Jay Leno wheeled something very special into his garage for the most recent episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage.” Namely, a 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass “Banshee” offroad racing car, driven by the likes of actor/racer James Garner, and former Indy racing driver Wally Dallenbach Sr.
The car is a shortened, lifted take on the production Cutlass of the day, built on a tube frame chassis with a mid-mounted engine, and more than a foot lopped off the wheelbase. The body is a fiberglass facsimile of the Oldsmobile Cutlass body, just shrunk down to somewhere around two-thirds scale. It has performed in the Baja 1000 offroad race in Baja, Mexico, and still races to this day in the hands of the son and grandson of the previous owner, Ray Swift.
Oh, but that mid-mounted engine? It sits in the cabin, right next to the driver. Because race car. Reportedly, the driver could then tune the original carburetor while driving, but the engine has since been replaced with an all-aluminum LS3 with electronic fuel-injection. The gearbox is the same Turbo 400 automatic three-speed as used in the original car, albeit fortified.
The 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass “Banshee” is such an effortlessly cool piece of American motor racing history, it really belongs encased in glass. But who could bring themselves to put it there? The car’s sound, stance and livery demand a trail of dusty roads to devour.