$1,000 Running Classic: 1941 Oldsmobile Sedan

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If you are like me, you often find yourself wandering around the want ads for old cars and dreaming of scooping up bargain classics.  It is funny how we can convince ourselves that we need to add another car to the herd when the cars we have already suffer from benign neglect.  I think this is called being delusional, and it is a holiday tradition around here.  No matter how delusional we can get, every once in a while we see a car that just cries out “take me home” like a cute and cuddly puppy.  Take a look at the 1941 Oldsmobile sedan Ikey H. found for us for sale on craigslist in East Berlin, Pennsylvania.  Believe it or not, this running Olds has been on the market for over a month with a $1,000 asking price.  What is the deal here?

Let’s get the superficial issues out of the way first.  Being a four door isn’t helping much.  The car appears to be a Series 90 model, which was Oldsmobile’s most luxurious variation.  While the fastback styling is appealing, the front end of a 1941 Oldsmobile is a face only a mother could love.  Despite being close kin to the elegantly beautiful Buick models for that year, GM design somehow missed the mark on these.  Another problem is that there are various dings and dents in the body.  Missing chrome and stainless steel trim might also prove problematic to procure as well.  Parts that were used in these cars that fit other GM makes are often available.  Sadly, there isn’t a lot of aftermarket support for Oldsmobile specific pieces.

Still, what is there appears to be solid.  While a close up inspection of the car would be nice, rust through doesn’t seem to be a major problem.  A close inspection of the passenger side door sill and the floor is needed though.  The car looks to have slumbered in a barn for much of its existence.  It was probably a humid and airy barn, but some sort of enclosure for sure.  The hubcaps are off a later model car, and the bumpers didn’t benefit from the moist storage conditions.  Re-chroming them would cost a fortune.  Powder coating the bumpers in a chrome finish might be the best option on this low buck runner.  The chrome powder coat process isn’t perfect, but that plating money would be better spent on the interior.

Minus the radio, the interior of this Oldsmobile is surprisingly intact and complete.  The stainless trim may polish out, and all of the cloth is still there.  I can smell it through the monitor.  The rubber door and windshield gaskets have obviously cracked with age.  The result is water intrusion in a number of areas.  While everything might be there, the metal areas will have to be refinished and the cloth items cry out for replacement.

It is the same story in the back seat.  Thankfully the old material leaves the new owner a pattern to work from if they decide to bring the car back to original condition.  If you squint a bit, you can imagine how nice these cars were on the inside.  You would be hard pressed to buy a modern car with more legroom in the rear.  I heard someone recently remark that car development should have stopped before World War II.  The reasoning was that all the components were built to last and passenger comfort has never been surpassed.  There is a lot of truth in that argument.

While the car is advertised as a running vehicle, I think the seller’s definition of running means that it fires up when gas is poured down the carburetor while cranking it.  These old straight eights, which put out 110 horsepower when new, are known for being smooth and torquey.  Curiously, the radiator hose has been cut and the spark plug wires have been disconnected from the fairly new plugs.  A full sorting of the fuel and cooling system would be in order no matter what.  It would also be nice to see a video of the car running, but this is a craigslist ad after all.  I guess for $1,000 pictures and a few terse words are all we are going to get.

A full restoration would never make financial sense for the new owner.  The best that this car could hope for is the arrival of someone who is low on initial funds that would make continual, gradual improvements with a final goal in mind of making it a fun driver.  Once you gave the ratty interior the heave ho and got the car running reliably, you could at least enjoy driving it around.  From there, the car would be a great learning tool if you wanted to try paint and body work.  For $1,000, this car does offer a lot in terms of education and enjoyment.  It just needs someone who can look past the ratty surface to see the gem underneath.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Gaspumpchas

    Da the whole car and hit it with some epoxy primer. Paint the bumpers. drive it around and have a ball with it. For a grand its a great start. Hope the engine is good. Good luck to the new owner!



    Like 9
    • Gay Car Nut

      I agree. As long as everything on the car works like it should, it shouldn’t matter what it looks like. It can be painted at the owner’s leisure.

      Like 4
  2. George Duran

    Interested in learning more about powder coating the bumpers in chrome. This would help on several projects. Getting older and running out of time.

    Can anyone give me more information?

    Like 2
  3. Dave

    Unless this car has some historical significance the only thing that makes sense to me is to restomod it. Build it the way you want and drive it everywhere.

    Like 3
  4. Mountainwoodie

    This Olds is in the same condition from the outside to the inside as a ’47 Chevrolet I bought for fifty bucks in 1971. Kept it stashed in the woods by my high school. Apparently late at night some kids would go out and drive it around. Seeing the condition this is in reminds me that some things dont change………much :)

    Like 6
  5. Miguel

    Does anybody know how many of these were made?

    I know 1941 had really low production numbers.

    Like 2
    • Wil

      I believe just over 21000 4 door sedans were made. Their prices don’t usually get much higher than their production numbers however. This is one of those vehicles that you buy because you like it , not for an investment.

      Like 1
    • waynard

      The books vary on specific info for this year Olds, but here are some numbers: 8 cylinder cars came in various model designations: 68 & 68 special / 78 & 78 dynamic / 98 & 98 custom. Can’t tell which this is, but production numbers are, respectively: 7830 / 1350 / 25,814 / 2523 / 23,684 / 4247. Made perhaps more than you thought. Olds production, all models for 1941 was +-265,852. Another book calls out 273,000 made.

      Rear seat armrest models seem to be limited to the 78 dynamic, and 98 custom, both 8 cylinder cars. One book also lists a 96 model but not in all the books, so I don’t know what that is. Without an engine number or serial number there is no way to tell which car this may be.

      Like 0
    • cyclemikey

      Actually, 1941 was a banner year for US auto production, including Oldsmobile. The country had finally climbed out of the Depression, and people were scrambling to buy new cars before the war impacted the US. It was 1942 that auto production was cut short (in Jan/Feb ’42) which resulted in very low totals for the 1942 model year.

      So, ’41 Oldsmobile production was robust, but even so I’d bet there aren’t many of these remaining. I’d throw some seat covers on this, overhaul the brakes, get it running, and drive it!

      Like 3
    • Tom North

      Give you all the information you will need for the car

      Like 0
  6. jw454

    After you got in into road condition, you could paint it army green from stem to stern, put some stars on the doors, and make a WWII staff car out of it. Have some fun and then do a restore or resto mod later. You wouldn’t be destroying a rare piece of automotive history so you and your family could have some fun with it.

    Like 5
    • local_sheriff

      The WW2 staff car idea is actually a very,very good idea for this excact Olds!

      Pre-war Olds’s cannot be very commonplace anywhere in the world so having any trim fixed or replaced would be a fortune, but with an Army vehicle one could get away with almost everything! It would even look correct to have the seats upholstered with canvas or black vinyl, saving lot of $ on materials!

      To BF editor; is that face really bad?Personally I love it (however I also love the face of pregnant elephant Packards so that makes me kinda biased…)

      Like 3
  7. D Hamby

    I love its goofy, scrunched up little face. Not elegant like the Buick but full of character nonetheless.

    Like 1
  8. Miguel

    This car is here in Mexico. I had to do research to see what it actually was because the ad didnt specify.

    It looks to be the smaller body, but it sure is in nice condition.

    Like 11
  9. jim

    If you do a Resto-mod, simply moving the headlight and the vertical chrome outboard 10 inches on each side could make a world of difference, moving the corner light/turn signal in-board. You could even use the same horizontal chrome trim if you spaced things out carefully

    Like 4
  10. John C.

    There isn’t many old cars from that era that you can buy nowadays for a thousand bucks that are mostly complete and almost in running condition! I’d say it’s a good deal for someone that wants to get into the old car hobby.

    Like 3
  11. A.J.

    This could be a great hot rod to take the grand kids out for ice cream. Wonderful start for a grand.

    Like 1
  12. Gay Car Nut

    I’d buy a 1942 Olds if I can get a good price for it. I find the 42 Olds more attractive than the 41 Olds.

    Like 1
  13. Rex Rice

    A boat of a car. Terrible front suspension and gas hungry engine.
    Here is one that might be for sale.

    Like 1
    • cyclemikey

      ROFL. You’re looking at 80-year-old vintage Oldsmobiles and you’re concerned about the gas mileage?

      Like 9
  14. Cris Carver

    I’d throw some blankets over the seats, maybe throw on a set of 70’s / 80’s factory Cutlass sport rims (any color will do) & drive it every chance I got. In other words, I love it!

    Like 1
  15. Pete Phillips

    It’s a top of the line 98, not a 96. The last number is the number of cylinders, so the 98 is the straight eight, long wheelbase model and the 96 would be the six-cylinder. Where are you going to find a running (well, maybe not quite running), 99% complete, Pre-War, top of the line car for $1000? This is a Christmas gift for someone. You’ll never find one this original and complete for less money. Never.
    I’m in the camp that likes the ’41 Olds front design, but finds the ’42 Olds grille downright strange–designed by a committee that didn’t know what the others were doing!

    Like 2
  16. Hugh Anger

    I am an ageing Brit in Thailand with little love for the American autos. B U T,
    B U T, I get a great kick out of seeing the oldies, Brit as well as American, uncovered on this super website. There are some interesting tv programmes here including Kindig Customs and Detroit Steel. Now, what has this to do with the ’41 Oldsmobile here? I like the shape and style of this oldie very much so much so that I think what would I do if I bought it? Now, a recent showing on tv was an old car, not as old as the Oldsmobile but in apparent good nick was obtained on behalf of a client and treated to a make over. The exterior was kept as found to retain the patina while the interior was totally modernised as was the running gear. Now, I think this Oldsmobile is well suited to this sort of treatment. I agree that the front is not a pretty sight but in the right and creative hands could be transformed without losing its original style. From the programmes I have seen the choice of workshop for this exercise is not easy as it seems as though there are many worthy workshops in the US but, my choice would be Kindig Customs in Utah.
    I see, many red lines in this missive but I have used English spelling and not American and make no apologies for this.
    What are my preferred autos? In the range of wallet and sensibility I have a affection for Alfas, Old Triumph as I used to have a long door TR2. For practical reasons I prefer a Toyota SWB Land cruiser as it is so much easier to climb up into and fall out of, not to say elegant, than to do the opposite in a modern mobile.
    The attached photo is of good self and Toyota in Oman
    Keep the excellent site going, P L E A S E it is helping to keep me going.
    Hugh Anger Thailand

    Like 1
  17. JBP

    A year ago there was one like this in a little better condition on German ebay for 12,000€. In need of complete resto.
    My gess the seller paid max 2500$ plus 2500 for shipping.
    I had just paid 1000$ for my green 4 door 88 here on BF. plus 2800$ for shipping, and i would not swap.
    After new sparks and cleaning points new oil, it ran fine. Only need new floorpans, and a Mexican blanket over seats.
    Thnx BF.
    MERRY CHRISTMAS, and happy new year

    Like 1
  18. David Vizzini

    Once again, as usual, you have made deprecating comments about 4-doors. I would really like to understand your reasoning for this strange aversion to 4-doors. Thank you in advance for your anticipated explanation.

    Like 1
  19. JBP

    There is nothing wrong with 4 door cars. Often you can get them for a very good price. I have 7 four door cars, and 3 coupe.
    Often whem grand ma is with os to car meeting, or jyst out and cruising,we take a four door, and that more fun, than drive alone in a coupe.
    Im at the moment working on a 1955 Merc. Montclair 4 door. It was almost for free, and a sharp car, when finnish 🙂
    And i realy like my 1950 olds. 88 4 door rat rot. Its a org. Car, with a lot of Patina.
    The Olds in ad, is a funny cheap projekt, just say i like my 88 better.

    Like 0
  20. Dante

    I bought this car. Getting it shipped to CA right now. It’ll be a fun project.

    Like 2
    • deejayq

      Pictures as you go along? Might be fun to watch…

      Like 0
  21. Gray Wolf

    Wow, good for you! This car needs to be saved! Two door cars are getting expensive and shutting out family builds! When I was young four doors were out only because 2-door were plentiful. I have been noticing more and more nice 4-doors running around. One had Kindig flush handles, one had them only on the back doors painted body color, all four filled and 2 with on only rears filled. I am sure that’s expensive, so leave it and make it pretty!! Best of luck!

    Like 1
  22. Chic W.

    I have been watching a ’41 that looks identical to this, (what little I can see of it anyway) & I don’t even know if it’s for sale. From the fleeting glimpses I’ve had it looks complete & all stock……waiting to see what happens next!

    Like 0
  23. John T.

    I too, have been keeping an eye on a black ’41 (going with it’s the more plentiful 78)……..can only see the front for a moment when passing where it rests. Assuming it just sits because it doesn’t ever appear to be in even a slightly different position…..EVER! Would love to buy & preserve it.

    Like 0

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