I saved it from deteriorating like the one for sale and restored it to look better than the one on the road. See below for some of the steps that took it from an oxidized mess to a real beauty.
Here is a TV ad for the 1955 Oldsmobile Holiday lineup from back then.
I bought this Oldsmobile 88 Holiday Coupe in early 1994. The car was complete, with 135,387 miles on the odometer and a big dent in the right-rear quarter panel. I can still remember the first words out of my wife’s mouth when I pulled up in front of our house with it on a car trailer, “You paid $1,000 for that!”
I didn’t do a full body-off restoration, but the engine compartment and underbelly of the car were sandblasted and painted black. The body was sanded down to bare metal with a special coating applied before priming and then it was painted to match the original factory colors. In addition to the professionally done body work and paint job, all of the chrome and stainless steel was redone, along with new glass all around, except for the rear window.
I originally planned to rebuild the stock 324 cubic-inch engine and Hydromatic transmission but found a ’68 Olds big-block 455 with over-sized valves and Turbo 400 combination that had been built for a hot rod but was never installed in the intended car. The engine was balanced and blueprinted and had a racing cam as well as dual AFB carburetors installed on a nice Offenhauser intake manifold. (I later replaced the ignition with an electron setup for a stronger spark and reliability.)
So why the big-block? When I was in college I had a ’55 Olds with a ’58 Olds engine mated to a B&M hydro. This car was definitely a sleeper and provide many happy times. (That’s me, back then, with a side view of my original Olds below. If you look in the wind-wing you can see a reflection of my girlfriend, who later became my wife, taking my picture with her Brownie camera.)
The upholstery follows the original patterns, using two shades of gray Naugahyde and pleated gray material, which looks better than when new. I must say that my latest little sleeper would definitely embarrass my original one at the drag strip.
After driving it for a while I realized it was pretty hard to stop, so I fitted the front with disc brakes. Now it stops fast and straight.
It took a little over five years to complete the car and I am proud to say it gets lots of attention. People are used to seeing a lot of ’55-57 Chevy’s here in California, but not many ’55 Oldsmobiles.
In case you are wondering, my wife loves this car now.
7-12-22 Update – Sadly, I recently sold it to a car collector that will give it the love and attention it needs to provide many more happy miles to its owner. It only had a little over 7,000 miles on since the restoration so it should continue to provide lots of fun times. The new owner sent me a photo showing what it looks like now.
Click Here to see all the cars I have owned over the years.