MARCH 2024: 1968 OLDS 442 TRIBUTE—AN 18-YEAR HIBERNATION…AND 5 ENGINES LATER

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Tribute cars are a hot commodity because Detroit only built so many classic muscle cars, so the next best thing is to build your own version of a classic muscle car.

The best part about a tribute is you can go off the program and add things that weren’t found on the factory option lists.

This 1968 Olds 442 tribute represents Ed Hildebrandt’s vision of how he would have built this legendary 60s muscle car.

Jerry Sutherland

Ed called this car a “field find” because that’s where it sat for 18 years. The owner had received many offers, but the answer was always the same— “no”. Ed’s timing was good because the owner had just been served divorce papers, so the Olds was on the table.

The game plan for the Olds was simple. This was going to be an Olds 442 tribute/street/track car. The Olds was basically solid, so the focus was on the engine under the hood because this car had to meet high performance standards at the track. He went to the Olds 442 theme because he found pieces were much more available for a 442 than an Olds Custom.

The process took ten years because Ed did a frame-up restoration on the Olds, but he left little things like a crack in the dash because he wanted “a part of its nostalgia”. The seats were redone, and Ed added 442 badges in the appropriate spots on the car. The paint is a custom color that changes in the sunlight—a variation on the original jade gold paint.

The suspension is a state-of-the-art coil-over setup that he can adjust for a better launch at the track. He can work with the rear end for the best setup for an ET at the track.   

This is a track car—make no mistake about it. There are numerous functional gauges in the car that tell Ed how everything in the motor and transmission (line pressure) is doing when he makes a run. Ed learned the hard way about monitoring engine diagnostics—he’s blown up five engines and nine transmissions.

The current engine is an industrial version of an Olds 455, but it’s far removed from its stock form.  This engine produces 610 horsepower and 680 ft-lbs. of torque to a 3:90 gear. This gives him a 7:15-second 1/8th mile number.

Ed said they don’t see many Oldsmobiles at tracks, so they call it “Grandpa’s car” when he takes it for a run. Ed’s happy with that because he wanted to keep the conservative look of a typical Olds—a sleeper with a big bite.

Ed loves his time at the track, but he said this car’s original concept was “to be a Sunday driver”, so it sees regular duty at local cruises, so he’s civilized this beast enough for the street. He was at an event and a guy came up and took a deep interest in Ed’s car. Ed said, “He used to own it, so he was really happy to see how it turned out”.             

The best part about this Olds story is how it’s drawn in members of Ed’s family. They all have the Oldsmobile bug—his 442 tribute is part of the family now.        

Jerry Sutherland

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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