CONFESSION OF A CONQUISTADOR part two
Color always has held a big fascination for me. The metallics in lacquer especially were attractive. I loved to sit down and just page through the paint chip binders.
By Larry Pointer
Those early 50’s Oldsmobile Rocket 88’s and 98’s were awesome. A few came from the factory with standard transmissions, but most were automatics. Coming up to a stoplight, those Hydramatics would downshift with ominous sounds. They were intimidating. You could sit at a street light, one foot on the brake, and when you eased onto the gas, those behemoths just rose up in the air. Something about having coil springs at all four corners. At the change of the light to green, you just slipped your foot off the brake pedal. Instant drag race to the next light.
Hey, we were teen-age kids. Living large.
But I couldn’t leave my 98 Olds alone. Ronnie Oneyear had a big four-door 1951 Olds 98 like mine, that he’d dropped way down, nosed and decked, and painted a beautifully subtle mint green. I’m thinking it was 1957 Oldsmobile Allegheny Green Metallic. With ’56 Olds 3-bar flipper wheel discs… backgrounds tastefully painted in the same green…he turned heads for sure when he would slowly glide by, dragging Main Street. Or maybe it was his drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend Carmen Madrigal.
It WAS all about the girls. But back to cars, Ronnie’s mild custom 98 drove home the old adage of “less is more”.
An impression of how Ronnie Oneyear’s 1951 Oldsmobile 98 looked like back then.
Color always has held a big fascination for me. The metallics in lacquer especially were attractive. I loved to sit down at the counter and just page through the Ditzler and Dupont paint chip binders. “Organic” was a term George Barris often used in describing his gorgeous custom paint mixes of the day. A particular 1951 Pontiac in town had caught my eye. It was a deep mossy green, and in direct sunlight, the metallic sparkled in gold flecks. Now that was “organic”. I went to the paint books. 1951 Pontiac, Berkshire Green Poly Metallic.
1951 Pontiac, Berkshire Green Poly Metallic, or “Metalli-Chrome” as it is named on this chart.
Next, I talked our long-suffering grouch Bill Brown into shaving some trim, making a few panel repairs, and painting my 98 in Berkshire Green. This, in exchange for some long green, and my painting all the woodwork trim on his body shop building. It was to become a good lesson in economics: one hour of skilled labor is worth beaucoup hours of the unskilled at the handle of a paintbrush. Finally, Bill would paint the Olds.
Taking a break, I went with my folks to the Midland Empire Fair in Billings, Montana. There we took in the carnival rides, the rodeo, horse races, and performances by country musicians Jean Shepherd and Hawkshaw Hawkins, along with String Bean the hillbilly comedian. Sadly, that was one of Hawkins’ last performances. He was killed March 5, 1963, along with Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, and Randy Hughes in an airplane crash in Tennessee. The Fair was swell, as they used to say back in the day, but I was anxious to get back to Sheridan and see how my Olds 98 had turned out.
Then, there it was, my organic metallic Berkshire Green 98 Olds. In the fading evening light it looked like an olive drab WWII surplus Sherman from Patton’s Tank Corps! Ouch!! And Ronnie Oneyear’s had been so striking in the medium mint green iridescent tones.
What to do?
By this time Larry Watson was turning the custom car world upside down with his creative custom paint jobs. Flames, Panel Painting, Scallops. That was it! I’d lay out some scallops. Remembering less is more, I designed accents to the Olds body lines and trim. One, I did in tribute to Conquistador Frenchy Holbert. He had borrowed the “flying colors” trim strip of the ’55 Olds, locating it upside down and backwards on his ’50 Mercury Monterey. I taped off a thin curved strip down from the 98’s stock side spear. For my scallop color, I used the ’57 Chevrolet India Ivory that was on my dad’s one and only new car in his life. Frankly, my dad’s India Ivory and Inca Silver combo was far superior to my 98.
Right then the magazine where writing about being creative with paint using Larry Watson’s work as a showcase.
To paraphrase a famous line from an American Presidential debate, “I met Larry Watson, and Larry Pointer was no Larry Watson.” But then, to put it all in perspective, a quote from Will Rogers seems appropriate here: “For every parade, someone has to sit on the curb and cheer.” Cheers, Larry Watson.
Inca Silver and India Ivory combination on a 1957 Chevy just as my dad had would have been a better option for my ’50 Oldsmobile.
One day I actually would have the pleasure of meeting Larry Watson. It was at a Pleasanton, California car show in 1991. It was a real honor and a treasured memory. He was a true icon of our custom car culture.
As to the General Patton reference, little did I know that later I would share an office teaching with “blood and guts” Patton’s communications officer, Ray Winter. Ray was with Patton from the north Africa campaign against the “Desert Fox” Rommel, through Sicily, Italy, and finally across France. And that “six degrees of separation” through the recollections of my colleague Ray Winter is as close to living that “Forrest Gump” sort of episode as I would wish.
For the interior of the Olds I gathered up a few yards of a lime green frieze fabric with threads of orange and metallic gold running through it. (These were the Day’O days of the Harry Belafonte Caribbean craze.) I’d seen a photo of Louie Bettancourt’s ’49 Mercury interior with a metallic threaded wine fabric, and loved the touch of the frieze texture. My girlfriend and I re-upholstered the door panels and door posts in the frieze. Wisely, I abandoned the experimentation with rubber latex paint on upholstery.
The Carson Top Shop created interior in the Louis bettancourt Ayala/Barris built 1949 Mercury inspired me to do my Olds with similar frieze fabric material, but then in lime green.
The Olds 98 got me through junior college. As Spring rolled around, I gave it to my dad. He traded it for a utilitarian ’53 Plymouth two-door station wagon. And I put the wagon to good use in my summer job as an irrigator for the historic PK ranch. Last I heard of the Olds, a pair of brothers from across the Bighorn mountains bought it off the used car lot.
I don’t have any photos of the 1951 Olds 98. All I do have is my colored pencil sketch, showing the layout of the scallops I painted in India Ivory over the “organic” Berkshire Green.
That summer Conquistador Larry “Mo” Frazier, our Elvis look-alike, was killed in Kansas driving home from Army Reserve summer camp. My ranch boss refused me leave to attend the funeral. Harsh! It was time to lay aside my passions, and focus on tasks at hand.