How Detroit-Area Twin Brothers Revived a "W-43" Olds V-8 Prototype for Autorama - Hagerty Media (2024)

Twin brothers James and John Kryta, 54, and of Romeo, Michigan, are professional car enthusiasts. They own over 40 collector cars, and their livelihood is derived from a popular restoration support business. Their extracurricular activity of choice, oftentimes, is to invest endless hours polishing their rides for the show circuit. Their latest concoction, for the 2024 Detroit Autorama is a prototype 32-valve Oldsmobile V-8 engine that they rebuilt with extremely rare vintage parts and dropped into a yellow 1970 4-4-2. Oldsmobile called this engine the W-43, but the Kryta brothers call it “The Killer.”

Even though they’re identical twins, according to James they do have a few differences. “Yes, we shared a womb and a room. But during our teen years, when we both became hands-on car enthusiasts, our father wisely informed us we’d never earn much of a living with grease under our fingernails. So, I obtained an aircraft powertrain mechanic’s degree at the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, and John studied architecture and engineering at the University of Detroit.

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“My father’s advice was dead nuts. When I was 16, I bought my first car, a ‘71 Olds 4-4-2 W-30, for $2200. A few years later, my second car purchased after I had begun working cost more than ten times that amount.”

Following graduation, James was employed by aviation services company DynAir at various U.S. locations. “One day, while inspecting an extensively damaged aircraft wing,” he recalls, “I noticed it was packed full of fluid lines. When my boss offered me the chance to learn how to fabricate those lines, I wasted no time saying ‘Yes, sir!’”

The knowledge he subsequently gained moved James to create the restoration business Inline Tube in 1995. Brother John joined the enterprise a year later. What began in a two-car garage grew into four buildings staffed with 50 employees shipping a thousand packages per day. Inline Tube currently offers the restoration hobby’s finest brake and fuel lines, hoses, cables, fittings, fasteners, and attachment clips galore.

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Much of the sparkle that Detroit Autoama attendees witness is attributable to Inline Tube’s products and the cars the Kryta brothers frequently enter. It’s not unusual to see John’s Pontiac GTO competing against James’ Oldsmobile in the hard-fought Restored class. This year, the year of The Killer, is an exception.

With John’s current project in the paint shop, it was James’ job to bring home this year’s bacon. His Olds had a humble beginning: It was parked outside for years in Indiana, the engine was gone, and it took five years to refurbish. That said, its most remarkable attribute is what now lies beneath the twin-scooped hood.

“Twenty years ago, while shopping RacingJunk.com,” John explains, “I stumbled across a listing for some prototype Oldsmobile engine equipment. While I’d never heard of the 455-cubic-inch, 32-valve W-43 V-8, I was intrigued to say the least. The asking price for this gear was $10,000; naysayers called it a boat anchor and insisted it would never run. Nonetheless, we grabbed that prize for $5000 and what we dubbed ‘The Killer V-8′ will be showcased in James’ 1970 Olds 4-4-2 coupe at this year’s Detroit Autorama.”

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The plot thickens. “In the early 1970s,” John says, “shortly after the W-43 lost all hope of entering production, several Olds engineers and PR personnel flew out to California to tout their project for Petersen Publishing Company editors at Car Craft, Hot Rod, and Motor Trend magazines. At that time, this wasn’t a complete running engine but rather a hollow shell suitable for photography and a collection of internal parts highlighting the W-43’s attributes.” (Read our technical breakdown of the Oldsmobile W-43 V-8 here.)

“The trip to California was to gain publicity, after the engineering project had been terminated by GM’s upper management. Given that, the Olds folks asked the writers to chuck these engine parts in a dumpster after their stories were completed. Lucky for us, that request was ignored. These priceless W-43 components went home with someone from Petersen in 1971, only to resurface decades later.

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“Cajoling the vintage parts into a running engine was no small feat. The first problem was a parts shortage. One cylinder head was missing, so we had to reverse engineer it and a few other components. Extensive machining was required. All told, 20 people got involved, including one ex-Oldsmobile engineer who requested anonymity. Scott Tiemann, the CEO of Supercar Specialties in Portland, Michigan, quite capably handled final assembly.”

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So, what kind of power does this 32-valve V-8 produce? “We were prudent during testing to avoid blowing up our irreplaceable parts. Imposing a modest redline, we measured 560 hp at 6000 rpm and 540 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm,” James Kryta notes. “But eliminating the significant restrictions by adding multiple carbs and efficient exhaust headers would easily have improved those figures.”

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To inspect the W-43 engine and James’ yellow 1970 4-4-2, we visited a clandestine detailing shop located 50 miles north of GM’s long-gone Lansing assembly plant where this Olds was built. The facility’s proud owner began the tour with an inspection of the car’s sparkling underside. At the rear, there’s an interesting final drive consisting of an aluminum W-27 center section creatively welded to steel axle housings. The driveshaft has twin paint stripes replicating marks that would have been applied by the factory during its spin-balancing operation. Like W-30 4-4-2s of the day, the transmission is a Muncie aluminum-cased four-speed stick. I was amazed at how many undercar parts left the factory without a hint of paint or rust protection, but James insisted this was standard practice back in the day.

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This 4-4-2’s scooped hood combines a fiberglass outer element married to a stamped-steel liner ramming cold air to a 750-cfm Rochester Quadrajet. The broad silver-and-blue valve covers pierced by spark plugs will surely attract drooling admirers at Autorama, along with the bright red fender liners. The W-43 emissions sticker, created by James, is another fastidious touch. When asked how or from where he found a perfect vintage battery, he reported, “I made those filler plugs with my 3D printer. In addition, I attend lots of shows to buy up new-old-stock parts for our cars.”

My hour-long inspection revealed that this factory experimental Olds 4-4-2 W-43 is perfect down to the tiniest detail. I will be on hand at Detroit’s Huntington Place, formerly Cobo Hall, to applaud what I suspect will be its victory.

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