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Special order and calls from the factory!


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A recent thread reminded me of the first new car that was ever bought for me. Please note that I didn't say "first new car I bought"! One wants to differentiate between "special order" and "custom".....

I was graduating high school in 1969, and my parents, being of modest means, offered me my choice of new cars as a graduation present. Of course, this didn't mean I could buy the most expensive of cars, but a modest means of transportation was not out of the question.

My father travelled quite a bit for a local company, and starting in the late 30's he'd buy an Oldsmobile through the company, and an Oldsmobile for my mother. This would occur every two years, give or take. I have a picture of my father at the local Oldsmobile dealership (Walker Olds in Alexandria, La., for you historians) taking delivery of his 25th new Oldsmobile, a 1955 Holiday coupe.

So, I naturally was interested in Oldsmobile cars, of course. When it came time to pick out a car, I decided I wanted a 1969 Cutlass.

I was heading to LSU for an education, and hoped that the college stuff I had to do didn't interfere with that process.

Sitting down with my father's salesman, I started going down the list of how I wanted the car to be ordered.

Four door, not sporty, but sure makes carrying classmates around easier.

Three speed, or three on the tree, because by then I'd been driving a 1925 Dodge coupe and a 1931 Chevrolet for 3 years, and I liked to shift.

I wanted good gas mileage, so ordered, if I remember correctly, a 2.78 rear end (this was slightly before the energy crisis but such ratios were available, I got great gas mileage with that car, and every dollar not in the gas tank bought more beer...uh...food..at college) Wanted to know what my engine was doing, so ordered the instruments, which included a Tic-Tac-Tock, or something like that, a tachometer around a clock and full gauges, no idiot lights for me! And, I wanted to put my OWN 8-track tape unit in, so radio delete it was....

Dark blue, black vinyl top since that was the rage at the time. Plain hubcaps, not styled steel wheels for me!

So, car ordered. A few weeks go by, and I get a call from the manager of sales at the dealership. They'd had a call from the "factory". or more likely some office, asking if the car was already sold, NO WAY would that car be in inventory and sell! So yes, I said, that's what I want, and that's what I got.

In the 60's and 70's, there were a lot of different ways a car could be ordered. I'd be willing to bet that there were very few, if any, 1969 Oldsmobile three speed four doors 2.78 rear end full instruments radio delete hubcaps ever ordered, other than mine. It would now be an interesting car, but surely not valuable, as different doesn't always mean desirable.

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I recall in 1963 my brothers and I all bought new cars. The oldest brother bought a Chevrolet Impala SS 2-door hardtop with a 340 horse 409 and a 4-speed, the next brother got a Ford Galaxie 500 4-door sedan with the base V-8 and automatic, and I got a Ford Galaxie 500XL convertible with a 390, 4-speed. Guess what? The brother with the Galaxie automatic soon became disillusioned and ordered a '64 Chevrolet Bel Air (not the impala) 4-door with a 250 horse 327 and a 4-speed. I tried to tell him no one buys a 4-door sedan with a 4-speed but he insisted that was what he wanted. I said it will be hard to get rid of when you try to trade it off. He refused to believe that until he got rid of it a few months later and took a severe beating on it. I think that was his one and only 4-speed.

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The 1960 Olds S88 I had in high school was ordered from the factory with the 394 c.i., 4 bbl., 3-speed Manual Trans (3-on-the-tree) and NO PS/PB/PW. Sorry but I do not recall the rear end ratio, but do know it was also specified by the purchaser, who was my brother.


Edited by D Yaros
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You mentioned in another thread that the 1969 Cutlass could have been bought with a six, but that it probably wasn't popular. You're right on both accounts. My brother has a '69 (or '68??) convertible with the six, and it's a Cutlass "S" to boot. I think it's one of just over 600 made with the six, in all body styles.

My grandfather bought a Lincoln Continental in 1976, without the padded top or opera window, a feature seen very, very little at the time, and almost unheard of today. The sound system was little more than an AM radio!




Edited by West Peterson (see edit history)
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Wow you can actually see the ground from inside the car without having a car all rusted out. These days you really have to stick your head under the hood to see the ground. Sometimes you still can't see the ground no matter what you do with all the crap they stick in there.


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Not really an antique or even a special interest car, but in 1997 or so, I ordered a new Audi A4 wagon with a 1.8 liter turbo, 5-speed manual, no sunroof, cloth seats, and bright yellow (think canary yellow) paint. A few weeks later, the VP of Audi of America calls me personally and asks, "You're sure you really want this car? Because it's practically unsellable if you back out of the deal. We only build like 5 or 6 of these a year." Well, as things turn out, I waited nearly 8 months before calling it off and buying something else because I was tired of waiting. Eventually the car did show up at the dealership, they did call me and ask if I still wanted it, because they apparently had someone else who saw it and fell in love, and, well, I never got my little yellow Audi wagon. But I did see it later at an Audi Club event and it was every bit as cool as I'd hoped. Sometimes it just doesn't work out.

But yeah, it was definitely an oddball.

Edited by Matt Harwood
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And to be a little more on-topic, we recently had a chance to acquire a 1963 Chevy Impala SS convertible. All the important stuff was there: 1-owner (being sold by original owner's daughter), matching-numbers, fully restored and fully spectacular with almost $100,000 worth of restoration receipts. The daughter asked me what I thought it was worth, and I poured over the gorgeous black-over-red ragtop (original color combination) with a magnifying glass, very, very excited about its potential. Looked inside and it was a PowerGlide, disappointing, but not a deal-breaker. I was thinking that it could be a $65-75,000 car if the mechanicals were as nicely done as the bodywork.

Opening the hood, I didn't dare hope for a 409, but a 283 would have been nice. But nope, just a six. A SIX CYLINDER IMPALA SS CONVERTIBLE!?! Who would have chosen such a thing on purpose? With a two-speed slushbox no less! Aaargh!

Broken-hearted, I told her it was probably a $35,000 car at that point, or she could swap in a period 409 for, say, $10,000 and make it worth $50,000. Not an easy choice...

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And now that I'm thinking about oddballs, in junior high school, my best friend's mom had an early '80s Buick Century station wagon with a 3-speed manual transmission on the steering column. I thought they swapped it or something, but that's how they ordered it new because his mom always insisted on a manual transmission. It was the damnedest thing; total cognitive dissonance to see the light blue Buick wagon with three pedals on the floor. I argued strongly that Buick simply didn't do manual transmissions, but knowing their family (cheapskates but not mechanically savvy), there's just no way they would have "built" such an animal for themselves or paid someone to convert it. If they couldn't buy it that way, they would have bought something else.

Heck, that car's replacement was a Volvo 240 wagon with a 4-speed manual...

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Matt, you see my point. During the 60's and seventies, ordering an oddball was possible, but I also think that salesmen and dealers didn't lay it on the table, if you wanted something different you had to work for it. My father bought so many Olds from the same dealer, that when I talked to the salesman in 1969, it was "sure, young Mr. Coco, here's the option list, what do you want?"

I will say that, with economy in mind, if I'd seen the six cylinder option I'd have considered it...

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All things considered, a Chevy 6-cylinder was usually not as fuel-thrifty as some might suspect, by observation. I knew of LOTS of "re-tuned" '72-era Cutlass 350 4bbls that regularly got past 20mpg on the highway back then, in style and comfort, AND had enough power to cook the rear tires, if desired. A great combination it was! We had a '61 BelAir 4-door sedan, purchased by the orig owner with radio delete, 235 6-cylinder, 3-speed, hubcaps, heater, and tinted glass. I was a good car, but was probably NOT the economy car it might have been perceived to be . . . other than only having 6 spark plugs and such. We got the dealer to do a factory AM radio (and antenna) and then had a hang-down air conditioner added, too. It did fine, but the '66 Chrysler Newport 6-Window Town Sedan that replaced it was so MUCH better for "Just a few dollars a day more . . . " Both the BelAir and the Chrysler came from the same "first owner", after one year of him driving them (about 7K miles).



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When ordering my first new car, a 1969 Pontiac Tempest, just before getting married, I got a lot of flack from the dealership for my "Special-Order" sheet. The car was ordered in December, 1968 at Mrozek Pontiac in Linden, NJ, and would be built at the Framingham, MA plant. Soon to be married and starting a family, I knew I needed a 4-door sedan, and would need to trailer a 22ft boat 250 miles on weekends from New Orleans to Grand Isle, LA. Fine, but I had a really enjoyable several years racing SCCA at Lime Rock, Bridgehampton, Marlboro, Watkins Glen, etc. I had enjoyed the handling of the cars I had to sell - ('59 Alfa-Romeo Giuliette Spider Veloce, Lotus Super-7, TR-2, '53 Saab), and wasn't really ready to drive a BORING car, so some of my special items were:

Tempest 4-door sedan

Paint - Mayfair Maize (pale Yellow)

Custom"S" option

F-41 Ride & Handling Package

stiffer springs & shocks

heavy sway bars front & rear

Pontiac (not Chevy) 350ci engine, High-Output version with 6-Qt oil capacity

4-barrel carb.

M-400 Hydramatic (3-speed)

Limited-Slip Differential

Special order Rear-End ratio (forgot which one)

Power Steering

Power Brakes

Disc Front Brakes


Tilt & Telescope Steering Wheel

Cruise Control

Speed-minder (buzzer you could set as pointer in speedometer)

special bright trim

Full wheel covers

plain blackwall tires (to be soon replaced with Michelin "XWX" performance rubber)

padded dash

Black vinyl interior

Extra Padding in front seat

AM Radio

Clock (special Rallye Version)

Special Light Package

Cigar Lighter

Wood Trim

And a bunch of other stuff I don't recall right now

Then aftetrmarket - a "serious" Draw-Tite trailer hitch and trailer brake controller, and inflatable air Bags inserted into the rear coil springs, not just for trailering, but separately adjustable for better Auto-Crossing.

(the next year, when the windshield needed replacement, we added the proper wiring so we could have the antenna in the glass)

The Dealership's sales manager told me that if I changed my mind about buying it after he ordered the "ba$$-terd-ized family sedan", he would track me down and haunt me.

He called it a "GTO in Drag".

For a family car, it really went, and really handled.

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Unfortunately I also have some of that extra padding of my own as well, which is why we had to sell the "shrinking" 1927 Chevy Capitol AA Roadster. As we added two children and a Dalmatian, we were initially able to all fit in the (only) seat of the little roadster, son between us on the seat, infant daughter on wife's lap, dog on running board, held safely in place behind accordion-fold luggage bracket. The problem was that Chevrolet forgot to "Sanforize" the '27 Roadster. As time, and years, went by we enjoyed our great New Orleans foods, restaurants, Louisiana hospitality, Texas barbecue, French pastries, many, many tours which rate as 10-pounders, and every time the Chevy came home from a tour, we washed it thoroughly. Not (apparently) being Sanforized against shrinkage, it appeared that as our family grew, the Chevy shrank.

Was there someone at Chevrolet's corporate offices I could have talked with about Sanforizing?

Can I have my next car special-ordered that way? or do I have to give up the foods we love?

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I've ordered 3 new vehicles in my lifetime and each experience was less than satisfactory. The first one was to be a 1965 Chevy Malibu SS convertible, yellow with saddle interior, tan top, 327/300 hp, 4-speed. Ordered it in November of 1964 and Chevy promptly went on strike. Prior to ordering the Malibu I tried to order a '65 GTO or a 2+2 convertible but the Pontiac dealer and I could not agree on a price. After a few months of waiting I cancelled the order on the '65. My neighbor had ordered a '65 Chevelle 2-door hardtop with a 327/250 hp and 3 on the column. It came in, he would not take it, (He wasn't working and probably could not pay for it) and it sat for months before they sold it. The next new one I ordered was a '68 Chrysler 300 convertible, white with black interior and olive green top, 440 automatic, heavy-duty suspension and brakes and styled wheels. Ordered it in January and waited and waited and waited. Finally it arrived in April a few days before I was going to leave for Nashville to see the Grand Ole Opry. Chrysler had not gone on strike but the transport drivers had and the car had been sitting in a truck depot in Pittsburgh, PA. I picked it up on Saturday, put 1,000 miles on it the next week, they changed the oil in it, and I left for Nashville. Got there and noticed oil leaking from the car. They had stripped the threads on the plug and I had to have a new plug put in it. The third (and last) one I ordered was a 1986 Ford Aerostar van with a 3.0 V-6 and a 5-speed manual transmission. It did not come and they could not tell me what the holdup was. I finally informed them on a Friday morning in April that the dealership in Roanoke had Aerostars and I was getting up that evening (I was working night shift) and going to Roanoke and buying one. They got on the phone and learned the car was sitting in North Carolina and they were waiting to get a full load together before they delivered it. I said good, I'm going to Roanoke. They went to NC, picked the car up and one of the mechanics cleaned it up that night and I picked it up the next morning, also a Saturday. People used tell me that they ordered vehicles and got them in 2 weeks. As far as I am concerned that is a joke. One I never did get and the other two took three months apiece. I decided I would never order another vehicle; I would look for what I wanted until I found it.

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Wasn't a special order, but when my brother and I had a business in Louisiana, we decided we needed a van as a company car. After some research decided a Ford worked (think it was called a Club Wagon, this was about 1985). Called a friend of ours who had a Ford dealership in a small town about 15 miles away. Told him what we wanted, and he asked "what color"? I told him I didn't care. There was silence on the phone, and he asked again "You don't care what color it is"? Nope, anything will do....he said "Well, there's a two tone brown on the lot".. and I said sure...He continued "David, I've sold a lot of cars in my life, and can tell you that I've NEVER had someone tell me they didn't care about the color"!!

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Of course there are. Gray, gray and gray. With the occasional refrigerator white thrown in. I'm told those are the cheapest colors so that's why the carmakers push them.

David, we have a thread going on ClassicOldsmobile about Olds dealers and the dealership codes. I took the liberty of sharing your story over there since Walker Olds was not on our list, and because of the way your car was ordered.

Here's the link. Post your dealer name and zone code - Page 9 - ClassicOldsmobile.com

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Unfortunately I don't think it's the manufacturers that are driving the gray and white cars, that seems to be what the "average" car buyer wants...based on marketing research.

Reminds me of the old rule of thumb about corporate meetings, that goes something like "the apparent intelligence/IQ level of a group is decreased each time another person is added to that group".....

I don't understand why people want such lackluster colors, or as you say, lack thereof.....

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My 68 GTO convertible was a "special order" by the former owner, who worked at GM Assembly in Baltimore. Bet there were not many delivered like this:

Standard 400ci, 350hp engine

M21 close ratio 4 speed

3.90 positraction rear axle

Manual steering

Manual disc brakes

AM radio and 8-track player

Hood tach

Rally II wheels

Hideaway headlights

Meridian turquoise, black top, black bucket seat interior

I sometimes wished it had power steering, but didn't care enough to make the swap.

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