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...
The first thing you'll notice about the GMPP Ram Jet 502 is the intake plenum, fabricated at Mild To Wild. A Billet Specialties Tru-Trac serpentine system, valve covers, power steering reservoir, and overflow tank brighten up the engine compartment. The Sanderson block hugger ceramic-coated headers run into custom dual pipes from Mild To Wild Classics, with Flowmaster Super 44 mufflers for a tone that suits the style. Mild To Wild also fabricated the fan shroud and filled the firewall.
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...
The stock seats were re-padded and re-covered with fresh Ultraleather. The color is "doe" with "celery" inserts. The pattern is taken from the original upholstery.
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.
The interior had been well maintained during the car's lifetime. "The interior trim, chrome and stainless, was cleaned and reinstalled. Not a screw was missing and all were reused on reassembly, as were the power units for the seat and windows," Wayne says. "The original leather remained under the seat covers my mother added in 1963. When the factory leather was removed, the padding was powder, but the hides still had the factory cut date stamps." A Vintage Air A/C system now replaces the factory air unit, and a Pioneer stereo and speakers takes the place of the stock AM radio. As a final electronic touch, a rear camera system has been installed in the car, with the camera mounted on the rear license plate frame.
"The Mild to Wild Classics...
"The Mild to Wild Classics crew remarked that this was one of the few cars they've taken apart and found no spare change," Wayne says. "Yep-that was Mom's car; there would never be any spare change!"
El Paso Electro-Plate handled the chroming, and the exterior chrome and stainless pieces look like they did the day Wayne's dad first drove the car home. The headlights are Halogen now; taillight lenses from Fusick Automotive Products in East Windsor, Connecticut, are now LED.
"When the car was taken apart, they found a bullet hole in the sheetmetal under the radiator," Wayne reveals. The bullet hole remains, but how it got there remains a mystery. When the bodywork was complete, the Olds went into the Mild To Wild spray booth for a two-tone Cyber Green and white paintjob, using Martin Senour paint.
Instead of choosing retro rolling stock, Wayne decided on C-57 five-spokes from Coys Wheels, and Nexen N1000 high-performance rubber. Front 235/40ZR18 tires are mounted on 18x8 rims, and rear 275/35ZR20 radials roll on 20x10s. The brakes are 11- and 12-inch front and rear Wilwoods with a Classic Performance Products master cylinder, booster, and proportioning valve, and a custom pedal assembly from Mild To Wild.
A Billet Specialties Chicayne...
A Billet Specialties Chicayne model steering wheel is mounted on a Flaming River shifter column. The original dash was restored with Ultraleather padding along the top. The original insert was cleaned up and reinstalled, retaining the factory gauges, which were restored by MO-MA in Albuquerque.
The revived Powell family Oldsmobile is back on the street and drawing attention. Marcella still loves it and their sons now have their own memories of their grandfather's Olds. Wayne and Marcella's own grandkids have been helping clean it at car shows since they were the same age Wayne was when he had his photo taken out on Route 66, and are undoubtedly collecting their own future memories. His mother and father are gone now, but Wayne knows they would appreciate the Olds as much as anyone. "I'm sure my mom would recognize the car in its new colors, would ask what I did with the hubcaps, and maybe, just maybe, grin a bit at the thumping of the 502."