Pat Gorman’s stunning 1970 Olds Cutlass has been through a few iterations. It started as a budget build daily driver, then it was a classic hot rod with an Olds 455, and has ended up (for now anyway) as a gorgeous LS-powered Pro Touring car that Pat has built for road racing and autocrossing.

But my favorite part of the story is how Pat got the car. I’ll let him tell it:

“I obtained the car in 2010. I was 13. My Dad got his first Olds Cutlass when he was a teenager and I wanted to be like my Dad. I kept looking for a project car.

“I had about $1000 saved up from cutting lawns and birthday and Christmas presents. I was looking on Craig’s List but there wasn’t much available, and the stuff that was in my price range was in pretty rough shape.

“I started to look on eBay, which I tried to avoid because I couldn’t afford to ship a car across the country. But I sorted them by distance instead of price and I found one that was in Connecticut.

“It was a blue 1970 Cutlass S for $1400. I had no idea about the condition. I asked my parents, ‘My birthday’s coming up, can you spot me the difference? That will be my birthday and Christmas present.’

“They told me to just wait and see what I got for gifts, it might be more than the $400. About two days after that, the car was sold. I really wanted to get that car, but it didn’t work out and I was pretty heartbroken so I just gave up searching.

“On Christmas we were opening presents. My sister was getting concert tickets and I was getting clothes and a calendar. Small things. The last present I opened was like a small jewelry box. I opened it and there was a GM square and oval key in there.

“My parents had said they were going to give me a GMC Square Body that had been in my family as a first project to work on. It was sitting in our backyard. I ran out there to try and open the door, but neither key would work. I thought that whoever cut the keys didn’t do a very good job. I was walking from our back yard to our front yard, all confused about what was going on, and that blue Cutlass that was on eBay was sitting in our driveway.

“My Dad had actually gone up that week that I had talked with him about it and bought it. He was storing it in our neighbor’s house across the street for a couple of months leading up to Christmas. So it all worked out.”

Obviously 13 year-old Pat had a few years yet before he could get his driver’s license. And that turned out to be a good thing. “I didn’t know anything about cars as far as working on them,” Pat told me. “I had no idea what I was getting into. I was in over my head.”

Pat’s plan was to make the Olds a nice budget build. His goal was to get it structurally sound and running well so he could go cruising with it. He started by doing some rust repair. Since the 350 two barrel small block and TH-350 transmission were in bad shape, and he didn’t have the money to rebuild them, Pat pulled them out and stripped the car down to get a good feel for the condition of the car. It wasn’t good.

“The more we dug into it,” Pat said, “the more rust we found. More things that needed to be replaced. Sketchy wiring. I had spent all my money buying the car. Now I was 14 and stressing about not having enough money to finish the car.”

But he kept at it, slowly chipping away at all the work the Cutlass needed. Every year when he’d get money for Christmas or his birthday, Pat would buy another piece he needed.

Pat even ended up taking the Cutlass off the frame to patch the floor pan. “It was on floor jacks and saw horses,” he said. “It was sketchy but it’s what we had at the time. I’d come home from middle school and be out there with a flashlight working. That was all it was for the first couple of years.”

Pat just kept piecing the car together. He said his goal was “not to make it nice, but just to make it decent and not as decrepit as it was.

He found a newly rebuilt Olds 330 small block on Craig’s List for $300. He says that 330 is still one of the best running engines the car has ever had. He installed a TH-200-R4 transmission, aftermarket upper control arms, and front disc brakes. With those mods, Pat drove the Cutlass through high school.

The Cutlass’ second iteration started during Pat’s senior year. He wanted to make the Olds more than just drivable. He wanted more performance as well. The small block was swapped out for an Olds 455. The 200-4R couldn’t take the torque of the big block, so Pat installed the TH-400 out of his Dad’s 442. Pat also installed a Positraction rear end with 3.73 gears.

It was Pat’s freshman year of college when the current version of the car started to take shape.

“I had started following some of the online coverage – Good Guys events, OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car stuff, muscle cars in general,” Pat said. “I liked the idea of the Pro Touring movement – it makes the car perform like a modern car but still look old. My Dad suggested going in that direction, he said the car would be much more livable. That’s when my plan started to take shape.”

The first step was to paint the car. The summer after his freshman year in college Pat and his Dad stripped out all the remaining rust and put in a roll bar. They used pop-up tents to build a paint booth in their driveway.

His Dad had painted a few cars in the 1990s, but Pat hadn’t ever painted a car at all. “We knew it wasn’t going to be perfect,” he said, “but we’re proud of what we have.”

Along with the new paint, Pat added a set of 18″ wheels, bigger disc brakes on the front, and a set of upper control arms from UMI Performance to get the Cutlass started on its Pro Touring journey.

The painting project was long and difficult. Pat said when it was done he was a little burned out. “Once we put it together I just wanted to go out and drive it,” he said. “The car had been apart for about a year at that point. The interior was’t complete. But I was driving it and taking it to shows.”

In 2019 a journalist who worked with Car Craft magazine told Pat they wanted to do a feature on his Cutlass.

“Once we set that up,” Pat said, “we started panicking to finish up the stuff we hadn’t done yet. I didn’t want it immortalized in Car Craft as a half finished project!”

Mechanical upgrades included a Holley Sniper fuel injection system on the 455 and Wilwood disc brakes. Pat also installed Corbeau bucket seats and a Holley digital dash, along with new door panels, and trim pieces to finish up the interior.

[Historic side note: Pat’s Cutlass turned out to be the last Oldsmobile to ever be printed in Car Craft, as they stopped printing the magazine just a few months after the article.]

At this stage Pat said the Cutlass was fun for the street and car shows, and it basically stayed that way for the rest of his time in college while he was obtaining his Mechanical Engineering degree. It’s certainly not the first time in hot rodding history that “life got in the way”. The Cutlass was relegated to the back burner.

But not for long.

Pat graduated and started working as a full time engineer, and with that came some disposable income. His thoughts about the Cutlass at that time were, “I love it but… there’s things I want to change to get it to where I want it to be.”

The first thing he wanted to change was the transmission. Pat had never owned a manual car, so he installed a TREMEC T56 Magnum 6-speed. Along with the transmission, Pat figured it was a good time to address some other odds and ends. Some of the work he’d done when he was 13 years old was starting to show its age.

So in the winter of 2020, he took the Cutlass apart again for another frame-off rebuild, this time in the new workshop that had been built behind his house.

“My long term goal for the car,” Pat said, “was to see how far i could take a stock frame A-body, with stock suspension mounting points, and see how fast I could make it for autocross and road racing, while still maintaining the car’s identity.”

Pat welded in a Summit Racing frame bracing kit, which included the correct crossmember for the T56. He had to cut out the entire transmission tunnel and redo it from scratch because the new trans is so much taller. The sheet metal was compound rolled at a local shop and Pat trimmed it down to install it in the Cutlass.

He opened up the rear wheel wells to accommodate the 315 tires he planned to run. He took a wire wheel to the entire floor to clean it up. A set of Tilton racing pedals on a laser cut mounting plate helped Pat’s 6′ 4″ frame fit a little better in the Olds.

As if he wasn’t busy enough, Pat also started his company Gorman Performance Engineering at this time. Through it he makes some great niche parts for cars. He developed his company’s first product, a solid body mount kit made out of 6061 aluminum, during the rebuild.

The Cutlass was back together by June, 2021. “It was really starting to take shape,” Pat said. “A true pro touring car.”

The plan was to spend that summer getting as much seat time as possible to maximize the Cutlass’ performance on road racing and autocross tracks. Pat went to one event in June, but had a bunch of issues.

That September he registered for the Northeast Muscle Car Challenge in Pennsylvania. It’s a three day road course and autocross event. Pat summed up the weekend thusly: “We had nothing but problems. Crippling mechanical issues.”

His Dad took the Cutlass for its first run. The oil cap fell off and they lost half the oil. In Pat’s first session a coolant hose exploded. When the car wasn’t losing oil, it was burning oil.

“We opted to load the car up after being on the track for just one session,” Pat told me. “I was pretty bummed out.”

It was clear to Pat that the 455 had to be replaced.

“I asked myself what are my long term goals for the car and what engine will get me there,” he said. “I had been a diehard Oldsmobile fan and really wanted this to stay Oldsmobile powered to see what I could do with an Olds engine. But I decided it wouldn’t really make sense. I didn’t want to take on the engineering project to try and make older technology work.

“And it wouldn’t be cheap either. If I’m going to spend that much money, I’m going to do my dream engine. I’m a huge Corvette fan. What better way to combine my passion than to try to turn my car into one. That put me on the path to the LS swap.”

He turned to Golen Racing engines in New Hampshire for an LS7 with a full custom build – the block is the only factory part left. That block contains a forged crank, rods, and pistons creating an 11:1 compression ratio. Golen Racing Engines Private Label aluminum heads team up with a COMP Cams camshaft moving the valves. American Racing headers with 1 ⅞” primaries send the exhaust through a stainless works stainless steel exhaust with an X pipe and Borla mufflers. The normally aspirated V8 puts out a fantastic 700 horsepower on pump gas.

Pat said the LS swap was “pretty intensive”. He had to cut the entire firewall out and set the engine back 3 ½” to get the dry sump oil pan to clear the steering linkage. Although the engine set back provides some benefits on the track by moving the weight back towards the center of gravity, it was the oil pan clearance issue that forced the move. Pat tucked the 2.5 gallon oil tank behind the passenger side fender where the factory blower was.

The Cutlass got some suspension upgrades to go along with its new engine. Back when the car was painted Pat had installed UMI suspension components. In the time since, UMI introduced their Corner Max kit and Pat installed the rest of that kit. He also upgraded to ABC Performance rear control arms and put Viking triple adjustable coil over shocks on the rear.

The Olds has always had power steering. During his college days, Pat installed a 12.7:1 ratio steering box from a Caprice. That wasn’t quick enough so in his senior year he put in a 12:1 box, but as he got more into autocrossing, that one also wasn’t quick enough for Pat. So during LS Swap he put in a super quick 8:1 box. Pat says the new box is “touchy on the street but great for racing. If you’re going over 50 mph you really have to be careful about your inputs, but on the track it’s so nice to not have to go hand over hand.”

Pat has 315/30/18 Nankang CRS tires all around. The Nankangs have the 200 minimum treadwear rating required for autocrossing. The manual brakes are from AP Racing in the front with Wilwoods on the rear.

The Corbeau seats were replaced by Sparco Evo QRT XL fiberglass seats for additional bolstering. But Pat has kept most of the interior stock. He says the weight penalty isn’t all that much, and to him it makes the Cutlass feel more like a complete car.

The LS7 has a very light 8 3/4″ Centerforce triple disc clutch designed for road racing. Pat describes it as “super grabby”. The clutch, combined with the power curve of the cam, makes the Cutlass a little tricky to drive.

“You have to give it 3000 rpm and be super smooth on the clutch pedal,” Pat said, “otherwise you’re going to stall. When it had the 455, with so much torque and big heavy flywheel, it was easy to drive. Now it’s tricky to get going on the street. You know you’re in a car set up for the track. That’s the trade off that people don’t talk about. The conditions are so different that a car that’s great at autocrossing and road racing isn’t going to be great on the street. It’s not built for those conditions.”

But Pat does still drive the Cutlass on the street, and he reports that once he’s cruising the car is incredible. “It doesn’t squeak, it doesn’t rattle, it doesn’t do anything weird. It feels very well put together.” Pat estimates he drives the Cutlass about 1000 miles per year on the street, mostly on weekends.

This year has turned out to be mostly a build and debug year, but Pat plans to hit almost all the big road racing and autocross events in the Northeast next year. He’s been documenting his build and his track time on his Instagram account @the_oldsmobeast, and on YouTube under The Oldsmobeast.

Pat said he loves where his Cutlass is, and where it’s been. “It’s evolved from an overwhelming project, to a mild cruiser, to slowly evolving into a light resto mod, into what it is now.”

I wonder what thirteen year old Pat would have thought if he could have seen what the Cutlass is today.

Photos courtesy of Pat Gorman
Click here to see more photos of Pat’s Cutlass
You can follow the Cutlass’ build on Instagram at @the_oldsmobeast,
and on YouTube under The Oldsmobeast

2 Replies to “Pat Gorman’s ‘70 Cutlass”

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