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I'm the owner of a home improvement business in Southeastern Wisconsin, and in mid-2004 we had just finished a roofing job for an elderly couple. As I was walking around the house, I noticed a large car parked under a carport. I started walking around it - it was a light blue 1977 Toronado XS. I always liked the bigger, older cars - one of my ex-bosses had a similar car for 27 years that I admired. I marveled at the style, the length and the wrap-around window, which really caught my eye. I kept walking around and around the car, amazed at the condition, which appeared to be almost perfect. The interior was immaculate with plastic still on the headrests! The homeowner, Fred, came out and told me that he had bought it new, but that he was 89 years old now and couldn't see well enough to drive it any more and that he wanted to sell it. I asked him how much, but he never answered me.
About three months later, Fred left a message on my answering machine asking if I was still interested in the Toronado and that he wanted to sell it for $500. I immediately rushed over and took it for a test drive. It seemed to have every option, handled great and felt like "pudding in a cloud” on the highway. It had 96,000 miles, but had always been perfectly maintained and stored in the winters. I bought it on the spot.
Fred had every piece of documentation from day one - the build sheet, original title, insurance papers, the salesman book from 1977, and of course the owner's manual. I couldn't thank Fred enough and promised him I would take care of it.
It turns out that there had been a storm that had blown Fred's TV antenna off the roof, and he needed $500 to have it replaced - which is why he called me! I did also do some gutter work for him at no charge - and I believe also that he wanted the car to go to someone who would appreciate it and take care of it as he had.
I began to restore the car. I traded a roofing/gutter job to have it repainted the original metallic blue with a hint of blue flake added. Some body work was required for the trunk lid and wheel wells. The bumpers were rechromed. I put in new weather stripping, hood headliner, muffler, brake and gas lines, motor bushings and axles. I cleaned up the engine, touching up the firewall, new hoses, etc. all between November 2004 and May 2005. I showed Fred the car after it was done and he liked it except for one thing "that ain't right” - I didn't replace the side moldings after the repaint, as I like the look without them. I took a picture of him next to the car.
The first Olds show I attended was the annual Denil-Wall show in Green Bay, WI. I won my class and the trophy was a plaque with a photo of myself next to my car. When I got home, I went over to Fred's house and showed him the plaque and told him that his beautiful Toronado had won best in class. I then switched the photo to the one of him by the car and gave him the plaque. At his request, I hung it on the wall over his television. It was a touching moment for both of us.
The car has won quite a few more trophies since that first one, including 1st place in class at the Homecoming show in Lansing last year and 976 points at the Quad States show. I am hoping to have it judged at the Olds Nationals in Bowling Green this summer. The car was also featured in the recent June 2007 Collectible Automobiles magazine story on the 71-78 GM large cars.
Sadly, this April I found out that Fred had passed away. His wife contacted us and invited us to attend the memorial service with the car. All of his friends and relatives were so happy to see the Toronado in such great shape, and told us many stories of Fred and the car. The Denil-Wall plaque with his photo was prominently displayed at the funeral home.
I realize that my 30 year old "land yacht" is not a sought-after collectible, but to me the comfort, the looks, the reaction from others and the joy of driving it is its true value to me.