- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

It was a case of love at first sight when Ruby Batten turned a corner and saw the 1960 Oldsmobile Super 88 convertible waiting for her at the annual spring gathering of antique automobile aficionados in Carlisle, Pa.

Oldsmobile built 347,141 cars in 1960, offering 17 models in 15 colors. The convertible version of the middle-of-the-line Super 88 carried a base price of $3,592.

A Pennsylvania man was one of the original 5,830 buyers of those Super 88 convertibles; his was casino cream with a black top. Some years later he sold it to a friend, who eventually sold it back. In 1994, the original owner offered the convertible for sale in the car corral

That was the year that Ruby Batten went to Carlisle with her husband, Raymond, with the intention of buying an antique car. It couldn’t be just any car, she decided; it had to reach out to her.

After hours spent wandering through the aisles lined with antique cars, Mrs. Batten recalls, they turned a corner and there it was. “It struck my fancy that day,” she says. “I fell in love with it right then.”

She pointed to the car and told her husband that was the car she wanted. The firm statement was followed by a question: “What kind is it?”

From a distance, he replied, “I think it’s a Pontiac.”

Only when they got closer could they see that her dream car was a 1960 Oldsmobile Super 88 convertible. Three different engines were available in the car — starting with a 240-horsepower V-8 and a 260-horsepower V-8. This particular Oldsmobile came with the top-of-the-line 394-cubic-inch V-8 that develops 315 horsepower to move its 4,134 pounds.

Walking around the car, taking in all the details, Mrs. Batten knew she had made the right decision. She liked how the back bumper wrapped down around the backup lights. The long, horizontal taillights flowed into the lines of the car and even the fender skirts gave the 18-foot-long car a longer, lower appearance. In those early days of quad headlights, designers paired them horizontally, stacked them vertically and even canted them at angles. Oldsmobile preferred separating them with a strip of steel on which an Oldsmobile emblem was attached.

The three-tone interior was pristine. What wasn’t covered in a blue, gray or white vinyl or a gray carpet was plated with chrome. The odometer had registered about 97,000 miles.

Not much time was spent negotiating a deal before she became the third owner of the Oldsmobile. With her husband following in their modern vehicle, she drove her prize home to Severn, Md., the 123-inch wheelbase providing a luxurious ride. She had to be careful with the automatic transmission because of the shift pattern. From the left the gear selector reads: park, neutral, drive, second, low, reverse.

Once she got the convertible home, the couple spent some time doing research on it. They learned that a similar Oldsmobile was the Indianapolis 500 pace car in 1960 and that inside the glove compartment is a vacuum-operated release for the trunk lid. “The engine has to be running for it to work,” Mrs. Batten explains.

Also in the glove compartment, Mrs. Batten points out, is a battery-powered transistor radio which can be taken out of the car for entertainment at sporting events or picnics.

The upscale car is equipped with power steering, power brakes and an autronic automatic headlight dimmer.

Like every other Oldsmobile of that era, the two-spoke steering wheel is severely deep dished.

Along about 2002, the sleek convertible began smoking, so the big engine was rebuilt. With that task complete, it seemed only natural that the automatic transmission receive the same treatment.

Then they noticed the car was sitting low so they had new springs installed to bring it back up to the original height.

The convertible top was beginning to show signs of wear, and Mrs. Batten happily discovered that in 1960 Oldsmobile offered convertible tops in six colors — blue, black, beige, green, white and turquoise.

The black top, which she had always considered depressing, was replaced with a white top, which she says is more appropriate for a happy car. The boot covering the convertible top when it is lowered is held in place by 24 snaps.

Mrs. Batten reports that since the mechanical parts were rebuilt, the car has been driven about 20,000 miles, once on a trip to Charlotte, N.C. Many more trips are planned, most of them to antique car shows.

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