1939 Oldsmobile Club Coupe

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Oldsmobile Electric Cars



(As printed in the June 1988 Car Club of Canada Vintage Car

Owned by Jim and Gina Carpenter

1988 article covers the car, getting it running, and of its history!

It was late June we had come up to Revelstoke as tomorrow be our wedding, then back to We’d come over the in the ‘54 Dodge, trouble-free as usual, 26Ѕ MPG from Abbotsford. If only my man had been so lucky.

His ‘78 Oldsmobile only made it halfway to the Gate and had to be towed to Hope for repairs.

I was trying to find Revelstoke and was bouncing down a lane in the Dodge when I saw it for the time parked in the grass a place called the Revel a ‘39 Oldsmobile coupe with all its lights, hubcaps and wheel rings. It was 99% complete but looking and abandoned.

Grass and weeds tangled high around the moss trimmed the fender and last fall’s leaves the running boards, with the flat, the hood up and the driver’s halfway down, I had to get a closer in spite of the rain. Under the everything was there, even an old but no cylinder head.

What a the old flat head had been to the elements. The top of the block was quite and four of the cylinders were right to the top with water. I had a schedule with our wedding so I had to leave, but couldn’t help who could neglect such an old

As a city boy I was equally amazed as to how it been vandalized.

Later year my wife and I were our vacation with a stay at her place in Revelstoke. The morning we arrived I was gone to see if the Olds was there. It was a short drive to the Inn right past the Lamplighter and fireworks site of the 1983 Car Club Circle Tour.

later I was banging on the door of the Inn with the Olds still just the same as it had been months earlier.

A woman in her forties answered the door. It was her car, but he lived in Fort and had left it with overheating over three years If I wanted to talk to Bruce he be here from Fort tomorrow because of an illness in the

We met the next day. The car wasn’t for sale, but he didn’t seem to what happened to it. He just saying how nice it once was and how he was once offered for it when it was shiny.

I remarked it was worth each year with and he agreed something should be with it.

The next thing I we had set a price and I was trying to figure out how and to get it home. I didn’t want to it outside for another winter, but the was already here and snow would soon make towing too risky.

Two weeks it was loaded on a car trailer behind a 67 GMC six cylinder half ton. We had to relatives in Kelowna Hospital, meant the Hope-Princeton would be of our route home. With no of fixing the trailer brakes, and no drum brakes on the pickup; the home was another story.

we managed it safely (?) while 15 MPG.

Getting Ready for the Car Club May Tour 1987

It is now March, and the only things done are finding a shop and replace the water in the cylinders WD40. I wanted the car drivable so my who was recovering from a cancer could take it on the May Tour. and time was short.

After years of holding water, the walls were badly and looked as rusty as an old exhaust

The pistons were already over with a ridge at the top of the so going to .060 wouldn’t much. Another motor be nice, but I had no idea where to another Odds flathead besides, my engine number the engine number on the body ID With barely two months to go I to go with the motor I had and hone the of the rust off the cylinder walls.

The manual told me I had to remove the bumper, grill and fenders adjusting the valves or doing any engine work, so that was the task. The head was inside the car at time so I didn’t have to it off but everything else was still Removing the manifolds dumped a quart of water from onto my shoes.

An open valve had allowed all kinds of into the block and the intake

Aside from my wet shoes and of loose rust flakes the manifold, the water had caused that I would find after starting the motor for the time. Next, I removed the oil pan plug but nothing came Moments later a large drip started forming all at once it opened way and clear started flowing into my bucket.

I got about two quarts of but at least my clothes didn’t get wet time. When the pan was empty I got a of quarts of semi-emulsified oil as well. there was a lot of visible rust the block and pan the bearings and crank salvageable.

The next big task was getting the out. The two at TDC were no problem. I reamed the remaining four and honed them in a bath of until I had taken the worst of the off the watts.

This left a layer of sludge and a quantity of to empty out of the cylinders. With serious hammering from on the rods I got two more pistons So far they looked okay but the were stuck and were going to come off in many

No amount of hammering on rods 4 and 6 budge the remaining pistons, and the block and crank still in the car and almost here, I was in trouble.

I hammering down against the to no avail, and for that matter the was stilt frozen. Going underneath I discovered the saving There had been enough that one of the rod shells had started to out. Removing this and the other remaining shell me to rotate the crank slightly so I could go back up top and hammer With a bit more honing and piston #4 was out, and by hammering #6 and back up the same way all six were now

There was some damage to the from the brass drift but filing would fix them.

The had to be pried out with tie rod and ball forks, but now finally the crank turn. I was now mid April. I to locate of parts and had lots of work to do. of my days were busy my job at B.C. Tel.

The engine had bored to .040 years ago and my big was the .040 rings. I listened to a promises of delivery for three before getting them Arnold Hopp. Re-assembling the was quite straightforward except for the block with emery and WD40.

The other problem was the pitted valve seats, I fixed by very rigorous with a rubber wheel in my drill.

It was now a week before we to leave for the tour to Kamloops, and I was the motor for the first time, the front-end sheet metal was in the back yard. I’d the brakes and changed an idler arm and tie rod The starter and generator were but after running the motor a few I had two problems. The lower rad hose above idle speeds, and I gas leaking out of a 4 crack in the intake from he effects of Revelstoke

It is Mothers Day, and on Friday we to leave for Kamloops.

The car is all together and I it around the block. We’re for Mothers Day dinner 30 miles The Olds made it there and okay. Friday is the big day. or bust.

Everything is going as I follow in the Dodge watching the take the curves from Bay. On the last curve I saw shiny and circular come off the car and go in the A U-joint? A pulley?

What the rad? My father putted the over moments later and we saw it was only the poorly fitting gas Concerned about having no gas we stopped at a garage in Yale many wrecked cars I asked if we could took for a cap on the out back when I spotted a new gas cap in its blister pack on the shelf in the

To our amazement the back of the package half the cars ever including Oldsmobile from It was a perfect fit. Aside this, the rest of the May Tour was without trouble.

The wiper was sluggish clearing the snow on our over the Coquihalla, but that was forgotten on the downhill. We added no Even now after a thousand in spite of all those pits in the watts, the oil is down less half a quart.

The inside of the is a perfect grey and the engine tike a million dollars. The may have had the dullest paint of any car on the but we sure had a good time.

of the Olds

When I purchased the car in I noticed two holes through the of each side. There also several holes on top of the front fender. This to me that some time ago must have been a or fire chief car, but

I sent a copy of my registration to Motor Vehicles asking for a and hoping for an answer.

When the came back it showed the car B.C. from Manitoba in B.C. Motor Vehicles I would have to go to Manitoba Vehicles to get any history previous to I tried this but Manitoba keep records over ten My only hope was the 1969 owner who purchased the car from the owner.

The B.C. Motor trace gave me his name and address in Duncan, B.C.

I B.C. Tel directory and got a number for the name and still at the same in Duncan. This was indeed the of the Olds from 1969 to and he was able to fill me in on the car. It was purchased in 1939 in Brandon, as the fire chief’s car. six years the fire chief and the car retired together.

The retired fire chief the car until his age became a problem and the car was for ten years. At a funeral in Brandon in Bob Sabastion of Maple Ridge to his brother-in-law from Duncan he buy this car. The car was driven to B.C. The car had six owners since and a lot of neglect, but still has all the holes in the and fenders from the fire lights and sirens.

My next is to see if the City of Brandon or its Fire has any pictures or mentions of the car in their files. My plans are to carry on the restoration of the car, but at a more pace.

History On Wheels

is the story about discovering the Olds was a fire chief’s car of miles from home and its

to a reunion with the fire and staff decades later.


The Discovery Jim Carpenter

You may the story about the 1939 coupe found in Revelstoke It was June 1986,

several before my wedding and I made a turn in the ’54 Dodge I was at my in-laws

home town I spotted the Olds parked a back lane behind a The hood was up, the

cylinder head off the ‘six’ engine and four were fall of water. by the rusty

cylinder block, growing on the body and grass through the wheels, the car had been

this way several years.

it was almost complete and not vandalized I it so I could continue preparing for my

the next day. I could not wondering how anyone could a complete and solid ‘oldie’ a ’39

Olds coupe in a of total neglect. I had to drive to Vancouver the next day so the Olds was

but not out of mind.

Later that year a fall tour in our Opel GT saw us back in Revelstoke to my new in-laws.

This was an exciting As soon as I had an appropriate chance, I in the Opel and drove it

about a across town to see if the Olds was There it was, the hood up, the driver’s window

still the cylinder head off, and the four cylinders still of water. I knocked on the back

of the house and learned from the that answered that the had indeed been there

years and belonged to her brother who out of town. He lived in Fort John, about 700 miles

She said come back as he would be in town on his way south to

I bought the car after borrowing the from a friend and made to get some trim parts

belonged to the car but were in Campbell on Vancouver Island. I learned the was being

driven from River to Fort Saint several years ago but was left in with

overheating problems. I tell its elderly owner was not one for care of things and this car was

an example. By now I had noticed numerous on top of the roof and right front He

told me this car had been a car on Vancouver Island in its earlier and the holes were from the

and siren it once wore.

Two later I managed to trailer it to just before winter conditions arrived. The

trailer via the Hope Princeton Highway was incident however the trailer were worn

beyond and the six cylinder ’68 GMC 1/2 ton tow vehicle plenty of respect to safely

the 4500 pound car and trailer to the coast.

Home In The Shop

years exposure to the elements had plenty of rust on the engine. emptying the

cylinders of water a coating of rust was visible on the wall. I wanted to keep the car

original and had verified the engine number was the same as the engine on the

cowl identification plate. For reasons I decided to use a lot of patience, oil, and care to

save the After lots of hammering, and prying, all six pistons were undamaged.

Even with honing the cylinder wall many deep pits. A of the valves also

required a deal or effort to remove from the block. Several of water were drained

the oil pan along with some It was also discovered the intake had a four inch split in it

split was from filling water while the top of the block was to the weather, followed by solid

winter freezing. By May 1987 the was running again and was smoke It seems the

two oil control rings per had no trouble doing their job in of the heavy pitting on the cylinder

The brakes and several other areas were checked to the car reliable. A year later

the crank was removed, again the block remaining in the car, and for undersize bearings.


From 1987 to 1991 the car was in the filming of about six different Its distinctive coupe

styling with all its trim and only minor visible body helped make it a good

candidate. The heavily faded black paint gave the car a weathered appearance that was

for the background of ’40’s and ’50’s Movie credits include Boy’s Life with

DeNiro, and Stay Tuned John Ritter. I had the fortune to in costume and become hired as the

for both movies. These jobs almost made to cover the original purchase for

the car, however, I’ve both movies and did not see the car on the screen.


By now I had established that the car was the 1939 Olds built in Saskatchewan and that it

was the 15th but there was more to be learned the car. The holes for the lights and a

the chrome pull switch to the dash for the siren and the mysterious 20 diameter hole through

the from the back seat to the were curious clues to gone by.

I wrote to the B.C. of Motor Vehicles to try to find about the history of the car. The

only went back to I learned the Olds had nine previous B.C. owners. were

mostly in Port with one in Nanaimo and the first in The Duncan owner had transferred

the from Manitoba in 1969. I to Manitoba Motor Vehicles to find they do not keep

over 10 years. Next I to try contacting that first owner from 20 years I

called B.C. TEL Directory giving the name and Duncan from the 1969 registration

by chance there might be a The unsuspecting operator promptly with a number

meaning was on my side as they had not moved in 20 Moments later I was dialing the

and got an answer. I explained I had a ’39 that had once belonged to at this number. The

fellow on the knew the car instantly and explained he had been in Brandon in 1969 and

about the car, bought it, and it home. He was able to tell me it had the Brandon Fire Chiefs

car for years and in 1969 was still in condition. I now knew the holes on the were for the

lights and siren and the once olive green had belonged to the fire department. also

helped explain why the had so much wear for only miles as it would have many short

high trips on a cold engine and highway miles.


Five years later in the of 1994, my parents were a trip to Manitoba with a of

going to Brandon where my and his parents (Helen and Harlow) lived during the

’40’s the Olds belonged to the Fire In the early ’40’s my father elementary

school while his and another projectionist worked at the Strand Theatre. Their

inspired me to give the Brandon Department a call. I explained to the who answered the

phone that I had fire chiefs car from 55 ago. She suggested I should to Norm who was

their historian. in the day Norm returned my call but they did not have a coupe in He

knew there had been a coupe in 1927 but new nothing of a coupe. I explained all I knew

the car and we both ended the conversation on a note. A couple of hours the phone

rang again and it was but with an entirely different to his voice. He explained that he had

my call to some of the other around the hall and learned there had been a 1939

an Oldsmobile. He said they had up of most of their early but not the Olds and

he had not been aware of it. He on to say he was going to check the records for of the car

and would get back to me. Next he called he had located entries in log book for 1939 showing

the had been purchased April 4, and that on April 20,1939 a fire fighter by the name of

Cary had gone to General in Regina to pick up the car. also went on to tell me the

car had several duties from to the early ’50’s working for the department. He said it was always

to transport the Chief to fires and and that it was the job of the junior employee to do the

He also said it was used to the alarm boxes throughout the and that it had a large tank in the

extending into the rear of the compartment. The tank was fall of a for

extinguishing fires so that the could be dispatched to chimney and other small fires and

explained the 20 inch diameter through the panel dividing the from the car interior. My

parents did not take them to Brandon so I to my father that a journey to in the ’39

Olds might be an adventure following our 1992 trip to Fairbanks in the Alaska

50th anniversary rally the ’54 Dodge. He agreed it be worth considering if it could be in

summer after the heat of the and before winter snow.


The trip was on for late 1994. I called Norm to let him we were coming and also

about any Brandon vintage car we could contact. Through I prepared the car. I

checked clearances, torqued the head, the sparkplugs, replaced the 7 year old and

replaced the upper and lower front suspension pivots, by a wheel alignment The paint job

pretty bad but went well the decades of dirt under the To fix the paint I used four

of flat black spray to make the panels weathered to primer match the rest of the black

paint. The other big job was the I had never done anything to it and it an oil slick

wherever it was parked. The problem is that its 4.2 to one axle and 4 1/8 inch engine stroke was a

combination for the prairie freeway. a tip from an old interchange manual on ’39

Oldsmobile differentials and very careful modification I was to get a ’40 — ’54 3:54 to 1

ring and opinion to fit my original carrier and fix the oil leak. would give me almost a 15

in cruising speed or reduction in RPM.

The Trip

It was now less a week before I was to be in Brandon. We had planning to join the Western

Pioneer Auto Club in for a Sunday afternoon pitchfork I could not leave

work Wednesday noon but the schedule was feasible if the car cooperated. As well as

my father I also wanted to my 4 year old son Aaron but on Sunday 3 days before leaving we

he had a serious infection from on something several days The bottom of his

foot was swollen and with pain. A tip to emergency that he had to have his foot

for 10 minutes twice a day and the had to have antibiotics 4 times daily for the 10 days.

By Tuesday his foot was signed of improvement so it was decided to an ice chest for the

medicine and take as originally planned. Finally by 5 Wednesday it was time to leave. My

lives in Logan Lake, Kamloops about 200 miles and that was the destination for 10 or 11

p.m. It was a dark night by departure and I had two extra passengers to carry the

Coquihalla to Logan Lake.

It was a Vancouver rush hour but we were over the Port bridge and rolling up the

Fraser to the Coquihalla. The car was running fine but the and rear end were yet

unproved as I had driven about 50 miles the work on the rear axle. The wipers did a

fine job while on the level but they quickly to a standstill as the engine vacuum

on the steep hills to the Coquihalla gate. Also by now were in darkness except for the light

the 6 volt sealed beams. I was a napkin per hour wiping the of the windshield clean

with 4 in the car, a continual down outside and no defroster action, the were heavily

fogged. for the steepest section of the snow we had no trouble staying in high but did

have trouble seeing a down Ford pick up in our on one of the hills. At Merritt we turned off

the highway to take the road to Lake. The next day gave us weather and having

traded my two passengers for my father we were a 55 year old car, my 4 year old a 62 year

old grandfather and myself. It was not until we were back on 1 heading from Kamloops to

I wanted to keep our cruising down to about 55 mph to minimize the of

problems like blown and internal engine problems. turned out to be a challenge because at

speed we had significant rear hop. It went away and below our desired cruising

but persisted at 55. I knew the problem was the looseness in the rear lever shocks. Too bad I

didn’t make to put on the new ones I’ve got stashed at home.

I thought a wheel might help and had both wheels balanced in Revelstoke. at

Revelstoke I found some and labeled the trunk lid for the trip,


Vancouver — Brandon

Passing Side Suicide

Revelstoke for Rogers Pass we we still had the rear wheel hop but fixed it by

Oldsmobile Electric Cars

reducing the fire of the 650-16 rear tires to 22 We checked in at Camrose that after an

easy drive Rogers Pass. My father in the motel registration and passed it to the

across the counter. She checked it and says, a 39 Olds! Nobody in a 39 Olds. She looked

up at us again and it was parked right in front of her We told her we were going to the

from the coast and she replied was a couple just here a 1990 something Olds who

gladly trade us as their had packed it in. At Canmore the next I decided to

put a few washers under my rear engine mount to the exhaust pipe more to a running

board bracket. I want any stresses at the pipe to connection from the pipe the

bracket. It was quite easy to the bolt, jack the engine a put a washer in and put the bolt back.

what didn’t look was the water that was now dribbling the radiator. I realized I

may have the radiator hose to pull on the and damage it resulting in big trouble. It

out that it was just a leak of loose clamps. In fact I did find was almost spooky. The

radiator hose clamps both large spring types, however, both broken in half from age and

The only reason they fallen off completely is because were stuck to the rubber of the

We were soon on our way after two clamps from the auto store we were parked in

From Camrose Friday to Brandon mid day Sunday, things well. We had a spell of vapor

one evening while looking for our This was a surprise but I later that our 6 volt

pulse electric fuel pump functioning after being on for about 1/2 an hour. I thought

it was insurance against the weak pump I’d never to, but was wrong. From

there on we okay by leaving the electric switched off unless it was needed. On

night we were amused to out our motel window and see a group of having their picture

in front of the Olds. We often got and friendly horn honks down the freeway in our

unrestored from the past as people the writing on the back. Their made an interesting

element of compared to riding in modem On Sunday morning we had a short to

Brandon and found time to out the Manitoba Antique Auto at Elkhom. This stop was in

the of nowhere yet had a thorough collection of farm and home artifacts the past.

I had to twist my father’s arm to to stop there and more an hour later I was having

getting him out. An hour the road we were at the outskirts of taking pictures in front of

the sign. We were right on for the Sunday afternoon barbecue at Roy with

the car club.

A prairie stop for Aaron!

Welcome To .

When we pulled in we were but within moments we felt old friends. The club called

event a fondue. The fondue was a large barrel 2/3 fall of hot shortening heated by propane

throwers. When the temperature of the oil was (probably just below point) they spiked a

of steaks with pitchforks for the fondue and cooked the steaks to by putting

them in the fondue for minutes. The late September was still warm flawless as

came and we said good-bye. We addresses and they took of us three generations of


Hall Reunion

The next we met fire Department historian Ward at the fire hall on at 9 a.m. The

fire hall was a remarkable structure. Built of in 1911 for horse drawn pumpers it was in

perfect condition and utilized as the downtown fire

Norm took us all through the structure showing us everything the roof top door to load

the hay for the horses in 1911 to the hose drying hoses used night. We also checked out the

and saw that the Olds purchase and records from 1939 1950. He showed us the

section of the they used when the Olds behind the bay it resided in 45 55 years ago. Norm

had found several old pictures the Olds in it. The most interesting showed the Olds in

front of the hall with all the fire in 1950. One of the retired fire came down to the hall

for the with his scrapbook. He found newspaper pictures with the in it. The captain

clearly remembered the ’39 Olds when he on with the Fire Department. He picking

up the captain at home and driving as as the conditions would permit to get to the He said this

new Olds was quite flashing during the times of ’39. We also met Cary who was the son

of the Bill Cary who had the car up at Regina GM in 1939. Jack his father’s foot steps

and had been a Brandon fire He was now 70 but recognized the car as the old captain’s car

from his and his days.

More History

We met with a reporter from the Sun who took several pictures and of notes. After

our visit the fire hall we went town and took several of my father’s grade school and

he lived in during the 40’s. The wood and distinctive wire still surrounded the yard 50

later. Our final point of in Brandon was the Strand Theater my grandfather had been

a projectionist. We his old projectionist room and saw the movie. The then was an

interested coincidence as it was life in Brandon and the nearby training base in 1942.


Tuesday morning we set to return home except for a by the newspaper office. We were

to see if we made the days paper at I went inside and got one of the first off the press. The

wait was worth it the Olds and I were in a big picture on the page and there was a story

to follow. We left for home after that choosing to on the southerly routes whenever

Our route included the Red Coat across the southern prairies and the — Creston

route. We had weather since Kamloops and a day of wind and rain greeted us for our

home it was a pleasant diversion to a day of prairie motoring. Things got when a red

Ford Probe passed us towing a tall trailer. It no sooner got passed us a cross wind

flipped the on its side at 55 mph. The car and trailer did a 180 degree turnaround in front of

the while sliding off the road the grass on our right. The car tipped up and down coming

to a stop the direction it came from and we our relic from the past off the beside it

without hitting We checked that no one was hurt and for 911 with our pocket cellular.

The had been stacked high personal belongings covered by a but the contents were now

scattered all the roadside. The car had no body damage but left tires were and the

suspension was obviously damaged. The arrived shortly. They to know more about I

was doing in Saskatchewan with plates on a 55 year old car that like it came out of a bam but

we excused and continued on.

The Salmo — was a welcome delight after of prairie flat The climb at the end of the

Salmo — Creston was too for high gear but we had no trouble in Near the top of the first

steep there was a burned out hulk of looked like a Ford home chassis that had

the rocks above when it At the summit there were tame moose enjoying the at the

Highways yard. They mind the dump trucks by and let me take several pictures up.

At Princeton it was very hot and this to trigger my horn button to on. There was smoke

coming the blasting horns before I got the disconnected causing a few tense About

20 minutes later I was on one of the Hope Princeton hills vapor lock again. I to get to

the bottom of the trouble with the pump. I removed it from its under the car ahead of the

gas tank and it again hooking it directly to the It now pumped instantly and sprayed gas

I put it back in place under the car and it fine.

Two thousand five miles and 8 days later we back borne. The car had given little

trouble, the visit in was better than I expected and the soaking and ice chest doses of

for Aaron had healed his foot. A time was had by all.



Engine: Oldsmobile Six Cylinder

Engine Specifications: 230 95 HP at 3400 RPM

180 Ft. Lbs. torque at RPM

3-7/16 bore; 4 1/8 stroke

6.1 to 1 ratio

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