Pace Setter

I bought this 1970 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 W-30 convertible in Christiana, Del., in 1987 when I was 15 years old. I originally wanted a GTO The Judge (and came close to purchasing a ’69 GTO Ram Air IV the previous year), but being the precocious kid that I was, I called all the cool cars for sale. The Olds struck a chord with me.

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I found this 1970 Olds 4-4-2 while searching for a GTO The Judge. Since restoring the car, I’ve driven it to 22 states and researched its history to learn it was a pace car at Dover Downs in Delaware.

    The ad stated, “1970 4-4-2 convertible loaded with options, $3,000.” I called the seller and asked if the car had the special W-30 engine option, and he replied that it did. He also indicated it was a pace car. I thought, “W-30 ragtop, plus pace car, equals ‘jackpot!'” I convinced my dad, who is not a “car guy,” to take a look at it. After all, I did not have my license yet. The car was, to put it bluntly, a piece of crap, but I was convinced it had it all. Oldsmobile made only 264 convertibles with the W-30 package that year, and I knew this was considered the ultimate Oldsmobile from the era. We talked the seller down to $1,800 and it was mine… uh, my dad’s.

    After purchasing the car, I researched its history and found out that it was not one of the Indy pace cars made that year ‘ those cars had a Y-79 on the data plate ‘ so I called the previous owner. He told me it paced Dover Downs in Delaware, so I called the track and its employees eventually gave me a photo of the car at the track. I also managed to get in touch with the original owner, who confirmed the pace car history. He was not a car guy, but he told me he bought the car over a Corvette because his golf clubs fit in the Olds!

    The next step was contacting Kent County Motors in Dover, the dealership that originally sold the Oldsmobile originally. Employees at the dealership claimed they did not have information going back on a car as old as mine. I persisted a few times, all for naught. But when the car was finished five years later, I drove it to Dover. I found a sympathetic salesman who remembered the car and, six months later, I had dealership documentation showing my car was a dealer-prepped pace car for Dover Downs!

    So, I suppose, things ended up better than I expected. Not only is the car rare and has an interesting history, but it also has the rare blue stripes. (Most cars had white, black or gold stripes, depending on the exterior color. Red stripes were also available, but cars with this stripe color are  rare, too.)

    I have driven this Oldsmobile through 22 states and Canada. It’s been through a lot, but it’ll get the glory it deserves sometime in the future ‘ after I buy that The Judge.

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