It's the fundamental reason behind the creation of Asphalt Ego-Rama, Tom's Fun Run, the Hot Rod Power Tour, Americruise, the Street Rodder Road Tour, and every other on-the-road run ever organized, and should be the fundamental reason behind the creation of any hot rod or custom car. It's not winning a trophy. It's not getting your picture taken. It's the thrill of climbing behind the wheel, firing the engine, and driving your car.
Jim and Eleanor Sheldon don't need to be told this. The '56 Olds Super 88 two-door hardtop they drove from Michigan to California to compete in Ego-Rama V is their means of participating in a hobby they've been living their entire lives.
The '56 Oldsmobile the Sheldons were driving when they got married was too new to be considered a classic, but even then, Jim says he thought the car had a lot of class. A few years later, it hauled the Sheldons on family vacations and on the cross-country journey to California when Jim had to report for Navy duty on the West Coast.
This two-tone '56 probably reminds Jim and Eleanor a little of that earlier Olds and of those road trips in the early '60s, but nostalgia wasn't strong enough to keep Jim from building his new Olds with some performance components-and a level of detail-that was unknown 40 year ago.
Most of the car is homebuilt with a bit of assistance, notably from Detroit Speed & Engineering and Motor City Classics. The first Sheldon family '56 never had a 385-horse Chevy FastBurn small-block, a Camaro subframe muscled up with performance suspension parts and four-wheel disc brakes, 17-inch billet rims, and Z-rated tires. This car has all that and more. But even with all the modifications and upgrades Jim injected into his current ride, none of the original "class" he talks about was removed or hidden. Door handles, trim pieces, the interior, and all of the '56 style that the Sheldons loved about their first Olds were retained on this car. Jim and Eleanor may even end up covering as many miles with their new Olds as they did with their first. But when you start talking about performance, all similarities cease.
Jim & Eleanor Sheldon Livonia, Michigan '56 Oldsmobile
DrivetrainThe Chevy FastBurn crate engine, rated at 385 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque, was moved 3 inches rearward in the engine compartment for balance. Jim is considering fuel injection, but uses an 800-cfm carburetor to feed the small-block, with Street & Performance headers feeding Dynomax mufflers through 2 1/2-inch exhaust piping. The valve covers and air cleaner are also from Street & Performance. Jim built a curved pan behind the grille to direct air to the Be Cool radiator. The transmission is a 4L60E with a shift kit and 1,800-stall converter. The driveshaft angle required the use of a two-piece shaft from Dynotech with a constant velocity joint at the midway point between the tailshaft and the '57 Ford Ranchero 9-inch (which has the same measurements as the Olds) with 4.11 gears and a Drivetrain Specialties limited slip.
ChassisThe stock frame is modified with a first-generation Camaro subframe, raised 5 inches to provide a more aggressive stance. Front suspension includes Detroit Speed & Engineering tubular A-arms with QA1 front coilovers. The rear leafs were modified by Eaton Detroit Springs for a 3-inch drop. Front and rear antiroll bars stiffen the ride. Baer 13-inch cross-drilled slotted discs with a Power Master master cylinder with an 8-inch booster (under the driver seat) freeze forward momentum fast.
Wheels & TiresIn addition to the stance, the tires and wheels are the first visible hint that this Olds is more than a resto rod. The five-spokes are Famosa models (17x8s and 17x10s) from Budnik's Fat Lip line. The performance tires are BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDWS radials (245/45ZR17s and 285/40ZR17s).
Body & PaintThe Ego-Rama ballot in our October '05 issue shows the Olds in its blue and white two-tone paint job. Compare that to the PPG black and silver combination shot by Rick Williams, after Motor City Classics completed the bodywork. The abundance of brightwork was chromed at Advance Plating. Underneath the sheetmetal, Dynamat was installed throughout to stifle any unwanted noise and heat.
InteriorJim kept the interior old-time Olds. He kept the stock seats, lowering them a couple of inches prior to Bigge Mark's upholstery job, using '50s-style black-on-black brocade material with a slight roll in the white upper portion. Juliano's seatbelts were added for safety. The steering wheel and column are '56 parts, and the dash and instruments are stock (including a working clock), except for the Auto Meter gauges in the glovebox. The original ashtrays have been modified to serve as vents for the Vintage Air system. The sound system is kept out of sight, courtesy of a Hidden Audio system, with a 10-disc CD changer hidden in the trunk.