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1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***

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1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***

Old 12-10-2006, 02:32 PM
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Exclamation 1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***

Quick Inspection: '55 Oldsmobile 88

Mark Thatcher, East Bangor, PA

POWERTRAIN

Engine:

- A 394ci Olds engine from a '62 Starfire was treated to a thorough rebuild and fitted with an Offenhauser intake topped off with three '57 J-2 carbs from an Oldsmobile 317 Rocket engine. The original No. 23 Olds Starfire heads bolt up to a handbuilt set of fenderwell headers and cutouts attached to dual 21/2-inch pipes.

Power:

- The stock rating of the Starfire V-8 in 1962 was 345 hp. With its solid near-stock spec rebuild, Mark guesses it's in the neighborhood of 360 hp now.

Transmission:

- A Turbo 350 had its head chopped off and replaced with the Oldsmobile-specific bellhousing.

Frame:

- The frame and chassis are stock '55 Olds until just past the mounting point for the steering gearbox, where Jerry cut the front section off. Jerry built the new front frame to optimize mounting points and geometry for the leaf-spring installation while trying to retain an era- correct appearance.

Suspension:

- The front suspension uses mostly '58 GMC pickup parts, including the solid axle. The rear retains the original rebuilt axle with a 3.08 ratio, and the springs were swapped out for a set from a '55 Buick

Brakes:

- The factory Olds drum brakes still reside on all four corners. The truck axle was machined down for fitment in front.

Wheels:

- 15x5-inch Torq-Thrust TOs roll on the front, with the original Olds steelies widened to 8 inches on the back.

Tires:

- Coker tires provided the vintage Firestone rubber with 6.40x15 Deluxe Champions in front and dragster 8.20x15s in the rear.

STYLE

Body:

- Most of the body remains unaltered except for the nose, where numerous small touches were intended to look like factory. With the chrome trim removed, the hood was extended and shaped to meet the fenders like factory.

Paint:

- Owning a paint supplier comes in handy when trying to decide upon just the right colors. The glossy areas are standard automotive paint, while the satin finish derives from the sport-bike market and can be found on Ducatis, among others. Jerry's son, Jason Csontos, was the talent behind the spray gun.

Interior:

- The seats look right at home in the Olds interior but are actually modified pieces pirated from an old Pennsylvania transit bus. Mark hand-painted the gauges himself to near-perfect factory standards.



Some people are just brand loyalists. You know who these guys are; they're the ones completely captivated by the style and feeling of a certain make for reasons even they may not be able to explain. Mark Thatcher is that way for Oldsmobiles. As long as he can remember, he's been enthralled by all things Olds, from rare factory performers to simple sedans. It's a sickness that set in during childhood. Growing up next door to an Oldsmobile dealership, Mark watched new and old cars roll in and out every day and became fascinated. From the elegant '50s designs to the more muscular '60s models, they all captivated the budding car lover: "They couldn't keep me out of that dealership. I used to stop by on my way home from school. I got to where I knew people in town by their cars."

As Mark grew up, his passion for those classic Oldmobiles never flagged. Even during the major gas crunch of the '70s, when many people unloaded their muscle for fuel-efficient, econoboxes, Mark was still driving and buying vintage Oldsmobiles whenever he could. "Dealers used to call me when stuff came in. I've got 442s that I paid $300 or $400 for. It seemed like it was a bottomless pit, like you were going to be able to get them for a few hundred dollars forever." Of course, in the mid-'80s, when America began to snap back to its senses, those great deals quickly vanished, and Mark increasingly began holding onto the cars he bought rather than selling them.

Mark established Color-Rite in 1988, a paint company that specializes in OEM motorcycle and automotive finishes. The ever-growing success of the company brought Mark the means to purchase a large building in the small town of East Bangor, Pennsylvania, for his mounting collection that currently consists of 25 Oldsmobiles, including the lowest known production number '68 Hurst Olds, a '70 442, and a '72 Cutlass with only 1,000 original miles on it.

One of the conveniences of small-town life is that people tend to know their neighbors, and Mark's Oldsmobile fixation is widely known among the residents. In fact, there's hardly an Oldsmobile car or part that enters town without Mark's knowledge. This has often worked in his favor, and in fact, that's how this particular '55 Oldsmobile 88 came into his possession.

Several years back, a judge found the Olds for sale in Washington and had it shipped to Pennsylvania with intentions of restoration. But, as it sometimes goes, the judge found himself too busy to give the car the attention it needed, and the '55 languished in his garage for a couple of years until he decided it was time to let someone else have a chance at it. Of course, he knew just the person to call. The Olds was certainly in need of restoration, but Mark saw great potential in the car, and a deal was struck.

The '55 was slated to become a nicely restored stocker for Mark to cruise the Pennsylvania streets in. All that changed one day at a car show when Mark ran across Jerry Csontos' '55 Chevy Gasser. Mark had never been a big fan of Tri-Fives and never had much of an interest in Gassers in general, but he was simply blown away by the attention to detail and careful execution on every aspect of the car. The Chevy not only had the look, but also was executed to such period-correct perfection that he fell in love with the style. It was the first radical hot rod Mark truly wanted. He decided then and there that there would be a Gasser in his future, and of course, it would be an Olds.

Mark is no stranger to a wrench, but he'd never built a Gasser before, and there aren't a great deal of Oldsmobile Gassers to emulate, so he knew he wanted his to be fabricated by experienced hands. After meeting Jerry and talking with him about the '55 Chevy, Mark knew he was just the man for this project. He put his faith in Jerry's abilities and technique, striking a deal that gave Jerry near-complete control over the build. The only real contingency Mark had was that the car needed to be a reliable streeter ready to roll for Power Tour(TM) '06. "Jerry's a real craftsman, the kind of guy who just gets swept away in his projects. It will literally take up all of his time for like a year, or whatever it takes for him to be satisfied with it."

For the next 10 months, Jerry focused completely on the buildup of the Olds, like he was preparing the car for himself. Just as with his own '55 Chevy, everything on the Oldsmobile had to be "just so, with no compromises." At the end of the tireless work, Mark says he almost felt bad taking the keys back. "He looks at that car like a child. It was hard for him to let it go."

In the end, only one real compromise was made on the build, which you may have already spotted in the photos: the shifter. Because the Olds had to be ready for a 3,000-mile round trip on Power Tour(TM) with no worries, Mark opted for the new aftermarket shifter for safety's sake. The old-style, Sparkomatic shifter that was the original choice was just too easy to knock into the wrong gear. Jerry, of course, hated that little deviation and placed a piece of tape over the nameplate with "Geo-Matic" written on it to show his disgust.

Mark hadn't had any real seat time behind the wheel of a straight axle, leaf sprung rod and was a bit concerned on the maiden voyage as he was having to fight the steering wheel to keep the Olds straight much more than he was accustomed to. It certainly didn't drive like an Olds anymore. But as luck would have it, while out on a drive, Mark happened to run into an old guy who took one look at the front suspension and advised him to "toe-in the wheels a flavor." Mark had no idea what exactly that meant, and neither did the alignment shop, which swore the car was on ideal specs. But by guessing at the number of degrees in a "flavor," the shop altered the car's alignment, and to Mark's delight, the steering issues were cured.
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Old 12-10-2006, 02:37 PM
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Pictures
Attached Thumbnails 1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-1.jpg   1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-2.jpg   1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-3.jpg   1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-4.jpg   1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-5.jpg  

1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-6.jpg   1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-7.jpg   1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-8.jpg   1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-9.jpg   1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-10.jpg  

1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-11.jpg   1955 Oldmobile 88 - The Purist's Gasser - ***Pic's & Info***-12.jpg  
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Old 12-10-2006, 04:15 PM
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Very sick, always loved the classic look of gassers
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