Rare Olds Packs a Punch

Muscle Car Review - - Content - By Scotty Lachenauer

Rare Olds packs a punch

Most au­to­mo­tive his­to­ri­ans agree that 1970 was the pin­na­cle of the first great mus­cle car move­ment. The Big Three in De­troit had ramped up to ex­e­cute ma­chines built of sleek de­signs, wildly crafted ex­te­ri­ors, and un­prece­dented straight-line per­for­mance. How­ever, the newly minted decade would bring with it a surge of ram­i­fi­ca­tions and strict polic­ing. This power-packed party was about to get raided.

With au­tomak­ers aim­ing mus­cle car ad­ver­tis­ing straight at the kisser of the kids of Amer­ica, the in­sur­ance com­pa­nies started bat­ten­ing down and rais­ing the stakes—and their pre­mi­ums. Ris­ing ten­sions in the oil-rich Mid­dle East added to the wor­ries of the gas-guz­zling mus­cle car sales­men, and it was well known that the stench of un­leaded gas was just over the hori­zon. It was time to start think­ing about a change in the over­all strat­egy of the Amer­i­can car mar­ket.

Build­ing a Bud­get Brawler

Oldsmo­bile had made a bold state­ment with its A-Body re­design in 1968, and buy­ers re­sponded by boost­ing sales. Many en­thu­si­asts con­sid­ered the F-85 plat­form the most ap­peal­ing of the four­some of GM in­ter­me­di­ate of­fer­ings. Au­to­mo­tive jour­nal­ists raved about Oldsmo­bile’s vaunted 4-4-2 model. Add in the fact that the Olds per­for­mance pack­ages were noth­ing short of stel­lar, and, well, that seemed a recipe for suc­cess.

Feel­ing proud of their ac­com­plish­ments, the crew at Oldsmo- bile was still on the ball when the tide started turn­ing in the mus­cle car era. Know­ing that there would be a need for a bud­get­minded but sporty in­ter­me­di­ate in the near fu­ture, the team started the process of mor­ph­ing their Cut­lass plat­form into an “econ­omy” hot rod: a car that had the vis­ual im­pact of a mus­cle ride and enough power to make the young guns happy, but from an en­gine that wouldn’t raise the hack­les of in­sur­ance com­pa­nies.

As we all know, it’s the pow­er­plant that puts the mus­cle in mus­cle car. So Olds started with the Rocket 350 block, and gave it the pro­vi­sions to make it punch out some good power num­bers. At 310 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, this small-block was no slouch. It made a state­ment that Olds didn’t need a big-block to build a mus­cle car. Add in a cool twin-scooped hood treat­ment with cold air in­duc­tion, and you’ve got most of your bases cov­ered.

It didn’t stop there. To stim­u­late the eyes, the Olds crew basted the car in Se­bring Yel­low, even paint­ing the for­ward and aft metal bumpers in the hue. To break up the monochro­matic look, or­ange and black ac­cent stripes were laid on, with call­outs on the flanks. With its bold scoops and deck spoiler out back, the car just

screamed, “I’m a player out here, guys!” For even more at­ti­tude, color-coded wheels were added to the cor­ners, shod with op­tional raised-let­ter sport tires. The Olds peo­ple chris­tened the new car the Rallye 350.

You could get your Rallye 350 in one of three sub­mod­els. The most preva­lent was based on the Cut­lass Holiday coupe; 2,527 of the 3,547 to­tal Ral­lyes built started as one of these body styles. The F-85 Club Coupe made up the next 1,020 units, while the re­main­ing 160 were built from the

F-85 Sport (post) Coupe. No mat­ter which car you started with, they all re­ceived the same Se­bring Yel­low paint and full Rallye 350 W-45 op­tion code list of good­ies.

“In 1977, he took her off the road”

Otto’s Olds

In 1970, Otto Hanell was an im­pres­sion­able 19-year-old with a big dream. He was ready to pur­chase his first car, and he had read up on all of De­troit’s big mus­cle rides in his var­i­ous mag­a­zines. Of course, be­ing just out of high school, Otto was go­ing to have to get his dad’s ap­proval on any pur­chase. Not just be­cause his dad was the master of the house, but also be­cause good ol’ Pop had to cosign the loan.

First stop for the two­some was a lo­cal Ply­mouth dealer. And there it sat, a 1970 Hemi ’Cuda con­vert­ible. Yes, it was one of the very few, the now overly col­lectible, el­ready ephant-mo­tored rag­tops, and it was ready for the tak­ing. It was Otto’s first choice, but his fa­ther shot that down with one blow. “No Ply­mouth is go­ing to sit in my drive­way,” he said. Well, we’ll just say that was the big fish that got away.

An Olds dealer was next. Young Otto be­came smit­ten with the lineup of mus­cle. “I loved the scoops on the 4-4-2, and the mag­a­zines said they re­ally worked,” he re­mem­bers. He got the chance to drive a 455-pow­ered drop-top with the sales­man by his side. “I had big plans to drag race, and I had a parts list in my head al­ready for the Olds.” But it was to no avail. Dad wasn’t for a big-block like this at the house.

Buick seemed like a safer bet to Otto, be­cause, hey, it was a Buick. It turns out it wasn’t an or­di­nary Buick, but a hot one with a rac­ing stripe and big deck spoiler, a 455-pow­ered GSX. Still, the an­swer was a re­sound­ing no.

So it was back to Chet Swan­son Oldsmo­bile in Tra­verse City, Michi­gan, where a yel­low bea­con caught Otto’s eye. It was a sporty ride, with a strong 350ci pow­er­plant, and set up with all the punch and pe­riph­ery that you would ex­pect in a mus­cle ride. “And it was a small-block, which my dad was happy with,” Otto re­mem­bers.

With all bases cov­ered, the Rallye 350 Holiday Coupe came home with him. “My dad didn’t know it, but I was still go­ing to drag race the car,” says Otto. He kept his prom­ise, set­ting it up to do some dam­age at the lo­cal quar­ter-mile strips in his na­tive Michi­gan.

When he hit the track, Otto set his Olds up the same way many kids did back then for week­end rac­ing. He first re­jet­ted the carb to max­i­mize the de­liv­ery of 100-oc­tane to the sec­on­daries. He also iced down the fuel pump to cool off the juice when needed. Next he added a set of Hooker head­ers for bet­ter ex­haust flow, and then in­stalled an AC­CEL ig­ni­tion, in­dex­ing the spark plugs as well. A pair of rac­ing slicks was added at the track to get a bet­ter grip on the pave­ment.

Otto held onto his yel­low-hued ride, push­ing it aside in the cold months and driv­ing a beater car. In the years to fol­low he kept it locked up while other cars be­came his daily driver, even in the sum­mer, but he al­ways kept a watch­ful eye on it. He kept up with main­te­nance and al­ways treated her well. In 1977, he took her off the road and set­tled her into his garage space at home.

To­day we see the fruits of his la­bor. Af­ter 48 years of own­er­ship, the car has main­tained its good looks and per­forms the way she should. “I fill her up with some 115 and she runs great,” says Otto.

The orig­i­nal­ity of this ride is pretty amaz­ing. “She’s nearly 100 per­cent orig­i­nal. I had a quar­ter-panel touched up af­ter a fender ben­der, but the rest of the paint is orig­i­nal. I also re­placed the wa­ter pump.”

Be­sides that, only some of the wear­ables have been re­placed. It’s as close as it gets to be­ing an orig­i­nal ride, and that’s even af­ter Otto blasted it down the dragstrip many a time. To­day it stays along­side some new GM mus­cle in his garage, just wait­ing to hit the streets again.

n The Rallye 350 was a ground­break­ing model for Oldsmo­bile, although sales fell short of ex­pec­ta­tions. One the­ory is that theSe­bring Yel­low paint scheme just didn’t do it for many buy­ers. The monochro­matic de­sign from bumper to bumper was pos­si­bly too much of a good thing. Re­ports say that some deal­ers added chrome bumpers just to get them off the lot, a costly up­grade just to pro­voke a sale.

n The W-45 op­tion pack­age in­cluded the W-25 fiber­glass hood, W-35 rear deck spoiler, N35 sport mir­rors, and healthy L74350 V-8 with the N10 dual ex­haust.

n Af­ter 48 years in Otto’s pos­ses­sion, the car’s in­te­rior is still in great shape. The bench seat and col­umn shift add to the all-busi­ness look of the in­te­rior. His high school grad­u­a­tion tas­sel from 1970 still hangs from the rear view mir­ror. n Otto added this set of Ste­wart-Warner gauges to keep track of the Olds’ vi­tals dur­ing its rac­ing years.

n The L74 Rocket 350 was a pow­er­ful en­gine for its size, pump­ing out a healthy 310 hp from its small-block stature. Otto Hanell’s en­gine has never been apart (other than his re­plac­ing the wa­ter pump) and con­tin­ues to run well, though he likes to feed it 115-oc­tane leaded fuel when he takes her out.

n The Rallye 350 wasn’t just a vis­ual pack­age. The L74 350 was a great per­former, and Oldsmo­bile even gave the car a stout FE2 han­dling pack­age to pro­vide it with more ap­peal to buy­ers who weren’t just go­ing to run it hard in a straight line.

n Otto didn’t skimp when buy­ing his Olds. He boosted the price of the Cut­lass Holiday Coupe by a third of the orig­i­nal ask­ing price with a bevy of cool add-ons.

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