Thursday, August 20, 2015

NCO’s drive pays off in a novel auto

I love this newspaper article about Norm Olsen, Sr.'s custom car. It's a great read. Now you know where Norm gets it from! Enjoy! ~ Heidi

NCO’s drive pays off in a novel auto

       “I don’t want something that rolls off the production line that 50,000 other people have,” said Air Force T. Sgt. Norm Olsen.
       Olsen, a food inspector assigned to the naval hospital here, can make that claim about his car. He drives a bright red 1932 Ford convertible, which is propelled by a 1966 Chevrolet Super Sport V8 engine. The whole thing sits on a Chevy chassis.
       The 35-year-old airman bought the Chevy, then took it to a man in Cavite who transformed the body into a replica of an old time Ford.
       “None of the parts came from Ford,” said Olsen. “The only things that may have come from an antique car are the door hinges.
       “Most of the parts came from the States. I ordered parts through J.C. Whitney and J.C. Penney’s - like the mag wheels, the lights, the steering wheel, the gauges, the stainless steel tubing – everything that’s mass produced.”
       The shop in Cavite refashioned the body using ball-peen hammers, cutting shears and welder.
       Olsen took the Chevy to Cavite in March 1975 and brought it back to Subic in October. He rebuilt the engine at his house.
       He paid the body man in Cavite 8,750 pesos, or about $1,268.
       The convertible top and upholstery was done in Manila, but the materials came from the States.
       He paid the Navy Exchange $514 to paint the car bright red. “They did beautiful work.”
       The whole thing cost Olsen $4,500.
       Few people in this are have actually reproduced a car such as Olsen’s, but he was turned on to the idea by someone who did.
       He saw a car similar to the one he drives now soon after arriving in 1973. “I told my wife that anyone that would bring a car like that over here is crackers,” said Olsen. “So one day I saw the guy who owned it and I asked why he brought it over here. He said he didn’t, that he built it. He took me up to Cavite and introduced me to the people, and I got fired up on the idea.”
       The biggest problem, Olsen said, was getting parts from the States. “Even as much advance time I gave myself to get parts from the States, it wasn’t enough. It took me from three to 12 months to get all the parts.”
       “The guys in the garage asked me what I would do if someone offered me a new Cadillac for my car. I told him I would turn the offer down,” said Olsen. “What value can you place on a year of your life?”
       “Even if it didn’t take me a year of labor, a lot of it was mental. I was tied up worrying about the car, writing letters, going over to Pass and I.D. and talking to the customs people to make sure there would be no problem shipping it back to the States.”
       Olsen is determined not to sell the car, and he’s doubly determined not to let anyone take it from him. He’s installed an auto burglar alarm that emits a siren when anyone so much as touches the running board.
       “I copied all the original serial numbers,” he explained. “In fact, I covered one of the serial numbers up with body putty and paint. If anybody rips that car off, they can erase all the serial numbers they want, but I’ll know where that one is.”
       Ironically, Olsen thought one night his whole project was going up in smoke.
       “So I could bring the car home, they did a hurry up job on the wiring,” he related. “We were up on the zig-zag road and it started raining. The windshield wiper wires overheated and melted the insulation. Smoke started boiling out of the car. I was terrified! I had a vision of the car going up in smoke.”
       Fortunately for Olsen, only the windshield wipers were affected. All the other electrical systems worked, and he got home OK.
       And today he drives a car which most certainly did not roll off the assembly line. “That car,” Olsen said, “has my name written all over it.”

By PO 1.C. Paul Long – S&S Philippines Bureau

*This article was originally posted in the Pacific Sunday paper in Manila, Philippines in 1976.*