There are some combinations that just don’t sound like they’d work together, but that’s not going to stop people from trying to put them together. Ben Bowman created one of these combos by grafting a 1966 Corvair body onto the chassis of a 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass. If that wasn’t enough, Bowman stuffed a 1,000 horsepower-capable LS combination under the hood for good measure.
Bowman’s path to becoming a mad scientist with a wrench began when he was 14 years old after he purchased his first car, a 1968 GTO. The Pontiac became the central focus of Bowman’s life and he spent whatever money he could earn restoring the car.
Bowman worked on the GTO with his father, who was a racer himself, and that led to another experience that would change Bowman’s life.
“When I was 14, my dad put me in his Chevelle drag car to make some passes at the track. I was pretty tall, so nobody asked any questions, but if they did, dad told me to tell them I had a driver’s license. The car wasn’t super quick, but it was cool as a 14-year-old,” Bowman says.
The GTO Bowman restored with his father is a nice car, so when it came to start another project, Bowman wanted something different. Bowman started searching for a first-generation Pontiac Firebird with some cool patina that he could build into a driver. The quest for a Firebird wasn’t going as planned, but striking out in that area allowed Bowman to go a different and non-traditional route.
“This car came into the picture when I was talking with a friend who happened to have it sitting behind his shop. He was going to scrap it, so I asked him how much he wanted for it, and I got it for $50. It already had the cool patina that I was looking for, and that sealed the deal. I started doing some research and found that somebody had in fact put a Corvair body on a G-body chassis, so I knew it could be done. I found a wrecked Cutlass, bought the car, parted it out, and made my money back just keeping the frame,” Bowman explains.
So, Bowman now had two cars he needed to morph into one, a rough plan, and plenty of motivation. When you look at the Corvair there are plenty of cool custom touches you can see, from the badges Bowman made and the hand-built firewall. What you don’t see are things like the floor and transmission tunnel that he fabricated to make the car easier to work on, and to get the Corvair body to fit on the Cutlass chassis.
For Bowman, the best part of this project was figuring out how to get everything to work together when combining the two cars. It wasn’t easy, but it was very rewarding for him.
“Everyone thought I was crazy, but I had fun building it. This car I don’t have to worry about keeping clean, and that’s nice, since I live on a gravel road. The most challenging part was getting the alignment right, and figuring out how to get everything to fit. I had to make sure the body was straight and true with the frame. I think the Corvair was in an accident, so that made getting it lined up on the chassis a challenge. After I got that figured out, everything else started falling into place,” Bowman states.
For most people, just getting this project finished and running would be more than enough…performance would have just been an afterthought. Well, Bowman isn’t most people, so the Corvair needed to have some pep in its step. A 6.0-liter LQ4 truck engine that’s filled with Gen IV LS connecting rods, stock pistons, a stock crank, and ARP hardware found its way into the Corvair. A set of stock 317 LS cylinder heads were bolted onto the engine, along with a stock LS6 intake. Boost is pumped into the engine through a custom turbo system Bowman built that features a BorgWarner 80mm turbo.
Extreme Automatics built a custom 4L80E transmission and torque converter for Bowman’s engine combination. To control the LS-based engine, Bowman uses a Holley Terminator ECU. When Bowman took the Corvair to the track for the first time, it ran a best of 9.80 at 140 mph. Bowman is still trying to sort the tune and suspension out, so he thinks the car will go much quicker in the future.
It’s really cool to see people like Ben Bowman dive into uncharted waters and build something that’s unique. If you want to learn more about this build and see its progress, make sure you check out Bowman’s YouTube channel UnderDog Performance right here.