A ’60 Olds Remembered…with a 3 speed manual!
Today’s Special Feature comes to us courtesy of Dave Yaros, who was kind enough to write me with some memories of his own ’60 Oldsmobile two door hardtop, which had a factory 3 speed manual tranny. He wrote a great story, so I’ll just let him take it from here.
OCA Mbr. #024286
Oldsmobiles have been a part of our family all my life. The first I can remember was a two-tone grey ’48. The originator of this Olds tradition was my grandfather. A few of the Oldsmobiles my parents revered and acquired were “pre-owned” by him.
In one of his novels Jean Shepherd, a writer of nostalgia fiction and the now cult classic movie “Christmas Story,” fondly recalls the sound of the Olds pulling in the driveway. I too remember the unique purr of the straight-8, hydro of my dad’s ’48 backing up the drive, telling me supper time had arrived.
The ’48, a veritable tank, was hardly the only Olds to have a reserved space in our drive. In addition to the sun-visored ’48 there was another visored 1952 88 4-Dr. Sedan with Van Auchen bumper guards, a classy ’53 Holiday, a ’57 98 Hardtop, a 1961 98 Hardtop, a ’63 Dynamic 88 rag top, a ’65 Cutlass and a 1967 98 vinyl-roofed, boat.
I can still see that look of pride and contentment in the ol’ man’s face whenever he drove the newest Olds home from the dealership. He exuded an “all is right with the world” attitude, even though the purchase meant taking on a 48-month auto loan, which was not that common 40 years ago.
One hunk of Lansing iron stands out vividly from the rest. My privilege was to be its second owner. The first, my older brother, apparently neither understood nor appreciated this exquisite example of engineering and design. This became evident when he traded it in for a Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk!
Upon learning this, I high-tailed it down to the Studebaker dealer, traded in my primered and raked, 265 c.i. V8, 2 barreled ’55 Chevy Bel Air and swung a deal before the engine could cool down. Thus, a junior in high school acquired his first Oldsmobile in 1963. The original purchaser, my brother, had to co-sign the loan papers so I could complete the financial transaction and drive this fine piece of machinery home!
At 17 years young I had become the proud owner of a 1960 Super 88 Oldsmobile, 2-Dr. Hardtop. She sported a hand rubbed, black lacquer (ebony) finish in which one could shave. What made the car unique was the 394 c.i. engine and 4-barrel Rochester were connected to a factory option, 3-speed, column shift, manual (synchromesh) gear box. No one else in my circle, city, state or region (that I knew) had such a configuration.
I do not know how many similarly equipped Olds’ rolled of the assembly line (a total of only 16,464 Super 88’s were manufactured in 1960)? I do know it is an understatement to say creations like mine were few and far between. This fact was attested to by the conduct of parking attendants. More than once an attempt was made to jam the gearshift into [D]rive without ever touching the clutch pedal!
The reason my brother dumped the car was the clutch was going out. So he thought. Investigation by me revealed the transmission bolts were working loose from the bell housing. They had been reinstalled sans lock washers. A quick trip to the local Oldsmobile dealer, $1.40 for washers and 15 minutes underneath the car put her back into factory condition. Needless to say, big brother was not a happy camper! His loss was my gain.
This mechanical marvel was a definite screamer. It would quickly crank to a speed of 95 + M.P.H. in 2d gear without a strain. Thanks to dual Smitty glass packs she sang seductively in the process. Very little could keep up with her on the highway, which is where the youth of the 60’s flexed their muscle.
1960 Olds’ had a rolling ribbon speedometer which went from green-to-orange-to red, depending on speed. I discovered the speedometer tube could be made to roll so fast the color would fade to black. This only occurred when her 315 horses galloped in excess of the 120 M.P.H. limit on the speedometer!
Exercising an owner’s prerogative, a conscious decision was made to try and enhance Oldsmobile’s styling. This was accomplished by removing all the chrome, including the make and model designations, leaving only the side molding and rear fender trim. The process was referred to as “shaving.” After all, having experienced GM’s 1958 offerings, chrome removal was now de rigeur. The Super 88/98 tail light lenses were replaced with the less gaudy versions found on the 88’s. Additionally, the hood was bulled (filled in to continue the line where the marque was inset). Dual, working spotlights, fender skirts and ’57 Plymouth Points (hubcaps) were installed. This mild customizing was made easier by my taking a part-time job in a body shop.
The body shop job ultimately proved to be a financial lifesaver. Even though the car was a 2-Door Hardtop, during our time together it became necessary to install four (4) doors on her! In fact, the only sheet metal not touched was the roof. She spent so much time in the body shop it became necessary to buy a back-up vehicle for $100.00 (a 1954 Oldsmobile – what else, right?). Rest assured, the need for a back-up spoke to my driving ability at the time, not the quality of the machine. At that point in my driving career, as my father was more than prone to say, “There was a loose connection between the seat and steering wheel!”
Alas, the car was sold during my college years to some lucky Indianapolis resident, as I was moving up to a newer Olds convertible. I never saw her after owner #3 drove off. I not only wonder what happened to her, I want her back!
Leonard Nimoy: I am in search of . . . .
[This article originally appeared in the 1999 Volume of Journey With Olds, the publication of the Oldsmobile Club of America. This article, and a lot of other Oldsmobile/R. E. Olds information may be found on the SAVED 62 web site, at http://www.freewebs.com/jeandaveyaros.]
Here’s a couple of Photos he shared as well…