic musclecar. I figured out what the new car had that mine didn't and set out to make a modern performance car out of the 442 while maintaining the classic styling. Everything had to function like the car came off the assembly line.
CC: How is your car received at shows?JK: Funny that you ask. The tendency of the show folks is to place it in the stock/restored class-until they start to scrutinize the car more closely. I've gone out of my way to make the aftermarket parts look like stock pieces. I even stamped the Edelbrock aluminum heads with factory casting numbers.