Most holiday movie buffs are well aware of ‘A Christmas Story’ but MyStarCollectorCar will fill in the blanks for the 17 people who have not seen this legendary Christmas nostalgia flick.
The movie’s era appeared to be the post-war period–judging by the cars and trucks in the outdoor scenes. For example, the police car in the famous schoolyard emergency scene appeared to be a 1948 Chevy sedan, although it is difficult to discern exact years for domestic cars built between 1946 and 1948.
However, legendary movie car honors in ‘A Christmas Story’ belong to a 1937 Oldsmobile Six four-door touring sedan owned by Ralphie’s father, affectionately referred to as “The Old Man” by the adult Ralphie narrator through the entire movie.
Adult Ralphie made an interesting comment about his dad: “Some men are Baptists, others are Catholics; my father was an Oldsmobile man”. The message was clear to every car guy because they were likely influenced by their fathers in terms of car choices.
The Old Man’s ’37 Olds had an outdated style, even by the late 1940s, but it was clearly near and dear to his heart in a love/hate way-not unlike the way every car guy views their vehicles. The Old Man was frustrated by the car’s tendency to freeze up in wintry weather: “That son of a b**** would freeze up in the middle of the summer on the equator!”. Nevertheless, it was obvious The Old Man loved his ’37 Oldsmobile.
Perhaps the most powerful reason for us at MyStarCollectorCar to label ‘A Christmas Story’ as a car guy story is the scene in which Ralphie and his family buy a Christmas tree, then haul it back on the sturdy roof of the Olds.
The pre-war design of the car included fender-mounted headlights and small taillights that were mounted on the rear quarters. They were the perfect tether points for the rope securing the large Christmas tree to the roof of the ’37 Olds. The car already had an outdated style by the late 1940s, but it was highly functional for The Old Man and his family.
Arguably the most significant car guy moment occurred when the Olds had a flat tire and Ralphie’s father challenged himself to change it in less than 4 minutes. Every car guy on the planet would be in awe of a 4-minute tire change-let alone anything less than 4 minutes.
It was clear Ralphie was a budding young car guy when he leaped at the opportunity to help his dad change the tire. Unfortunately, he accidentally scattered the lug nuts and immediately went to Stage 2 of the car guy world when Ralphie swore at the unfortunate turn of events-truly a car guy response to mechanical mishaps that are a routine part of their world. Amazingly, The Old Man was still able to clock in at 8 minutes for the tire change, an excellent time by car guy standards.
The car guy moment may have been washed away with Ralphie’s soap-in-mouth punishment for his unfortunate choice of words, but his overall enthusiasm was not lost on car guys.
Eventually, ‘A Christmas Story’ had a happy ending when Ralphie did get his BB gun for Christmas, but not before movie viewers had an opportunity to watch a future car guy cut his teeth on a 1937 Oldsmobile because of his father.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.