Footprints in the Snow | Winter Test Drive

Special thanks to Tatu Raatikainen in Finland for providing this special feature!

Oldsmobile 1960 winter test

All the ’60 Olds freaks in Saukonoja gathered together on one Sunday in December to see how the Olds will do in real Finnish winter, also winter characteristics of Coker Classic bias ply tires could be tested in the same time. There are not so many ’60 Olds freaks here so I had to ask my friend Tuomas to help me.

The tested Olds is in a bit kustomized and unfinished state so the test results may not be officially acceptable but that wasn’t very high on our priority list anyway.

Test preparation were started previous evening by leaving the precious Olds to the mercy of Mother Nature to be able to see the real cold start situation. Unfortunately the temperature was only -7°C (not very cold) but it had snowed at night so the conditions were really wintery.

THINGS TO BE TESTED AND EVALUATED:

  • cold starting
  • amount and location of snow inside the car
  • heater performance and other winter characteristics
  • driving on icy/snowy country road
  • comfort and feeling in winter

Winter fuel economy is not on our list because we think no-one is interested in it and in any case enough fuel is definitely burned. The idea of this test brought to my mind Bill Monroe’s song Footprints in the Snow, so music choice for the test was more than obvious. Luckily during the test nobody went singing in the angel band like in that song.

Cold starting

First when the test was started normal routines like checking the oil and coolant levels were done. Also the choke usually needs some attention so it was checked too. This time the choke would have needed a bit more attention than normally, so we went on without choke. Rochester’s hot air-choke is definitely among the most reliable devices in the world but it needs some tender care. Little tweaking weekly, if it doesn’t help then thorough cleaning and lubricating will.

So, this time the choke did not work (usually it does) but it wasn’t really necessary. The engine started well, first running on three or four supported by the starter. As soon as all eight cylinders fired, it ran just fine.

There was no snow at all inside, it was a surprise, this made me think there’s  something good about winter driving. When it’s raining, it’s always raining inside too.

HEATER PERFORMANCE AND OTHER WINTER CHARACTERISTICS

Heating seemed to be a bit slow, maybe the engine temperature rose slowly, would the thermostat be stuck? The Deluxe Heater controls worked like a dream when helped manually just a bit. Windows remained completely bright when there were only two of us. We didn’t have the chance to test with more people but I believe it would have been just fine. Mexican blanket upholstery felt nice and warm against butt cheeks, so who needs any seat heaters after all?

DRIVING ON SNOWY AND ICY COUNTRY ROAD

When I drove to the town on non-plowed road to get some gas I noticed that there’s almost no traction at all, also stability was ”slightly” lost as the Olds was fishtailing all the time.  Braking performance was although surprisingly good but rear-weightednes of the brakes was more significant than in summer. The positive thing would be that no energy drinks are needed to keep the driver awake even on a longer journey.

For the test itself we put a little ballast in the trunk, about 120kg, just in case. The extra wight had a huge impact on driving, even that much that it made me think I could drive the Olds all winter if the weather would be always like this (usually it’s warmer and rainy all winter) and the roads would not be so salty. With the ballast the tires’ traction was unbelievably good, you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover in this case. Even in non-plowed road the Olds runs straight as a train and traction is good enough when you follow good winter driving manners. So, we were on the safe side in all the ways. A bit less ballast might have been enough to avoid rear suspension sitting against the bumpers.

Driving comfort and feeling in winter

These things, comfort and feeling are the most important when driving, not to talk about life itself, as much in summer and winter. So in our test we focused the most on these things. Comfort level is exactly the same than in summer, there’s warm enough inside, and good music playing, so it’s very nice to drive in good company even if you wouldn’t be going anywhere. Snow scraping under the chassis gave an illusion of a sleigh ride, cool!! The feeling may be even better than in summer, maybe because this was something new for me because I haven’t driven the Olds in winter even though I’ve had her over ten years. The fact that the car turns heads more than is summer raises the feeling as well.

CONCLUSION

Pros:

  • cold starting
  • heater
  • driving characteristics
  • comfort and feeling
  • safety
  • no snow inside

Cons:

  • lack of real winter weather
  • salty roads, I should finish (paint, corrosion protection) the Olds to be able to drive in salty roads…too much trouble

All in all I don’t understand anymore why I just don’t drive my Olds more in winter. It’s way cool, all of you who have the possibility, drive in winter too!!

Thanks to Tuomas for helping and Mother Nature for nice weather!

Text, photos and Olds: Tatu


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