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.
The key to this whole effort came down to ensuring that all the little details contributed toward the overall effect. This was where Chuck's enthusiasm and unwillingness to compromise really paid off. The center console trim pieces had to be rechromed to get rid of 40 years of abuse and corrosion. Knowing that no
one repros '64 Olds F-85 sedan door panels, Chuck had Just Dashes re-create the panels and refurbish the dashpad. And if you open the trunk, you'll see that Chuck wanted the inner rear wheelwells to match the body color. All this required time and money--but more than that it took a desire to make it right. The results also play up the fact that this isn't just another A-body. It's no secret among Olds fans that the '68-'72 cars are far more popular. Perhaps the '64-'67 guys just have a little something more to prove.
Unlike those builders who only venture out inside a covered trailer, Chuck built this Olds to drive. The F-85 has been to the dragstrip more times than it's been to static car shows. The first strip trip resulted in a set of smoked Second and Third gear clutches in the trans as a result of too much Olds torque. With the trans repaired, Chuck was right back at it, knocking down a respectable Irwindale eighth-mile time of 8.28 at 84 mph that translates into mid-12.80s at around 100 mph with a mere 1.83 60-foot time on Radial T/A street tires. He hasn't had time yet to push the Olds through a few hard corners, and the nose weight of a cast-iron big-block Olds will probably not contribute to ultimate grip, but he will hammer it home. You can bet your last Olds lug nut on that. That's why he built it.
What: '64 Olds F-85
Owner: Chuck Jennings
Where: San Dimas, California, not far from where the original Irwindale Raceway used to stand (which is now a Miller Beer facility).
Engine: Chuck located a '70 455 Olds motor that ironically turned out to be a W-30 spec motor. Being a true car crafter, Chuck didn't want to just rebuild the Olds in its original form. Instead, he decided to use the Olds engine buildup originally outlined in the Oct. '00 issue and dyno tested in the Jan. '02 issue as a starting point. Engine work began with Rod Phillips of Auto Dynamic Balancing performing all the necessary machine work, which made Chuck's job of assembling the short-block much easier. John McCallister of JT Automotive came over to help with the short-block assembly, and Rod Phillips also helped degree the cam. The work revolved around a fresh set of 0.030-over Speed-Pro forged flat-top pistons creating 10.5:1 compression along with fresh rings and bearings and a new oil pump, all from Federal-Mogul.
Heads: Rather than reprise the original iron W-30 heads, Chuck went instead with a set of alloy castings from Edelbrock featuring relatively small, 2.072/1.680-inch valves and a 77cc combustion chamber. To help the valvetrain, Chuck bought a set of Harland Sharp 1.6:1 roller rockers and the valvesprings supplied with the Edelbrock heads.
Camshaft: Chuck was looking for strong overall power instead of big peak numbers, so the choice of cam timing fell into the Crane PowerMax 272 flat tappet hydraulic zone with 216/228 degrees of duration at 0.050-inch tappet lift, 0.484/0.512-inch lift, and a 112-degree lobe separation angle.
Induction: Intake manifold selection is somewhat limited for the big-block Olds, so in keeping with the engine's tame camshaft Chuck chose an Edelbrock dual-plane Performer RPM manifold matched with a Holley 850-cfm carb.
Exhaust: Even a tame big-block Olds still needs a performance exhaust system, so Chuck went with a pair of Hooker coated 134-inch headers plumbed to a complete Pypes stainless steel X-pipe system including a pair of 212-inch Pypes Street Pro stainless steel mufflers.
Transmission: Chuck's Olds goal is an overall performance car that will blast down the freeway without having to tax the big-inch motor with rpm. The logical choice was a 200-4R automatic overdrive, which had to be rebuilt by Leo Glasbrenner, owner of Remac Transmission in San Dimas, California. Glasbrenner added better clutches, a wider band, and a billet servo and then combined the new trans with a 2,400-rpm 11-inch converter from The Conver-ter Shop.
Rearend: The original V-6 Olds came with a weak corporate 10-bolt, so Chuck opted instead for a narrowed 3.55-geared 9-inch housing with a limited slip and 31-spline Moser axles built and modified by Sutton Engineering.
Suspension: The GM A-bodies have come a long way toward improving suspension movement. Chuck has taken advantage of that technology with a set of Global West tubular upper control arms and front springs. In the rear, Just Suspension supplied the boxed lower control arms and stock-rate rear springs. KYB shocks occupy all four corners, but Chuck is considering a set of adjustable QA1 shocks to improve the '64's overall ride and handling.
Brakes: Sutton Engineering also supplied the four-corner braking system, using 1-inch-taller front spindles and single floating piston calipers with drilled rotors. The 11-inch system is tied into a power brake-modulated system.
Wheels/Tires: It's hard to go wrong with a classic set of American Torq-Thrust originals with 15x6-inches up front and 15x7s in the rear. It all rolls on a set of BFGoodrich Radial T/As with 205/65R15s in front and 235/60R15s in the rear. Chuck also knows that in order to go around corners with any speed, it's gonna take a set of 16- or 17-inch tires and wheels to get the job done.
Body: It's been over a year now since the car's been done, and Chuck's fingerprints are finally coming back--they disappeared during the sand-until-you-hit-bare-metal phase of the bodywork. Covina Collision helped Chuck with the conversion and also painted the body with a two-stage PPG Ford red. The 4-4-2 badges are there strictly for image enhancement.
Interior: Just Dashes gets major credit for reproducing the otherwise nonexistent '64 sedan door panels as well as building a new dashpad. Chuck added the Custom AutoSound USA-1 head unit and the in-dash VDO gauges, while Ed Walsh rebuilt the instrument panel. That's a factory tach down on the console, and if you look closely you can see the electric window switches instead of a hand crank. Citrus Auto Upholstery did the seats and the headliner.
Performance: The Olds has run a current best of 8.28/84 mph in the eighth (12.80s at 102 mph in the quarter) at a fighting weight of 3,870 pounds. END
Now that's a nice truck!
The designation of 4042 has changed several times over the years. In 1964, it stood for fo