In my life I have had the pleasure of owning 25 cars, which is a lot considering I am not that old. The list includes cars that I purchased new and cars that were hand me downs from family members looking to pawn off damaged goods. It is a strange selection, from a tiny MGB Roadster to three massive Lincoln Stretch Limousines. I’ve owned classics like a 65 Mustang and a 94 Jaguar XJS Coupe to the not so classic VW 412 Wagon and Nissan Altima. I have no skills as a mechanic, but have been fortunate to work on cars as varied as a NASCAR/North ACT Series Racecar to a rare Hispano-Suiza.
Each car has a story that goes with it, a memory that makes me smile. Driving my MGB made me feel like I was always in an episode of the “Avengers”, while driving my Mazda Miata makes me feel like I am Michael Schumacher. But the one car that gave me more happy memories than any other was my 1976 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Regency Brougham Pillarless Sedan.
I purchased the car from an advertisement in the newspaper, sight unseen, and picked it up the very next day. The car was a leviathan measuring over 232.2 inches or almost 20 feet long. It weighed almost three tons and needed a 7.5 Liter 455 Rocket engine to push it around. This car was one of the last American whales, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier; with a hood long enough to launch fighters from. The rear taillights reminded me of gothic windows in a cathedral, and the interior was like a private business jet with velour pillows on top of leather flight seats. Even though the car drove like a canal boat in traffic, once on the highway the feeling was similar to lying on a raft while floating through gentle waves. That floating sensation was once of the best things about the car and made me feel separate from the rest of the world. With the windows up and the radio on, the car isolated you in a cocoon of velour and soundproofing. The outside world became unimportant, and the worries of mere mortals didn’t concern me. I was driving one of the biggest cars ever made, and it was a blissful experience…until I had to turn. This would cause the car to start bouncing sideways, floating ever closer to the curb. Using the brakes would make the hood dive until the car came to a stop, and then bounce back to its previous height. This bouncing would continue for a long time unless you slammed the gas down again. The suspension was so soft that even leaning on the fender would make the car bounce and the sound of the engine was overpowered by the sound of air rushing from the tailpipes. Inside the car had every amenity of the period, from tilt wheel to accent lights placed under the dash lip to highlight the wood grain. It even came with a Sterling Silver key that could be dropped in any mailbox when lost and a gold Tiffany & Company clock on the dashboard.
I miss that car, and still search eBay every week in search of another. It was the car that everyone would pile into on an early summer evening to get ice cream. The lines of the car looked best with all the windows down, highlighting the Pillarless look and I have pictures of it like that in the dead of winter. She was beautiful, but she also was expensive to maintain. In order to get 10mpg from the car it had to either be going downhill or on the back of a tow truck. One thing the car never suffered from was rust, which was very unusual for that year. My parents had previously purchased a pair of Ninety Eight Regency’s and both had eroded slowly into the driveway. My car remained pristine until the day I sold her, for a Ford Escort. I have owned bigger cars like a Series 75 Cadillac Limousine or any of three stretched limousines, but none gave me the ride or the sheer enjoyment as that grand old lady.
Article courtesy of Chris Raymond