SPOTTED – Oldsmobile F85

First published 2011-05-01 

We love Yank Tanks here at Garage of Awesome but if we see another Mustang, we might just die of boredom. They seem to be starting to outnumber Camry’s and this is a bit sad, because the USA hath brought forth so many freakin’ awesome cars over the years that were NOT Mustangs, yet here we are.

Don’t get us wrong; the Mustang was a good car, based off simple, hard-wearing Ford Falcon mechanicals, it looked tuff and with the right options ticked, they pretty much cemented the muscle car era in the human psyche permanently. We have been chasing that dragon ever since.

Hitting up any American car cruise will result in Mustang-central; one we attended recently had so many that we had to fight off boredom constantly, but thankfully, with around a hundred cars on the cruise, there were plenty of others to keep us happy.

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1961 Oldsmobile F85 – the compact tank – GoA Images

 

Enter the Oldsmobile F85.

We chatted to the owner at-length but forgot to ask his name. Too much awesome to think of details like that… Anyway, he’s owned the Olds for a few years now and believes the car was brought into Australia by none other than General Motors’ Holden which realistically makes this a factory-sold Olds. The W-numberplate would have been issued around 2000, so it’s not retained its original rego number, which would have helped determine how long it may have been here for.

He had been told that the car had been spotted in regular use around Holden’s long-defunct Woodville factory back in the day, still in LHD form and had been imported presumably for testing and market research. Holden were perhaps checking out the tiny 3.5 litre, 215ci V8 for their own vehicles. Holden only offered a Chevrolet V8 from the HK model of 1967 and no Australian-built V8s were fitted until the HG of 1970.

In the early 1960s, offering a big-capacity V8 in a Holden sedan would have been derided as decadent, and serious men in serious hats would have spent much time both before and after church discussing how Holden, ‘Australia’s Own’, had become a tool of Satan. And then probably hit their wives for a bit, then drunk some whisky. Normal, early 1960’s stuff.

However, by the late 1960’s the kids were taking acid and growing their hair, so suddenly packing some cubes into a standard family sedan with dodgy brakes was no longer akin to child murdering, so all bets were off.

Of course, the notion that this particular Oldsmobile F85 was used for anything aside from carrying around serious men in serious hats is pure speculation, but EDUCATED speculation derived from reading lots of car magazines, reading lots of car books and not getting laid anywhere near as much as we’d like.

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Plenty of room on parcel shelf for serious 1960’s hats – GoA Images

While most in Australia probably haven’t heard of an Oldsmobile F85, let alone seen one, the reason of course is because everyone is too busy importing Mustangs. However, the lineage is sound; mid-way through 1961 a ‘Cutlass’ version was released in the USA in the guise of a pillared sport-coupe. Sales improved and the F85 model-name was soon relegated to the base model, rather than the entire model series.

Despite the first model using modern (for the USA) unitary monocoque construction, by 1964 the F85 was a full-chassis’ed, body-on-frame like most other US Yank Tanks. Size went up and versions appeared with whimsical names like Cutlass Supreme and Turnpike Cruiser. The lauded Oldsmobile 442 muscle car was originally an option package based off the F85, until becoming a model in its own right.

So what started as a modern, monocoque, fully-coil-sprung, upper-compact-sized car designed to compete against the Falcon, Corvair and Valiant (you know, full sized cars for anywhere except America) ended up with a full chassis, massive engine and no handling, just like every other massive Yank tank!

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Sam the Eagle? Am I right? Anyone? – GoA Images

With a 0-60mph time of about 14.5 seconds, they could have used some extra cubes straight up, but when you look THIS MUCH like the Muppets’ Sam the Eagle, who cares?

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Another front view of the 1961 Oldsmobile F85 – GoA Images