Rare, classy, classic, custom
'49 Oldsmobile 88 Fastback
WRITTEN BY Dean MacDonald
Always a car enthusiast, Vern said recently that over the years
he has probably owned 70 some-odd cars—“the good, the bad and the ugly!” Vern and Bonnie Roberts, the owners of this fine, flamed, custom 1949 Oldsmobile 88 Fastback, have lived in the Antelope Valley since 1992. Prior to that, they lived in San Gabriel, and Vern worked for Lockheed in Burbank and then moved up to the plant here. He is now retired after a 38-plus-year career with Lockheed, where he worked in logistics support and worked all the way through the L-1011 program. Bonnie is also retired. They have four grown children and also raised their granddaughter, Kirsten, 20, who is a college student in San Diego.
Always a car enthusiast, Vern said recently that over the years he has probably owned 70 some-odd cars—“the good, the bad and the ugly!” He’s also the owner, proprietor and “head Geezer,” he said, of the “Geezer’s Garage” in Lancaster where a loose group of “mature” hot rod aficionados often gather. They come to the garage to work on their various projects and, said Vern, “to try out new lies!” Some of the Geezer Garage members include or have included John Foster, Ron Siddle Sr., Garry Banta, John DeAngelo, and the late Ray Moody.
In the early 1960s, Vern said he owned a 1951 Olds Holiday 88 hardtop and really liked the car. And although exigencies forced him to let that car go, he always liked Oldsmobiles and wanted to get another one. But the idea got put on the back burner. Then recently, he found the beautiful car we’re featuring in Dewey, Ariz. “The owner of this car decided to reduce his collection,” Vern explained. The man had about six or eight cars, but the ’49 Olds Fastback is the one that caught Vern’s eye. He bought it, and he and fellow Geezer Garry Banta drove over to Arizona, loaded it onto a trailer and towed it back to the Antelope Valley. Since then, Vern said he has been making a few updates and personal-taste alterations to the car, but it was pretty much already built.
Here’s a little history of the car and what this fine 1949 Oldsmobile 88 Fastback two-door has in it. Originally built in Los Angeles, the Olds then went up to Pleasanton, Calif., where it remained for many years before being purchased and taken to Arizona.
It has been built from the ground up and has all new suspension components, including power rack and pinion steering. The Olds also has hydraulic air bags, which will put the car just about down onto the ground. All the compressor and valve controls for the four airbags are hidden in the trunk, with the controls in the front of the car with the driver. Other features include air conditioning, power windows, and solenoid-operated doors.
Powering this sleek and beautiful, classy classic is a mildly built Chevrolet 454 cubic-inch engine, which is fed by a single Holly four-barrel carburetor mounted on an Edelbrock aluminum manifold. Spark is provided by an Accel electronic ignition, and exhaust chores are handled by headers which flow into dual Flowmaster mufflers and then out through distinctive rectangular-shaped, chrome tailpipes. The engine is dazzling with plenty of chrome and polished aluminum and the horsepower is, shall we say, substantial. This potent power plant is bolted up to a Turbo transmission which is coupled to an Olds/Cad unit rear end.
One of the 1949 Oldsmobile Fastback’s most distinguishing features is its gloss black exterior paint, which is highlighted by a gorgeous, full-on flame job of ghost flames done in a subtle light purple with metal flake and touches of gold and mauve. This flame job seems to change colors and tints, depending on how the light strikes it and from whichever angle it’s viewed, and it perfectly delineates the Oldsmobile’s classic lines. Custom touches on the exterior include the front fenders, which have been extended (so the headlights look Frenched) with a ’56 Olds headlight assembly. The ladder-like assembly below the headlights is stock ’49 Oldsmobile.
Contrasting perfectly with the exterior paint is the interior, which contains the original, bench-style front and back seats, which have been redone in dark red cloth fabric with matching door panels and headliner, and Vern plans to finish the trunk to match. Additional interior features include a tilt column; a custom chrome steering wheel; modified original gauges, all of which work; and a good sound system (“besides the one coming out of the tailpipes,” said Vern).
For the final touch, this gorgeous and sleek, classic custom, ’49 Olds Fastback rolls on big and little tires, which are mounted on polished American Mag wheels.