The Spirit of 4-4-2It's odd sometimes how a car comes together. Most car crafters start with a car, or at least a body and an image of what it will look like once all the hard work is completed. Chuck Jennings' story started a bit differently. In his case, he built an engine and then had to find a car to build around it.
A few decades ago, Chuck bought a '73 Cutlass brand-new off the showroom floor. In keeping with his meticulous style, it was a relatively low-mileage gem of a one-owner cruiser. An Olds motor buildup in Car Craft's Oct. '00 issue motivated him to build a similar engine for his underpowered Cutlass. But once the engine was completed, his friends at JT Automotive refused to defile his painfully original car with a thumpin' 455, which they knew would have required loads of associated modifications. "Find another car," they said. That's when the hunt began.
Chuck's search unearthed a '64 F-85 minus engine and trans that was strikingly similar to Car Craft's own F-85 project. The engine and 200-4R automatic were already done, so all he had to do was lean on the visual side of things to transform it from a backyard castoff to a machine deserving of magazine attention. As happens with projects like this, once Chuck made the decision to go all the way with a frame-off, it became his obsession. Covina Collision pulled the body off the frame and put it on a cart, which offered Chuck the opportunity to sand, huff, and buff his way to bare metal. The shop could then perform the basic bodywork, primer, and paint necessary to meet with his approval.
So sanding became a staple occupation for a month of Chuck's Saturdays. Weekday evenings and Sundays were involved in running down the dozens of details necessary to complete the interior and the chassis, which unfortunately consisted of fits and starts when those details changed as the car evolved. But one thing that never changed was Chuck's goal of wanting it all. He was seeking a car that would both charge the quarter-mile in pursuit of its musclecar heritage and be able to smartly negotiate the corners on a track day excursion without putting scuff marks on the door handles from excessive body lean. Chuck's first front suspension component choice was later shelved in favor of a Global West front package that included springs, tubular upper control arms, and a quick-ratio power steering box. For the rear, a set of boxed Just Suspension lower control arms with stock uppers, replacement bushings, and matching KYB shocks was sufficient for the time being.