- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

Denny Keys owes his sister Janice big time.
Almost three decades ago, when he was a high school sophomore in Cinnaminson, N.J., his sister was serving in the Navy, stationed at an air station near Memphis, Tenn.
Her want for a car sent her shopping and she soon found a good deal on a high-mileage (30,000 miles) year-old 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass "S" with the 442 option.
A year later the Navy needed her services in Japan, a country where the roads are not Oldsmobile-friendly. Having already made a year's worth of payments on the car, she drove the 17-1/4-foot-long Oldsmobile to her parents' New Jersey home and asked her mother to take care of it. Oh, and by the way, could she make the monthly payments too?
She was able to get away with this because her father was a dyed-in-the-wool Oldsmobile man. "Always owned them, always will." He was happy and proud that his daughter's first car was an Oldsmobile, even though it wasn't a big 98 model, his favorite.
"Mom loved it," Mr. Keys remembers, "even with the white stripe down the hood."
Soon thereafter he acquired his driver's license and gradually took possession of the 3,837-pound Oldsmobile.
Life was good.
During his final two years of high school he drove a very desirable hot set of nearly new wheels that his sister and mother had financed.
The 350-cubic-inch Rocket V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor develops 200 horsepower with 275 foot-pounds of torque delivered to the rear wheels via a Turbo Hydramatic transmission.
Upon graduation Mr. Keys made arrangements to matriculate at the University of Colorado in Boulder, almost 2,000 miles away. For the next four years Mr. Keys made a minimum of two round trips annually between New Jersey and Colorado and often many more.
To make the transfer of ownership official his parents sold him the car for $1. "I've got my money's worth," he said.
"The reliability of the car is amazing," he said. "It has never let me down."
By the time he graduated as an engineer in 1980 his Zodiac blue Oldsmobile with a white interior had recorded 130,000 miles on the odometer. He packed it with all his worldly goods and drove to his first job in Pennsylvania.
"Moving to Pittsburgh was the worst thing I could do for my car's health," Mr. Keys laments. The winter road salt and chemicals took a toll on the Oldsmobile's sheet metal.
Within a couple of years Mr. Keys Within a couple of years Mr Keys moved back to Colorado, storing his Oldsmobile with his mother in New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. "Mom's a saint," he said. A year later he reclaimed his car and drove it to Colorado.
Five years after that he moved to Virginia. However, this time the Oldsmobile made the trip on the back of a truck.
Not long afterward Mr. Keys, now a NASA engineer, moved to Mitchellville to be closer to his work.
Now, after almost 197,000 miles, the well-cared-for engine continues to function while burning no oil. The original 14-inch wheels have been replaced with the optional 15-inch versions.
The Oldsmobile came from the factory equipped with:
SS III wheels.
442 package.
Electric clock.
Rallye gauges.
Power steering.
Power disc brakes.
Convenience group.
Swivel bucket seats.
Dual exhaust system.
Sports central console.
Limited slip differential.
Raised white letter tires.
Tilt steering sport wheel.
AM/FM stereophonic radio with four speakers.
The base price of the totally restyled for 1973 Cutlass with the large, vertical taillamps when new was $3,107.60.
The actual price was far in excess of that amount. Oldsmobile in the 1973 model year sold a total of 938,970 vehicles.
What once had been a potent, 442 neck-snapping, push-you-back-in-the-seat package by 1973 had been reduced, by government regulation, to an appearance and handling option available on Cutlass and Cutlass "S" coupes.
The 442 option consisted of:
Special grille.
Hood louvers.
Higher rate springs.
Hood and deck stripes.
Heavy-duty shock absorbers.
Front and rear stabilizer bars.
The two-piece grille is spring-mounted at the bottom to give a bit when hit in a mild impact such as parking so as to avoid replacement every other week.
Both front and rear bumpers are also protected by full-length rubber strips.
Mr. Keys' well-traveled Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 has been, by his calculation, in 45 of the contiguous 48 states. He has yet to drive his car in North Dakota, Michigan and Oklahoma. He has no intention of including Alaska and Hawaii in the total.
One thing, however, that he must do is include the treasured Oldsmobile in his will. When it comes to that point, his sister wants her car back.


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