I have a thing for station wagons. My '63 Galaxie Country Sedan nine-passenger wagon was the most practical car I'd ever had when I was using it as daily transportation. Although the gas mileage wasn't practical, I had more than 8 feet of flat hauling space when I folded down the two rear rows of seats-enough room to bring home two 7-foot Christmas trees one year with the tailgate closed. Regular readers may remember a couple of years back when we had Thom Taylor pen the staff's dream cars. The stipulation was that it had to be our only car to be used for fun and everyday duties. Mine ended up being a custom '60 two-door Starliner/wagon combo, but I knew if I had to actually build it, it would have been a '57 Oldsmobile Fiesta hardtop wagon.
The '57 Buick Caballero and Oldsmobile Fiesta hardtop wagons are two of the most elegant wagons ever built. The Chevrolet Nomads are cool, of course, but four doors are almost mandatory for a truly useful family wagon, and the hardtop design hides the rear doors well. The Oldsmobile beats out the Buick in my mind because it has the cleaner design of the two. It appears that Bruce Ricks and I have something in common.
The Fiesta wagon on these pages didn't always have such a pampered life. Its previous owner used it as a service car for his field pump maintenance business, carrying equipment and supplies in the back and trekking through New Mexico fields. That was until 1966 when he found a '59 Ford pickup minus the engine and trans. His logical solution was to pull the Rocket V-8 and trans out of the Olds and swap them into the Ford pickup.
The wagon was then rolled into the barn where it sat until 2004 when it was given to another guy when the barn was being cleaned out. Its new owner really had no intention of building it, so it was set out in front of his house with a "For Sale" sign in it.
As luck would have it, brothers Darrell and Tim Cimbanin were on their way to SEMA to display their custom '55 Chevy truck to promote their shop, Cimtex Rods (www.cimtexrods.com) in Jarrell, Texas.
Like any good hot rodder, they can spot old gold at highway speeds, so they immediately thought of Bruce as soon as they checked out the Olds. They knew he had a thing for '56-57 Oldsmobiles, so they gave him a call and convinced him they should bring the wagon back to their shop.
Despite its earlier field work, the wagon was in great shape, thanks to its inside storage, and it was all there with the exception of the previously pulled engine/trans combo. This was a real bonus, as some of the trim and glass is specific to just this year of Fiesta wagon and is very hard to find, especially in the condition this build was going.
At first Bruce just wanted a nice driver, but it wasn't long before the Cimbanin brothers had the wagon completely disassembled and heading in a new direction. It would still be set up as a driver with all the right suspension and drivetrain components and a comfortable interior filled with creature comforts, but the fit and finish would be just a little nicer. Of course, by the time Darrell and Tim were done, it ended up a lot nicer.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Bruce & Judy Ricks
1957 Oldsmobile Fiesta wagon
Bruce wanted to retain as much of the Oldsmobile's original character as possible, and that didn't include a small-block Chevy. He located a '57 four-door sedan parts car that had the factory hot rod J2 (Tri-Carb) 371ci Rocket V-8. The engine and trans were pulled, rebuilt, ground smooth all over, and painted. Custom air cleaners were designed and CNC machined from chunks of aluminum, and Cimtex Rods custom built the accessory brackets. Steve Cook Creations did the same with the headers and exhaust. A custom-built crossflow radiator by Air Mobile keeps it all running as cool as it looks.
The main part of the frame is original to the wagon but has been extensively modified. The center X-member has been modified to accommodate the new two-piece driveshaft. The frame from the firewall forward was replaced with an Art Morrison Enterprises front Mini-Clip (Mustang II type) with Air Ride Technologies ShockWaves and Stainless Steel Brakes' 12 1/2-inch discs. The original rear leaf springs were ditched in favor of an Air Ride Technologies triangulated four-bar suspension. The stock rearend was retained but narrowed 2 inches and adapted to new Stainless Steel disc brakes. Once the modifications were done, the frame was ground smooth and painted like it was never going to get a body.
Wheels & Tires
Beyond the stance, the only other giveaway to the wagon's hot rod attitude are the 18- and 20-inch Boyd Coddington Crown Jewel billets wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber (245/45ZR18s and 295/40ZR20s).
Body & Paint
When it comes to station wagon design, the argument is really easy to make that the '57 Olds Fiesta hardtop wagon is right at the top. Bruce and the Cimbanin brothers agreed and left the body and trim just like it rolled out of the factory, with the exception of removing the door handles (the rears looked like they were hanging out of place). The design might be factory, but the fit and finish comes courtesy of Cimtex Rods. Darrell and Tim moved the metal around until it was perfect and then squirted it with several coats of PPG custom-mixed blue and champagne. The factory stainless trim was straightened and then sent to Jon Wright's CustomChrome Plating in Grafton, Ohio, to give it some extra pop.
Bruce may have left the exterior looking factory, but when it came time to redo the interior he called on the services of designer Chris Ito to come up with a style that was fresh but still retained some of the original elements. Once the design was finalized, Paul Atkins was put in charge of taking it from paper to leather. The stock bench seats were rebuilt by removing the springs and adding foam in their place. Atkins built custom door panels accented by handmade trim and the restored factory handles. The stock dash trim was restored and the gauge cluster was sent to Classic Instruments for a rebuild. The factory wheel was cut down 2 inches and Chevy Nomad headliner bows were added. A Vintage Air A/C system blows through the rare factory A/C vents and is controlled by the original Oldsmobile panel. Dynamat sound-deadener helps keep the outside noise and heat out and the Kicker stereo sound in.