Last year, I wrote about my 1964 Cutlass and how its factory tach was a major contributing factor in its purchase. The photo accompanying the blog was simply of the tach because the few Polaroids I had taken around 1988 were lost. Fortunately, I just found them, so here they are for your viewing pleasure – or displeasure, considering the photo quality. (I take much better photos of cars now than I did then.)
While my $600, 330-cu.in. four-barrel, two-speed Jetaway-equipped A-body received lots of positive attention over the few years I owned it, we also shared some unusual experiences. I was an auto body apprentice when I purchased it, so of course I had dreams of restoring it to its former glory. Its dark green interior, though not the most popular color, was in excellent condition – that is, until I went to my local Channel Home Center one summer weekend to buy spray paint for another project. Five minutes after I got home, and before I took the bag of paint cans off the passenger seat, the seal failed on one of them and it erupted all over the pristine upholstery.
Back to Channel I went to show the store manager the damage. Their insurance company cut me a check for $180 for the cleanup and I was able to carefully remove the splattered paint at the body shop.
When I moved to a bordering state, I went to register the Cutlass and sat at the DMV for hours waiting for the clerks to process the paperwork. After hour one, they told me that my Cutlass’s VIN was returned as invalid, so in fact, it did not exist. I very politely invited the clerk out to the parking lot to see the 1964 Oldsmobile that did not exist. After hour two, I was told that they had found the VIN. Good news! Well not really, as it came back as a stolen car, so it would have to be impounded! I calmly explained that the Cutlass had been registered under my name for nearly two years without incident in my previous state of residence and that I had purchased it from the original owner. Try again!
Though I’m no Mensa member, I doubt I’d be so mentally deficient as to steal a $600 car and then drive it to the DMV to register it in my name! (That last comment I said with my inside voice.)
Part way through hour three, all of a sudden everything was hunky-dory and I had my plates and registrations for my Olds. Go figure.
I later changed jobs and went to work for Merrill Lynch as a sales assistant (not a broker) for a few years. Yes, there was a time when I traded in coveralls for a suit… it was short lived. Sure, throw a halfway decent business suit on a college kid and he’ll sort of fit in, but park a 1964 Cutlass with questionable lower quarter panels in a Merrill Lynch parking lot and… not so much. Among a sea of new Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, and Nissan 300ZXs sat my slightly wavy A-body appearing resplendent in its vintage patina.
Remember, these were the days of a thriving economy and movies like Wall Street. The financial markets were supposedly the place to be to make it big. Truth be told, though I worked with some great people, I was no better a fit in that office than my Cutlass was in the parking lot. You just had to look a little more closely to realize it. While my colleagues were immersed in The Wall Street Journal, I was still reading car magazines at my desk whenever there was break, just like I did in high school and college.
Apparently, those in the business world were not alone in their curiosity regarding the eccentric appearance of a suit-and-tie-wearing driver of an old car. One morning, on the way to work, I was pulled over by the police. I handed over my license and registration, while wondering why I had been stopped. I hadn’t been speeding or driving erratically, and my paperwork was in order. After about 10 minutes of checking and rechecking, the officer finally handed me my paperwork and admitted that the reason he pulled me over was that it just looked weird for a kid in a suit to be driving such an old car. He would have gotten along well with some of my coworkers.
Though I had high hopes for the Cutlass, like I did for every car I have owned right up to today, the reality of the time was that I already had two other projects demanding my cash and time, so my daily driver didn’t get the restoration it likely deserved. After a few years of faithful service and some peculiar happenings, these few blurry photos, a console and a tach are what remain of the Cutlass, and they will have to do.