1950 Oldsmobile: The Days of Chrome
While serving in the Marines in 1981 as a private first class in Cherry Point, N.C., Rich Domros decided he needed a car. He didn’t want, nor could he afford, a new automobile. Domros didn’t even want a typical used car. His sights were set on a car from the 1950s.
His requirements were that it be large, have lots of chrome, and cost less than $2,000, his life’s savings at the time. Not far from his base was a car that caught his attention: a yellow four-door 1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 sedan deluxe with only a bit of rust on the rocker panels with fewer than 100,000 miles on the odometer.
He reached a deal to buy the car. A week later was the long Fourth of July weekend, and Domros, with all the wisdom of youth, settled in behind the three-spoke steering wheel and drove his untested Oldsmobile home to Buffalo. “It took me 15 hours,” he recalls.
On the return trip, he was close to his base when he spotted an Oldsmobile identical to his at a gas station. He stopped and learned the car wasn’t operational, but had some parts he thought might come in handy later. The owner wouldn’t sell him parts, but offered the entire car for $200 and agreed to tow it wherever he wanted. Domros had the relic towed to a junkyard right outside the Marine base where he and some buddies spent the next several weekends stripping the car down to skeletal remains.
He loaded almost a half-ton of parts from the parts car into a rental trailer hitched to the bumper of his yellow Oldsmobile, and he once again shuffled off to Buffalo. He was crossing Pennsylvania at night when he ran into a construction zone — literally. His car and trailer were towed to a nearby town where the next day a mechanic told him the Oldsmobile had a bent tie rod. Domros asked what a tie rod looked like. Then he went back to the rental trailer and started digging through the parts. Yes, he had an undamaged tie rod. The astonished mechanic had never encountered a motorist who carried a trailer full of spare parts!
After being discharged from the Marines Domros, returned to Buffalo, where he got a job and bought a house. “The house was so I could have a garage to restore the car,” he says.
He learned that his 1950 Oldsmobile was one of 100,810 such models manufactured. It weighs 3,520 pounds and had a base price of $2,056.
Under the hood is a 303.7-cubic-inch V-8 engine that produces 135 horsepower, compliments of a two-barrel side-draft Rochester carburetor drawing air through a silencer and an oil bath deluxe air cleaner.
He began dismantling the car in the spring of 1985, and it was then that Domros discovered it had left the factory as a two-tone blue car. Because Oldsmobile offered Canto Cream in 1950, Domros decided to repaint the 16-foot, 10-inch-long car Canto Cream Yellow. By the summer of 1988, the car had been rewired, rechromed, repainted, and reupholstered. Domros got it titled and back on the road in June of that year.
For the next decade the car left the garage only on sunny, rain-free summer days. “I drove a ‘winter’,” Domros says, explaining how his Oldsmobile avoided the rust monster that plagues most Buffalo cars.
The Oldsmobile engine eventually started to smoke, so Domros had it rebuilt. “Now when I punch it, it actually downshifts like it’s supposed to,” with power transferred to the rear tires via the Whirlaway Hydramatic transmission. Coil springs at each corner of the car cushion the ride as the 7.60x15-inch tires support the 119.5-inch wheelbase.
“It doesn’t have power steering,” Domros says. “Maybe that’s why they call it a muscle car,” he muses as he wrestles the steering wheel.