1951 OLDSMOBILE 98


In the early 1950s, Wayne Kyle could be seen driving around Elkhart, Ind., in a 1947 Buick that he says was in good condition. The Buick was a plush ride, especially for a high school student.

The young Kyle, however, wanted performance that a 1947 Buick couldn’t deliver. Performance in those days was spelled O-L-D-S-M-O-B-I-L-E.

Kyle found a beautiful dark blue 1951 Oldsmobile 98 four-door sedan on the Oldsmobile dealer’s used car lot. Business was slow in February 1953 and the anxious dealer reduced the price on the car and then agreed to take Kyle’s Buick as a trade-in, but Kyle’s father wouldn’t agree to sign for his underage son.

When Kyle went to give the dealer the bad news he encountered the bank president who happened to be at the dealership. He explained his tale of woe to the banker who then asked Kyle if he was working and making good money. Kyle replied affirmatively and the banker then co-signed for the car.

“Much to my father’s chagrin,” Kyle says, “I drove the car home.” It rode on a lengthy 122-inch wheelbase.

In that Oldsmobile Kyle dated the girl who would become his wife in 1956. They drove off on their honeymoon in it and kept it until 1958 when it was traded-in for a 1955 Chevrolet.

“We realized we’d made a mistake and quickly returned to the dealer to nullify the deal,” Kyle recalls, “but our Olds had already been sold.” Kyle’s wife comforted him saying, “Someday, we will have another one just like it.”

That someday was a long time coming, Kyle says, nearly a half century. A dozen or so years ago, Kyle began seriously looking for that elusive 1951 Oldsmobile 98. Every car he located had some defect or another that was a deal breaker. Finally, he discovered the ideal car in Ft. Smith, Ark. “It was just exactly what we had been looking for,” Kyle says.

The car had only been driven 28,500 miles and then put in a secured storage area for decades. Unfortunately the price was well beyond what Kyle wanted to pay.
Negotiations ensued and a fair price eventually was determined and the long search was concluded.

“I hired a friend with a trailer to pick it up for me. It was over 1,000 miles away,” Kyle says.

The Oldsmobile arrived Dec. 27, 2006 at the Kyle home in Wheatland, Wyoming.
“Since 2006 was our golden anniversary year, we presented the car to each other for our anniversary gift,” Kyle says. It looked better than in the photographs he had seen.

The 303-cubic-inch V-8 still delivers 135 horsepower, sufficient power to move the 3,787-pound car. When new the well-appointed Oldsmobile had a base price of $2,610.
Kyle found lubrication stickers on the doorjambs of the car that verified the mileage recorded on the odometer.

A careful inspection of his Oldsmobile was undertaken. “There isn’t so much as a suspicion of rust anywhere,” Kyle exclaims. “This auto is beyond belief.”

The car is mostly original, Kyle reports. He says the previous owner did replace the tires and wheels and sent me the originals. He also had to refurbish the fuel and brake systems, as well as the paint. Kyle says the years in storage had dulled the nitrocellulose lacquer finish beyond polishing, so he had it professionally refinished in the original metallic red color. Oldsmobile offered 13 solid colors in 1951.

Amazingly, the paper sleeve on the sun visor explaining how to use the Hydramatic transmission is still there and intact, Kyle says. Just sitting in the car is a treat. The interior even features a Wonderbar radio.

“It runs so nice and sweet,” he says. But what makes the car so unique and special, Kyle says, is the extremely low mileage. “We don’t plan on taking any long trips.” Kyle says their Oldsmobile adorns their new garage all by itself. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters

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