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It’s Not A Cadillac! 1973 Oldsmobile Hearse

Barn Finds Reader Bob J. writes: The eBay ad states this hearse is a 1970 but, is actually a 1973. The patina would be great for a Halloween enthusiast.. Thanks to Bob for sending in this great find. I’ve been in Kansas City, where this Oldsmobile is located, this week but didn’t have time to check this one out. It’s up for sale here on eBay, where the opening bid is set at $1,000 but there’s an unknown reserve.


I’m used to seeing these combination hearse/Ambulances as Cadillacs; I don’t remember seeing an Oldsmobile before, although googling led to some pictures of others. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been either 50’s or 60’s vehicles as well. As the seller tells us, this one has been stored for quite some time, but they don’t detail whether that is indoor or outdoor storage. It’s certainly outdoors now!


The 73,867 miles must have been tough ones, as not only is there rust in the underside, gas tank and quarter panels, the motor, brakes and wheels are all locked up. Even though I have a soft spot for this vintage Oldsmobile, I’m not sure I’d want to take this particular one on unless I already owned a mechanical parts donor, and therefore had the bits you’d need as a sunk cost.


The seller says this is the “short” wheelbase Seville model at 126”. That’s still pretty long to me! Frankly, though, it looks more hearse than ambulance here, and I don’t see any evidence of the lights I would expect to find on an ambulance—perhaps the seller doesn’t want it labeled as a hearse only?


The front seat and dashboard are not only filthy, there’s at least one door panel missing as well. It’s quite possible the seller will have to lower the reserve to get this car gone, especially without even showing under hood pictures. However—there’s a LOT of usable space there if the looks trip your trigger, and somehow this one looks less “hearse-like” than some others I’ve seen. What would you do with this vehicle if someone gave it to you? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. Coldgin

    YOU……author/comentator/moderator…..whatever you are………could you PLEASE stop using the word patina. If you actually read your post comments, you would know that we, the readers, are growing tired of the over used and abused word you use to describe these rust buckets. Go Google the Webster’s definition of the word, and please try to refrain from using it. Rust is NOT a selling feature of a classic car. At least it wasn’t until American Pickers and you starting trying to put a positive swing on corrosion.

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    • Josh Staff

      Coldgin, I don’t think Jamie is trying to put a positive swing on corrosion by using the word patina. I think he is just referencing the overall aged look of the car. The word patina actually means a thin layer or something, typically the green layer that forms on certain types of metals. In the case of steel, patina could actually mean a thin layer of rust, so it could be an accurate use of the word. I do agree with you though that this one also has spots that are well past being a thin layer of rust and that the word has gotten a bit overused.

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    • attenuata

      Thank you sir! Like this site but getting really old this “patina” label on everything too. Vehicle is cool in a scary sort of way I guess..WAY too far gone but get it running and be the “hit” of the next demo derby perhaps? Interesting color for a hearse.

      Hey at least door panels are still called door panels and price is price (as opposed to “door cards” & “price point”) here!

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      • Marty Member

        Door ‘cards’ refers to the stiff paperboard/MDF-type backing that makes up the structure inside of many door panels. A car is said to have good door cards when the upholstery covering them may be shot, but the cards/backings themselves are in good enough condition to be re-covered and re-used.

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    • mark

      Am I the only one wondering who appointed you as the spokes person for all of the readers?

      Like 2
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Please note that the reference to patina was from a reader that submitted the find, and was obviously somewhat in jest given the Halloween reference:-).

      Secondly, I can assure you that I read literally every single comment posted to this site, whether they are on posts I write or someone else’s. (and I’m sure I’m not alone in doing so). While it’s difficult trying to please everyone, it won’t stop us from trying!

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    • ydnar

      Too bad it’s so far gone. The seller waited a few decades too long to pull the trigger.

      I too am getting weary of the term “patina”.

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    • Jason Houston

      Whhhoooooaaaa!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! “Patina” is another word that has spun out of control by those who have no clue what it means!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    • BMW/Tundra guy

      If anybody takes offense or is tired of hearing/reading certain phrases/words, then don’t read the posting! As far as can tell, no one is forced into reading the commentary on the highlighted vehicles. There many words/phrases that are over used but until it becomes some type of law (which we certainly don’t need more of) just loosen up go with the roll. Oops, I hope that phrase didn’t offend anybody!!! It just seemed appropriate.
      So with that being said, sit back, RELAX, and enjoy this wonderfully educational entertaining opinionated site!!
      That is my own 1/2¢ worth. I hope I did not offend anybody with MY view,

      Like 1
  2. Nessy

    Yes, that is based on a 73 98. You should see the others behind it. The seller has a number of Caddys, Olds, Chevys and I think a Buick, all custom built for professional use from the 60s and 70’s. He said they were all removed from long term storage and from the looks of all of them, that storage must have had a leaky roof. They are all moldy, rusty and damp and some have locked up engines due to dampness. There are several on Craigslist now including a 69 Olds 98 custom rig in about the same poor condition. I am tempted with the 69 model as I just love the style of the 69 98.

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  3. Nessy

    Oh, as for Coldgin just moaning off about you guys using the word “patina”, I think the cars look neat just the way they are. I’m sure most of us readers like that word and enjoy this great site, just the way it is. Rust and dirt are cool Coldgin. That’s why this is “Barn Finds” and not “Museum kept Pebble Beach Duesenberg finds”

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  4. Stang1968

    I’m interested in that Suburban ambulance behind this car.

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    • Skip

      Those vehicles were all sold at auction a couple of months ago. Three or four of the coach-type ambulances went to a guy in Colorado. The Suburban went to someone in KS. All of them had set up for many years. Some of them were semi-salvageable but would require a lot of work. They all had belonged to the late Gene Knisley, Sr., who built the line of Stratus Ambulances in Kansas City for many years. Some of these ambulances were trade ins, others were some of that Gene simply collected. It’s a shame that they were allowed to sit and rot like that.

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  5. Marty Member

    Yes, this is a strange place to be offended by the word “patina”. It would be similar to visiting an import car site and asking them to please stop using words like “Honda” and “Toyota”. Also worth noting is that the author was simply quoting the email in which the tip for this article was submitted.

    For those other readers who might be interested in similar vehicles, this 1965 Pontiac Hearse/Ambulance has been listed on the St. Louis Craigslist off and on, for many months.


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    • George

      At least with this ’65 you could make a Monkee Mobile clone! Okay, so that was a ’67 wagon that it was based on…

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      • stigshift

        The Monkee Mobile was a Barris custom starting with a GTO.. Not a ’67 wagon.

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  6. Keith IH

    I think I need a tetanus shot just looking at this one. It might be salvageable for the committed soul (some pun intended). Here’s a picture of a 98 that is much easier on the eyes. This nice example was shown at the Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti, MI this past summer.

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    • Keith

      I’ve seen a lot of 58 Oldsmobiles (they are my favorite car, and yes I know what that says about me) but this is the 1st 58 Olds hearse I’ve seen. Love it. Nice post!

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  7. William H

    Always loved old hearses and the ’58 Cadillac hearse is on my bucket list of cars but I would probably settle for any mid to late ’50’s if I could find one. There was a guy that used to frequent the local Crank It Up contests that had a ’60’s hearse, casket and all. It was really clean and well done, inside and out. I’ve seen a few hearse/ambulances rebuilt as surf wagons. Certainly would make an awesome grocery getter and family hauler.

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  8. Paul

    Geez Jamie…

    Can you also please stop using the term “barn find” to describe everything while youre at it.

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  9. Mike D

    It is no longer for sale as of 3:10 pm ET a guess would say it was a hearse , not an ambulance, I would think an ambulance would have a higher roof , I too am weary of the word ” patina” although not limited to just this site, sellers in Hemmings overuse the word ( also ebay) I for one would say it is too far gone, it ” might” have a 455, which may or may not be worth rescuing if someone really had the desire to bring it back to it’s original glory, and had deep pockets, they are welcome to it . I wish the ad was still up so I could at least have a gander at the others in the lot, Nessy, not that I could really afford them , but they may jog a memory or two

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  10. Keith IH

    I’m certainly no expert in the field of Professional Car collecting & study, but I do know that many of these vehicles were used as both ambulances and hearses. I have seen some rigs with flip floors that had rails on one side for a gurney, and rollers on the other for caskets. It might seem a bit macabre, but in many towns, the undertaker also ran the ambulance company and this was a good way to save money.

    Glad this one sold and hope that someone will bring it back to the living (yup, that’s a groaner for sure).

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    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Keith IH – You are correct, this was a “Combination car”, designed for double duty as a hearse and ambulance. That said, many were used not as “front line” hearses, but used as “first removal cars”, back when most people passed away at home. Morticians liked to use vehicles that didn’t look like a hearse when they pulled up to the home of the decedent. Because the body was removed on a stretcher, not in a coffin, the roof didn’t need to be so high. Older coffins tended to be rather high and heavy, hence the higher roof line for a hearse. Today, most morticians use black or silver minivans for body pickup.

      When in ambulance form, there was a single folding “Attendant” chair that stored under the main bed area, usually on the right side. You can see the chair in the photos. There was also a chrome rail along the left side with a latch, this was used to guide the stretcher in and secure it for travel. In ambulance use, these units without flashing lights were used mostly for “transfer runs” from hospital to home, or hospital to nursing facility, for patients who were unable to sit in a seat, but were stable medically.

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  11. Dean

    Cold gin, have another gin and relax a little.

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  12. RON

    I too am getting tired of the use of Patina and think it is a missed use of description in the car hobby when it is so often in reference to rusted piles of junk to me. but I also recognize that t s merely a new use for a never ending change t one of the greatest past times for us od codgers and that is old Iron what ever it may be. So lets all just be tolerant of our hobbies. after all this is like a off switch on a TV. If you don’t like the program change the channel. as for me if the Sports world disappeared the only change in the world would be less millionaires and more guys that never had a job in their life would be in the unemployment line. so I will be tolerant. I like this site and others like it.it brings back memories of life when occupying a day. I remember these things well because as a working kid in the50’s and 60’s in High School I remember my experience at a local Funeral Home in a small southern town. I worked on call and week ends assisting in working funeral services and ambulance driving for one of a 3 chain funeral home in an area. This was well before a lo of ambulances existed as a service except in larger cities. the Combinations were well know and had a lot of interesting uses. Among the 3 branches of the family owned business in 3 separate towns we owned a total of 5 Hearses and Combo’s . We ran the only Funeral and Ambulance services in a 75 mile radius. The combo’s were well used and were used in differing ways.The combo’s for us were always black like the Hearses but the combo was usually an Oldsmobile or Pontiac. The hearses were always Cadillac’s. The Hearse’s were used strickly as funeral cars and they were fully loaded with P.S. and AC and windows. The combo’s we had were always the long wheel base lie the Caddy’s but the were fitted with a 5 minute pop n the top gum ball light that could be installed when acting as an ambulance and removed when serving as a hearse.. These I remember were distinct in that they had no power steering.. The reason being that in the opinion of the time driving at high speed made handling like being on a race track and they wanted the steering to be felt and the danger of loosing control with power steering was less likely. They also came with a sliding weight in the body/frame from side to side that moved back and forth helping to keep weight distribution even in curves and banks that you ran at high speed. I can remember a curve at one end of town on the trip to the local hospital that was quite sharp a possibly 65% curve and a 30% bank being intended to drive at max 35-40 mph and you could run it at 60-70 mph with the weights. needless to say you had to be pretty responsible at 17-18 yrs old or the only one at the dispatch to be hired in this job. I did it both working funerals body pick up and ambulance driver in my last 2 years of high school. As today it also was a matter of standing n the community and the total cost of the funeral as to whether the Caddy or the Olds was used and whether the Caddy family car was used for the family of the deceased or if a proper flower car which was an upper echelon open back pick-up style vehicle. Seldom seen in rural areas unless related to “Vito Corleone” All things related pretty much as today. LOL Any way made an interesting experience for a young kid and a lot of not commonly known connection between a necessary service and the early Racing era

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    • Chebby

      I have never heard about the sliding chassis weights before, that is fascinating. How did they work? I’d imagine they’d have to move in the opposite direction that the mass of the car was shifting but can’t picture how they would do that.

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      • Trickie Dickie Member

        Sliding Chassis Weights?? I was in the funeral business for 24 years. retired now but still help if needed. I have never heard of that, and I have dealt with many hearses. Hearses at higher freeway speeds are notoriously back end heavy and can get out of control easily if sudden movements are made left or right. The back end comes right around. In my career I have seen at least three totaled in this manner. Very Embarrassing if you happen to have that Special Passenger aboard!!

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    • Trickie Dickie Member

      As a long time funeral director, now retired I am somewhat offended by the facts in your story. The type and level of service we provided families was the same no matter what amount they had to spend on the final service. We had three hearses, Cadillacs, the best we could afford. They were used on ALL funerals no matter how much was spent. Your bogus information on chassis weights is laughable. All our hearses always had power steering. Quite an imagination fellow!

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      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        @T. D. —
        May I ask what town your funeral home was/is located? If it’s in the mid-Atlantic area I may know where your Packard vehicles are today, and it’s possible I may have owned one or more of them over the years [I’ve had around 300 Packards starting when I was 14].

        A 1941 Cadillac carved sided hearse is extremely rare, even when new. There is one in Maryland that comes out to shows from time to time. Because of it’s rarity, it may well be the same car.

        And on another subject; A few years ago I was talking to a guy who said his father, a Detroit Policeman, was handling crowd control outside the cathedral during Henry Ford’s funeral. He was standing next to the Packard hearse as they were loading ‘ol Henry in thru the back door of the hearse. Well it seems the hearse driver forgot to put the parking brake on, and with the transmission in neutral, when they began pushing the casket into the hearse, it started to move forward! Realizing what was happening, he opened the driver’s door and yanked hard on the parking break handle under the dash.

        last year I found an interesting video of Henry’s funeral on youtube. Watch carefully and you will see the hearse start to creep forward, then this police officer saves the day! here is the link, hope you enjoy it!

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    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      In my 45 years of owning vintage “Professional” cars [hearses, ambulances, flower cars,etc.] I have never heard of sliding weights on a vehicle. I’ve also raced cars in Europe back in the mid 1970’s, unlimited class. I don’t think anyone has ever created a fast changing weight system for the underside of a vehicle, and when you consider the problem of knowing exactly how far to move the weights, and knowing the exact level of change, so as not to change the center of gravity on the vehicle.

      Perhaps you were thinking about the Henney-Packard hearses and combination cars that were equipped with “Leveldraulic”. This was a hydraulic system with an electric hydraulic pump and 4 hydraulic cylinders, one at each corner of the vehicle, The control was a Packard Shift lever mounted between the front bucket seats, connected to a valving setup under the rear platform. With the lever pushed down the entire vehicle would lean over to one side, if the lever was pulled up, the vehicle leaned over to the other side. And by placing the lever in the correct angle, the hearse would remain level.

      [I always wanted to install 2 levers and valve sets, each operating one set/side. This way I could raise & lower the entire hearse! But I never built it.]

      This was a Henney-Packard exclusive, and designed to level the hearse once at the cemetery. In hilly areas the small roads running thru the cemetery often ran across the hills, and when the hearse was parked on the roadway, it was leaning at an angle, making it difficult to remove a very heavy casket from the hearse. [Henney-Packards also allowed the casket to be removed from either side of the hearse too, and if the hearse was a “3 way loading” style, the leveldraulic made it much safer to remove the casket.

      An article in Coachbuilt.com mentioned the leveldraulic:

      At the 1937 National Funeral Director’s Convention, Henney introduced a self-leveling suspension system that they called the Leveldraulic. The complex Leveldraulic system used a number of electric motors and hydraulic pumps and actuators to assist in leveling the coach while the casket was being loaded or unloaded on hills and uneven roadways. The manually operated system could also be used to level an uneven load and was available on both Henney funeral coaches and ambulances.

      I’m including a picture from a 1942 Henney-Packard brochure showing the 3-way casket table extending out the right side. There was no center post, and Henney was proud of the fact the opening was about 10 feet wide, yet the body was still rigid & safe.

      Around 1978 -80 I had a hearse just like the one pictured, I can remember sitting at a long traffic light in Silver Spring, MD, and a Lotus Europa pulled up on my right. I moved the leveldraulic lever and the entire [8 ft tall] hearse quickly tilted over as if it was going to topple onto the Lotus. The guy was not amused!

      Like 0
      • Trickie Dickie Member

        Hi Bill, Good Info and Thanks. Yep, the guy above here that mentioned sliding chassis weights got into some funny tobacco and his imagination ran away with him. When I started in the funeral business we had a 1948 Packard Henney with the Leveldraulic systems. Worked great and was totally necessary at a few cemeteries. I was so sorry to see that Henney go along with our three beautiful eight passenger Packard limos that were still like showroom. There was another funeral home locally that had a beautiful 1941 Cadillac carved hearse, so well done. I should have bought that and put it away. They are worth a fortune now. I have been retired from the business now for about 10 years, but still go in once in a while when they get really busy. Or to go and make arrangements with families I had served before.

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      • Trickie Dickie Member

        Hi Again Bill…….good info again and thanks. I worked at a Central California mortuary, in the valley, center of the state between SF and LA, but inland. I don’t know what happened to the Packards. We had gotten a new fleet of 1960 Cadillacs and the Packards were just picked up and taken away in trade. New cars were white, a revolutionary step back then. Is there any way on this site to trade emails address, as I have other questions. Or can we post them here? Great video of the Henry Ford funeral. Ironic that he gets hauled away in a Packard !

        Like 0
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        My email address is simple, it’s my name [without space] @aol.com

        As for Ford taking his last ride in a Packard, Few coachbuilders created hearses on the Lincoln chassis. Some say it was because the Lincoln’s swooping designs didn’t work well for the conservative funeral & hearse industry.

        There wasn’t enough time between Henry’s death and his burial to build a suitable hearse, so they used a Henney-Packard. However when Walter P. Chrysler died in 1940, The Chrysler Corporation located a 1934 Chrysler Airflow that had been stretched 40 inches into a beautiful “side loading” hearse. They brought it to the Detroit factory and over a few days restored it to look brand new. Mr. Chrysler would have been proud!

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  13. George

    Definitely hearse/ambulance. It has the jumper seat as well as all glass.

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  14. Chebby

    Somebody went through significant effort to collect these cars, but it looks like they “stored” them at the high tide line. What a waste.

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  15. Lee

    For those Yups who over use the WORD –I refer to it as Petunia–Every one is Quick to correct me and it makes me SMILE? Lee

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  16. Nessy

    If I had nothing better to do, I would like to buy them all, wash them and just look at them. Oh, I love PATINA and Barn Finds!

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  17. piper62j

    IMHO any comment about the description of a vehicle shown on this site should be kept in a lightened point of view.. “Humorous”

    Some commenters were using bad language which has subsided, thankfully, leaving comments interesting.. Anyone can pick apart anyone’s vocabulary to the point where the comment loses it’s commorardary (spell) and it becomes not worthy of reading..

    I myself find all the comments on this site informative and intriguing which adds immensely to my enjoyment of the hobby…

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  18. Keith IH

    Well-stated Piper62. I view this site, its writers and all of us contributors as taking most of the vehicles and comments with tongue firmly planted in cheek. There’s lots of “patina” on many of these “barn finds” and they are almost all interesting in some respect. Whether it’s the vehicle itself, the history or even the sometimes curous and unfortunate things that people decide to do to personalize some of these relics that land on the site. It’s all good and I think everyone should be a bit more like Jeff Lebowski and chill out. End of sermon.

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  19. packrat

    “See how they joke” could be the title of this one. Like so many classics in recent years, these have probably spent some time up to the beltline in the Missouri river.

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  20. JW454

    If you use the word you know it offends. However, if you don’t, will anyone care?
    Do you suppose you’ll get a comment that says, “Hey, you guys didn’t say this car is covered with PATINA”!!!?
    Personally, I don’t care one way or the other. I mostly just “skim read” this site anyway. I like the submissions and review the ads that interest me but that’s about it. I’m not here for the drama.

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  21. Bill Wilkman

    It’s a shame that these service vehicles, that were likely pampered during their professional use, are allowed to deteriorate outdoors by thoughtless buyers.

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  22. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Say, how about some diplomacy? Put it to a vote. Patina vs Cool old car with surface rust and STP decals. And to whom it may concern I think the new email notification kicks tail, very nice job! Going to brush the snow off the surface rust on the old Willys and go for a cruise. That’s my vote. Take care, Mike.

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  23. Keith IH

    Bill – great info, that makes sense. Thanks for sharing!

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  24. Archie dutrizac

    If i was givin a 73 hearse i would fix it DRIVE IT !! Especially the year i was born!!

    Like 0

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