Mar 17, 2024

Memories of fast cars, good friends

Aug. 29, 2023 9:21 am

Jim Good, a good friend and former roommate back in the day in Tulsa, knew a thing or two about building a fast car. He did machine work on engines and also built his own engines.

He could set the points on cars using the cyclophane wrapper from a package of cigarettes. He would slide the wrapper between the points (for those who know what points are in a distributor) and turn the screw and set it.

In the early 1980s, Jim owned a 1970 Oldsmobile W-31 that came with a one-piece fiberglass front end. I was thinking it was a 442 Oldsmobile, but Jim said it was a rarer car than that.

Anyway, when Jim bought it, it had a 350 Oldsmobile engine.

“It was pretty fast that way, but it had been driven hard and didn’t have the best oil pressure,” Jim said via social media. “So, I built a high performance 455 for it.”

The car had a 3.91 rear end gear, which made it accelerate hard. Jim said the previous owner had installed the fiberglass front end, but gave him all the original parts so it could still be restored to original down the road.

“It was definitely a fast car,” said Jim. “The exhaust exited in front of the back tires so it was loud when I got it.”

Jim said the car had the bare minimum exhaust that would pass state inspection, a requirement for vehicles in Oklahoma.

“I could get a third gear scratch when I was getting on the freeway,” recalled Jim. “It was a little spooky to get a scratch and go a little sideways at that speed.”

I loved riding in that car. It was loud and fast. I remember one weekday night, Jim wanted to take the Olds for a spin and blow the cobs out, he said and that’s what we did.

We ended up on the Crosstown Expressway in Tulsa (an expressway that goes around downtown Tulsa) and I was hanging on for dear life.

We had to be going more than 100 mph. I mentioned something about the cops and Jim said, “They are on the other side and wouldn’t get us.”

Jim ended up selling the Olds when he decided to go back to school.

“I couldn’t afford it as a college student,” said Jim. “I couldn’t really afford it when I was living with you and just barely getting my rent paid every month.”

“You and your parents were very patient with me and helped me through a rough time financially,” he added.

I don’t remember any of that, but enjoyed having Jim around. He loved God and we went to church together. That was more important than the rent.

I got to thinking about Jim’s Oldsmobile 442 W-31 and my second cousin’s Studebaker Lark while strolling around taking photos and interviewing folks at the 50th Grinnell Show & Shine Car Show Saturday, Aug. 26.

It was a great show with a record-breaking 279 vehicles on display. There were lots of people to visit with and learn about their cars.

I met a fellow, Jay De Young, from New Sharon who has a rare 1914 Apperson Jackrabbit Touring Car that was made in Kokomo, Ind. It had been in his family since his dad’s great uncle purchased it new from the Shee Company in the Ottumwa/Oskaloosa area. When the great uncle passed away in the early 1930s, his two daughters took ownership of the Apperson. It survived the World War II scrap heap and Jay and his brother, Lee, who lives in Chicago, inherited the car from their father some years later. The car won the most original trophy at the Grinnell show.

That is quite a story behind the car and I enjoyed visiting with Jay. Maybe down the road, I can get a chance to write a longer story for a magazine article.

There were a lot of old and new cars at the Grinnell Show & Shine. I don’t remember seeing any Studebakers at this year’s show. They were a good car back in the day.

I had cousin from the Chicago suburb of Wheaton who moved to Tulsa to attend welding school in the early 1980s after graduating high school. He had a Studebaker Lark that was in a state of rebuild.

It wasn’t as fast as the Oldsmobile, but it was a nice vehicle with a piece of beef under the hood. I enjoy cruising through town with the windows down and one arm propped on the window ledge.

The first car I purchased was a 1977 Chevrolet Monto Carlo with the long front end. I bought it used in 1980 and ended up rebuilding the engine in 1981.

It barely had any power. After tearing the engine apart, I discovered it had a bent piston rod and that more than half the values were burned. The thrust bearing on the end of the crankshaft was shot. I had to replace the pistons and add a used crankshaft in the engine and torque converter in the transmission.

A friend of mine, Scott, helped me rebuild the engine. I put too big of a carburetor and the wrong cam shaft, but it was still a nice running car that I enjoyed driving for several years.

I ended up selling the Monte Carlo and a 1984 Chevrolet Cavalier that I bought new to help pave the way to go back to school at the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1992.

A lot has changed since those days and it’s been a great ride filled with lots of memories that keep getting better as the days roll along.

Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.