Story and photos by Brian Earnest
Ed Servais acted fast when a friend told him about a low-mileage
1958 Oldsmobile that was for sale. The neglected car hadn’t been
started in more than 30 years, but within a month, Servais had it
back on the road. Eleven years later, he’s still driving his beautiful
blue-and-white Super 88.
“Barn find” is a familiar, and some might argue slightly overused, term when it comes to the old car hobby. It’s thrown around as a catch-all description for cars that get uncovered in the strangest of places, including actual barns, sheds, chicken coups and various other agrarian structures. It also loosely applies to vehicles that might turn up in warehouses, storage facilities, under garage tarps or even sealed semi trailers.
But a “cheese factory” find? Well, that could probably only happen in Wisconsin, where, next to beer, bratwurst and the Green Bay Packers, cheese is king.
Ed Servais of De Pere, Wis., might well have the only “cheese factory” tale to tell in old car circles, and he has a shiny, almost all-original 1958 Oldsmobile Super 88 four-door Holiday hardtop to prove his story.
“Yeah, it’s quite an unusual story, I guess,” Servais admits with a chuckle.
Servais was already a bit of an Oldsmobile fan 11 years ago when he got a call from a buddy about a car. Servais owned a 1949 Olds 88 coupe and earlier had a 1950 Olds Holiday, but he wasn’t exactly shopping for another car when his phone rang.
“My friend had been doing some contracting work at this cheese factory, and he heard about the car and gave me a call, because he knew I liked Oldsmobiles,” Servais recalled. “It belonged to the original owner of the cheese factory. One day it wouldn’t start, so the workers there, they were going to jumpstart it and they hooked a 24-volt jumpstarter that they used on the big trucks, and they burned up all the wiring, blew up the battery and burnt up the regulator and everything. They burned everything up through the fuse box, and they unhooked that just in time or I think the whole car would have burned up … So then they just parked it.”
And the car stayed parked at the facility for more than three decades. During that time, the original owner died and the car sat untouched until it was finally deemed a nuisance to even have around, even though it had less than 40,000 miles on the odometer.
“One day, the owner of the cheese factory, who was the grandson of the original owner of the car, saw his guys pushing the car by hand, and he said, ‘I can’t afford to pay you guys to push this car around, so get rid of that car.’ My friend let me know about it one weekend … and by Tuesday morning I was getting it on my trailer,” Servais laughed. “What I can’t understand is that the grandson didn’t have much feeling for the car. I mean, if it was my grandpa’s car, I don’t care what the story was, it would never get sold, but he just wanted it out of there!”
The car needed all new wiring and electricals, and Servais obviously couldn’t turn the engine over, but the Olds simply looked too good to pass up. Not long after he got the car home and got a good look at the paint, chrome and interior, he knew he had made a good gamble.
“Of course, I didn’t hear it run, so the transmission could have been bad, or engine could have been bad, but it fired up and it ran just beautiful. It drove beautiful,” he said. “I was able to order a complete wiring harness for everything under the hood and everything under the dash, and in about three weeks time, I had it all wired, and when I drove it out of my driveway, which was in 1998, it turned over 40,000 miles.”
The Super 88 Series was Oldsmobile’s mid-range offering for 1958, placed between the low-end Dynamic 88 lineup and the high-end 98 series. The Super 88s shared a 122.5-inch wheelbase with the Dynamics and the popular, overhead-valve 371-cid/305-hp base engine with the 98s.
The Super 88s came in five body styles: two- and four-door Holidays (hardtops), four-door sedans, two-door convertibles and four-door wagons. With 27,521 produced for the model year, the four-door Holidays, like Servais’ car, were the second-best sellers behind the four-door sedans (33,844).
While some criticize the looks of the ’58 Oldsmobiles, they remain head-turners. With bold body-side trim and contours, and stylish grille, headlamp and tail lamp assemblies, the Super 88 was a handsome package. And during the 1950s, Oldsmobile gave its cars a significant facelift nearly every year. The late-’50s cars, in particularly, each have their own distinctive designs.
Standard equipment for the ’58 Super 88s included a padded dash, courtesy lights, special side moldings and chrome rocker panel moldings. The base price for the four-door hardtops was $3,339. Servais’ car has a few additional add-ons, including the optional Jetaway transmission, power steering and brakes, speed sensor and signal-seeking radio with foot switch.
Aside from the new wiring, the only thing on Servais’ car that isn’t original equipment is the generator, which replaced the factory alternator. “It’s a driver. I drive it all the time,” he said. “Last year I went to the Oldsmobile Nationals over in Deerborn, Mich., and I drove it over there. I got a plaque for the car being all-original, and they are pretty fussy over what they consider original. In that class there was like 39 cars, all Oldsmobiles, and when they got done looking at all of them, there were only about 18 left [judged as original], and mine was one of them … I almost got kicked out for the generator, but they let that go.”
The lovely Olds still wears its original Tropical Mist blue paint and factory white paint on the top. Everything in the interior is untouched. “It’s never been painted, and I don’t plan on painting it,” Servais said. “It’s not the best. It’s got a few little nicks and scratches, but I’m going to leave it that way because they are only original once, I guess.”
“I [considered restoring it] at first. I thought about having it painted, but it’s a driver, and I could spend a lot of money on the car, but then I’d be afraid to drive it. It took 40 years for it to get its first 40,000 miles, and only 10 years to get its second 40,000. It’s got over 80,000 miles on it now. We drive it, that’s for sure.”
“My wife always liked the ’58s, but I didn’t really like them that much until I got one, then I really began to like them. It handles and drives really nice. It’s just a beautiful car.
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