Big Bad Olds
Chris Johansen is on a mission to build the world’s fastest Oldsmobile—at least the fastest with an Oldsmobile engine.
He calls his big 1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88 the “Dirty Delta,” since he never washes it. But it’s so fast that no one has time to notice its condition anyway—the behemoth pounds the quarter mile in under 11 seconds at speeds over 120 mph.
The only thing better than the name given to Johansen’s car is the story of how he acquired it.
“A man owed me a bunch of money, so I went to his house with a baseball bat,” Johansen said. “I told him I was leaving with something, and I left with the car.”
When he took the car back to his shop—legally and with the title in-hand—it weighed over 5,000 pounds. Now, it’s just under 2,000 pounds thanks to a lot of man hours (he speculates over 1,000) and some clever weight trimming by Johansen.
“I put in sheet metal floors, narrowed the frame rail so I could enlarge the slicks,” Johansen said. “I have a four-link suspension in there, I made the back out of an old aluminum table from a restaurant I found in the scrap yard.”
Johansen races his Delta as many as 40 times a year, and it wins. He said he’s gotten over 100 trophies from racing the car, including a Wally at an NHRA event in Mobile, Ala.
A car like this can’t have just one nickname, though, so around his local track in Gulfport, Miss., Johansen’s ride is known to the regular patrons as “Two Tons of Fun.”
“The announcer at the track saw it, and he said, ‘That looks like a lot of fun; let’s call it two tons of fun,’” Johansen said.
Johansen got the car in 1998, and ever since he’s been modifying the ride and trying to make it faster. Adding a nitrous kit, a two-liter compression kit, cast-iron hands, an Eagle crank and rods, a 4,000 rpm stall converter and 4:10 gears in a 12-bolt rear end. Johansen said he’s spent at least $8,000 on the engine and
accompanying parts alone.
His addiction to speed comes from a seemingly harmless taunt from his cousin.
“I have a cousin, he told me, ‘You’ll never see a 13-second pass in an Oldsmobile engine.’ I worked on it and did it. He said, ‘you’ll never see an 11-second pass,’ and I did it. I asked him, ‘what’s next?’ And he said, ‘you’ll never do a 10-second pass,’ and I did 10.86 in a quarter mile at 120.45 MPH.”
Next up for the Delta, Johansen said he wants to get a ladder bar suspension. With that installed, he said he thinks he can run between nine and 10 seconds. And he has another reason to build the world’s fasted Oldsmobile, too, now that his wife will watch him race.
“My wife hates it,” Johansen said of the Delta. “She wishes it would blow up. I love my wife and she loves me, but she hates that car. At least she’ll go to the track with me now.”