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SEPTEMBER 2017 COASTERS 50: A STOCK 1954 OLDSMOBILE 98 IS STILL WORKING HARD AFTER 63 YEARS ON THE ROAD

By on September 2, 2017
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Two car guys were under the hood of a 1954 Olds 98 sedan and they were tinkering with the very original 63-year-old car.

 

Cars of this vintage are usually morphed into something radically different by their owners but this ’54 Olds was a pretty stock version of the one that left the factory all those decades ago.     

 

The two men were about to install an electric fan on the Olds so the 63-year-old car would keep its cool as a trailer-hauler.

 

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The 98’s owner was Mike Sawka and he was in the early stages of a cross- country tour with the Coast to Coasters, a group of largely Canadian automotive adventurers who were willing to see the entire country of Canada in a vintage ride.

 

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Some of the vehicles were heavily modified and some of the owners were not pulling a trailer, but Mike and his Olds were old school and also pulled a trailer for accommodation along the route. The trailer was a lightweight R-Pod unit that was designed for its ease of towing but a 1954 Olds 98 is still not blessed with 21st century technology, so Mike decided to add electric fans to cool the original OHV V-8 engine.

 

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The Olds also had a factory 12-volt system that made the installation of the electric fans easier for Mike and his friend. The car had already experienced an overheating issue twice-before and Mike did not want to go through the hot adventure again if he could avoid it.

 

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The trailer is reputed to be one of the lightest on the market, but that was before it got stocked by Mike’s bride, according to Mike. She is a woman who wanted to be well-prepared for the long cross-country trek in their Olds 98.

 

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The Olds is “not bad” on the road, according to Mike, and the car will cruise at a steady 55-60 mph (95-100 km/h) with the trailer on behind the car. Mike said he can go faster, but he chooses slower “just to preserve my sanity”, in Mike’s words.

 

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The electric brakes on the trailer help preserve the stock drum brake system on the Olds for Mike.

 

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1954 was not a year for lavish automotive features but Mike’s Olds 98 was a top-of-the-line automobile, so it has power steering and a four-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission that allows drivers to hold the car in third gear until it builds enough momentum to shift into the last gear.

 

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The sophisticated tranny and the 324 cubic inch Rocket engine gives Mike some extra jump when it comes to towing a trailer.

 

The toughest part of the long journey occurred early in the Coast to Coast trek because the adventurers faced desert-like heat and steep hills in southern BC’s Okanagan region. Mike was smart when he gave he and his wife a fighting chance to tackle the steep and winding pass out of Osoyoos with his minor alteration to the cooling system on his stock 1954 Olds 98.

 

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Mike must have been a Boy Scout in his younger years because he was prepared for the long trip-even while he was on it.       

 

Jim Sutherland

 

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