Oldsmobile didn’t design the...
Oldsmobile didn’t design the tach mount for this car; it designed it as a clock mount for the ’53 models. Filled with an Auto Meter tach, however, it looks as if it was supposed to be there from day one.
Backing the engine is a transmission unique to the mid ’60s, a TH400 with the switch-pitch torque converter. Its variable vanes make the converter act as a high-stall converter for greater torque multiplication during acceleration or, with the flick of a switch, as a low-stall converter for nearly direct-drive highway operation. Gary Hodges rebuilt it.
Benchmark Fab modified more of the body than just the hood. It smoothed the firewall, fabricated smooth inner fender panels, and built a core support and cover for a more modern GM cross-flow radiator. It shot the body with Martin Senour two-pack urethane but Duane, not Benchmark, painstakingly straightened and polished the stainless trim. How’s this for clever? To make the reverse lights match the taillights Duane replaced the flat lenses with bullet-shaped parking lights from the first-generation Corvette.
In the sense that the interior was recreated with NOS materials it is faithful to the original; however, Larry’s Upholstery in Albany, Oregon, departed from the design. Benchmark created the underdash panel that houses the ancillary Auto Meter gauges and Vintage Air vents. For a twist, Duane reconfigured the stock Olds vent controls to operate the Vintage Air Gen II climate system.
Benchmark also created the aluminum panel that mounts the Custom Autosound head unit. It powers 6-1/2-inch and 6x9 coaxial drivers hidden behind perforated leather panels. Had we thought to photograph it, you’d see the late-model GM compass/thermometer rearview mirror that Benchmark adapted to the windshield.
Judging merely by this book’s cover would you have guessed such a stock-appearing car could be so manipulated? To be fair I didn’t, and I know ’56 Oldsmobiles fairly well. But that’s what made Duane Sorensen’s car so appealing; as if an onion peeled, it revealed layer upon layer of very thoughtful changes. That someone would go to such effort to create what appears to be a mildly looking car takes guts. After all, modifications cost a lot and it stands to reason that the one footing the bill would want the results to show.
To paraphrase a quote, any intelligent fool can make things more complex, which is what most custom cars turn into. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction. And to actually see it in action really is a bolt from the blue.