Wayne Powell has a pretty good memory of his entire life as an automotive enthusiast. "I have a photo of me taken in 1950 when I was 4 years old. I was standing in the driveway of Hands Motor Court along Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with my 'daily driver' red '47 Ford fire truck pedal car next to me. I was hooked my first ride in a car, but living in New Mexico along the 'mother road', seeing a parade of every kind of car headed east and west, was probably the clincher."
The first thing you'll notice about the GMPP Ram Jet 502 is the intake plenum, fabricated
He remembers attending car shows at an early age, building AMT and Revell model kits, and watching "every black and white TV show with any connection to the automobile." The full-custom '49 Ford that was his first car in high school, the full-fendered '30 Model A cabriolet that followed, and the '62 Galaxie that followed that are all sharp memories.
One thing that's hard for Wayne to remember is life without this '55 Oldsmobile, which was brand new when it joined the Powell family. "The '55 was the third of three purchased by my parents beginning in 1953," Wayne told us. "Our '53 Olds 88 two-door sedan was traded for a '54 two-door 88 hardtop with all the bells and whistles.
"The ink was barely dry on the title when the '54 was T-boned while parked in our garage. A Pleasure Time soda truck ran a stop sign and was clipped by another vehicle. It jumped a curb and traveled 20 feet before ramming through a block wall and through the wall of our garage. Two weeks later, a brand-new pale mint green and white '55 98 Holiday DeLuxe two-door hardtop was parked in our driveway. The top-of-the-line coupe was loaded with power steering, brakes, seats, and windows, plus air conditioning, and a front and rear speaker for the mono radio."
Wayne's mother used the Oldsmobile for running errands around the neighborhood. By the early '60s, Wayne was old enough to drive, and the Olds served as a "date car" for taking out his high school sweetheart, Marcella, "when my own cars weren't finished, would fail to start, or lacked the requisite level of class for special occasions like proms or dinners out." It also served as the honeymoon car when Wayne and Marcella got married, 45 years ago.
Wayne's mother continued to drive the car until 1984 when she passed it on to Wayne. In almost 30 years of almost daily use, the Olds had clocked less than 90,000 miles. Twenty-three more years would pass before it would clock any more. A few years ago, Wayne and Marcella decided to build up the old Olds, in honor of the car's longevity and Wayne's parents' wise investment.
The stock seats were re-padded and re-covered with fresh Ultraleather. The color is "doe"
When Wayne took the Oldsmobile to Tony Kos at Mild To Wild Classics in Albuquerque to begin the buildup, it was original and complete, right down to the owner's manual and the original key chain from the dealer. Kos and his crew, including his sons Eric and Tony Jr., worked with Wayne to build a mild custom with a close-to-factory image plus modern components for performance, reliability, and safety. "We had conversations over the course of several months and arrived at a plan for honoring the original designers of the classy and classic body style, while making sure it was a driver," Wayne remembers.
They modified the factory 'rails to give the car the right ride height for driving down the road and the right low-down posture for lounging around. Springs, ShockWave shocks, and the rear Panhard bar are from Ride Tech. The custom front stub was built with TCI Engineering spindles, A-arms, and an antiroll bar. The Currie rearend runs 3.50 gears with limited slip.
Another significant upgrade is hidden under the hood. The Ram Jet 502 from GM Performance Parts makes 502 hp at 5,100 rpm and 565 lb-ft of torque at 3,200. Gary Gonzales in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, built the Turbo 700-R4 transmission with a 2,500-stall torque converter, and Mild To Wild provided the driveshaft.