Dick Irwin is a retired mechanic and we assumed that he was great at his job when we first saw his immaculate 1976 Olds 98 at a car show.
Dick first saw the car when it was brought on a car hauler to a GM dealership where he worked back in 1976.
Dick described his 1976 purchase as being “hounded into buying it” when we asked him why he bought the car. Pressure aside, Dick has managed to preserve this beautiful survivor car from the Jimmy Carter era in the same condition as the day that it came off the delivery truck.
The only addition to the car in 35 years was Dick’s ingenious “automatic run system” as he described it. Dick rigged out the car with an exterior ignition lock in the fender that allowed him to run the car without the key in the ignition and thus keep the doors locked on the car.
Dick was a little ahead of the curve on the keyless running part of the equation, albeit without the ability to fire up the car from a wireless remote control. We just thought that it was a pretty cool innovation if it was taken in the context of its time in the mid 70s.
Dick’s Olds 98 was the biggest rig offered by Oldsmobile in 1976 during a time when performance had taken a hiatus in Detroit. These cars were subject to some serious setbacks because the order of the day was catalytic converters and sluggish acceleration for American iron.
Dick recognized the shortfalls in performance and pulled off his 98’s catalytic converter. The government mandated performance robber is still in his trunk in little used condition.
One of the big drawbacks at the time was that catalytic converters required that drivers use unleaded gas to keep them operational in a car’s exhaust system and unleaded gas was not really common in Dick’s area in 1976.
Unleaded fuel was more expensive and it delivered less bang for the buck to its buyers, so it was not exactly popular with motorists at the time, including Dick. Some owners even bypassed the narrow gas tank openings that prevented the wider leaded gas pump nozzles from fitting into the gas tank filler openings. They simply gouged out a wide opening.
Dick described himself as frugal, so he found the sweet spot for highway travel in his giant Olds was 55 mph, a steady pace that gave him about 21 mpg during a time when that kind of mileage was gold medal performance for a giant land barge.
The tremendous size of the car proved to be very valuable during one long road trip when a blizzard had shut down the highways and there was no room at the inn for Dick and his wife because stranded travelers booked every room.
They pulled over at a rest stop and slept in the car overnight with little or no discomfort. The Oldsmobile always been used for long trips because of its comfortable ride and that was the first time that Dick found out that it could also be a comfortable camper in a pinch.
We at MSCC live by the motto that there is always a story behind every car and we knew that a mint 1976 Olds 98 had a good story behind it.
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