Some folks like to rebuild cars that already have been hot-rodded while others prefer to be the first one to imprint their personality on a previously untouched car. Then you get folks like Gil Losi, who is equally adept at doing both. At 71 years old, Gil has had the pleasure of owning a great many cars, with more than a handful having been featured in various hot rod magazines through the years. And, he’s been at it a long time: his first car was a ’49 Ford two-door sedan—one he claims was the lowest car in the San Fernando Valley region of Southern California in 1956.
This Rocket gets its go from a 455 that has been bored 0.060 by McBride Racing in Lake Els
Over the years Gil’s taste has run the gambit of what you can own, from slippery one-off Boyd Coddington creations to a customized Sunliner, Rivi, Trans Am, and ’54 Mercury. But one car has eluded him for decades: a ’49 Olds. He’s wanted one since he was 15 years old and, through some unique happenstance, 58 years later he got his wish.
Back in 1998 Gil watched this car go together at Butch Lynch’s shop. Finished and then put up for sale at the Goodguys Pomona Show, Gil thought he missed his chance when the car was sold. But recently a friend showed him a picture of what had become of the car. It was again for sale, but worse for wear. It had a blown motor and, after Gil bought the car and had it taken apart, the picture got worse.
Gil took the car to Dan Sobieski’s Poor Boys Hot Rods in La Habra, California, who found a lot of problems around the trunk and decklid areas that needed replacement. Gil gave the OK and Poor Boys broke out their English Wheel and fabbed up new panel sections for the Olds. Sobieski also found the car’s brakes were shot, the front wheels were hitting the shocks, and the airbags were rubbing. As Gil says: “It was a mess.”
No stranger to having cars rebuilt from the ground up, Gil told Sobieski to fix everything and finish the car with paint and upholstery. Al Simon did a lot of the work on the chassis, which uses a late-model IFS clip and a Ford 9-inch rear (3.55:1). RideTech ’bags are on each corner, as are Baer disc brakes. For rollers, Boyd Codington wheels, 18x8 and 20x10, were wrapped in Kumho rubber (215/45-18 and 275/35-20).
The split bench front seat was covered by Gabe’s Upholstery with black Ultraleather with c
Underhood is a 455 engine bored 0.060 by McBride Racing in Lake Elsinore, California. McBride assembled the engine with polished rods, an Olds W30 crank, a Clay Smith camshaft, and forged pistons. Compression was dialed in at 9.5:1 and a pair of heads from George Striegel (with stainless valves and Clay Smith springs) was added before the Edelbrock manifold and 750 carb were bolted on. A custom air cleaner from Butch Lynch tops the engine, which also uses a pair of valve covers from a Pro Stock race car for a unique look. Overdriven Performance rebuilt the 700-R4 transmission, adding a shift kit and a 2,500-rpm stall converter.
The body of the Olds has been shaved, and Poor Boys Hot Rods painted the ride with DuPont paint products. Lil Louie added the subtle pinstriping and Ogden Plating in Utah re-plated all of the car’s chrome pieces. Inside the fastback a stock dash had controls for the Vintage Air A/C system added to the area just below the clock mounted mid-dash, and the steering wheel’s diameter was resized to 15 inches. Controls for the Kicker-based audio system are hidden, and the interior was finished off by Gabe’s Upholstery with a combo of black Ultraleather and cloth inserts on the split bench front seat.
Once finished, the low-slung Olds profiles like a bad boy: slammed to the ground but able to pounce with a bored-over big-block underhood. “It’s just a driver,” Gil says, and it is, as he’s rolled up a lot of miles cruising all over Southern California with it. But though it seems that 58 years might be a long time to wait for a car, as anyone knows, good things do come in time.