- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

Unless you are a real Oldsmobile aficionado, the chances are you would identify Denney Keyes’ handsome 1966 standard Cutlass convertible as a 4-4-2 model.

From the introduction of the performance 4-4-2 model in the early 1960s the public had come to expect most midside Oldsmobiles to be 4-4-2 models even though other, less publicized models were manufactured.

“It has great styling,” Mr. Keyes says. “It’s a beautiful car.” He voices such thoughts now but it is doubtful that many, if any, such thoughts filled his head when the Oldsmobile was new 40 years ago and he was an elementary school student in New Jersey.

Still, Mr. Keyes says, “I’ve always wanted a convertible.”

His big chance came in November 1994 when a friend had a 1966 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible for sale. Mr. Keyes leaped at the chance with the idea that he could later restore the car. He knows the man who sold him the car and believes that he is the fourth owner.

The second owner remains a mystery but the original Protect-O-Plate issued to the original owner indicates that man was F.D. Welsh of Silver Spring and he bought the car on May 9, 1966. The Burgundy Mist Oldsmobile that Mr. Welsh purchased was one of 12,154 Cutlass convertibles manufactured during that model year.

Optional equipment on the Oldsmobile includes:

• Bench seats.

• Power brakes

• Electric clock.

• Deluxe carpet.

• Dual exhausts.

• Power steering

• Courtesy lights.

• Deluxe seat belts.

• Deluxe AM radio.

• Right visor mirror.

• Jetaway transmission.

• Deluxe steering wheel.

• Locking type differential.

• 330 cid 320 horsepower V-8.

• SSIII 14-inch rally wheels.

When Mr. Keyes got the Oldsmobile to his Mitchellville home a dozen years ago the odometer had recorded 98,000 miles. Since then he has added enough miles to push the odometer up just beyond 102,000 miles.

It’s not that he doesn’t like the car. He does.

It’s not that he isn’t proud of the car. He is.

It’s not that he doesn’t think the car is reliable. He does.

He just doesn’t want to put any more wear and/or miles on the car that would necessitate a restoration. He knows that such an undertaking is coming, he just doesn’t want to rush it along.

Mr. Keyes has learned that his ultrahigh-compression Oldsmobile engine operates best when he fills the gasoline tank with premium grade fuel. He reports combined city and highway gasoline mileage of 14 miles per gallon, not bad for a 3,399-pound car. Fortunately, the capacity of the gasoline tank is 20 gallons.

Upon close examination of the car, he discovered that it had been repainted in the original color that it wore when it left the factory. He estimates that the respray was done about 1989.

The tan hydraulic convertible top with its plastic rear window, Mr. Keyes says, “works great.”

Of course that’s after he rebuilt the hydraulic pump as well as the lift cylinder that operates the convertible top.

“It’s not rocket science,” he says, and he should know. Mr. Keyes is a rocket scientist at NASA in Greenbelt.

Occasionally he drives his Oldsmobile convertible to work on days when the weather forecast promises sunny and dry conditions. With the chrome wheels flashing reflected sunlight, although tempted, he never pushes the speedometer needle close to the 120-mph limit because that would be wrong.

In the 12 years that he has owned the Oldsmobile, Mr. Keyes has gradually been accumulating pieces and parts such as a rear bumper, a new dashboard and various trim pieces to make the eventual restoration project go smoothly.

He keeps putting the restoration on the back burner, he says, because the car is too nice to take off the road for an extended period of time for a thorough restoration.

“It’s a summertime car,” Mr. Keyes says. “It’s nice with the top down. It’s not a wintertime car.” With 7.75x14-inch tires supporting the car on a 115-inch wheelbase, the car has all the elements of a boulevard cruiser.

Look for a 17-foot-long 1966 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible to be restored during a winter coming to your neighborhood sometime in the future.

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