Most everyone has heard of the acronym KISS, or Keep It Simple, Stupid. Unfortunately, many custom builders on the scene today ignore that basic rule of life and opt to follow the "everything but the kitchen sink" philosophy instead. It's not uncommon to see high-dollar customs cruising the fairgrounds with so many different conflicting themes, parts, accessories, and paint schemes that the beauty of the original automobile gets lost in the mix. This isn't how it always was, however. The original customs of the early '50s were clean, simple, beautiful cars. The customizer's goal was to take an older car and lend it the sleeker, sexier lines of a new luxury ride while maintaining the beauty of the original designer's ideas. Riverside, California, resident Budd Rogers shares that philosophy, as evidenced by his beautifully subtle '55 Olds Holiday mild custom.
We first noticed Budd's bitchin' Olds back at the Goodguys Del Mar Nationals, where it was sitting towards the back of the fairgrounds, tucked away from most of the hustle and bustle of the show-going crowd. We took a few snaps and marched on, attempting to see as much as possible. A month later, when Editor Rizzo decided to pattern this issue with a '50s customs theme, the first thing that popped in our minds was to seek out the mint green Olds. A few calls to Goodguys later and, presto, we had the number for Kool Rides, Budd's Southern California shop where he builds a few customs a year for the show and cruising crowd. His philosophy is simple, his execution flawless. Find a nice, clean, straight old car, subtly mold it to the desired look, spray on a killer paint job, and you've got yourself a cool and reliable custom guaranteed to turn heads.
In the case of the Olds, however, very few modifications were actually necessary. While he usually does some serious bodywork and cutting to achieve a desired look or attitude, Budd claims that this car was built on a budget and had plenty of style straight from the factory. The older gentleman Budd procured the car from was a collector of everything Oldsmobile, as he owned several of the cars from this era. When approached about selling one of his gems off, he agreed to part with the vehicle you see here, a relatively rare piece. In 1955, the Olds 88 was a much more popular car than the 98, as the latter had a longer wheelbase and was not only more expensive but also more difficult to get around town. The 98 Holiday hardtop was even rarer, and this particular car came factory equipped with such uncommon goodies as power windows, power driver seat, Wonderbar radio, Autotronic Eye headlight dimmer, power steering, power brakes, and a power antenna. After bringing the loaded old car home and smoothing out a few decade's worth of road rash and parking lot dings, Budd decided to leave the sheetmetal stock instead of cutting and modifying the lines. The super subtle look you see here was achieved by cutting the springs, adding lowering blocks, slathering the body in two-stage Pearl Cyber Green with a slightly darker green roof, and capping things off with a pair of Caddy hubcaps. The interior features several yards of white vinyl stitched up into a nice roll 'n' pleat job, set off by green piping by Chris's Upholstery in Riverside, and a Sony Xplode stereo lends cruising tunes to the perfect low-buck, high-style custom.
As you can tell, we really dig this car; the reason it stands out isn't because of a radically chopped top, a pile of chrome accessories, or a super-wild, ten-color paint job. This is a car that just about anyone could replicate on a working man's budget with a little bit of hard work and lots of planning. The end result is a killer cruiser with loads of style and plenty of creature comforts that can be enjoyed on a regular basis, just the way the founding fathers of customizing would have liked it.
'55 Olds 98 Holiday Hardtop
Drivetrain: Back in the days before GM decided to make all of its vehicles share the same line of engines, each brand had a distinctive set of motors to choose from, some of which were better than others. Olds "Rocket" motors were always fairly high-performance, and the mill in this Holiday is no exception. A 324-cube V-8 with a factory four-barrel can be found under the hood, and with the exception of chrome valve covers and a chrome Caddy air cleaner, everything was left completely stock. With plenty of power on tap and rock-solid reliability, Budd saw no reason to change anything. A stock Hydro trans still resides behind the 324, and with an ultra-low First gear that car jumps off the line with plenty of gusto when the need to dance the stoplight tango arises.
Chassis: While Budd usually pulls the body off the frame when he restores a car, the Holiday was so nice and original he didn't think it was necessary. Instead, a few coils were cut out of each spring, lowering blocks were stuffed out back, and the perfect ride height was achieved. A little scrubbing and spraying later and the chassis was as good as new.Wheels & Tires: The stock wheels were shod in new Coker wide whites and then capped off with a set of '57 Cadillac hubcaps.
Body: The stock body was in outstanding condition when Budd purchased the car from its previous owner, so with the exception of shaving off a few emblems and ironing out a few shopping cart dings everything was left predominantly stock. The 98 is 2 feet longer than the shorter and sportier 88, and when the ultra-long body is coupled with the hardtop roofline, it makes quite a statement. Mid-'50s Oldsmobiles, Buicks, and Pontiacs don't need much to look good as mild customs.
Paint: After the tin was nice and straight, everything was sprayed with PPG two-stage Pearl Cyber Green enamel, and the roof pigment was toned a little darker to break up the lines of the car a bit.
Interior: After the padded dash and steering wheel were both restored and painted stark white, a matching white vinyl tuck 'n' roll interior was stitched up for the Holiday by the gang at Chris's Upholstery in Riverside, California. Green piping sets off the all-white gut, and a Sony Xplode stereo pumps out tunes a few notches louder than the original Wonderbar radio ever could.