- The Washington Times - Friday, December 24, 1999

Fresh out of school in 1953 with only a couple of nickels to rub together, young Richard Weber landed a field surveyor's job with what was then the Army Map Service.

The eager young man reported to work in Rock Island, Ill. He was impressed when his boss drove up in a new 1953 Oldsmobile 98 two-door hardtop.

"That car looked 40 feet long," Mr. Weber recalls.

"Of course, I couldn't afford such a car," Mr. Weber said, "but I filed it away in my memory as something I would like to have one day."

Life, it is said, is what happens when we are making other plans.

After Mr. Weber's first encounter with the 1953 Oldsmobile, President Eisenhower left office. Vietnam and Watergate came and went. The Berlin Wall was built and then torn down.

Over the years Mr. Weber has owned several antique automobiles and even restored one. With this experience under his belt, he decided to look for a 1953 Oldsmobile that was already restored.

"That's the way to go," he said emphatically.

He began shopping the usual old-car ads and in July 1999 located a 1953 Oldsmobile 98 convertible in Arlington Heights, Ill., which sounded promising.

Photographs of the car were obtained and the car looked fine, although the pictures were not of professional quality. Mr. Weber was interested enough in the car that he hired an appraiser in Illinois to take a look at the car in suburban Chicago.

"It looks brand-new in the wrapper," came the appraiser's report. A deal was worked out and the Oldsmobile was trucked to Mr. Weber's home in Virginia.

The car was on the upper tier of the truck, Mr. Weber explains, so the only part he could see was the bottom. "Let me tell you, the bottom of the car is not only rust free, but as clean as the top of the car."

When the 4,119-pound car was unloaded, Mr. Weber did the obligatory walk around. "From the moment I saw it I loved it," he said.

His Oldsmobile, one of 7,521 manufactured, sold new for a base price of $3,229, but since this car is well-optioned, the price undoubtedly was more.

The 8.00x15-inch white-sidewall tires carried an additional price of $33.10. They support the convertible on a 124-inch wheelbase with each wheel highlighted by a 40-spoke wire wheel hubcap with an Oldsmobile crest at the hub.

Oldsmobile in 1953 offered its solid-color cars in 17 colors, while the convertible tops were available in four colors with black the recommended one.

Beneath the engine hood is the powerful 303-cubic-inch V-8 with "Oldsmobile Rocket" decals on the valve covers. The horsepower output is 165.

The '53 Oldsmobile's previous owner rebuilt the engine and installed hardened valve seats so the engine can burn unleaded gasoline. At that time the odometer was reset to zero. Since then, Mr. Weber has yet to drive 1,000 miles in the car.

Because of a fire in a General Motors Hydramatic transmission plant in 1953 many 1953 Oldsmobiles were delivered with either a Buick Dynaflow transmission or a manual transmission. Mr. Weber considers himself fortunate to have a Hydramatic transmission designed for the car. From the left the shift pattern is: Neutral Drive Super Low Reverse.

Mr. Weber reports that the reverse gear, with the engine shut down, serves as a parking gear.

"The car has full power," Mr. Weber said. This includes steering, brakes, windows, seat and top. The windows, seat and top are operated hydraulically. By twisting a single handle above the rearview mirror, the top is released for lowering. On the rearmost rib supporting the top, near the rear window, is a dome light. Once lowered, the black top can be covered with a burgundy boot attached by 24 snaps. The boot matches the burgundy and ivory interior.

The previous owner replaced the autronic eye on the dashboard with a new one. The old one, along with dozens of other parts, was in the cavernous trunk when the car was delivered.

The trunk is so large the spare tire stands vertically on the right side of the cargo area. Mr. Weber said he always liked the proportions of the 98 models. "That extra length is what does it for me," he said.

A new pair of outside mirrors have been added to assist in navigating modern-day traffic. The right mirror is just barely visible from the driver's seat, Mr. Weber notes.

The Oldsmobile is equipped with aftermarket curb feelers, which Mr. Weber is pleased to have. They really do help protect the white-sidewall tires, he remarks. "It wouldn't be a 1950s car without them."

He said "It's a good car and I'm glad I have it, even though it took me 46 years to get it."

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