- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In the 1950s the Washington School for Secretaries was a great place to learn marketable skills and for at least two young ladies, a great place to foster a lifelong friendship.

Margo Eppard had recently graduated from Eastern High School and Phyllis Anne Poole was an Anacostia High School graduate. The secretarial school classmates remained close friends until Miss Poole died April 1, 1995.

Upon her death, she left instructions for her friend, Mrs. Eppard, to receive her white 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible. For 24 years starting April 14, 1971, the day Miss Poole purchased the car in Fort Lauderdale, she and Mrs. Eppard had shared many happy times and memorable miles in the Oldsmobile.

Mrs. Eppard and her husband, Dr. Leonard Eppard, went to Arlington to see the car where it was parked in a garage. There they found a car in, Dr. Eppard recalls, “pretty bad shape.” He saw a car in which the odometer showed more than 90,000 miles, rust had begun to attack the lower parts, a white convertible top needed to be replaced and an engine needed to have the valves ground. Mrs. Eppard, on the other hand, saw a car that brought back the pleasant times she and her friend had spent together.

They decided to have the car restored.

The once-stylish car, a half-inch shy of 17 feet long, was delivered to Alvin Staples in Fredericksburg. At that time he was operating a facility that could restore the Oldsmobile.

The process took about a year and Mrs. Eppard, unfamiliar with restoration work, would visit her car from time to time only to find a fender here, a trunk lid there and other assorted parts scattered about the shop. “I couldn’t find my car,” she lamented. She was shocked but stayed the course and several months later she received a call that her car was completed.

All that was left to do was to pour in five quarts of oil, 16 quarts of coolant, 20 gallons of gasoline and drive away in the like-new Oldsmobile. The white paint had been replaced with a new coat of white and the white top was gone with a new tan one in its place. Tan pinstripes match the color of the new top and accentuate the curves of the fenders.

Mrs. Eppard finds the car attractive, she says, “because there’s not a lot of chrome.” With a nod toward safety, Dr. Eppard had a right-side mirror installed to match the original left one.

Records indicate that when new the 3,513 pound Oldsmobile had a base price of $3,507 — about a dollar a pound. A total of 10,255 Cutlass Supreme convertibles was manufactured in the 1971 model year. Each one of them rolled out of the factory on a 112-inch wheelbase.

It was during 1971 that every Oldsmobile was equipped to burn unleaded fuel and each engine, regardless of size, had an evaporative emission-control system. Mrs. Eppard’s car is powered by a 350-cubic-inch V-8 engine capped with a two-barrel carburetor. The engine develops 240 horsepower, which probably can propel the car up close to the 120 mph mark on the speedometer.

The interior remains original and only needed to be cleaned. An original AM radio is mounted prominently in the center of the black dashboard. The carpeting is black as well, which provides a contrast to the white door panels and upholstered white seats.

While seated behind the two-spoke steering wheel, the driver can see the easily visible odometer approaching 99,000 miles. That milestone will undoubtedly be reached this summer when the couple leave their Lorton home to enjoy top-down motoring on Mrs. Eppard’s favorite drives in the horse country of Northern Virginia.

At the conclusion of each drive, Mrs. Eppard always garages her Oldsmobile and then covers it. She can’t be too careful with what she considers her friend’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible.

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