1954 Oldsmobile 98 Holiday Coupe
It is as nicely detailed underneath as it is on top, and it has only been driven 5400 miles since the restoration was competed.
The Oldsmobile 98 has always been a trendsetter, and as the brand’s top-of-the-line machine, the 98 typically embodied the best that General Motors had to offer. Of course, the short stroke OHV “Rocket” V8 engine was just the beginning, but it launched a performance revolution that we’re still enjoying today. Even by the mid-50s, Oldsmobile was delivering big performance with a healthy dose of luxury to match, creating a unique niche in the GM hierarchy. If you wanted a car that could run with the big Pontiacs, yet offered the luxury of a Buick or Cadillac, the 98 was the smart choice.
This particular 1954 Oldsmobile 98 Holiday Coupe is one of only a handful known to exist, and may very well be the nicest of them all. Starting with an extremely solid, original car, a complete frame-off restoration was completed in 2003, and the results are simply stunning. This one is also loaded with options, including power steering, power brakes, an Autronic Eye, AM radio with rear speaker, heater, defroster, fender skirts, and power windows. It is as nicely detailed underneath as it is on top, and it has only been driven 5400 miles since the restoration was competed.
Finished in flashy Polar White over Flare Red, this was unquestionably a solid, rust-free car when the restoration began. The doors open and close effortlessly, the trunk fits well, and the massive hood snaps closed with only light pressure. The finish is urethane paint, but it does not have the bright, almost sterile shine of modern finishes, and the Polar White in particular has a warm glow that looks entirely appropriate. Having spent some time with the car, I can find no blemishes, flaws, or significant road rash anywhere on the exterior. It is every bit as nice as it appears to be in photos.
On any ‘50s machine, the chrome is a significant concern, but this car has no needs. Easy things like the bumpers and grille have been expertly refinished with show chrome, and all the stainless has been straightened and polished to match. Items like the trunk lock cover are extraordinary, as the cast and plated globe shows no loss of detail or grinding marks from the restoration process. I don’t know how they managed that feat. Up front, the hood ornament represents Oldsmobile’s fascination with the jet age and, of course, rockets, while a second globe emblem on the front of the hood is crisply executed. All the glass, the tail lamp lenses, and the ‘Holiday’ script emblems on the front fenders remain excellent.
This car’s quality is especially apparent inside, where it has been restored in the original red and gray upholstery. In fact, the rear seat is completely original, which will give you a good indication of how nice this car must have been to begin with. The combination of gray fabric and red leather is striking, offering a pleasing and understated contrast to the extroverted exterior. All the gauges are fully functional, and the dazzling instrument panel has been restored to show standards. All four power windows go up and down easily, the rear speaker for the radio works as it should, and even the Autronic Eye is fully functional. Note the details such as the power steering callout on the steering wheel, the warning light for the emergency brake, and yet another globe icon beautifully cast into the clear Lucite center of the horn ring. The beautifully finished trunk carries a matching spare tire and a complete jack assembly tucked into a correct Oldsmobile strap.
Oldsmobile’s famous Rocket V8 lives under the hood, fully rebuilt and ready to drive and enjoy immediately. Making a relatively modest 150 horsepower from its 324 cubic inches, it is nevertheless a spirited performer on the road thanks to a broad torque curve and a quick-shifting HydraMatic automatic transmission. It starts easily thanks to a 12-volt electrical system, and idles with a healthy rumble from the exhaust. Finished in correct Oldsmobile Green with bright yellow “Oldsmobile Rocket” markings on the valve covers, it has obviously been restored to compete. From the hose clamps to the reproduction tar top battery, the details are accurate. It does show a few signs of light use, and the most notable flaw might be some flaking paint on the intake manifold where a fuel leak several years ago damaged the finish (the leak has been corrected). Underneath, the chassis is completely finished and detailed, with body-colored floors against a satin black frame. Everything works as it should, the car drives easily, and it never overheats or gets cranky in traffic. The owner reports that the car handles well, but if he were keeping it, he might consider replacing the correct 7.60-15 BFGoodrich Silvertown wide whites with a set of wide whitewall radials, since his preference is to drive all of his hardware.
Highly optioned and fully restored, this 1954 Oldsmobile 98 Holiday Coupe is a very rare jewel. It could not possibly be duplicated for the asking price, and if you’ve been watching auctions lately, you know that the ‘shoebox’ Chevys have cooled off while their big brothers at Oldsmobile and Buick have heated up. This is a wonderful car with no needs, and chances are slim that you’ll see another anywhere but the Oldsmobile national meet.