We all remember our first car – be it a Chevette or a Chevy Blazer. Nine times out of ten, we're usually stuck with some slow beater that barely gets us back and forth to school and to our first girlfriend's house. Whatever you drove in high school, fond memories to your introduction to freedom are something that stays with you for the rest of your life. However, no matter how much we love our first set of wheels, most of us rarely hang on to it for anything longer than a few years – if not months. Such is the case of Brian King.
Brian has owned the very Cutlass that you see on these pages for twenty years. It was his sole mode of transportation through high school and college, and has been a project that has kept his time and money in limbo for over the last decade. It's a car that we first heard about a few months back from Brian himself, through our Facebook page of all places. At first glance, it looks to be an '83 Olds H/O, especially with that paint treatment, scooped hood and rear spoiler. But it isn't. In fact, it's what you may call an H/O tribute, based on a standard '82 Cutlass—if you're simply basing your assumptions on cosmetics alone.
Peeling away the body would reveal something so much more interesting. Long gone, is the 307 ci. Olds motor you would typically find under the hood of these cars. In fact, so is the 403 ci. Olds powerplant that Brian installed during high school. As Brian tells us, "When I was 16, I was poor and couldn't afford much. I found this '82 Cutlass in fair condition for $400. The engine was blown, most of the original black paint was missing, it was rusty, and it had 149,000 miles on the clock. Shorty after the purchase, I picked up a 403 ci. engine out of a Delta 88 from a friend who had wrecked his car."
King drove his car in this format for several years, until an unfortunate run-in with a deer changed everything. "That's when the rebuilding process really began. I had the factory H/O paint scheme done, and have been building it since."
But rather than rebuilding the old school carbureted 403, Brian decided he wanted to bring his G-body into the 21st century. In doing so, he started by looking into LS-series powerplants, and a Lingenfelter-built 403 ci. stroker, based upon an LS2, fit the bill nicely for Brian. In his words, "it reminded me of my first engine I put in the car." His wife, initially put off by the price of the engine, came to terms with the idea after realizing that she shared her maiden name with the high-performance giant.
Thankful that the wife gave her seal of approval, Brian took that as an ‘OK' to go crazy with this project. Wanting to do something different, he went to the boneyard, and sourced an all-wheel drive unit from a Trailblazer SS. Yup, this Cutlass is no longer doin' one-wheelie peelies or even able to spin it's rear wheels at all. Taking into consideration the pro-touring craze, he bolted on a set of 18-inch Stern wheels to help improve the overall handling, while also making tire selection a whole lot easier (have you searched for 15- or 16-inch tires lately? They're getting harder to come by).
Plus, he wanted something more interesting than the Olds Rallyes to compliment the modern TBSS drivetrain updates. In the brake department, surprisingly, Brian has elected to stick to the basics. In the front, reside the OEM Cutlass front discs, upgraded with aftermarket cross-drilled and slotted rotors. Out back, rear calipers from a late-80s Corvette replaced the stock drums, also fitted with cross-drilled and slotted rotors. Speaking of the rear end, it has been upgraded to an 8.5-inch unit from an '85 442 donor car. Since the original frame was rusted and slightly injured from the aforementioned accident with Bambi, Brian also swapped the frame from that Olds into his Cutlass.
A rear end upgrade was required with the power output of the stroked LS2. Because attached to that 403 stroker, is a ProCharger D1SC supercharger that pumps 15 pounds per square inch of boost into the OEM LS2 intake manifold through a ported throttle body. Since the entire engine was built from the oil pan up by LPE, all Brian had to do was drop it into the frame, and bolt on a pair of Pace headers that feed into a Magnaflow catback exhaust.
Sitting behind the LS2 is a 4L70E transmission with a 3000-stall lockup torque converter – both of which were put together by Norfolk Transmissions, that help send the power to the front and rear diffs. Stuffed inside of the two differentials are a matched set of 3.73 gears.
On the inside, it's the same story. While overall it still reflects the old school G-body feel, the gauges, seats, switches, and carbon fiber trim pieces make the Olds much more like today's cars, while the Hurst Lightning Rod shifters are clearly a nod to that 1983-1984 classic; blending form and functionality inside the cockpit.
At this point you probably want to talk performance numbers, and we're happy to oblige. Since the car has yet to see a dynometer (mostly because of the AWD system), Brian reports that the amount of horsepower that actually sees the pavement is somewhere in the mid-600 range – or about 900 at the crank. With a 3,800-pound curb weight and all four of the Nexen street tires squealing for traction off the line, Brian's current best time is 10.7 at 130 mph. With a set of sticky rubber on all four corners, we wouldn't be shocked to see this Cutlass dip into the 9s. After all, anything's possible, even turning your junker G-body into an all-wheel drive terror. Just ask Brian.
Car: 1982 Cutlass (H/O tribute)
Owner: Brian King
Block: LS2, 403 cid
Compression Ratio: 9.7:1
Heads: LS3; CNC ported by LPE
Cam: LPE GT9; hydraulic, 215/247 duration, .629/.656-inch lift
Rocker Arms: GM, 1.7
Intake Manifold: LS2
Throttle Body: Stock, 90mm
Fuel Injectors: 80 lb./hr.
Fuel Pump: Walbro, 255 (x2)
Ignition: Stock, GM
Engine Management: E67; GM ECU, Tuned by Tom Vanvugt
Power Adder: ProCharger D1SC
Boost: 15 psi.
Exhaust System: Pace Setter long-tubes, Magnaflow 2-1/2 inch catback
Converter: 3,000 rpm lockup, brand unspecified
Driveshaft: 4-inch steel
Front Suspension: Strange coil-over shocks/springs, Spohn sway bar
Rear Suspension: Strange coil-over shocks/springs, Spohn sway bar
Rear End: OEM Trailblazer SS front diff, OEM 442 8.5-inch rear diff; 3.73 gears front/back
Brakes: Stock '82 Cutlass front, late-80s C4 rear
Wheels: Stern; 18x8.5 front, 18x9.5 rear
Tires: Nexen N3000; 235/35R18 front, 255/35R18 rear
HP/TQ: 660 AWHP (estimated)
Mileage: 160,000 (approx.)