Mark Thatcher’s 1966 Olds 4-4-2 Fuses Power and Performance
By Chuck Vranas – Photography & Videography by the Author
The mid-to-late ’60s were one of the most exhilarating times for performance enthusiasts since the horsepower wars were peaking between all of the domestic automakers to see who would dominate the streets and dragstrips. Regardless of whether you lived in a major metropolitan area or a small country town, the sounds of big cubic-inch mills echoed across the landscape. For Mark Thatcher of East Bangor, Pennsylvania, this was only part of the formula that led him to the wicked 1966 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 you see before you.
For Mark, growing up in a family with a loyalty to the Oldsmobile marque, he was drawn to them from the beginning. Luck just so happened to be in his favor since he lived down the street from Stewart Chevrolet/Oldsmobile growing up in Belvidere, New Jersey. While most kids his age were building scale models, he was frequenting the dealership to check out the latest performance offerings from GM, especially the arrival of the very first Olds 4-4-2s.
It wasn’t long till he fell under the spell of Dr. Oldsmobile, a mad scientist wearing an iconic white lab coat who was creating a monster for the street in an exciting advertising campaign. At that moment he pledged allegiance to the Dr. and by the time he was 17, traded cash for the keys to a 1969 model. As the years passed there were a number of Oldsmobiles that spent plenty of time under his watch. Mark always had a particular passion for the 1966-1967 4-4-2 design ever since seeing the first one arrive at the dealership as a teenager.
Without wasting any time, he started a nationwide search for the perfect candidate for the transformation. He eventually located a rust-free, unrestored 1966 4-4-2, which was complete in every respect. Although the car had seen far better days, it was rock solid, so a deal was made and the keys changed hands. Soon after acquiring the car he met with close friend and builder, Dave Vrankin of Forest Hill, Maryland, to evaluate the purchase and discuss his ideas for the project. The pair shared many of the same ideas for retaining the near-stock elegance of the original body lines while also upping the ante by checking off all the go-fast boxes to give the car canyon-carving capabilities fused with a supercharged modern V-8.
With the car now disassembled in Dave’s shop, it was obvious that the original frame wasn’t going to be up to the task. The fact that Mark wanted the car to handle like it was on ’rails meant that they’d a need serious purpose-built and engineered base to handle the task, so they contacted Roadster Shop for one of their Fast-Track chassis. Starting with hand-fabricated 10-gauge boxed framerails and custom crossmembers for absolute strength creates the perfect spine. A Strange Engineering 9-inch Ford rear was hung out back packing 3.23:1 gear-turning 31-spline axles. It’s suspended in place by a large-diameter four-link along with a 1.25-inch splined sway bar, Panhard bar, and Penske double-adjustable coilover shocks wearing Hyperco springs. To infuse plenty of razor-sharp handling, the Fast-Track front suspension features proprietary geometry matched to C6 Corvette spindles with Z06 hub assemblies along with their exclusive upper and lower control arms, 1.25-inch splined sway bar, and Penske double-adjustable coilover shocks with Hyperco springs. If you’re going at light speed, you’d better be able to drop anchor in an instant. A Hydratech hydraulic brake assist unit meets a Baer dual master pushing fluid through stainless lines to Baer Pro + 14 brakes featuring 14-inch cross-drilled and slotted rotors with six-piston calipers at each corner. Bringing all the newfound handling to the street are a set of American Racing Model VF510 wheels, sized 18×8 front and 20×12 rear, wearing Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT rubber for plenty of grip.
Wanting to pack the engine bay with wickedness, a call was made to Chevrolet Performance for one of their 6.2L supercharged LSA crate V-8s. Displacing 376 ci, the engine delivers impressive performance throughout the rpm range with 9.1:1 compression generating 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque for plenty of tire-smoking power. It’s packed with the best bits available, starting with a cast-aluminum block filled with a forged steel crank linked to powdered metal rods wearing hypereutectic aluminum pistons. A hydraulic roller cam sets the beat while high-flow aluminum L92-style port heads generate seamless power and EFI with a 1.9L supercharger with four-lobe high-twist rotors to seal the deal. To add even more edge, a VaporWorx fuel management system was added, combined with fine-tuning from LS power-master Dennis Wheet. With everything settled in place, Dave detailed the engine and also fabricated the custom radiator shroud and fresh-air plumbing. Roadster Shop stainless steel headers dump spent gases through a custom 3-inch stainless exhaust with Walker Quiet-Flow mufflers by Dave. The dynamite moves through a GM 4L85E trans to a custom driveshaft by Ron Hash at Perry Hall Power Equipment.
Thankfully the body, although having seen a rough life, was mostly rust-free and still wearing all of its original trim. Dave stripped the shell, had it blasted and set on a rotisserie to address any repairs followed by metal-finishing and setting the gaps. To accommodate the new wider rubber, the factory rear wheeltubs were widened 3 inches along with the addition of a 1969 Dodge Charger flip-style fuel cap to update the original gas fill from behind the rear license plate. To seal the deal Dave filled his spray gun with PPG Rhapsody Blue and laid down the vibe to bring everything to life. Charger Metal Works in Philadelphia added the final glamour with fresh chrome plating and polishing.
To create a business office that would perfectly complement the exterior, a call was placed to Chris McClintock of BUX Customs in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, to infuse a creative level of stylish elegance. The factory dash was refreshed and packed with gauges from Speedhut while the restored original steering wheel mounts to an ididit tilt column while Restomod Air sends along a cool breeze. The reworked 2017 VW GTI seats installed by Dave were reshaped by BUX and treated to Carlyle blue leather from Moore & Giles in a classic pleated style to match the reworked rear seat, custom door panels, and dash. A 1972 Buick Rivera console was then masterfully fitted and finished with a custom headliner and complementing blue carpet. Finally, a custom wiring harness by Mike Baldwin of Forest Hill brought it all to completion. We’re sure that Dr. Oldsmobile would approve of the newfound performance and handling brought to his iconic 4-4-2. MR