Subtle Engine Swap! 1961 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88

Put an LS in it“! Is a frequent refrain when asking an open-ended question regarding an old Chevy with hot-rod aspirations. It’s a thing and has been a thing for some number of years now and it continues to progress. And it’s not just Chevies that are the benefactors. A case in point is this 1961 Oldsmobile Dynamic Eighty-Eight – an impressive design in its own right. But the wow factor is more than skin deep so let’s dig a bit. This Olds is located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $11,800 with sixteen bids tendered so far.

While GM’s divisions maintained autonomy in the ’60s, there were shared similarities too that arose from their subsidiaries such as Delco-Remy, Rochester, A/C, Harrison, etc. More visible, were things like rooflines, greenhouses, A and C-pillars courtesy of Fisher Body, and a light, breezy greenhouse/roofline that was referred to as a “Bubble-Top”. It’s a styling and design cue not only obvious on this Dynamic 88 but it appeared on other GM models of the era too. The seller suggests, “THIS CAR IS A SUPER ORIGINAL UNCUT SURVIVOR WITH MOSTLY ORIGINAL PAINT AND INTERIOR“! And it looks great, all of it, the paint, trim and chrome all show as new. Curious are the doggie-bowl hubcaps and red-painted wheels – what are they trying to signal?

Get a load of that dashboard! Cars of this era, upper-scale models anyway, still had instrument panels that were artistic in nature – maybe not like the late ’40s and early ’50s but they were still attention getters. There are auxiliary gauges that have been added and that’s a good move as GM was still overly reliant on the not- always-seen warning lights, popular at this point. The upholstery, door panels, carpet, steering wheel show as new – it appears as if the original Delco radio is even still installed. Listed as a 72K mile example, this Olds presents beautifully, especially considering its 60 years of age (Where has the time gone?)

And now for the elephant in the room, or maybe I should say, the one under the hood, a GM 5.3 Liter “LS” V8 engine hitched to a 700R4, four-speed automatic transmission. The seller adds, “FIRES RIGHT UP AND RUNS STRONG! SOUNDS AWESOME”! This is actually a pretty mild LS swap as the larger 6.2-liter engine has become a mainstay crate motor swap. Nevertheless, the 5.3 is a formidable powerplant, and its overdrive transmission will make for some spirited hot-footin’. The seller mentions that the swap was professionally facilitated.

So, “a super original uncut survivor“? Nope, uncut maybe but not a survivor (though the original 394 CI Olds engine and Hydramatic transmission are available if you want originality). Where I might be reluctant to encourage such a swap at the outset, once it’s done, it’s done, so why not appreciate it and…maybe even enjoy it, right?


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  1. Al

    What a shame… It’s a Newtonville. TOOK AWAY OLDSMOBILE!

    Like 4
  2. Chunk

    That would make a darn good cruiser. I’d have the OEM engine and transmission rebuilt and prepped for storage while they’re out and keep them for posterity’s sake.

    Like 12
  3. Sam Shive

    Sweet Ride.

    Like 8
  4. JoeNYWF64

    This car deserves the proper colored wiper frames.
    Considering how little this car will be driven, this is a silly value reducing eng swap – IMO. I would sooner put in a dual circuit brake mast cyl & maybe disc brakes, cruise control & a/c. Also, i doubt these cars were ever seen back in the day with such tires it is now wearing …
    Then again, such whitewalls could cost more than triple the price of what are on there now, instead of just a few dollars more – back in the day!

    Like 3
  5. David

    I wonder if any work was done to upgrade the brakes. I see the single master cylinder and power booster. Disc brakes? What a beautiful car.

    Like 4
    • Dave

      If you’re going to upgrade the engine it only makes sense to upgrade the brakes and suspension.
      To my eyes, dropping an aftermarket drivetrain into a classic car is lazy. It may well be the seeming best option, but there is no reason why any post-1955 powerplant designed for Interstate travel can’t be used. Transmissions are something else altogether, and there is a ton of history on what works and what doesn’t.
      But then again, I’m the only guy who thinks that a T-bucket powered by a chromed Pinto engine fed by four Stromberg carbs on a hand-made manifold is the most unique build at the show.

      Like 11
  6. Howard A Member

    Sigh,,must we do this with every 60’s classic that comes down the pike? The 394 was an awesome engine. “Ultra High Compression” that my old man ran on regular. It pinged like a Geiger Counter, but took the abuse. Back when motors had some metal in them. This foolishness? Come on, really? The ’61 Olds, to most of us old farts, was simply the nicest car, in fact, all early 60’s GM’s were just the best. To demoralize this fantastic car with some modern motor, to me, is pure blasphemy.

    Like 17
  7. Kenneth Carney

    You’re right Howard, the 394 V-8 was indeed a great engine. Owned a ’62
    Starfire that came so equipped only mine had the 3 deuce manifold on top.
    I recall opening it up by accident when
    the throttle linkage hung up going down
    Route 66 one sunny afternoon in 1970.
    My BIL was driving and buried the speedo at 120+ before we finally got it
    stopped. He never drove it again after
    it scared the crap out of him. As I’ve
    said before, the it was those 4-speed
    slusho matics that held these cars back
    in the performance department. For
    years I’ve always wondered what would
    happen if you bolted an M-22 rock crusher up to a 394 tri power engine that
    was in my car. I’m pushing 70 now and
    still don’t know.

    Like 11
    • Scott C Williams

      The 394 is a great engine – the Roto behind it, not so much. I’d bet that the trans is what drove the swap.

      I had the ’64 version of this car, even the same color combo. Great car, rode like a dream on rural interstates.

      Like 5
      • local_sheriff

        Think you’re spot on there Scott – while I’ve spoken with a few people who still (successfully!) keep the Roto Hydramatic in their ’61-’64 Oldses/Pontiacs, the absolute vast majority seems to have not-so-fortunate experience with it… I’d even go as far as claiming the Roto is THE reason there are so few surviving early 60s Oldsmobiles, and due to a tiny transmission tunnel and need for a bellhousing adapter upgrading to a TH tranny isn’t a walk in the park either.

        I’m normally not a fan of swapping out an OE style driveline in our vintage cars, however in the case of early 60s Oldsmobiles this makes just perfect sense. This is probably the best way in the long run to remedy the issues with the notorious Roto once and for all…😏

        Like 2
    • Dave

      IIRC, Stone, Woods, and Cook ran 394s in their legendary Willys gasser.

      Like 2
  8. Joe Machado

    Disc brakes, why? Ya not gonna drive it anyway.
    I tow trailers, 10,000 lb, loaded with the Original drums, single master, no problem.
    Because I know how to service, repair.
    Restore is not an LSMD what ever. Restore is not any conversion at all, even if you call it an yuppiegrade.
    How many here never owned, or restored, truly, a vehicle?
    Yet, make these upgrade comments.
    Probably drives a Prix us.
    Put the original engine back in.
    Scrap that ugly boat anchor.
    I will not waste my time at shows with mod cars, boring!

    Like 5
  9. 70SuperSport

    I wonder how long those heater hoses will last sitting on the upper a-arm with vibration from the motor.

    Like 2
  10. Mike Morrell

    My grandfather bought an identical 61 Olds Dynamic 88, and it was equipped with dog dish hubcaps from the factory with white body colored wheels. All us “mature” people remember that in the 50″s, the first thing broke guys did to customize their rides was to paint the wheels red, and get whitewall tires. This is a great car and the buyer will be lucky and hopefully continue to improve this “resto mod” and enjoy driving!

    Like 4
  11. Steve Clinton

    I love the car, but HATE the red wheels!

    Like 2
  12. S

    The interior is what really makes me say WOW on this – very cool. They spent a lot of money on that engine – but they left it as a single reservoir master cylinder. Hope the brakes are in good shape! That would be quite a loss if you broke a brake line or hose!

    Like 5
  13. Russ Ashley

    I’d love to have that car, and that LS engine swap doesn’t bother me at all. The original Olds engine drank high test gas and got probably a lot less miles from a gallon. I don’t love the red wheels but if it were mine I’d put the original style trim rings on it. They look good and cover much of the wheels so that the red wouldn’t stand out so much. This was the last year for wide whitewalls. I love whitewalls so I would put the correct width whitewalls on it. I’d put disk brakes on the front so that would necessitate a new dual master, and living in Georgia would necessitate a call to my Vintage Air dealer, and then I’d just enjoy driving it. Well, that’s my dream, maybe someone else will do it.

    Like 3
  14. Miminite

    Admittedly, I am not a GM fan, but gotta say, I like this car. It’s odd enough today that it would be unique on the road and at the vintage car runs. The LS makes it reliable with lots of potential for anything you want out of it. Whether you just want to leave it as is,improve with AC, or soup it up, this is the basics of a platform that you could “take it from here”.

    Price is already up to ~$12K at this writing, so who knows what it will get to. If that’s worth it to the buyer, from the looks of it would be getting something that has great potential IMO. Good luck, great find. I’d own it if I had he room and it would be much cheaper (hopefully, auction not done yet) that the ’62 Pontiac with the 428/4 sp that was on here the other day.

    And yes, the 394 could be stored and make great garage art! I have a hardtail panhead HD that serves the same purpose. It’s not eating anything sitting there lol…

    Like 4
  15. Cadmanls Member

    To all the ney sayers the swap is not a bad idea. Sunday afternoon find the part for that 394 even a valve cover gasket. Come on people the LS is a very reliable and durable power plant. Many on the road today with 200k plus miles. As far as that master cylinder, maintain your brakes! I grew up with them in the rust belt. You can get it slowed down and use the emergency brake. (Parking brake) Seriously the drums stoped the car fine all these years and will continue to do so if maintained. Isn’t like your going to autocross this car. Cruise old route 66 and enjoy the ride. Want a performance car look elsewhere, this was built to cruise and use the cheap gas! Just saying.

    Like 4
  16. Mutt

    Hey, wait a minute…

    This is my father’s Oldsmobile

    Like 14
  17. Brian Weyeneth

    Wheel color is a couple of rattle cans, definitely WWs (Hankook Optimo, 14″). I drive the “64 of the Dynamic Eighty-Eight with the 394, drum brakes and power steering. Delco AM. Someone said earlier to maintain and I do. This ’61? Oh yeah I’m bidding!

    Like 2
  18. Ron Ron

    Big Olds fan here. Very nice ride!

    Like 1
  19. Stan

    Great comments All

    Like 2

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