THREE KIDS – THREE CARS
By Joseph Bortz
It was 1957, it seemed like years waiting for my 15thbirthday to get to my 16thbirthday to get my drivers license for then I could officially drive legally and purchase my own car. Don’t misunderstand I wasn’t completely immobile; I had been working since I was ten years old in a Polish poultry store after school. The money I made at ten bought me a Travis motor for my JC Higgins bicycle; this was a two cycle, one-cylinder motor that sat on the front wheel that propelled the bike about 15-20 mph; at the age of twelve, I bought my first used Whizzer 24 inch Pacemaker motor bike. It was a beauty and the only one I ever saw from the factory that came in medium powder blue with all the chrome accessories including the speedometer. At 15 I was able to purchase a new 250 CC NSU Max motorcycle from a German bicycle dealer in Chicago that felt he did not want to be in the NSU motorcycle business and sold it to me for 50% off the new price. It’s true; you needed to have a driver’s license for any motorized vehicle in Illinois in 1957. When it came to motorbikes and small motorcycles the police in Chicago were very laid back. When you were driving a car without a driver’s license it was definitely a different story.
So there I was on my 16thbirthday with the Chicago Tribune used car section, the only locater for cars at that time in Chicago. I had read some articles in the past about the 1950 Oldsmobile 88 being the V8 Hot Rod and there it was under the used Oldsmobile section, 1950 Oldsmobile 88 two door black $250. Judging form the exchange on the phone number it was right in my neighborhood. I went right over to see the car and it turned out it was purchased new in 1950 by what then seemed to me to be a little old woman (I think she was no more than 45) and I bought the car. The woman wouldn’t let me behind the wheel until I had paid for it, she would only demonstrate the car at speeds no faster than 25 mph. Little did I know I was not getting an Oldsmobile 2 door Sedan but the very rare 1950 Oldsmobile V8 Business Coupe, known in the Hot Rod circles as a “1950 Olds Bubble Top Coupe”.
I really didn’t have any idea of the potency of this car until my first ride when I drove it home. I kept looking forward to the next stop sign or stop light so I could jam the pedal down and listen to the first two gears in the hydromatic transmission wind up the engine as my neck snapped back into the seat. With this kind of power and thrill there was only one thing I could do and that was go pick up my two best friends, Sid Kahn and Al Gartzman, both of whom I met on the first day at Sullivan High School on the North side of Chicago in 1956.
The first Friday night of owning the car I again picked up Al and Sid, we headed over to the Pie Pan Restaurant on Eden’s highway that was a gathering place for car crazy guys that would drag race up and down the newly opened Eden’s Expressway. Would you believe that nobody wanted to race the 50 Olds Bubble Top, but they sure all liked looking at it, something about the entire package that just worked visually and mechanically.
Two weeks later I got a call from Sid, he said I should drive to his home in my Bubble Top because he had a surprise for me. When I got there, sitting out in front of his house were two 1950 Oldsmobile 88 Bubble Top Coupes, one behind the other. One was medium metallic green and the other two-tone gray. I dashed up to Sid’s second floor apartment to ask him what was going on. Both Sid and Al, after riding in my Bubble Top Coupe, decided they had to have their own. Sid bought the green one and Al the gray one that day.
The three of us became the terror of Rogers Park community on the North side of Chicago and also Sullivan High School. We definitely were the talk of the entire school, soon thereafter known as the Bubble Top Triplets. All three of us loved our Bubble Top Coupes but eventually each one of us moved on. I traded mine in on a red 1960 Corvette, Sid traded his in on a used 1957 Corvette Fuelly, all black with a hard top and three speed transmission and Al finally traded his in on a 1961 Pontiac 2 door hard top in absolutely pristine condition. Well there you have the story of three kids and three cars and a hell of a lot of fun all performed on the backdrop of the stage of the 1950’s and 60’s era. Now that sounds like the end of a great car story but wait the story doesn’t end there.
Fast forward to 2006 and I am at the Kruse Labor Day Auction with Debbie, we are about to walk back to the flea market and Debbie insists on getting something to eat at the food tent but I want to see the flea market first. Debbie prevails and we have the best sliced beef sandwich and then moved on to the flea market. As we were walking into the flea market, I see off in the distance the front end of a 1950 Oldsmobile and I can tell the car is black. I told Debbie I know it is a four door Sedan because you never see any 1950 Olds Bubble Top Coupes like I had back in 1957. As we come around to view the side of the car, I see that it is a two door but I assume it is a two door Sedan which is no where near as desirable as the two-door Bubble Top Coupe. As we came up on the side of the car, it is a 1950 Oldsmobile two door Bubble Top Coupe in blackand as we approach the car, I realized it is an absolutely mint restored condition; way beyond the condition of any of our cars back in 1957.
I see a gentlemen that appears to be the owner and I ask if it is his car and he says “kinda.” I immediately replied that I wanted to buy the car he said you’re five minutes too late I just sold it to this fellow standing next to me. Now I turned to look at Debbie and I could see that she was melting; she knew that the twenty-minute sandwich cost me the opportunity of being able to purchase this car from my teen years. I started a conversation with the new owner and left him my phone number. A few weeks later he phoned to let me know he was going to Hershey to sell the car. I quickly told him I would save him the trip and purchased the car. You can see from the pictures, this is undoubtedly one of the best 1950 Oldsmobile Bubble Top Coupe in the country. I have been told it was restored by a 1950 Olds fanatic that spent almost a decade restoring this car to perfection.
My first call, when the car was delivered was to my buddy Al Gartzman, he got so excited and decided to fly in from his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, just to take a ride and reminisce. I would have liked to have called Sid but most unfortunately he passed away in March of this year. When I told Al I was going to write a story about the car Al said, “You should dedicate the story to Sid”. So here is the article and here is the car. Because of this Oldsmobile, Sid, Al and Joe, the three Bubble Top Triplets from Sullivan High School ride again… well at least in spirit. Sid this ride is for you!
Dedicated to Sid Kahn
12/10/41 to 3/29/06
May you always ride the fast lane!