Bob has been talking about it, and he's shown me a gorgeous picture of it. Finally, he takes me out to see it, his beloved restored 1937 Oldsmobile.
It's in a second, closed garage, reached via a small door in his open garage. It's a deep red, that sexy curvy shape popular in cars of that vintage. The hood is up, hinged at the front and up on some kind of supports near the windshield. He tells me the original hood had "piano-key" handles, think I got that right, and so it opened up straight. The man who remodeled it put this hood on. He also added little vents, like small backward-facing scallops along the side of the engine. The running boards say "Olds". On the hood is an original Olds rocket accessory, used to be on the front of all Oldsmobile hoods, says Bob.
The car has big back tyres and smaller front ones, but both fattened up from the originals. Bob says this is part of turning it into a "street rod". Inside, the seats are covered in an attractive flesh-coloured velour, and he has a throw on top of them. The gauges on the dash were individually crafted by the remodeler, the big circles look clean and easy to read. There's a CD player with a box for CDs on the floor, and an a/c. Door and window handles all new. Small windshield with small wipers, high seating position and the view in front is decorated with that hood ornament.
All of this is, of course, modern equipment. (No CDs in 1937). About the only original part of this car is the body itself.
I ask Bob what kind of mileage he gets in it -- it's a V8 engine, after all, and this dates to when they built cars like tanks. He says, well, on our last trip, this baby was doing 80 mph and we were getting up to 27 mpg. Not bad at all. I wouldn't mind driving it cross country myself: that's several miles to the gallon better than my last car rentals gave me.
Wanna take a ride in it? asks Bob. Bob backs it carefully out, and we're off. Points out to me a lever inside that, when yanked on, opens up a vent immediately outside the windshield, thus blasting fresh air from outside at our feet. Very nice. Much more direct and breezier than the controls in modern cars. Sometimes when driving I long for fresh air that I can get without opening windows, and here's the way to get it. Can someone install that on our Tata Indica?
We barrel down the highway, the car making a satisfying rumble. Bob says he likes that sound, it makes him feel good. It also makes him feel good that this is, as he says, probably the only car of its kind on the planet. He's only ever seen one other '37 Olds, and that was a wreck. I suspect there may be more lying around somewhere, but restored as lovingly like this, it's a good bet his is the only one. We go several miles down Rt 92, swing around and come back, playing catch up with a coal train that's snaking past.
All in all, I get the feeling that moments like these are Bob's pinnacle of satisfaction with his life -- the breeze blowing through the vent, his '37 Olds rumbling down highway 92, an awestruck passenger beside him. I look over at him and he has a small smile on his face as he drives.
Back in the garage, Bob picks up another hood ornament off a shelf behind him. It's off of a Chevy, he says, and he's waiting for the right car to use it on. It's a figure of a woman lying prone, with wings sprouting from her back.
Well, he says, fingering it fondly, she has big boobs and long hair -- she does, indeed -- and you put it on a car like this, what more does a guy want, eh?