1954 Oldsmobile F-88 Sightings
The shipping list specifically mentioned that these were "surplus materials," and among the items detailed on this particular sheet were "obsolete parts and required engineering blueprints for the Oldsmobile XP-20" (XP-20 was GM Styling's internal designation for the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88), two door strikers, two front fender "88" medallions, two parking lamp assemblies, two exhaust port support assemblies, one front-end fiberglass skin, and two engineering drawings of the car's front surface.
The shipment was sent from GM's Styling Section, then headquartered in the Argonaut Building behind the General Motors Building in central Detroit, via Railway Express, and delivered collect to Mr. E. L. Cord, 500 Doheny Road, Beverly Hills, California. Cord died in 1974, but his grandson, Charles E. Cord, Jr., still lives in Los Angeles.
Charles Cord, who was 16 years old in 1955, told me that he remembered a stack of large wooden crates in his grandfather's six-car Beverly Hills garage. Cord didn't know how long they stayed there, what eventually became of them, who at GM had shipped them to his grandfather, or why his grandfather had taken delivery in the first place.
He pointed out, though, that both E.L. Cord and Harley Earl owned homes in Palm Beach, Florida. He also mentioned that his grandfather owned and managed the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. GM rented the Pan Pacific each time it staged a Motorama show in Southern California.
So it's possible -- even likely -- that E.L. Cord saw the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 at the Pan Pacific in 1954. He might have mentioned to someone like Earl or Oldsmobile general manager Jack Wolfram that he admired the car, and it's conceivable that Earl, Wolfram, or one of their colleagues offered to send the Oldsmobile F-88 to Cord after Oldsmobile had finished with it.
Possible? Yes. Proven? No.
Another question arises at this point: Why was the Oldsmobile F-88 disassembled before shipment? Why wasn't it simply left together and trucked out to California intact? Dick Henderson mentioned that it would have made a lot more sense to ship the Oldsmobile F-88 fully assembled, and the reason it was taken apart is still a mystery.
Gordon Apker has yet another story that he'd gathered with this car: E. L. Cord might have planned to go back into the car business. Perhaps Cord envisioned the Oldsmobile F-88 as the sort of car he hoped to produce. Or maybe he intended to simply put the Oldsmobile F-88 back together so he could make it his daily driver, just as Earl had done with the red car. In either case, nothing like that ever happened.
Instead, what apparently did happen is that Cord ultimately -- after an unrecorded length of time -- sold the still crated, still disassembled 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 to a man named Bill Barker, whose business involved renting obsolete military vehicles to movie studios. Barker subsequently sold the Oldsmobile F-88 to Jim Brucker, owner of Movie World in Ventura, California, who also rented vehicles to movie studios.
Brucker thus became the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88's fourth owner, and while he's no longer alive, his son James is. The younger Brucker told me that he, too, remembered the crates and that his father had paid $1,000 for them.
In the next section, read about how the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88's new owners handled the vehicle, and learn even more about the stories surrounding this mysterious car.
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