Imperfect perfection: 1948 Oldsmobile

Posted in Cars, Features
 
 

 

What this ’48 Oldsmobile lacks in shine and perfect panel gaps, it more than makes up for in performance

 In this day and age of million-dollar paint jobs, absurd re-trims, and the never-ending desire for perfection, it’s sometimes refreshing when a car owner comes along who clearly just doesn’t give a shit. The easy assumption when you first lay eyes on Phil Brown’s ’48 Oldsmobile coupe is that it’s (a) unfinished, (b) just a junker, or (c) some other form of expletive. Those with a bit more of an eye for what they’re looking at, though, are likely to notice that the roof has been chopped by a solid three inches, the body sectioned by even more, and the car’s seriously sitting in the weeds.

It was this low-slung sled-type look that initially attracted Phil — actually, more so his wife, Bryony — to the car. After racing a turbocharged Toyota for many years, Phil decided that, with a young family, it was a bit too selfish for him to be the only one having fun in a car. It was with this notion that the Toyota was sold and the hunt for something a bit more family orientated began.

For a brief moment, the thought of making it shiny did cross Phil’s mind

 

 

When Bryony saw the Olds sitting looking unloved, she mentioned to Phil how cool it looked, which was just the motivation required for him to track down the owner and see if it was up for grabs. The car had been imported a few years before, but the amount of work needed to get it on the road was just too much for the owner. For Phil, though, who’s more than capable of getting his hands dirty, it was a good challenge and a great way to get a cool-looking car without breaking the bank.

While, for a brief moment, the thought of making it shiny did cross Phil’s mind, thankfully, this was soon forgotten, as the desire was to build something cool that wasn’t precious. With sons Jaeden and Kaige, aged seven and nine, respectively, as well as a long gravel driveway to contend with, the whole rough-and-t ough beater concept was one that resonated with Phil.
With the car having failed cert and compliance on a seriously long list of items, you’d think it’d have taken an equally long time to get it sorted, but with Phil rolling up his sleeves and getting into it as fast as possible, the car was on the road just 12 months later. Sure, to speed up the process, Phil didn’t bother fixing the motor that was in the car; instead he dropped in a 350-cube crate motor. He also called upon the experts at various stages when help was required. Still, that’s an impressive turnaround time. Included in that was having Kyrie from Quest Fabrication fit airbag suspension all round to make the most of the car’s flowing lines. As part of this, the diff was replaced with one from a VS Commodore, as not only did it fit in perfectly width-wise, it also came complete with LSD head and disc brakes.

After looking into matching brake set-ups for the front end, Phil found a Wilwood six-pot kit that included massive 14-inch front rotors, all for a decent price. To this, a booster was added, and now the car stops on a dime. Of course, the 14-inch rotors are pretty much the same size as the wheels that were on the car, so it wasn’t long before a set of 17x10s and 17x12s were fitted.

While the body itself hasn’t really been touched, Phil has added a ’56 Chev front bumper and a few bits of trim just to finish it off. The same applies to the interior, with the difference being that ‘unfinished’ was the look he was after — perhaps as a reminder of his race car days. With family in mind, a full assortment of Dynamat was added to keep rattles at a minimum, while, just for fun, Kyrie knocked up the custom chain-link shifter that now sits at eye level.   
It was in this state that the car was VINed, certified, and WOF’d. While it would have been easy just to leave it that way, a quick look on eBay one night saw Phil’s plans for the car extended. It was a bolt-on twin-turbo kit that caught his eye and led him to start thinking about the possibility of giving the old girl a bit of boost. A quick look on Trade Me, and there was a similar kit a whole lot closer to home. 

It was a bolt-on twin-turbo kit that caught his eye and led him to start thinking about the possibility of giving the old girl a bit of boost

 

 

The theory essentially may have been to bolt it on and hit the road again, but it wasn’t quite that easy. On closer inspection, Phil found that the kit he’d bought was pretty much junk, apart from the turbos, so Kyrie was called upon again to custom build the required new headers as well as plumb up the twin intercoolers. A fuel system to match was also required, and was supplied by Segedins Auto Spares. It consists of a monster pump and Quick Fuel carb. A giant custom fuel cell, rising-rate regulator, and MSD ignition help to get it all to work. The custom ‘Wilson’-themed plenum started out as a bit of a joke but adds to the fun, personality, and character of the car. 

Of course, Phil knew that the crate motor in the car wouldn’t be all that tolerant of boost and neither would the T5 gearbox. To sort the engine side of the equation, he had Wayne from Henderson Automotive build a forged motor using the original block that came with the car. With low-compression pistons, H-beam rods, and a set of Dart heads, the new combo should handle everything thrown at it.

Hanging off the back of it now is a Tremec TKO600 five-speed box mated to a McLeod twin-plate clutch. Sure, Phil could have gone for an auto, and it would have been easier to drive, but where’d have been the fun in that?

And it’s the word ‘fun’ that this car has been built around. Sit on it, stand on it, lean against it, park it outside the cafe — it really doesn’t matter. Phil’s plan was to build a car that the whole family could enjoy, and that’s exactly what he’s achieved. Shiny paint be damned! 

Name: Phil Brown
Age: 38
Occupation: Transport manager
Previously owned cars: Toyota Corolla race car
Dream car: Got it
Why the Olds? Because it looks badass, and I didn’t want to worry about nice paint
Build time: 12 months
Length of ownership: Two years
Phil thanks: Wayne at Henderson Automotive, Dean at JT Automotive, Ian at Key West Fabrication & Supplies, Kyrie at Quest Fabrication, Carl at C&M Performance  

1948 Oldsmobile

Engine: 350ci small block Chev, forged pistons, H-beam rods, stock crank, ARP fasteners, Dart heads, roller rockers, Quick Fuel carb, custom manifolds, twin T4 turbos, twin 2.5-inch exhaust, A1000 fuel pump, rising rate regulator, MSD ignition, MSD Pro-Billet distributor, MSD coil, PWR radiator, custom intercoolers
Driveline: Tremec TKO600 five-speed manual gearbox, McLeod twin-plate clutch, VS Holden diff, LSD head
Suspension: Airbags all round, Monroe shocks, four-link rear, Nolathane bushes, twin Viair compressors, custom front sway bar
Brakes: Wilwood six-pot front calipers, 14-inch front rotors, VS Holden rear calipers, slotted rear rotors, aftermarket booster
Wheels/Tyres: 17x10- and 17x12-inch Ridler wheels, 235/40R17 and 285/35R17 tyres
Exterior: Three-inch roof chop, four-inch body section, matte paint, custom graphics
Interior: Re-trimmed bench seat, custom rear seat, Auto Meter gauges, custom switches, custom shifter, aftermarket steering wheel, Dynamat insulation, hidden head unit
Performance: 487hp at the wheels

Todd Wylie

Todd Wylie has been involved with NZV8 magazine since before the first issue was printed, and has been the editor for the last eight years. Growing up in the heyday of the Jap-import scene, he's not adverse to Japanese vehicles, having worked for NZ Performance Car previously, as well as owning a few well-known examples. These days he cruises at a slower pace in a 1956 Cadillac Coupe and dreams of building a Model A tudor.

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