When viewed through a 68-year prism, the '38 Oldsmobile, with its streamlined nose, looks rather progressive. In fact, its lifespan very well may be proof of the company's fleeting enlightenment; Oldsmobile, a company more conservative than cutting-edge, abandoned the icebreaker-style grille after only one year's production. Surely Oldsmobile's handlers at the time believed the stuffy, if not fussy, beak on the following year's model would delight accountants and insurance salesmen alike. With few exceptions, Oldsmobiles from the '40s onward remained pretty buttoned down.

It's partially for that conservative image that made Kevin Dagel take some time to warm up to the idea of building such an orphan-especially a touring sedan version of one. He was dead set on building a '62 Olds, a sort-of spacey looking car from a brief period when the company reinvented itself as a progressive marque, when his dad suggested he build this particular car. Considering the car's relative completeness and solid tin, he knuckled under fairly easily.

While Oldsmobile's corporate conservatism probably spelled the company's demise, Kevin's conservative building style preserved the car's integrity and contributed significantly to its appeal. First, he didn't try to make the car into anything it would never comfortably be (hot rod, race car, show car); instead, he built upon the '38's open-road cruiser presence. Second, instead of eliminating the elements that define the car-specifically its trim-he embraced them, which admittedly led to painstaking finding and fitting expeditions, as '38 Oldsmobiles aren't exactly everywhere. He also maintained the Olds lineage with a later 403ci engine, and he carried the bloodline all the way back to the W-27 Olds-coded rearend

Technically the chassis is pretty conservative too. While he employed a triangulated four-link to bind the axle to the car (Olds used an oddball trailing arm design in 1938 that's tough to work around), Kevin maintained the car's stock front suspension all the way down to the drums and knee-action shocks instead of succumbing to the Thou Shalt Mustang II edict. He achieved that gnat-squashing stance with Fatman Fabrications dropped uprights and Air Ride Technologies air springs (although he admits to coveting Fatman's disc brake conversion after a close encounter down a hairy mountain pass).

The means by which Kevin modified existing parts to achieve his goal also matches the way in which he built the car: largely by himself. Everything but the final prep and paint, plating, and trim happened in his garage. The results are indeed broadly appealing: the car's style is consistent and it has the right stance, which appeals to the hot rod and custom crowd; the car is also largely intact and tasteful, which appeals to the Oldsmobile club. In fact, Kevin snared a Best of Show trophy at the Oldsmobile Car Club of America meet in Edmonds. That's more impressive than winning a custom-car trophy since restorers typically don't even acknowledge defiled tin.

If only Oldsmobile would've dared to embrace the cutting edge, maybe we would see more Oldsmobiles on the show grounds. Had they done so, we'd probably still see them on the showroom floor. For now, though, we're just happy seeing early Olds tin on the road ... provided it's as nice as Kevin Dagel's '38.

Facts & FiguresKevin DagelKirkland, Washington1938 Olds F-38 touring sedan

CHASSIS
Frame / Manufacturer ladder / Oldsmobile
Chassis plumbing zinc-plated steel
Rearend / Ratio GM 10-bolt W-27, Precision Drivelines (Kirkland, WA) / 2.73:1
Rear suspension Air Ride Technologies (Jasper, IN) triangulated four-bar & ShockWaves air-spring-over-shock
Front suspension Oldsmobile unequal-length control arm independent, Air Ride Technologies ShockWaves air-spring-over-shock, Fatman Fabrications (Charlotte, NC) dropped uprights
Brakes Oldsmobile servo-action drum
Master cylinder Corvette dual-circuit & 8" single-diaphragm booster, Classic Performance Products (Huntington Beach, CA)
Pedal assembly Kugel Komponents (La Habra, CA)
Steering box modified Oldsmobile Omega r&p
Steering Column polished aluminum ididit inc (Tecumseh, MI) tilt
Front wheel make, size American Racing, 17x8, 4" backspace
Rear wheel make, size American Racing, 17x9 1/2, 3 1/2" backspace
Front tire make, size Goodyear Eagle RSA, 205/50R-17
Rear tire make, size Goodyear Eagle RSA, 235/50R-17
ENGINE
Make 1978 Oldsmobile
Displacement 403ci
Machine work S&S Engines (Spokane, WA)
Water pump stock, ceramic coated
Cooling fan Flex-a-lite electric stainless (Milton, WA)
Radiator copper/brass three-row, modified tanks
Alternator chrome, 100-amp one-wire
Valve covers Offenhauser (Los Angeles, CA)
Manifold / Induction Edelbrock Performer RPM / Edelbrock 750-cfm, w/ Billet Specialties (La Grange, IL) finned air filter housing
Ignition / Wires PerTronix (San Dimas, CA) Flame-Thrower
Headers Sanderson Headers (S. San Francisco, CA), block-hugger style, ceramic coated
Exhaust / Mufflers 2 1/2" / Magnaflow (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA), installation by Retro Rods (Lynnwood, WA)
Engine details all ceramic & powdercoating by Finish Line Coatings (Milwaukee, OR)
TRANSMISSION
Year and make 1978 GM TH350
Builder TCI Automotive (Ashland, MS)
Shifter Lokar Performance Products (Knoxville, TN)
Driveshaft Precision Drivelines (Kirkland, WA)
BODY
Body style / Material F-38 touring sedan / steel
Body manufacturer Fisher Body Works
Bodywork owner & Moslander's Rod and Custom (Monroe, WA)
Paint type / Color DuPont Chromabase / medium sage green
Painter Ray at Moslander's
Headlights / Taillights halogen sealed beams in stock buckets / chrome stock
Outside mirror Bob Drake (Grant's Pass, OR) swan-style
Plating Art Brass Plating (Seattle, WA), Queen City Plating (Mukilteo, WA)
INTERIOR
Dashboard stock '38 Oldsmobile Bakelite, black base paint w/ Alclad II metal-finish lacquer
Insert / Gauges Dakota Digital (Sioux Falls, SD)
Audio Custom Autosound Secretaudio controller, 10-disc CD changer, Kenwood-powered subwoofer
Wiring Greg Parsley, Retro Rods
Steering wheel Billet Specialties billet half-wrap banjo w/ 1938 Oldsmobile crest machined into horn
Upholsterer Mike Barrett, Seams Right Auto & Marine Upholstery (Fall City, WA)
Material / Color leather / beige
Carpet taupe Bentley-series synthetic mohair
Interior details garnish molding wood grained by photogenesis process & sealed w/ urethane by V.C. Finishes (Odessa, MI)