Building a muscle-era project car presents numerous challenges, thefirst of which is finding a suitable car. As time goes on, raw materialbecomes increasingly scarce, leaving many enthusiasts the choice ofeither beginning with a rotted hulk or shelling out big bucks for decentraw material.
Then you have guys like Mike Micklich who just kinda fall into it.Mike's been a car enthusiast for years, but he wasn't really looking tobuild an old car when he acquired this '72 Cutlass a couple of yearsago.
Friends of his family had been running the Olds almost daily since itwas new. After unsuccessfully attempting to donate it to a high schoolauto shop and a charity, the original owners simply gave it to Mike. Itwasn't too exciting--just a 350-powered Supreme--but it did have factorybucket seats, a floor-shifted TH350, and Super Stock II Rally wheels.Unfortunately, it was finished in a flowery yellow with a white vinyltop and matching interior--not very muscular. Still, the Cutlass hadtraveled fewer than 100,000 miles while enjoying careful maintenance andgaraged quarters, allowing Mike to begin cruising it immediately, whichwas all he really intended to do with the freebie Olds.
"This car was an orphan when I got it, and it kind of grew on me so Iadopted it." So, like Daddy Warbucks, Micklich began lavishing his newward with extravagant gifts. At the top of the list was a newpowerplant, since the 350 was deemed unsatisfactory. Using Car Craft'sOlds 455 buildup from the Oct. '00 issue as a guide, Mike had Benson'sMachine of Santa Ana, California, build a nearly identical mill from avirgin '69 block, pairing it with a fresh TH400 trans while fresheningthe rearend with 3.42s and a limited-slip. But the drivetrain was justpart of the plan. Mike paired with Scott Bakkum of Courtesy Auto Body inLaguna Beach to smooth out the body by shaving all the trim, emblems,and side-marker lights, along with all traces of the vinyl top beforegrafting on a steel cowl scoop and covering it all with a modern shadeof Titanium. Even the interior has been remodeled with Mike's ownfabricated aluminum gauge panel with matching dash and console trimpanels, new Scat ProCar buckets, and a complete custom upholstery job,including the door panels. It's only been about three years since Mikewas thrown the keys to the Cutlass, and obviously it's come a long waysince, but he's not done. In addition to some further improvements, thecar has a date with the tarmac at Carlsbad Raceway to test its mettle onthe strip. Definitely a happier existence than the Cutlass would haveseen as an auto shop test specimen.
Car Craft Q&A
One of the first planned changes was to swap in a big-block. Mike builtthe '69 455 to near
Car Craft: So you weren't actually searching for aproject, right?
Mike Micklich: No, but when the offer fell in my lap Ididn't hesitate. I remember when this car was new, and I knew it hadbeen taken care of.
CC: You mentioned that you were just going to do somebolt-ons ... what happened?
MM: I thought about adding an aluminum intake andheaders to the 350, but a friend talked me out of investing in thesmall-block. Since the car wasn't a 4-4-2, I wasn't concerned withoriginality, so we decided to go for broke and make the car unique.Big-block power was one of the first decisions.
CC: How do you like the car now that it's beentransformed?
MM: I love it. The car has taken on its own persona; Ican park it anywhere and people just want to see everything. They knowit's different from stock, but most can't quite figure out exactlywhat's been changed. That's what we were going for with our bodyalterations.
CC: What's next?
MM: I want to go with bigger wheels--at least 17-inch.I'm trying to sort out the backspacing so I can fit a wide rear wheel,like a 12-inch. Later on I might consider a switch to an overdrivetrans. Gotta get to the strip soon, too.
Car: '72 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
Owner: Mike Micklich, Laguna Beach, CA
Even though the factory interior sported buckets, Mike upgraded to moremodern ProCar chair
Engine: '69 Olds 455 short-block machined and assembledby Benson Machine in Santa Ana, CA; top-end assembled by J.R. Stanley.
Heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum,2.072/1.680-inch valves, 77cc chambers, 1.6:1 roller rockers
Induction: Edelbrock Torker aluminum single-plane,port-matched to the heads and fitted with an 850-cfm Quadrajet by JoeMondello
Ignition: MSD Billet-Plus distributor and 6AL box
Camshaft: Comp Cams Xtreme Energy 274 hydraulicflat-tappet with 0.520/0.523-inch lift, 230/236 degrees duration at0.050-inch lift
Although the cowl hood is all steel, the scoop and hood had to begrafted together. The sco
Exhaust: Doug Thorley headers 15/8-primary 31/2-inchcollector feeding to 3-inch tubing into a Dr. Gas X-pipe and Magna-Flowmufflers by Stanley's Exhaust Tech in San Clemente, CA
Transmission: TH400 from Coast Transmission in CostaMesa, CA
Rearend: 3.42:1 gears in original 10-bolt housing withEaton limited-slip differential
Front suspension: Stock control arms rebuilt withstock-type bushings, 2-inch lowering springs and 11/4-inch hollow swaybar from Original Parts Group (OPG)
Rear suspension: Hotchkis control arms and OPG 7/8-inchsolid sway bar with OPG 2-inch lowering springs
Brakes: Stock-type GM 11-inch with cross-drilled rotorsfrom OPG; rear disc conversion from OPG/Classic Performance Products
Wheels and tires: Polished American Racing Torq-ThrustII; 16x7 front, 16x8 rear with custom aluminum flat caps in rear,P245/60-16 front, P275/60-16 rear
Body mods: 3-inch steel cowl-induction scoop welded andgrafted to stock hood, all emblems and side marker lights shaved, vinyltop and trim removed, '01 Corvette door handles, '01 Buick door-handlerecesses, '85/'86 Corvette mirrors
Paint: Titanium pearl metallic with Super Black stripesby Scott Bakkum of Courtesy Auto Body in Laguna Beach, CA
Cost to build: "Every dime I've made for the last threeyears"