Tuesday, August 22, 2017

1972 Olds Vista Cruiser project - Part II: New plan on 455 engine transplant

We have torque! The plan to make Ron Kidd’s 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser a 455-powered rocket ship took a different route than planned. Ron delivered his 1973 Olds 455 power plant to the machine shop with every intention of having a full rebuild. After three months in the on hold bin, Ron retrieved it because he bought a ready-to-install 1969 Olds 455. This was the fast track ticket to big torque in GM’s glassy A-body wagon.

"World’s Greatest Mom" tag makes a 455-powered wagon a genuine sleeper.

Olds 350 gets the boot
  The Olds 350 that served the ’72 Vista was running well overall but it had almost 200k miles on the clock. Lots of quirks were making themselves known, like lunching on three oil pumps. A screechy flywheel. Leaky main seal. Unbalanced balancer. Yes, the old girl was tired.

1972 Olds 350 sits on engine stand after being yanked from its birth home in the Vista Cruiser.
Dr. Olds operates  
  The Olds 350 has been yanked. I am going to tag it and keep it on a stand. This is actually the numbers matching number for this very car. The numbers are located on the left front side of the block just under the cylinder head. The Edelbrock valve covers (shown above) were added to the 350-V8 after the swap so I could use the cool Oldsmobile scripted ones on the 455.
The incorrect Chevrolet Quadrajet carb was also perched up there after the fact to keep the intake from being open to disaster. The correct front feed B.O.P (Buick-Olds-Pontiac) carb is the one installed on the 455. 

A beauty in blue. The 1969 Olds 455 engine, assembled and ready to supply torque in spades.
Evil plan strikes back
 Take a 1969 issue 455 Oldsmobile from a Delta 88 (yay!) with 1973 “J” heads (boo!) and combine the two in the hopes the compression will land at a pump fuel friendly 9:1 or so ratio. I shall add a heavy duty radiator and an extra hard working water pump. I shall install an aluminum intake and a pair of aftermarket Thornton exhaust manifolds to free up a breathing a bit. For insurance, a new  Melling regular volume oil pump. A guy can get thirsty, so I acquired a new fuel pump as well. So all the pumps are covered. To lite the fires within, an H.E.I electronic ignition is in order. New gaskets and correct 1972 Oldsmobile blue paint to cover it all up will finish up the power plant in our beach buggy. 

Drop and swap
  This was a straightforward engine swap with few unwanted surprises. We knew that a 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser was offered with a fat 455. However, mine was not born that way, so I had a shoehorn and a big hammer ready.
 Luckily they were not needed because many of the parts were interchangeable, except for the motor mounts and frame perches. 
  The odometer has been reset and the wagon is hitting the road. I’ll keep you posted on performance increases after the engine break-in period.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Installed! Bigger is better if we’re talking muscle car era engines. A 1969 model 455 Olds engine now powers the ’72 Vista Cruiser.

Things We Learned About a Big Block Olds Swap
  • The cast iron intake was so heavy, it felt much like carrying a person. I dropped it in favor of the aforementioned aluminum Edelbrock intake. Speaking of dropping — if you are going to drop one of these intakes, do not let it be that stock one. Ow!

  • There is a difference in stock water pumps and heavier duty units (photo below). The differences are surprising.

Comparing stock water pump versus the heavy duty one used on the 455 engine swap.
  • A 350 Olds and a 455 Olds require different motor mounts. We knew that. However what we didn’t know and found out the hard way that the swap requires significantly different 455 frame perch mounts. Luckily, they do bolt to the frame’s existing holes. Taking no further chances, I scavenged them from a 1970 Vista Cruiser that sported a 455 in it’s younger days. Thank you Top Secret Undisclosed Storage Facility.

  • The new and old exhaust manifolds dump into the SAME place! Thus, saving us average guys from a trip to the exhaust shop.  

  • There are manifolds to have and ones not to have. We had the worse ones we could have. Single exhaust crossovers and heat risers are not your friend. Thornton provided a correct appearing set of manifolds for 1972 that flow a little better than rock stock with no evil performance prohibitors. 

Carburetor sits high atop the intake on the Olds 455.
  • The carburetor base on the new 455 Performer intake sits about 4 inches higher than the 350 Performer intake (see photo above). The carb sits higher than the valve covers and gave me daymares about the hood not closing. I called Edelbrock and they seemed to think it would fit. They have notes on that kind of thing. To relieve your suspense, it did close. Barely.

The Olds 350-V8 will get tagged and bagged. Okay, not bagged because it’s not officially dead, just shoved into the corner next to that other 1973 455-V8.
  • A lot of things fit the big motor from the small motor. The most surprising to me was the valve covers. A pleasant surprise was the electronic ignition parts. Cool! Note: The control module/rotor/cap/coil-the H.E.I distributor itself was different. 

Ron reset the odometer in the 1972 Vista Cruiser when the new 455 engine was installed. Now he’s gently breaking in the engine. Right, Ron?

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Got a cool car story about buying a car you didn’t want? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Ron Kidd at & Jody Potter at

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Man buys junkyard full of classic cars in Houston; Plans to sell stash to pay loan

 Houston classic car hoard contains more than 60 Ford Mustangs.

Go big or go home. Matt Valchar contacted me about a hoard of classic cars he bought in Houston, Texas. Maybe, hoard doesn’t do this massive amount of vintage iron justice. I’m talking about 194 cars! Mustang fastbacks, 1969 Camaros, Mopars, tri-five Chevys, and more. The Austin, Texas resident stumbled into a deal that he could not pass up. 
  Like most modern day car legends, this one started on Craigslist. Earlier this year, Valchar, 40, found a 1970 Dodge Super Bee project — a very rusty, rolling shell, and purchased it from a man who was flipping cars on Craigslist. While loading up the Dodge, the seller revealed that he bought the car from an older gentleman who was selling his stash of cars due to health reasons. The seller estimated that the man had more than 100 cars available. All classics and in similar shape to the Super Bee. But there was a catch. A big one.
  “He was looking for someone to buy the whole lot, so he wouldn't have to travel 4 hours each way to sell one car at a time,” said Valchar. “The Super Bee seller was kind enough to give me his number.”
Scrap yard owner stored cars on wooded property since 1991.
1957 Chevy sits among 194 classic cars in Houston. A scrap yard owner left the cars on the property 1991.

Phone tag 
  Valchar was eager to contact the motivated seller but it wasn’t as simple as making one simple phone call. All of his calls went unanswered. Had his window of opportunity closed?  
   “I called the number many times and left just as many messages,” Valchar said. “It came to the point where I gave up hope.”
  Finally, his phone rang.
  “Turns out the man had been in the hospital having throat surgery and couldn't talk.”
  Plans were made to see the cars located on land north of Houston. 
  “I was excited to get there!,” said Valchar. “The seller told me there were Dodge Chargers, Mustang fastbacks with some being GTs, Cougars, tri-fives and lots more. After pulling into the gate and driving behind the house, the first car that came into view was a 1970 Charger R/T. I thought this was going to be an epic day!” 

Green 1970 Dodge Charger was pulled from scrapyard and and saved from crusher.
This 1970 Dodge Charger R/T was pulled from a scrap yard and and saved from the crusher. It was the first car Matt Valchar saw.

How did they end up here?
  Victor, the older gentleman, owned a scrap yard in Houston in the 1980s and early 1990s. When a cool car came in to be sold for scrap, Victor had his guys take it around to the side of the shop. Later, he would move it to his property near Conroe, located just north of Houston. The cars would be stored for future resell. But, in 1991, the state bought out his scrap yard to expand the highway.  That marked the end of Victor’s car collecting. The cars he collected have been sitting in the same spot since 1991.    

A scrap yard savior rescued these cars from certain death decades ago.

Let’s make a deal
 The scrap yard owner had planned to use profits from selling his car collection as his retirement fund. Unfortunately, sitting outside that long did them no favors. When he parked them, there were no trees. Now it's a forest.
  “Pine needles were 4-to-6 inches deep on top of every car!” said Valchar. “Also, kids had busted out almost every piece of glass.”
 Thirty years of sitting close to the gulf coast in Houston under pine trees laid waste to close to 200 classic cars. The poor condition of the cars, combined with the Victor’s diminishing health made selling the entire lot a priority. He was hurt to see them in such a state of deterioration.
  “We made a deal, right then and there, and shook on it,” Valchar said. “I brought my trailer with me, because I figured maybe I could get just one while I was there.” 
 Victor allowed him to load up a 1967 Mustang fastback S code before any money changed hands.

1955 Chevy 210 2-door post

Quick, loan me some money
  Once back in Austin, Valchar scrambled to get a 90-day loan for the cars. That meant he would have to start selling cars immediately to repay the loan. Valchar photographed and numbered every car, and cross-referenced VINs with the stack of titles Victor provided.
  “I paid him his money and started right away, in February 2017. Rummaging around out there was at it's best!” said Valchar. “Inside a 1957 Chevy I found one 1969 Super Bee side scoop. A Muncie 4-speed main case in another car. Treasures were hidden everywhere!”  

Despite decay this Charger can still provide parts for a die hard Mopar fan.

Must sell
  Valchar posted his long list of newly acquired cars on Craigslist to get the cash flow moving. Obviously, the Mustang fastbacks were easy sellers, even in their rotted shape. Many of the cars have dream car project potential for entry-level, low-budget builders. Prices are negotiated on the fly. He’s willing to take offers on the cars. Valchar’s ad states that the cars start at $100 and go up. 
 “Two guys out of Ft. Worth ended up coming down and buying four cars,” Valchar said. “I also sold a red 1968 Charger which was a numbers matching 383 HP car, and a 1969 RS Camaro that was smacked hard in the rear. Another 1967 Mustang fastback sold to a California buyer.”

The demolished ’69 Camaro still has plenty of useable parts. A determined builder could salvage the remains.
The wrecked ’69 Camaro still has plenty of useable parts. A determined builder could salvage the remains.

More than 60 classic Mustangs were collected on the Houston property.
More than 60 classic Mustangs were collected on the Houston property. Most of them Fastback, 2+2 models.

Swamp stompin’ prep
  If you contact Valchar and setup an appointment, remember it's swampy down there. All cars are very rusty but most are complete with number matching motors. 
  “A 1970 Mach 1 in Grabber Blue Mustang is broken into two pieces but it still has it's 351-V8, 4-speed and 9 inch rear. Lots of Ford 9-inch rear ends still out there,” said Valchar. “I’m keeping one of the 1969 Camaros for myself, the rest will be sold.”
  Some of the prized picks are gone. But keep in mind, there are plenty left. Valchar started with more than 60 Mustangs and 12 Cougars in the stash. Around 38 cars have been sold, as of August 2017. It will take some time to sell the remainder of the 194 cars and miscellaneous parts.

Details from the Craigslist post
  Valchar’s ad states: “Prices start at $100 and up. All have been sitting in one spot since at least 1991. All cars have rust and rot. Most have LOTS of ROT! Most are only good as parts cars. I hope to have a SkyTrac on hand soon to help with moving the cars around and loading. Taking offers on the car you want. Cash only, no checks or BS. No scams. Some cars have titles, most do not. Most are only good for use as a parts car, which is why I listed this ad under parts. Very few are builders.”
  Good luck if you’re willing to make a trip to Houston. I hope you can harvest your dream car, or at least a few parts.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life 

*Complete list of cars included at bottom of post

1947 Chevrolet truck

1954 Chevrolet truck

1957 Chevy, 2-door hardtop

1955 Ford Ranch Wagon 2-door

A blue 1965 Mustang, found resting on top of a Mercury Comet, ended up being a real GT.

1967 Chevy Camaro

1967 Ford Mustang fastback

Moist, salty air from the Gulf of Mexico and low lying areas contributed to major oxidation on the cars.
Houston is not the most ideal place to store cars for decades outside. Moist, salty air from the Gulf of Mexico and placed in a low lying, marshy area contributed to major oxidation on the cars.

1968 Chevy Camaro

1968 Mercury Cougar

1968 Pontiac Firebird sits on top of a 1968 Ford Mustang coupe.

1967 Pontiac Firebird rests on top of a 1972 Ford Mustang coupe.

1969 Camaro

1969 Camaro RS Rally Spor

1969 Pontiac Firebird

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1

Another 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1

1970 Ford Mustang coupe

1970 Ford Mustang Sportsroof in faded Grabber Blue?

1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1

1972 Plymouth Satellite Sebring

1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport

Here is a very long list of all cars that were in Houston collection.
See Valchar’s ad for what is still available. I simplified list below for scanability.

** Listed the way the cars are numbered, not numerical order **

1 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe, F code
2 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback, S code
3 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback, C code
4 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback, J code
5 1970 Ford Mustang Fastback, Mach 1, H code
6 1969 Ford Mustang Fastback, F code
7 1966 Ford Mustang Fastback, C code
8 1970 Ford Mustang Fastback, F code
9 1970 Ford Mustang Fastback, Mach 1, H code
10 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback, GT, A code
11 1969 Ford Mustang Fastback, Mach 1, 63C, H code
12 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback
13 1970 Dodge Charger R/T, XS code
14 1968 Dodge Charger, 383 HP
15 1957 Chevy 4 dr Wagon
16 1965 Chevy Impala 2 dr HT
17 19?? Karmann Ghia
18 19?? VW Beetle
19 19?? Chevy Corvair 500
20 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code
21 1965 Mercury 4dr Sedan, H code, 390
22 19?? Karmann Ghia
23 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code
24 19?? Ford Falcon, 2 door post, I-6
25 19?? Mercury Comet, 4 dr sedan
26 1972 Plymouth Satellite Sebring, 2 door, G code 318
27 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe, F code
28 1973 Plymouth Road Runner, G code 318
29 1963 Chevy Impala 2dr HT
30 1960 Ford Ranch Wagon, 4 door
31 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code
32 196? Ford Falcon, 2dr post, Purple, I-6
33 1957 Chevy 4dr Sedan, White
34 1965 Chevy Impala SS, 2dr HT
35 1965 or 66 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code
36 1967 Chevy Camaro
37 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe, H code
38 1964 Dodge Polara 2dr HT, White, Was 383 4V
39 19?? VW Bettle
40 1970 Ford Mustang Coupe, F code, Dark Green,
41 1970 Ford Mustang Coupe Grande, H code
42 1963 Chevy Impala Convertible
43 19?? VW Beetle, Yellow
44 19?? VW Beetle, Dark blue
45 19?? VW Bettle, Light blue
46 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, Blue
47 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code
48 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code
49 1969 Pontiac Firebird, V8, White,
50 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, Gold
51 1969 Chevy Camaro RS, Blue
52 1959 Ford Galaxie 500, 2dr HT
53 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Blue
54 1959 Buick Electra, 4dr sedan, Silver
55 1972 Gran Torino Sport, Green, Q code
56 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, Black
57 1954 Chevy Truck, 5 window
58 1968 Chevy Camaro, Red on red, Straight 6,
59 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Red & White
60 1968 Ford Ranchero, possible GT, F code
61 1975 Mercedes 4dr sedan
62 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Maroon
63 1959 Ford Edsel 4dr sedan
64 1969 Chevy LWB Truck
65 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Black over red
66 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Yellow
67 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe, S code
68 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, White
69 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Yellow
70 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, Maroon
71 1970 Ford Mustang Coupe, F code
72 19?? Ford Truck
73 1968 Ford mustang Coupe, C code, Green
74 1967 Mercury Cougar, C code, Light Blue
75 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Black
76 1963 or 64 Chevy II Nova 4 door sedan, Blue
77 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Light Green
78 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Light Green
79 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Red
80 1977? Chevy Wagon, 4 door, White
81 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe, F Code, Red
82 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, C Code, Yellow
83 1970 Mercury Cougar, H code, Red
84 19?? VW Beetle, Yellow
85 19?? Chevy Corvair, Gold
86 1962 Ford Falcon, Blue
87 1957 Karmann Ghia
88 1964? Pontiac Tempest 4 door sedan
89 1968 Mercury Cougar, C code, Yellow
90 1967 Chevy Chevelle 4 door sedan
91 1971 Ford Mustang Convertible, F code
92 1969 Chevy Camaro, Blue
93 1964½ Ford Mustang Coupe, D code
94 1968 Mercury Cougar, F code
95 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code
96 1967 Mercury Cougar, A code, White
97 1969 Chevy Camaro, I-6, Red
98 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, Green
99 196? Chevy Corvair Monza, Brown
100 196? Chevy Corvair Convertible, Blue
101 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, J code, Blue
102 1963 Chevy Impala 4 door sedan
103 1967 Ford Mustang Convertible, A code, Black
104 1967 Mercury Cougar, S code
105 1952 Chevy 4 door
106 1963 Chevy II Nova 300 4 door
107 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Green
108 1969 Pontiac Firebird, Blue
109 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, White
110 1965? Chevy II Nova 4 door, White
111 1973 Mercury Cougar, H code, Gold
112 1955 Ford Customline Ranch Wagon
113 1957 Pontiac Chieftain 4dr HT
114 1955 Chevy 210 2dr sedan
115 1947 Ford Pickup - Cab
116 1964 or 65 Chevy Chevelle,
117 1965 Chevy Bel-Air 4 door sedan
118 195? Dodge Coronet 4 door
119 195? Desoto 2 door sedan
120 1958 or 59 Ford Fairlane 500 4 door, Yellow
121 1965 Ford Fairlane 2 door post, Yellow
122 1972 Ford LTD Convertible, H code, Red
123 1964 VW Beetle, Pink
124 1968 Mercury Cougar, F code
125 1976 Triumph TR6 Convertible
126 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, Green
127 1968 Mercury Cougar, F code, Aqua/Teal
128 1965 Mercury Comet 2 door post, Gold, T code
129 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Red
130 1970 Ford Mustang Coupe, F code, Blue
131 1972 Ford Mustang Coupe Grande, H code, Green
132 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, Red
133 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Blue
134 1966 Mercury Caliente 2 door
135 1972 Mercury Cougar XR7, H code, Light Blue
136 1951 Chevy 2 door post
137 1972 Ford Mustang Coupe
138 1967 Pontiac Firebird
139 1965 Ford Thunderbird Convertible
140 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, White
141 1968 Pontiac Firebird, Black
142 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe, Pink
143 1970 Mercury Cougar, H code,Gold,
144 1964? Buick Riviera 2 door, Light Blue
145 1971 Ford Mustang Coupe, F code, Yellow
146 1968 Ford LTD XL Convertible, Z code 390 4v
147 1970 Ford Mustang Coupe, L code, Light Green,
148 1969 Chevy Camaro
149 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, A code
150 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Blue
151 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, Light Blue
152 1964? Volvo Amazon? 2 door post
153 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe, F code, White
154 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, Aqua
155 1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 4 door sedan
156 1955 Buick Century 4 door hardtop
157 1950? Hudson 2 door post fastback
158 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Red
159 1957 Chevy 4 door HT
160 1957 Chevy Bel-Air 4 dr Sedan
161 1956 Chevy Bel-Air 4 door sedan
162 1950 -53 Chevy Truck, Blue
163 1957 Chevy Bel-Air 4 door HT, Black, falling apart
164 1969 International Truck Bed made into Trailer
165 19?? Ford Box Truck
166 1968 Chevy Impala Convertible
167 1967 Chevy El Camino
168 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 XL, C code
169 1956 Ford Truck, Yellow, I-6
170 1967-72 Chevy Truck, LWB Fleetside, V8
171 Black Stake Bed
172 1941 Chevy Truck with Utility bed
173 1957 Chevy 210 2 door post, I-6, trans, rear
174 1957 Chevy Bel-Air 4 door sedan, I-6, trans, housing only, No hubs
175 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe, T code, Yellow
176 1969 Camaro RS
177 1964 Ford Falcon Sprint 2dr HT, F code, Blue
178 1965 or 66 Ford Mustang Coupe
179 1972 Ford Mustang Fastback, F code, Grabber Blue
180 19?? Volvo P1800
181 1967 Mercury Cougar XR7, C code, Green
182 1968 Ford Galaxie XL 2 door HT, F code, Light Green
183 194? Plymouth 4 door, Black
184 1967 Ford Mustang Coupe, C code, Dark Green
185 1968 Mercury Cougar, F code, Blue
186 1965 Plymouth Barracuda, Black on black
187 1957 Chevy Bel-Air 2dr Hardtop
188 1982 Ford Truck F-150
189 1969 Ford Fairlane 500 Wagon, F code, Black
190 197? Box Truck, Metro Aluminum, White, Looks like Ice Cream or Food truck
191 1973-87 Chevy Truck Bed, LWB, Tan and White
192 197? Cadillac, tan
193 198? Pontiac Fiero, Red
194 1991 Red 4 Car Trailer

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Got a cool car story about buying a hoard of cars? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at