- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

From the first day that the chrome-laden 1958 Oldsmobile made its public appearance, Elliott Mosely knew he was hooked.

As a teen-ager living with his older brother in Brooklyn, N.Y., it was hopeless to even dream of owning such a splendid car. But dream Mr. Mosely did.

By 1960 he had convinced his brother to co-sign with him for a 2-year-old Oldsmobile 98 convertible.

Life was good.

Mr. Mosely did some minor customizing to personalize his car. "I paid $250 for a Continental tire kit he recollects."

After four wonderful years Mr. Mosely and his 1958 Oldsmobile parted company in a manner still painful for him to remember.

The memory of that Oldsmobile lingered 26 years until the summer of 1990. Mr. Mosely, now of Bowie, Md., was driving on Route 301 when he saw a 1958 Oldsmobile 98 Holiday Coupe by the side of the road with a "FOR SALE" sign in the window.

"I had a flashback to when I bought my first car," Mr. Mosely said. Despite the fact the rusted-out hulk should realistically have been sent to a junkyard, Mr. Mosely listened to his heart and bought the car.

It was just barely still a car. The floor was gone, the engine and transmission were missing and even the roof was rotted out. Only the skeletons of the seats remained.

"The car was completely dry-rotted and rusted," Mr. Mosely said. "The roof was dry-rotted around the chrome," he reports. Because his first 1958 Oldsmobile was a convertible he had no experience with either water collecting behind the trim on the roof or the rusting it created.

"I had to cut the rust out on the right and left side of the roof and rear and front window and replace it with metal," Mr. Mosely said.

As the car stood when he bought it, Mr. Mosely said it was a Fred Flintstone car one with no engine and no floor.

Replacement floor pans could not be located so Mr. Mosely made new floor pans out of 40-gauge steel.

Because the 1958 Oldsmobile was a one-year-only model, replacement parts are hard to come by. Mr. Mosely cut out rust patches in both front fenders and both lower quarter panels.

The chrome trim on the rear fenders is about a foot longer than similar trim on an 88 model. With 88 model trim easier to find, Mr. Mosely used what was available, splicing pieces together to get the appropriate length and then sending the parts off for chrome plating.

Only someone whose first love was a 1958 Oldsmobile would go to such extreme measures.

When new, Mr. Mosely's 4,270-pound Holiday hardtop coupe cost about a dollar a pound $4,020. A total of 11,012 such models were manufactured.

The Oldsmobile is 18 feet long before installing the Continental tire kit. A supercomfortable ride is offered compliments of the 126.5-inch wheelbase and a rear suspension consisting of 58-inch-long by 21/2inch-wide leaf springs with outboard-mounted, direct-acting shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar.

Under the Starlite headliner, a quarter-inch thick spongelike vinyl is the step-down style dashboard. The design is a natural for a two-tone paint scheme, white on the bottom and body color on top. Of course, since the year was 1958, the final result was lavishly trimmed with chrome. Even the deep-dish two-spoke steering wheel sparkles with chrome, as does the Safety Sentinel speedometer.

The driver can preselect a speed which, if exceeded, will sound an alarm that theoretically will cause the driver to curb his speed. In reality, this usually meant the driver simply set the alarm to sound at a higher speed.

There was no interior so Mr. Mosely upholstered the inside in red and white as close to original as possible. He then changed the blue and white exterior to red.

On the cowl in front of the severely wrapped windshield are dual air vents, each one topped with the base of a windshield wiper.

The power window controls are not on the driver's door. Instead, they are mounted on the dogleg created by the wraparound windshield. The big and heavy automobile handles easily with the assistance of power steering and power brakes.

Because Mr. Mosely wanted to drive a reliable car, he felt free to install in his engine-less car the power plant of his choice. It happened to be a 455-cubic-inch V-8, out of a 1970 Buick, which produces 375 horsepower.

As the five-year project was concluding, Mr. Mosely located a Continental tire kit especially made for a 1958 Oldsmobile with all the appropriate notches and grooves. He dropped $980 for it without blinking. Funny how times change 40 years earlier he balked at paying a quarter of that amount.

"This car takes me back to a whole lot of memories," Mr. Mosely said.

He has made several 1,000-mile trips to visit family in Mobile, Ala. "It's a head-turner, even on the highway," he said.

Fuel economy isn't high on Mr. Mosely's priority list. He's content pulling into the nearest gasoline station, popping open the left taillight cover hiding the gasoline cap and refueling.

With a nod toward modern efficiency Mr. Mosely rides on radial tires mounted on American aluminum wheels instead of the 8.50x14-inch original tires on steel wheels. Either way, the big car had a turning circle of 43 feet.

The difficulty of finding authentic parts for this car doesn't faze Mr. Mosely. If he hadn't tackled the project the car wouldn't exist today in any condition.

"This car is my dream," he said, "and you can't buy my dream."

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