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Restoration Interrupted: 1951 Oldsmobile 98 Holiday Coupe

Oldsmobile made a name for itself in the 1950s not with sexy styling, but with a motor. That motor was the Rocket V-8. It was an overhead valve eight-cylinder configuration, displacing 303 cu. in. in its earliest iteration. Paired with a two-barrel carburetor from 1949 to 1951, it produced 135 bhp, which trounced the 75 bhp from a 1949 Ford flat-head V8. The Rocket impressed the crowds at NASCAR and even managed to capture wins at Carrera Panamericana. Here on eBay is a 1951 Oldsmobile 98 Holiday Coupe for sale, containing that very same motor. The asking price is $6,500 but offers will be entertained. The car is in Belmont, Michigan. The Holiday Coupe was a special car. The greenhouse styling was akin to a convertible with no B pillar, but it was a hardtop. This car is the top-of-the-line “98” trim level, including luxury items like dual horns, dual sun visors, and rear bumper guards. Thanks to Larry D. for the tip!

The owner acquired the Olds in 2014, and at that time it was running. He stored it until he decided to start the project, but unfortunately, the motor froze during storage. The car received a motor teardown to fix the issue, but little progress was made. So here it sits, partially disassembled. The owner has realized that this car is beyond his wherewithal; best to part with it in hopes of a better home. The car comes with some documentation including from when it was new.

The interior will need a lot of attention. The headliner was discarded as was the interior insulation. One of the quirks of this car was its seat and window mechanisms. Oldsmobile installed hydraulic cylinders to “power” the seats and windows. These leaked and failed with regularity, leading to many a Holiday being abandoned. This car is missing those mechanisms. The owner was planning to convert to a 12-volt electrical system and find a way to solve the seat/window problem at that time. Trim and badges were removed and stored – all parts accompany the car.

The seller reminds us that every bit of this car needs restoration, except that there isn’t much rust work if any. The trunk is a good place to look for rust issues; it would be better if we could see under the matting. But the lip of the trunk and even the latch look clean and rust-free. The car must have had decent storage for at least part of its life. If I owned this car I would remove the “eyelid” above the windshield, which I think ruins the clean roofline. Then get started, motor first!


  1. Thayer

    Heh, eyelid. One old-timer I knew called it a cloud catcher. They are ugly.

    Like 3
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      An ex-girlfriend referred to the sun visors as a “Poker player visor”.

      Like 3
    • Gerry Hamer

      I think they are a valuable addition to the appearance of the car , plus a huge safety factor !!

      Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        I agree, most larger American cars in the 1940s and early ’50s look better with a windshield visor, and I’ve had multiple cars with them [and a traffic light viewer on the dash top]. The only car I’ve ever removed one from is my 1948 Packard Super 8 convertible, with the top down it looked kinda strange. But as the car was sold new in the desert areas of California, I know why it was there. I repainted it and added it to my 1948 Packard Custom 8 limousine instead.

        But as for a safety factor, I am hard pressed to see any safety benefits, other than keeping the sun’s direct rays off the interior pieces like the steering wheel & seating surfaces.

        Like 2
  2. Robert White

    Perfect restomod. I’d buy this in a heartbeat if the Gods aligned.

    Great for a Crate 502.

    Tubbed with a 12-bolt Pozi or a Ford 9″ it would have traction with the right boots.

    Flat black primer bumpers included.

    Slammed n’ dropped n’ chopped, yep.

    A real chick magnet.


    Like 1
    • Gary

      Gag. Put electric power windows in it, drop in a LS/auto, four wheel disc’s, suspension upgrades and restore the paint and body. To many nice cars ruined by chopping them into some grotesque pile of crap.

      Like 19
    • $ where mouth is

      Hopefully you dont get it.. tubbed ??, chopped ?!?
      Its not a honda civic, and it is a rare near rust free survivor. Best to ruin some other lesser specimen.

      Like 10
  3. George H.

    Maybe get in touch with Mike Fusick at Fusick Automotive in East Windsor CT. He’s an Oldsmobile specialist and has restrord a number of ghem to top-level show quality, mechanically and cosmetically,, from the frames up.

    Like 9
    • roger gorski

      Sounds a business plug to me. I’ll bet his restoration costs FAR Exceed the final value of a car like this. Someone crunch the numbers and prove me wrong…PLEASE!

      Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        Roger, if it IS a business plug, it’s one that is well deserved. The people at Fusick have a damn good reputation, and my shop dealt with them for many pieces needed for the numerous Olds restorations we did.

        Like 12
  4. Bunky

    It’s amazing how many wanna be car restorers can only muster “Lefty Lucy”, and never make it to “Righty Tighty”
    Very special car.

    Like 11
  5. Dave Deamude

    This needs an Olds 455

  6. TouringFordor

    1949 Ford flatheads were 100 HP. They were 85 HP in the 30’s. Not sure where the 75 figure came from.

    Like 1

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