John Trial’s passion for Oldsmobile traces back to earliest childhood. “My father was an Olds man,” he explains. “His first new car was a 1961 Dynamic 88. I was hooked on Oldsmobiles early on, and there was no turning back.” Though Trial had owned several Olds 88s and 98s over the years, he never had what he really wanted: a 442. One day a friend who knew close to nothing about cars called to tell him about a really clean blue car for sale in the neighborhood that he would love. Trial wasn’t looking for another car and didn’t put much faith in his pal’s judgment, so he disregarded the advice. Two weeks later he was running errands with his wife when they drove past a super-clean blue Cutlass convertible. Both were impressed, and Trial realized this was probably the same car his friend told him about. It was, and it belonged to him the next day.
The Cutlass was as honest as they come, with nice paint over all original sheetmetal, no rust anywhere, and a smooth-running, L73, 330ci, 310hp Jetfire Rocket V8. Factory options included Strato Bucket seats, power steering, Super Stock wheels, seatbelts, and tinted glass. “As clean and fun to drive as it was,” Trial says, “I knew that bigger plans lay ahead.” As often happens, those bigger plans evolved over time and had more than a few twists.
The first order of business was upping the car’s performance. Trial had JA Performance rebuild a Rocket 455 he happened to have sitting around. They stuffed the big-block full of good parts from Speed-Pro, Mondello, Edelbrock, Com Cams, and Crower. Moonlight Garage took care of the drivetrain, rebuilding the car’s Muncie four-speed and building a super-strong rear end using a Moser 12-bolt and Eaton Top Spec Posi carrier featuring 3.55:1 gears.
Trial then turned his attention to the underside. The stock chassis was sandblasted and painted, and the suspension was upgraded with The Right Stuff Detailing drop spindles and custom springs. Oversize front and rear sway bars, boxed lower control arms, and traction-assist rear frame supports from OPGI completed the suspension transformation. A four-wheel disc-brake system from The Right Stuff Detailing gave the car stopping power to match its newfound speed.
After the engine, drivetrain, and chassis work were completed, Trial drove the car regularly for a year without touching the body or interior. The body was straight, the paint was nice, and the original interior was decent, but he wanted to add some custom touches and bring all of the cosmetics up to a whole new level. “While I was driving the car, I must have imagined it in every color combination possible-from black on black to silver with a red interior-but I couldn’t make up my mind. One night while sitting with my best friend and fellow Oldsmobile connoisseur, Angelo, we were kicking around color ideas when his wife, along with mine, chimed in to our conversation and said, ‘How can you not leave that car blue? You never see blue hot rods.’ That sparked the idea to stay with blue, but do it with a ‘Foose Style’ two-tone paint scheme.”
Around the same time, Trial read an article extolling the virtues of doing a rendering of a project car before actually painting it. The article listed 10 automotive artists, and Trial called one of them, Ben Hermance of Hermance Design. Hermance expertly translated Trial’s ideas onto paper and helped him focus on what he really wanted. “Having that blueprint made the build a lot easier and saved a lot of what ifs throughout the project,” Trial explains.
He turned his Olds over to the craftsman at North Point Restorations for a lot of the general restoration work and all of the paint and body refinishing. They took the car completely apart and mounted the body sans its front end to a rotisserie for easy underside access. Custom work included smoothing the firewall, relocating a Detroit Speed wiper motor under one of the fenders, frenching the door handles, and hiding all of the underhood wiring. They also did an excellent job of hiding all of the hoses for the Vintage Air Gen IV air-conditioning kit that was added using factory ducts.
Trial turned to Dr. Oldsmobile for a fiberglass OAI shroud that is unique to model year 1967 442s. Then he obtained upper and lower intakes from Ken Dennison to further along the W30 conversion.
North Point Restorations laid down the two-tone blue paint scheme, with 2013 Bentley colors that Trial chose simply because he likes them. After applying Dark Sapphire Blue over Silverlake Blue using Spies Hecker waterborne paint, master pinstriper Don “Figgy” Figilozzi added a triple stripe where the two blues meet using the same shades of red/orange Oldsmobile used for the 442 emblem. Three more coats of clear were then added to bury the stripes and give the overall finish even more depth.
When the body and paint restoration was completed, the car shipped off to R&R Seats for its new high-end canvas convertible-top interior makeover. Trial worked with R&R to design custom upholstery patterns that include cues from 1966 and 1967 Oldsmobiles. In addition to wrapping the seats, high-quality light- and dark-blue leather also cover the door panels, console, kick panels, and seatbacks. Trial located a Rally Pack gauge cluster he had restored and upgraded by Instrument Specialties, which modernized the tach, converted the amp meter to a voltage meter, and converted the clock to a quartz movement.
In keeping with the overall plan to keep the car mostly stock looking with a cleaner-than-factory appearance, controls for the Vintage Air system consist of micro switches hidden behind stock controls. Stereo controls, power-window switches, LED lighting controls, and the power trunk release are all hidden inside the console. A pushbutton start, borrowed from a late-model Lexus, is the only non-stock-looking item on the dash. A custom steering wheel-produced by CON2r from a design that Trial’s daughter, Caitlin, created and was given by his always-supportive wife, Laurie, as a Christmas gift-provided the interior’s finishing touch.
Before the car was completed, Trial sought an entry for it at the 2015 Detroit Autorama show. The unusual Olds was accepted and chosen as a Ridler contender. That really put the pressure on to not only finish the car but get every detail as close to perfect as possible. It was finished in time and was a huge hit in Detroit, particularly with the Oldsmobile crowd. Trial didn’t win the Ridler Award, but he earned First Place in the convertible class. Since Autorama, he’s shown the car at numerous events around the country and won a lot of top honors, including a Builder’s Choice Award at the Goodguys East Coast Nationals.
While Trial certainly appreciates all of the accolades, in the end, the car is its own reward. The relationships it has created and strengthened are worth far more to him than all of the trophies combined. “I consider myself blessed to have been able to do this project,” he explains. “I would have not been able to do it without the support of the shops and my friends, especially Laurie and our two children, Nicholas and Caitlin. They have all helped out tremendously; the time I spent with my son over the five years of this build has turned him into a complete motorhead, and even though we are restoring a Camaro for him, I know he is an Oldsmobile connoisseur at heart. I call the car “Rocket’s Revenge” because you rarely see a 442 chosen for this kind of build, especially on Long Island where almost every car is a Chevelle or a Camaro. The Journey I have been on with my Oldsmobile has been one wild ride and is far from over.”
Who: John Trial
What: 1967 Olds 442
Where: Long Island, NY
Body and Paint: Trial turned to North Point Restoration and Collision in Westbury, NY, for the body and paintwork. “The sheetmetal remains all original,” Trial says, “including the trunk and floor, which saved a ton of work and allowed time and funds to be spent on customizing and detail work!” The techs at North Point completely disassembled the car and mounted the body on a rotisserie. Frenched door handles from Kindig It Design were installed “for a clean and custom look while maintaining an almost stock illusion from the sideview.” The trunk lock and emblem were replaced with a third brake light that’s actually a side-marker light from a 1968 Cutlass. The firewall was reworked to be completely smooth and devoid of anything except the brake booster and master. After a lot of debate, Trial chose to go with 2013 Bentley colors: Dark Sapphire Blue for the upper surfaces and Silverlake Blue on the lower panels and undercarriage. The waterborne Spies Hecker paint was sourced from Axalta Coating Systems. The company’s local rep, Erik Turner, happens to be an Olds enthusiast and helped with the paint process. After the underside and inner workings of the body were painted. it was reassembled for application of the outer coats. Don “Figgy” Figilozzi laid down a tricolor pinstripe where the two shades of blue meet using the three colors of the 442 emblem.
Chassis: The car still retains its original chassis, which was sandblasted and painted with POR15 chassis black for a clean look and lasting corrosion protection.
Suspension: The A-body sits 3 inches lower than stock, thanks to The Right Stuff Detailing drop spindles and custom springs. Oversize front and rear sway bars, boxed lower control arms, and traction-assist rear frame supports from OPGI complete the suspension modifications.
Steering: Trial upgraded his Oldsmobile’s steering with an Ididit billet column mated to an OPGI steering box. The box features a quicker-than-stock ratio requiring three turns lock-to-lock.
Brakes: The Right Stuff Detailing was called upon to supply a four-wheel disc-brake conversion kit featuring slotted and drilled rotors for improved cooling. A 9-inch booster and stock-style master cylinder complete the system.
Wheels and Tires: Trial turned to Centerline for modern wheels with a vintage look. The Sundance Series Boulevard wheels were rotary forged from T-6061 aluminum and sized at 18×9.5 inches for the rear and 18×8 inches up front. They wear Nitto 555 tires measuring 295/45-18 in the rear and 245/45-18 in the front.
Engine: Like any true Olds fanatic, Trial had a Rocket 455 engine sitting around. “It came out of a 1968 Olds 98, and I was saving it for a rainy day.” He brought it to JA Performance in Lynbrook, NY, for a complete teardown and rebuild. After Magnafluxing, the block was bored 0.030-inch over. Speed-Pro hypereutectic pistons were anchored to the stock crankshaft. Mondello Oil restrictors were used with a high-volume pump and 7-quart oil pan. Edelbrock heads were fitted with Crower roller rockers and a Comp Hydro Roller cam. After experimenting with several different carburetors, a FAST EZ-EFI 2.0 carb replacement system sits atop an Edelbrock performer manifold. Spark comes from a FAST Dual-Sync distributor and E6/E92 ignition system kit. Spent gases exit through American Racing headers and polished 3-inch Pypes Performance Exhaust stainless exhaust.
Transmission: The car was originally equipped with a column-shifted M14 three-speed manual gearbox, but a previous owner replaced it with an M20 wide-ratio four-speed. Trial decided to retain the four-speed Muncie “because it’s a lot cooler to go screaming past someone at 3,500 rpm than 1,800 rpm when cruising down the highway.” He turned to Moonlight Garage in New Hyde Park for a comprehensive rebuild.
Rear End: To ensure trouble-free cruising and occasional quarter-mile blasts, Trial bought a new Moser Engineering 12-bolt housing with Moser axles and an Eaton Top Spec carrier. He chose 3.55:1 gears for good off-the-line performance and high-speed cruising.
Interior: R&R Seats in Plainview, NY, handled the interior restoration. “I always liked the look of the 1966 Oldsmobile interior, so we decided to blend the ’66 and ’67 together,” Trial says. “The seat patterns are all custom designed and have three different stich patterns, bringing the light-blue ultra-leather together. The door panels are custom designed and covered in two-tone light- and dark-blue ultra-leather. The console, kick panels, and seatbacks are also covered in ultra-leather. The design of the door panels is continued in the trunk, and the convertible top is dark-blue canvas.”
Electronics: Trial moved the car’s battery to its trunk to make room for W-30 air-intake ducts under the hood. To ensure trouble-free cruising, he replaced stock wiring with new harnesses and related parts from American Autowire Highway 22. Virtually all wiring is hidden underneath or behind something, making for a very clean appearance throughout the car. All lighting throughout was converted to LED, including the sequential taillamps and halo headlamps.
Thanks: North Point Restoration and Collision in Westbury, NY; R&R Seats in Plainview, NY; Moonlight Garage in New Hyde Park, NY; JA Performance in Lynbrook, NY; Axalta Coating Systems; S-K Speed in Lindenhurst, NY; wife Laurie; son Nick; and daughter Caitlin.
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