Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser Wagon and concept Cruiser

Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser Station Wagon

(Reblogged from Hemmings Motorsports and other sources) New paint and interior was all that was really needed to get this 1964 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser Station Wagon back on the road By  Mike Bumbeck  from September 2013 issue of  Hemmings Classic Car

In This Article Category: Classics When it comes to the restoration of automobiles, especially those from the Sixties, rarely do you hear about someone rebuilding a station wagon instead of the usual muscle car. Which is sad, because if ever there was a distinctive body style, one overflowing with loads of character and massive utilitarian appeal, the American station wagon is it. For baby boomers, one of the most memorable and desirable models is the Vista Cruiser from Oldsmobile. In 1964, the trendsetting stylists at Oldsmobile offered the Vista Cruiser, with its unique design that incorporated windows in the roof. Not only could you better view the world outside, but the added height was, according to Oldsmobile, “easier on hats and hairdos.” Jim Shultz remembers his dad ordered one of these sleek new station wagons with the three-seat option in February 1964 for delivery in April. The car caused a sensation. The raised observation-style roof had been featured on trains and buses, but was new to the Oldsmobile station wagon set. Jim took his driver’s test in that family wagon.

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This right – rear quarter damage was the accidental catalyst for change. The dent pushed the rust-free and entirely original daily driver Vista Cruiser into a considerable rebuilding restoration project.Fast-forward to the future and a few thousand miles away in Chino Valley, Arizona, and Jim is again driving a 1964 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, though not the same one from New York. The original octogenarian owner of this wagon drove it onto the Edward Oldsmobile lot in Phoenix on trade with just 49,000 miles on the odometer.The wagon was in such good original shape that it was pressed into immediate service, and was serving as a daily driver when a weekend trip to the post office resulted in an accident caused by a minivan. Everyone was unharmed, but the wagon took the brunt of force in the right rear quarter. The accident ultimately led to the decision to restore the car. Jim hadn’t planned to do so, but once the dent was in, a plan was put into motion. The first step was to take an interior inventory and get the car down to the shop for paint removal.Doug Hardesty at Enviro Stripping in Phoenix charges about a dollar-a-minute to media blast the body. Getting the original, sunbaked paint off the rust-free body took 450 minutes; Jim masked off as much of the car as possible at home to save a few dollars. The plastic media doesn’t hurt the glass or trim, and leaves the steel body clean of all coatings.

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Remember that bent up rear quarter panel? Some precision metal bumping, a thin skim of Evercoat body filler and a substantial amount of sanding later, and the reshaped quarter panel looks factory correct.From there, the Olds went to Mike McAndrew’s body shop, where Mike straightened out the rear quarter without pulling the glass using tried-and-tested metal bumping methods. Little filler was used to return the original body panel to pre-accident shape and smoothness. Dupont direct-to-metal primer was followed by Dupont ChromaBase base coat/clear coat paint system in Provincial White.

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Thin coats of Evercoat body filler were applied to low spots on the bare metal body and then sanded smooth using 150-grade paper in preparation for the first coat of primer.With as many windows as the wagon has, there was plenty of trim, the polishing of which was a project unto itself. In the end, Jim measured exactly 211 feet of polished trim. The uneven number results from the vertical foot of trim that goes between the glass panels on the front Vista Roof windows. “That was the eleventh foot!”Jim had a buffing setup on a pedestal with 12-inch-diameter buffing wheels and used the conventional method of cleaning and buffing, with extra care taken to keep the aluminum trim moving and cool to prevent deformation and resulting ripples. Jim used both wheels on the buffer, but only the least abrasive white compound on one wheel, and kept the other open for finish polishing.Because no trim has been reproduced for station wagons, a longer piece of two-door Oldsmobile body trim was shortened and shaped to replace the rear trim that was damaged in the accident. The two rocker panel moldings were sent out for replating due to an unusual staining caused by careless carpet cleaning chemical use. Jim packed up the two pieces in a PVC plastic pipe and sent them out to Los Angeles. For a total of about $100, they returned in like-new condition.The interior was complete but slightly sun baked. While the carpet was worn out in a few spots, the headliner was perfect. To reupholster the seats in the correct material, new fabric was sourced from SMS Auto Fabrics. The wagon houses the last of the correct green material that SMS had in house. The entire interior was renewed at Red Barn Upholstery in Chino Valley. Upholsterer Sharon Roat had only about one square foot of leftover material after the interior was completed.Mechanically, the engine was in running condition save for worn valve seals, a common problem with the 330-cu in Oldsmobile V-8 engines that causes oil to build up under the valve covers and create a smoke show as the oil slips into the combustion chambers. Jim replaced the seals while the cylinder heads were still bolted to the engine block, using compressed air in the cylinders to hold the valves up while he removed the springs with a spring compressor. A new timing chain and gears were also installed.But before any work was done, the engine was soaked in Simple Green then pressure washed to remove the residual grease. Any stubborn road crud was then removed with a wire wheel on a hand drill. The engine was masked off and painted while in the engine bay, using Oldsmobile gold paint in aerosol cans from the local auto parts store. The valve covers were sandblasted prior to refinishing, but the air cleaner was in great original condition, so Jim touched up a few areas and then used a rubbing compound and then wax to bring the air cleaner back to like-new condition.Prior to all this refurbishment, Jim had already rebuilt the Rochester 4GC four-barrel carburetor, so an external cleanup was all that was required for it to breathe 290hp worth of fuel and air into the engine. As for the Jetaway automatic transmission, all it required was a fluid change; these transmissions are very durable.”The nice thing about Oldsmobiles is that they didn’t change much for many years,” Jim explains. “That engine came out in 1964, and remained pretty much the same until Olds stopped using it. The last generation of those was in 1990, with the 307-cu in V-8. Parts are readily available and reasonable in price.”The suspension and drivetrain were in good shape save for a set of new bearings needed in the differential. The power drum brakes had to have their brake shoes arched to the drums’ surface for full contact. Jim says, “Now they stop just fine. No problem.”On the road, Jim tells us, his 49-year-old wagon drives pretty much like a modern car. “I drive it down to Scottsdale for the Oldsmobile Club Meets at the Pavilions, and it runs 70-80 MPH all day long. It’s got 3.08 gears in the rear and a two-speed transmission, so it’s a long-legged performer.”This wagon came equipped with full wheel covers that are comprised of three pieces: the turbine style trim ring, the wheel cover and center emblem. Jim says the covers are famously difficult to restore, but a good friend, Scott Stockdill, found and prepped a full set of covers and gave them to him completely refinished as a gift. Jim considered NOS dog dish hubcaps and trim rings to get the car up to the Oldsmobile Nationals in Seattle, so the ready-to-install full wheel covers were a welcome surprise.The project took less than a year from start to finish, with a drive up to the Nationals in Seattle as a fitting finale. The wagon took home first place at that Oldsmobile Club of America event back in 2005, and has taken home a wagon’s load worth of awards since. While the trophies and recognition are welcome, Jim recalls the greatest reward was driving the restored car after its accidental brush with the minivan. “Seeing that car whacked like that in the quarter, and having the history with Vista Cruisers that I have, it was heartbreaking. The only fix was to do it. I knew the Nationals were coming up in Seattle, and thought this would be a great car to take up, so we did.”

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Jim still drives his station wagon, and the driving influences the scope of his restoration requirements: “I’m not a concours-restoration guy. I want mine to run and drive. If I have to go down a dirt road, I don’t like to, but I do. I don’t pull them apart any further than I have to. I’ve got too many cars. Frame-offs are a waste of money for me because of the way I use my cars. I drive them. The first time it gets dirty, you’ve lost your investment.”The “too many cars” that Jim is referring to includes multiple Oldsmobiles, and even an Oldsmobile-powered GMC Motorhome. Jim is Vice President of the National Antique Oldsmobile Club, which formed in 1980. The club is currently around 1,500 members strong, and welcomes 1978 and older Oldsmobiles, with a rolling 35-year window. Jim’s Oldsmobile collection comprises what he calls The Rocket Ranch. “It’s my private sickness. I’ve got 32 Oldsmobiles, from 1940 all the way to 1976. Somebody has to collect Oldsmobiles!”

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He also finds that driving Oldsmobiles is a great way to find more Oldsmobiles and the people who like them; it’s getting to the point where the Oldsmobiles are finding him. “They find me all the time. I’m kind of like a hub. My wife has been a pretty good sport, but it’s getting to the point that if they’re not big enough to live in, I better not bring them home.”The transformation from parking lot mishap to award-winning restored driver is complete, and this wagon rolls on as an example of taking life’s misfortune and turning it into good will and great times. Jim takes the Vista Cruiser out whenever he can and enjoys sharing that experience with others. “That’s a pertinent thing in these times. People are stressed. The economy is not good. They need any kind of excuse to feel good, that makes them happy, or changes their attitude of the day. When they see one of these cars on the road, they get all jazzed about it, and you kind of make their day.”

Owner’s View The World’s Fair was going on in New York City, and we decided for a family trip to head down there in the new Vista Cruiser. I was 14 at the time, so I wasn’t quite driving yet. I remember being in the back seat and going down the streets of Manhattan and looking straight up at those buildings through the roof of that Vista Cruiser. Going to the World’s Fair in something that I guess you would call the “leading edge of technology,” or at least “unique,” was quite a memorable experience. These cars have always been special to me. The 1964 models, in my opinion, as far as Oldsmobiles go, are the best. They had everything in the right place, for my eye anyway.

Now, this is one custom cruiser! The seller of this custom, two-door 1966 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser has created quite a car in White Mountains, Arizona.

I love it. No, I absolutely, positively love it! Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before, or maybe they have? I haven’t seen a two-door Vista Cruiser but man, this thing is going to be gorgeous when it’s done. The work that has been done so far looks top-notch. The seller would have a much better chance of getting someone to bite on this beauty if they would have taken better photos and many more of them. A car like this deserves more than some casual, chopped-off photos. Clean it up, clean it out, take some great photos, I bet they’d get someone to grab it almost instantly for their asking price. I owned an Old Vista Cruiser and would have loved to make a 2 door like this…

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