We gave this 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass a whole new attitude, and after seeing its shiny gold engine the owner named it “24 Karat Olds”. After our first test drive we named it “Tire Fryer”, but we like 24 Karat Olds much better.
The car seems to have driven out of a slightly damp time capsule and right into our shop, with the odometer showing 32,000 miles. The paint and interior appear 100% original, but we’re thinking the odometer has turned over and should really read 132,000 miles. In any case, the paint has a marvelous patina, the kind you can buy, but shouldn’t. Patina has to be earned, and this car has paid its dues. The interior is incredibly clean and rip free.
First we removed the original engine and transmission. Then we installed a giant engine with a ton more power, we fabricated a new dual exhaust system, we tuned the engine, and we brought a few other things up to snuff. Normally, we absolutely hate installing automatic transmissions. But the owner wanted an automatic, and when people agree to pay our $25,000 automatic transmission installation premium, we say OK, and we watch some YouTube videos to figure it out.
The engine is a 7.4 liter (454 ci) “big block” V8 saved from the owner’s parted out 1997 Chevrolet Suburban. While in great shape on the inside, the outside was pretty scruffy. Usable horsepower is far more important than appearance. But, appearance does count. So we had to do something about that. Inspired by the original engine’s gold color, we got to work on the new engine. We didn’t tell the owner about this part and when he made a surprise visit to the shop to see our progress, we knew we had to capture the moment.
We eliminated the fuel injection and replaced it with a Demon 4 barrel carburetor sitting on top of an Edelbrock Performer aluminum intake. An MSD distributor and Taylor spark plug wires take attention away from our custom fabricated idler pulley bracket, which we designed and built in house. Our idler pulley bracket is needed to keep the belt nice and tight around the water pump, a key feature for summer cruising in particular.
To bolt this giant engine inside this giant car we used Transdapt motor mounts made for this conversion and changed the oil pan in order to clear the engine crossmember. The stock cast manifolds were in the plan but didn’t play well with the crossmember, so we instead used Flowtech long tube headers. We fabricated a simple and effective dual exhaust system with a crossover and bullet-style mufflers, exiting in front of the back tires. The car is relatively loud but not nearly as loud as one might expect given such an unmuffled system. No matter what you do with a big block’s exhaust, there’s something about the sound that let’s you know it’s serious.
Behind the engine, we’re not going to talk about the rebuilt Turbo 400 automatic. Behind that, we shortened and rebalanced the original driveshaft and installed new u-joints.
We have suggested to the owner that he start saving up for tires.