It’s no secret that we’re CRAZY for good barn find stories here at Eastwood. I myself am especially crazy for finding cars with a good story. Almost every one of my cars I own were saved from somewhere or have an interesting story as to how I found them. Recently our QC manager Nick F. got word that his Great Aunt Marie had passed away. Marie and much of that part of Nicks family had lived in their South Philadelphia home since they purchased it in 1900. In fact rumor has it that his Great Grandfather and Grandmother were the first to marry in the church down the street from there house!
Nick fondly remembered this side of his family having cool old cars since his years as a wee little one visiting on the holidays and to watch the Mummers Parade. After speaking with his family, he found out that one of the cars was still stashed away in their large garage in the city behind the house. The house and garage have been uninhibited for a number of years as his great Aunt was in poor health. He struck a deal and asked myself and Joe R. here at Eastwood to come help him extract the car from it’s tomb. Below is a quick story about the history of the car as Nick remembers.
“The car belonged to my great aunt, Marie. Her father John, my great-grandfather, bought the garage where the car was stored in 1900 and probably funded the purchase of the car. My aunt never married, and she moved in with her parents when they were elderly to take care of them. The car spent the first 10 years of its life in Brigantine, NJ where my Great Grandfather spent most of his time after he retired. The only people who were ever allowed to drive the car in those days were my Aunt Marie and my Great Grandfather. He died in 1970 and the car and my Aunt moved into his place in Philly. The car was rarely driven after that as she got older. The last service record I have for the car is for a full engine rebuild in 1980.
While the Olds was in Philly my Uncle Thom serviced it, changed its oil, and drove it around the block occasionally, but at most once or twice a year. This went on into the early 1990’s when Thom got too ill to do it. He died of a heart attack while in the red Buick that is sitting behind the Olds in the pics in 2003.
When we arrived to the property we went around the small little South Philly alley in a very old traditionally Italian neighborhood. The large garage door creaked open and inside was a deceivingly large garage. If you know anything about the city of Philadelphia, you’ll know that a home with a garage is a luxury and having a home with a HUGE garage like this is almost unheard of. Inside of the long garage was a red Buick and in front of it was a white, dirty, flattop 1960 Oldsmobile. We walked up to the car and began to formulate a plan to extract it from its resting place. We brought a slew of rescue tools, but it’s always a surprise what you’ll run into when digging out an old car that’s been sitting like this.
The first issue we encountered was the tires were all VERY dry rotted and flat (as to be expected) and we couldn’t get a jack under the frame to get the car in the air. After some digging we found a small light-duty floor jack in the corner of the garage and lifted the chassis up just enough to get my heavy 3 ton jack under the car. Our next problem was getting the lugs off… After trying the electric impact and a breaker bar, the lugs still wouldn’t loosen. It was very odd, the lugs didn’t look rusty at all! I decided to work the impact gun back and forth loosening and tightening hoping I could break the lugs free. To our surprise the first lugnut started to move a little when TIGHTENING it. This is always a scary moment when a bolt or nut breaks free like that, but we were past the point of no return. I hit the lug with the impact gun to loosen the lug and again it got tight. Then the lightbulb went on in all of our heads and we realized the lugs were opposite thread! It’s one of those things you’d never think of right away and we felt a bit foolish when we got the wheels off and noticed the “L” stamped in the ends of the wheel studs. Either way the wheels came off and we threw on some junkyard wheels and tires were thrown on and that got the car sitting on all fours.
With things going our way finally we thought we’d just through the car in neutral and push it out a little further closer to the door for the flatbed driver… bad idea. ALL FOUR wheels were way stuck. Even with banging each drum with a hammer and trying to pry on the drums with a pry bar a bit, they didn’t want to budge. We decided to sacrifice the spare tires we put on and have the driver just drag it up on the truck. It’s then we realized just how big and heavy the car was and how stuck the wheels were when the truck lurched back when it started dragging the car! After a little tugging the rear wheels broke free and the car slowly drug up on the truck.
After getting the car on the truck, the driver pulled away and yo could literally see the “tomb” where the car had laid for so many years. A BIG black oily spot where surely every fluid had been slowly dripping out of the car for all these years. We even found old spark plugs and remnants of a tune up job someone had done right there many years ago. The car was hauled back to Eastwood country and Nick has it at a neighboring shop up on the lift assessing what mechanically needs to be done to the car to get it roadworthy again. Initially the car looks really clean for its age with only minor superficial rust here and there. The car has had some paintwork done many years ago from what we can tell by some minor overspray in the radiator support, but otherwise the car is REALLY unmolested, clean and original. I’m pretty jealous of Nick’s score, but I’m just thankful I could be a part of saving another old car from being forgotten and rotting away!
We’ll update you as Nick makes progress on the car, as he’ll definitely be needing TONS of Eastwood tools and chemicals to get it back on the road again. Check out the video below we threw together of the car being extracted from its tomb in South Philadelphia!