Tag Archives: oldsmobile

To All the Cars I’ve Loved Before: Part 3a

Terribly sorry about the significant delay in getting this finished. I actually started this article in November. Holidays and a death in the family in addition to the very first total loss claim in my automotive history (I wasn’t driving and nobody was hurt thank God) rather put a roadblock to the creative juices needed to make the story interesting reading so I took a long hiatus.  So let’s get back to work.

This part of the story may be the longest, it will, oddly, be the only one that talks about a single car so I am going to split it into sections marked with a letter.

1967 Olds 442 side view

You may remember that at the end of Part 3 my father had ordered me to get rid of the “death machine”. A heavily modified Peerless GT that, if I am honest, had no business being on the road. It was a race car. My friend Kenny and I took off to look for a replacement. I had invested all I had in the Peerless and, at the time, only had a minimal income from working as an apprentice mechanic and a dishwasher at a local graduate school. I had been accepted into a military academy so my life was starting to change directions very quickly during this time period and so I knew it would need to be a car that I could literally trade for, or keep the dollars to a minimum. Kenny had contacts in the industry and one of them was a man named Don Hood who, at the time, owned one of the largest Toyota dealerships in the state. It was 1973 and the gas crisis was in full-blown development. Toyota was taking the country by storm and Kenny pointed out that Mr. Hood had a huge selection of great muscle cars that could be had for a ‘song’. We sold the Peerless and pocketed the cash once we realized no dealer would touch the machine.

Mr. Hood walked us around and we found a almost cherry 1967 Oldsmobile 442 that was actually $300 below our budget. The car looked so good we had to ask, “Mr. Hood, why is it so cheap?”

“The car was traded in by an IBM salesman,” he replied. “It is only 6 years old and looks great but it has a lot of miles on it and there is some problem with it under full throttle.”

Kenny recommended a test drive and I concurred. We started the car and were immediately impressed with the rumble from the dual-exhaust being pumped through a factory installed Offenhauser header system that was matched to the Offenhauser intake manifold with three huge dual-throat carburetors. The power was transmitted through a T-10 Borg-Warner 4-speed nicknamed the Rock Crusher by aficionados. So we took it out on the street. After a bit of slow cruising while the engine came up to temperature we started getting on the throttle and that is when it happened! The whole car felt like it had simply run out of gas. The power dropped and when the throttle was removed and you tried to accelerate it would backfire. I stated the obvious, this car is “crap”! Kenny asked me to hold on just a moment and jumped out and popped the hood. I heard him tapping something, the hood came back down and he returned to the seat. I asked what was wrong and he simply replied, “Take us back to the dealer, don’t put the throttle down more than halfway, this is your car…trust me.”  I took Kenny at his word and returned to the dealership and traded $900 for the car.

We drove it home, slowly, and once there Kenny got out and together we looked at the engine under the hood. He pulled the air cleaner off the engine and showed me that the linkage to the two secondary carburetors was sticking when the throttles opened wide. Once open they stayed open and he car was getting far too much air at part throttle. He made a few adjustments and retightened the center section of the primary carb to the base plate. Once these adjustments were made the car ran like a top. So, of course, we simply had to take it out.

Back in the early 70s Camelback Road running west from 75th Avenue was a desolate landscape of open farmland that ran all the way to Litchfield Park Rd where it T-boned in front of the runways for Luke AFB. So we took the Olds onto that road and floored it. We dropped into a dry riverbed and up the other side with the car going so fast you couldn’t hear the motor and all there seemed to be was this bass vibration coming up through the seats. As we climbed up the other side I saw flashing red lights behind me! I looked at the speedometer and it was completely off the clock! I had no idea how fast we were going all I knew was that at that speed a ticket would be the least of our problems. So we kept the throttle down all the way to Litchfield Rd and the red lights got smaller and dimmer as the distance between us increased. By now we were also getting low on fuel, at this speed the best the Olds could do was about 2 miles to a gallon of fuel! I knew there was a petrol station 2 miles north on Litchfield Park Rd so I got on the brake and drifted the car through the turn and headed north. By now I couldn’t even see the lights anymore and hoped the police officer had given up the chase. I pulled into the gas station and began filling the car. Kenny put the top up as it was getting cold now that night had fallen and then went into the market to get us a couple drinks while paying for the fuel (yes, we pumped first and paid after back then). As he walked out of the market a police car pulled in behind me, lights on, siren blaring and tires squealing. The door of the police cruiser opened and he looked around. We were the only car there and I could distinctly hear the motor ticking as it cooled from its run.

“Were you driving this car a few minutes ago on Camelback Rd?” the officer asked.

I simply looked at him, not sure what to say and shrugged my shoulders. Kenny, being a bit more experienced than I in such situations added, “Might have been him, might have been me, are you sure it was this car? I am not sure what the name of the road we were on was.”

This actually got a chuckle out of the officer and he seemed to visibly relax.

“You know, I am not sure this IS the car, I don’t remember it having a white roof.” he then added, “I clocked the mother at 146 MPH in a 45 MPH zone.”

I looked him in the eye and said, “I am not sure this car could get up to that speed, only just got it.”

At that the officer simply said, “Please drive safe and keep it under control. Have a good night.” He got back into the cruiser and drove off.

We did keep it under the limit on the drive home down Glendale Avenue.

I spent the next couple weeks doing things like detailing the engine, restoring the logos, polishing up the factory original Viking Blue paint. I even pulled the fake wire-wheel style hubcaps and polished each spoke and remounted them although we did invest in some high quality rubber and custom wheels for “race day” events. We even installed my first CB radio in order that we could interface with long-haul truckers in order to keep a weather eye on the local yokels in order to prevent future “flashing light” events such as the previous.

That summer we drove the car to Big Surf for a small party and get together for Kenny as he had joined the Army and was getting ready to start his training. As we were leaving at the end of the day we found two really attractive women standing by the Olds, they wanted a ride. They were college gals: I had just finished High School so was duly impressed. I hit the road leaving Tempe with these two women sitting together in the backseat. The oddity of the seating arrangement became clear once I was on the freeway with the top down. Cars would come up alongside and toot, guys were pumping their fists in the air. “What the Hell” I am thinking. I glance into my rearview only to see a bared breast and nipple staring at me! I turn and gape into the backseat and the gals are perched on the flat plate area above the rear seat wearing nothing up top! I yell at them to get back inside before a cop pulls us over. Fun over they ask to be dropped off at the next exit to which I complied. The influence this event had upon me will become apparent in a future post.

Kenny left for training and was posted to Korea later, he never came back. I was told that he perished in a traffic accident when the open vehicle he was driving flipped over while on patrol. God rest you Kenny, everything that ever involved vehicles and my future was all due to your influence and patience.

To All the Cars I’ve Loved Before: Part 2

Yes, it has been some little while. Much has been happening in our family life that just left me feeling unable to exercise the muse of writing. I have determined that the best cure for this malaise is to pick up the keyboard and just go for it. Before we get back to the cars I should add a small disclaimer here. I am one of the early Beta testers for the new Windows 10 O/S. So I want to do as much as possible using that system. They tell me it could have bugs and possibly display some “temperament”. So far it hasn’t showed me any problems and actually works better than the Windows 7 that was originally installed on this particular system. I still have the Surface Pro and love it but I promised to give this a thorough wringing out over the next several months.

Okay, so where were we? Let’s see we had just returned to the US, while the rest of the family stayed in family lodging at Travis AFB my father and I had to drive up to Portland, OR to pick up the new car. It was the first new car my father had ever purchased that I could remember. He had ordered it through the special Exchange program and the car could basically be ordered custom. He opted for an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

1972 Cutlass Supreme in Viking Blue
1972 Cutlass Supreme in Viking Blue

with some odd options: as usual he wanted the biggest engine so he got the 455ci Police interceptor motor with the TH400 automatic, no A/C (more on this further on) and an 8-track player. When we arrived at the dealership and picked up the car the dealer included a sample tape that had an odd mix of music from classical to western. It was a great selection and the sound system, for the time, was excellent. We had a very enjoyable drive back to Travis and picked up the family then drove to our final destination, the place my dad intended to retire to . . . Phoenix, AZ aka the Valley of the Sun. We arrived in early April and the car was great, he even drag raced a Corvette and taught it that there is more to speed than a name! I had to get a learner’s permit and start driving training all over, AZDOT didn’t recognize a DL issued to a 14 year-old! It was my father that put me up to it, but if they could have read Tagalog it was actually for a motorcycle as that is what I drove in the P.I. When summer came we got our eyes opened, it was HOT. I’m talking Satan going back to H3LL to get away from the Arizona heat. People were shocked that my dad owned a car without A/C. Dealers wouldn’t even consider a trade for it. I got my license that summer and my dad was determined to keep the car until paid for. So he decided I would get a car of my own as I was going into my senior year at school and he thought it appropriate.

1967 Buick LeSabre
1967 Buick LeSabre

This was my dad’s idea of a cool set of wheels. It was smooth and reliable, the A/C didn’t work! but it was cheap. He paid the guy $265 dollars and even got a rifle (.30-.30 Winchester) thrown in as the student was returning to the USSR and they didn’t allow private ownership of weapons like that. About the only thing I really remember about the car was that it had this dial that you could turn on the Speedometer and when you approached the speed indicated it would buzz at you, loudly if you went over so I generally kept it set to 120 MPH! That made it more interesting when you heard the buzz. Now I am going to be totally honest, I wasn’t enthralled with this automobile and I had a job working in the school kitchen where my dad was working by this time. My dad told me I could trade the car in on anything I wanted as long as he didn’t need to cosign a loan (in other words I had to pay cash) and so I saved like mad and kept my eyes open. So, toward the end of summer, I am driving home from work and sitting on the corner of 75th Avenue and Camelback Road I saw the following:

1959 Peerless GT
1959 Peerless GT

I called the number on the windshield and the owner arrived to allow me a test drive. He didn’t let me drive it at first, he started the car and proceeded to scare the living shyte out of me by zipping around neighborhood streets in an area under construction. the car was so quick it was getting up to 60 or 70 MPH and then drifting around corners with enough G-force to make your neck hurt. I was unaware that the owner had modified the car and that the 289ci Ford V-8 was not factory. Basically the guy had built a homegrown version of the AC Cobra but since this car was so much lighter it was hugely faster. There were a lot of interesting things about the car: two gas tanks of 8 gallons each right under each door (real safe huh?), the windows didn’t crank up and down – rather there is a lever in each door that would slam the window from fully open to fully shut and the reverse with a simple tug. It had a rear seat so it could be qualified into its class for road races – this rear seat was made out of paper thin fiberglass and you could lift it up and see the welded steel frame the car was constructed of. It also featured knockoff hubs for quick tire changes and a mechanical windshield wiper that you had to step on to activate. He wanted $1200 for it, I offered him the Buick and $650 and ended up driving the car home. It was huge fun to drive for all of a week, then my father “borrowed” it and drove it to work one day. Upon his return I was informed that the “death trap” had to go! NOW!! So I called my friend Kenny and asked him for help. Kenny was a master mechanic and I was apprenticed to him while I was learning how to work on cars, we also had been participating in local racing events as pit crew and/or driving when the opportunity presented.

This was a busy summer but the car Kenny and I chose ended up being one of the best investments I had made to this time and it deserves an entry of its own so allow me to pause here and you can look forward to Part 3 soon.