Our 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Race Car

Coming out of turn 4 at I-70

When we found her, she sure didn't look like this. In fact, she was down right ugly. But I had a soft spot in my heart (or was that my head?) for her, and after many trials and troubles she was transformed into a good lookin', good runnin' genuine race car!

But it sure didn't get off to a good start........

Back in early 1993, I was looking to re-skin our 1992 Chargers Division car.  I went to visit my friends at Muncie Auto Salvage to look at a 1969 Cutlass body that I had spied on previous salvage yard runs. After deciding on the price for the entire car, we were discussing how I'd like to find one of those cars with a manual transmission.  "We've got one back there" was all it took to send me scurrying back to a rear corner of the lot, where we first met. There she was, missing some front end sheet metal and a door, but mostly complete otherwise. This car must have been as option-free as you could get one - no power steering, no power brakes, no air, no carpet (what was on the floor looked more like a wall-to-wall floor mat than carpet) and under the hood, a 250 cubic inch L-6 with a column-shifted 3-speed manual transmission.  It wasn't exactly what I wanted, but I thought it was a start.  So we drew up the paperwork, and I now owned two cars from the lot.

Within that next week, we came to pick up the '69, but the lot was so muddy from the heavy snows of the late winter, the '71 would have to wait.  As winter turned into spring, the lot never got better - in fact, their forklift got stuck trying to get back there once. Spring turned out to be the beginning of what was to become a disaster for the Muncie area of Kansas City, Kansas as the Kansas (Kaw) River overran its banks.  The Missouri River did as well, which placed Lakeside Speedway under more than 20 feet of water.  It has been estimated that our car was probably under 6 to 10 feet of water.

We finally were able to get it out of the lot in November, and promptly turned our attention to removing all the accumulated mud and debris, cleaning the car out, and preparing it for the long-awaited transformation of this 'mud puppy' into a first-class Street Stock. But this wouldn't be an easy task, as there was mud everywhere.  After removing the mat on the floor, seats, dash, and everything else we could, it was time for a trip to the car wash. $20.00 later we thought we had it all cleaned out, but we weren't sure.  We made such a mess at the car wash I put in another dollar and washed out the car wash!

Back at the race shop, Buz Kaster installed a roll cage that was unique at the time, as the other Street Stocks were built with roll cages that were about the same on both sides.  But ours was different, as the passenger's side roll cage bars angle over towards the driver, making the 'halo' bar above the driver's head much narrower, yet just as strong.  This 'offset' cage was more like the Chargers division cars being built at the time (and all the Sportsman cars built later on), so we were sure to get looks of curiosity from our fellow competitors.  We also employed other bars that were not usually on Street Stocks, as well as plated some of the door bars for safety (before it was mandated by the track management) and 'borrowed' the fuel cell from the old Chargers division car.  Even as we were finishing up the car, we were still finding mud dried up inside the frame rails, and in other places we thought we cleaned it out of!

After the car was finished at the race shop, we turned our attention to the body work.  Parts were replaced that were either too badly rusted or missing, interior metalwork was installed, and the interior was primed and painted.  The exterior of the car was smoothed somewhat, primered and painted our black and blue scheme (was a lot like our wallet at the time as well). While we were still working on the finishing touches, we elected to show the car at the 1994 World of Wheels at Bartle Hall.  We won first place, and now had a trophy (the only one, so far) that motivated us to finish the car.  By the time we had it fired up for the first time the season was in full swing.  We showed up with the car, and promptly got into some discussions about the legality of some of the things we had done, so it looked like we weren't going to get to race that night.  After talks with management, it was decided that we were OK so we had to line up at the back of the heat race with no time on the track at all.  But we survived, and later in the season even ventured out to I-70 Speedway.  We ran into more discussions about the car's legality there, so we decided to stick with racing it at Lakeside.  We wound up with two second place finishes as our best finishes, one being on Olds Club Night - that was a real fun night, with us leading until late in the event. A heartfelt "Thank You!" has to go out to Roy Matthews, Jr. and Roy, Sr. for their help during the season, without their help racing would have surely been a lot tougher than it was!

After that season, we kicked around the idea of trying our hand at other classes of racing, so it was decided to take this car and convert it to the specifications of the Sportsman Late Model division at Lakeside.  Before we could get the transformation done Lakeside became a dirt track once again and the rules had changed -- no one runs the stock body and 112" wheelbase car Grace is.  Our plans were to try our hand at SCCA Road Racing, but the roll cage design doesn't adapt well to their guidelines.

After reading about actor James Garner's "Grabber Olds" from the late 60's/early 70's we decided to take a totally different trajectory and try our hand at SCCA RallyCross! Grace won't be a "clone" or "tribute car" -- Grace will be "inspired by" The Grabber.  The Grabber was designed for long-distance, off-road racing, with appearances in the Baja 1000 on its list.  RallyCross is done on a much smaller (shorter) scale, more like autocross on unimproved surfaces.

With all the various changes we've made along the way the most accurate place for her is in the Modified Rear-Wheel-Drive (MR) class.  We will definitely be different than the other cars in MR, but that's OK - our plan is to have FUN!  This will definitely open a new chapter in the life of 'Grace'- keep stopping by for the rest of this ongoing story.

"Why 'Grace'" you ask?  Well, it's from the old hymn: "'Twas grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home". She's built with safety first in mind, and then everything else is for keeping the smile on my face as long as possible.

Read all about Grace's new specifications on our RallyCross page.  More pictures of Grace on Photos page.

For those who might be curious, we have deciphered the Vehicle Identification Number for Grace and she's a base model Cutlass, built in California.

1994 Statistics:
Street Stock Division (NASCAR Winston Racing Series)

Keep checking the "Picture Archive" for pictures of Grace in the changeover process!!!!!!!

Grace and me at Lakeside Speedway