Car crafters get involved with old cars through the unlikeliest of avenues. Casey Walker has always been a gearhead. His first car was actually an '81 GMC half-ton pickup to be used around the family ranch outside his Ashland, Kansas, hometown. After graduating from high school, he bought a '70 Cutlass S in 1993 from future wife Missy's family. For $500, it wasn't a car preordained to instantly induct him into the Musclecar Builders' Hall of Fame, but it had a couple of things going for it. Besides its righteous price and reasonable rust for a 23-year-old Midwest beater, the Olds presented enormous opportunity. That cavernous engine bay combined with GM's famed interchangeability made upgrading this midsize cruiser potentially fun-even if Casey wasn't a card-carrying Dr. Olds devotee.
Unlike most projects, this Olds didn't start out with a just-add-gasoline-and-stir engine swap like you see on those musclecar television shows on Saturday morning. This story went on hold for five years while Casey worked his way through an Automotive Technology degree at Pittsburg State University in Kansas then found his way to Peoria, Illinois, and worked for Caterpillar as a development engineer. Perhaps his occupation working with heavy-handed earth movers with ginormous torque found a home. Whatever the reason, there are way too many parallels between developing big diesel earth movers and a big-block Olds that is renowned in the musclecar world for its torque. You think there's a clue in the fact that Casey painted his Olds a hue not unlike one of his company's 800hp massive Wheel Dozers? Just think big, heavy, and yellow.
It all started out innocently enough. "I started this as a street build with a mild 455 and a four-speed. But after I won my first race in eliminations, I knew that was what I wanted to do with the car. I then changed everything-the engine, trans, rearend-so I could compete but still drive the thing on the street."
Torque may be what moves the car, but you still have to hook it all up on the starting line. The A-body GM cars have this dialed in with help from guys like Dick Miller. Dick's been quietly building a franchise around constructing big-block Olds power and then following that up with the suspension pieces to hook all that power to the ground. A glance under the rear end of Casey's car reveals no ladder bars, four-link, or even custom shocks. What you do see is deceptively simple: a set of adjustable upper tubular arms, tubular lower arms, and an adjustable HRpartsNstuff rear antiroll bar. Casey dials in a little bit of preload in the upper control arms, and the car launches straight and consistently every time.
Running 11.40s at 118 mph does not require as much horsepower as you might think, especially when you're making loads of torque. Somewhere in excess of 500 lb-ft of torque combined with a roughly 4,000-rpm stall speed converter and a streetable 3.73 gear all sound way too tame for this size car. But that's the key to Casey's earth-mover routine. He leaves the romantic, high-rpm stuff to those small-block Ford guys who like to watch the tach spin faster than a Formula 1 motor on nitrous. Instead, he's got a big, burly torque motor that just loafs down the track and runs as consistently as one of those big diesels with the yellow paint. Maybe that's because it's engineered that way. You think?