Oldsmobile Series 60

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Olds Series 60

1938 - 1948
Straight 6
216 CID
90 hp / 67 kW
3 spd. MT
Top Speed:
Number Built:
3 Star
Olds Series 60
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


The Oldsmobile of 1940 was the kind of car Cary Grant could have driven in one of his movies to reflect his screen image - a car of quality, sophisticated but not ostentatious. The Oldsmobile signified that its owner had attained a level of success that a Chev or Pontiac did not adequately represent. And while another GM Division asked, "Wouldn't you really rather have a more expensive Buick?", the Oldsmobile owner could reply that he still had a distance to go in life before settling down.

In the USA, the 1940 Olds was offered in three forms - the Series 60, 70 and 90. The Series 60 sat on a 116 inch wheelbase (the 70 and 90 were longer) and was powered by a 6 cylinder, 203 cubic inch motor developing 95 bhp as used in the Series 70 as well. The Series 90 developed 110 bhp. Were this a movie, our 1940 Olds could perhaps be seen first at Newport with, say, a young American diplomat and his wife watching the yachts go by. Within half an hour of screen-time, there could be a scandal and the diplomat could be banished to Australia taking his Olds convertible with him.

A car-wise audience (and you are here on Unique Cars and Parts, so we know you are car-wise) would know that while Holden built roadster bodies for the Olds in Australia, it never built convertibles. In fact, only 290 were built in America, and we believe only a handful of these wonderful cars survive today.

The Oldsmobile 60 Series 1

Naming standards were in flux at Oldsmobile during the late 1930s and 1940s. From 1932 through 1938 Oldsmobile had two series: "F" and "L" including the 1937-1938 Oldsmobile 6 cylinder engine. Series F came with a straight-6 engine and Series L came with a larger body and a straight-8 engine. Series F was renamed Series 60 in 1939 and Series L was replaced with the Series 70 and 80, with the Series 70 and 80 being powered by the straight-6 and the straight-8 respectively. The Series 60 used the GM A-body and the Series 70 and 80 used the B-body.

The Series 60 occupied the entry level position for Oldsmobiles sold in the United States from 1939 through the 1948 model years. They were trimmed in an entry level fashion and, in parts and components, the Series 60 models were closely related to Chevrolet and junior Pontiacs. The 1939 Oldsmobiles were available with the "Safety Automatic Transmission" and not with the Hydramatic. The safety automatic transmission was semi-automatic, in that it still used a clutch to get the car going and then shifted automatically. The Hydramatic Transmission, a fully, clutchless automatic transmission debuted in the 1940 model year.

In 1939 four body styles were available: a Business Coupe with no rear seat, a Club Coupe with two rear fold-away jump seats, a 2-door Sedan with a full rear seat and a 4-door Sedan which shared its roofline with the 2-door Sedan. The wheelbase was 115 inches. The back of the front seats were rounded and padded for protection of the rear seat occupants. A 216 CID 90 hp (67 kW) straight 6 was used. In 1940 the even larger C-body was introduced to Oldsmobile and it alone was powered by the straight-8. In order to differentiate it from the previous year's Series 80 it was named Series 90 (there was no Series 80 that year). The series were also given names for the first time that year with the Series 60, 70, and 90 being called the Special, Dynamic, and Custom Cruiser respectively. Two body styles were added to the model line up in 1940: a 2-door convertible and a 4-door station wagon. In addition a full rear seat was added to the Club coupe although it still did not share the roofline of the somewhat roomier 2-door Sedan. A Deluxe equipment package was also new this year.

1940 Oldsmobile Series 60

1940 Oldsmobile Series 60

The Oldsmobile 60 Series 2 1941 - 1948

In 1941 both engines were offered on each Oldsmobile series so to differentiate between the two the second digit was used to denote the number of cylinders, so the Special 60 was replaced with the Special 66 and 68. And in fact the only way to get an 8-cylinder engine on the GM A body from 1941 to 1948 was to buy an Oldsmobile Special 68 or a Pontiac Deluxe Torpedo Eight. In a sense these were perhaps the first muscle cars.

In 1941, the Series 60 wheelbase was increased to (119 in). Two models were produced, the 66 which used a 238 in3 (3.9 litre) straight-6 engine and the 68 which used a new 257 CID 110 hp (82 kW) straight-8. All series 60s came with a three-speed column shift manual, or the optional four-speed Hydramatic automatic. Both options could be paired with either engine choice. Because of the column shift and new wider runningboard-less "torpedo" styling three passengers could now be accommodated comfortably in front. It used full instrumentation.

In 1941 the lineup consisted of a 3-passenger two-door Business Coupe without a rear seat, a 6-passenger two-door Club Coupe with a rear seat, a 2-door Sedan, a 4-door "bustle back" Sedan which shared its roof line with the 2-door Sedan, a 4-door 8-passenger wood bodied station wagon (Colloquially known as the "Woodie") and a 3-passenger 2-door convertible. Except for the convertible and station wagon, all were available in either Standard or Deluxe trim.

In 1942 Oldsmobile stayed with its Special 60 series on the bottom of a three series format. As with all automakers production was halted early in the year due to the war. Both a six or eight-cylinder motor could be ordered. Extremely rare, both a convertible or a station wagon were available. A new body style was a 6-passenger 2-door Club Sedan fastback. In 1946 the Special 60 series was again Oldsmobile's lowest priced group of cars. Special 60s had only 6-cylinder power, wlthough an 8-cylinder was offered in other years. The Business Coupe and the 2-door Sedan were discontinued. Interiors were a tan mixture pattern cloth.

Standard tire size was 6.00 x 16 inches. Leather interiors were offered on convertibles. Technical features included electro hardened aluminum pistons, full-pressure lubrication and automatic choke with fast idle mode. In 1946, dual windshield wipers were standard. In 1947 more models were offered on the low-priced Special 60 series than the other two Oldsmobile series. The 8-cylinder engine returned to the Special 60 series and there were again 66 and 68 versions of each body style offered. Standard equipment included: safety glass, spare wheel and tire, dual horns, vacuum booster pump and cigarette lighter. The standard interior fabric was tan mixture cloth. Standard tire size was 6.00 x 16 inches. Horsepower grew to 100 for the six and 110 for the eight. It also had a 37 ft (11 m) turning circle.

The 66 and 68 were renamed the Dynamic 66 and 68 in 1948. The Dynamic 60 series were the smallest Oldsmobiles offered and offered the greatest variety or body styles. Either 6-cylinder or 8-cylinder engines were available and were designated 66 or 68. Standard 60 Series equipment included: dual horns, dual sun visors and a cigarette lighter. The Deluxe equipment package added foam rubber seat cushions, Deluxe steering wheel, Deluxe instrument cluster, clock and chrome wheel trim rings. Standard tires were 6.00 x 16 inches. Upholstery was Bedford cord or broadcloth. The Series 60 model designation was retired after 1948, the L-head six-cylinder was then increased in displacement to 257 cu in (4.2 litre) and was used only in the Oldsmobile 76 which was discontinued in 1950. A limited amount were put through production in 1950.

The NRMA Open Road Test Course - Oldsmobile Series 60 Performance Test

Below is a excerpt from the NRMA Open Road road tests as conducted over their special course of around 120 miles, and which included both good and bad roads, level running and long climbs.

Two models of exceptional merit comprise the current Oldsmobile range, in addition to a popular series of commercial chassis. Our discussion here is based upon the results of an all-day test run and technical examination of the smaller passenger-chassis, the "60," which was submitted for our attention in the form of an attractive sports roadster. It is probably the first wide-tracked, full-powered roadster to be tried out over "The Open Road" course, and therefore of rather special interest from the performance point of view.

Driven fairly hard, and with the usual amount of relatively extravagant hill climbing and acceleration test work, the commendable fuel mileage of 24 to the gallon was recorded. With a 28 h.p. high efficiency six-cylinder engine, well tuned, the Oldsmobile demonstrated flashing acceleration and hill climbing ability, yet it would crawl along at under 6 m.p.h. in top without pronounced irregularity. No suspicion of flat spot in the carburation was detected in rapid pick-up. From 10 to 30 m.p.h. in high gear the time taken was 6 seconds; to 40, 10 1-5 seconds. Starting from rest we reached 50, using the gears, in 12 3-5 seconds.

Each hill climb showed better figures than will ever be required in normal service. The steep test hill - Kurrajong - which is well banked except at two of the sharp bends, was climbed in top gear in 2 minutes 34 seconds, while in second the fast time of 2 minutes 10 seconds was recorded. Thus the 3.5 litre engine made light of the usual tasks of our test course. The car is designed for high road speed and is capable of maintaining a good average for any length of time. At 40 to 50 m.p.h. this well-balanced roadster may be driven over rough and unmade roads without undue discomfort. The provision of coil springing at front and rear, plus efficient shock absorbers and good mechanical balance, are the reasons for such good results.

Even when cornering the degree of side sway is not abnormal, due largely to the low centre of gravity of the heavy units, and provision of a torsional stabiliser at front. As is now common practice with most American cars, the left-hand-operated gear lever is mounted horizontally below the steering wheel, giving remote control of the synchromesh gearbox. Three forward speeds are provided, the synchromesh control acting in top and second. The clutch is a 9in. single plate design; take-up leaves nothing to be desired and the amount of pedal pressure is not great. Rapid changes are facilitated by the automatic gate system and it seems to be impossible to clash the gears.

Oldsmobile Series 60 Engine Smoothness

Formed in unit with the gearbox, the engine is typical of most advanced automotive practice, and certainly one of the smoothest and most silent of the present-day productions. Rubber block mountings ensure against power unit vibration under other than abnormal driving conditions. In the design of this side-valved engine, which incidentally is a development of a type laid down in 1928, the experienced observer detects many advanced mechanical features. Ignition and choke control, water temperature and manifold heat controls are automatic; the driver has only the accelerator to manipulate. Rated at 28 h.p., it has a cylinder capacity of 3538 c.c. and is stated to develop 90 brake horsepower. Moderately high compression of 6.2 to 1 is employed.

Clean external design is noted. The crank-case walls extend well below shaft centre, enhancing rigidity. The downdraft carburettor is superimposed upon the hot spot ram's-horn manifold, a scientifically correct arrangement, and one that affords full protection and greatest accessibility. A welcome improvement is the new arrangement of the fuel pump, which is lowered and thus is more efficiently cooled. Valves are side located, and fairly accessible for adjustment after removal of two side plates. A goodsized gear pump forces oil to all bearings and timing chain, and feeds the piston pins via con rod drillings. Bearings are of large diameter.

Oldsmobile Series 60 Cooling System

Much thought has been given to the development of Oldsmobile's particularly efficient cooling system. Full-length water jackets completely surround each bore, and valve seats are equally well catered for. A longitudinal pressure feed pipe directs water jets to all valve seats. The pump is of good size and a thermostatic valve ensures rapid warming from cold. Fully counterweighted and carefully balanced, the four-bearing crankshaft is practically vibrationless, and an harmonic balancer is added at the front end.

Entirely new features of the Oldsmobile "60" are the changes to hypoid rear axle gearing, addition of quadricoil suspension, and remote gearshift control. Two sturdy pressed steel stabilising arms extend from the frame X member rearward to the axle, where attachment is through heavy moulded rubber blocks. Rear of the axle the coil springs are mounted. The torque arms assume the duties of maintaining rear axle alignment, taking braking strain, and supporting the springs. A transverse arm maintains alignment of rear axle in relation to frame.

The Oldsmobile Series 60 "At A Glance"

Oldsmobile type 60, Australian sports roadster, price £409, plus sales tax. Metropolitan distributor, W. H. Lober & Co. Pty. Ltd. Unladen weight, tank filled, 27.5 cwt. (.871b. per c.c.). Wheelbase 115in., track 58in. Six cylinders, side valves, bore and stroke 3 7-16in. x 3 7-8in. Cubic capacity, 3538 c.c. Rated at 28.4 h.p., develops 90. Four crankshaft bearings, full pressure lubrication, pump cooling. Compression, 6.2 to 1. Three speeds, synchromesh, top and second. Remote control, hydraulic braking, coil type suspension all round, semi-floating hypoid rear axle (ratio, 4.3 to 1). Tyres, 6.00 x 16. Trial mileage, 142. Fuel consumption, 24 m.p.g. Main tank, 15 gallons.

ACCELERATION: Top gear, 10 to 30 in 6 seconds.; 10 to 40 in 10 1-5 seconds.; 10 to 50 in 13 1-5 seconds. Second gear, 10 to 30 in 4 1-5 seconds. Low gear, 10 to 20 in 1 4-5 seconds. Through gears, rest to 40 m.p.h. in 8 3-5 seconds.; rest to 50 m.p.h. in 12 3-5 seconds.

MINIMUM SPEED: -Top gear, 1-8th mile in 1 minute 24s., equal to 5.6 m.p.h. Steady running at lowest top gear speed.

BRAKING: - Dry concrete, neutral gear. Efficiency at 30 m.p.h. 94 per cent., at 20 m.p.h. 100 per cent. Stopping distances, 32 feet and 13.4 feet. Positive and uniform braking.

HILL CLIMBING: - "The Open Road" test hill, gradient 1 in 10. Climbed, using top gear, in 2m. 34s; in second gear, 2m. 10s. Ample power, good cornering at safe speeds.

The rear axle appears to be liberally proportioned, and the pinion-bearing housing is well ribbed to resist distortion under load. Large gear teeth, heavy and well-separated ball and roller bearings, and large diameter shafts should ensure immunity from breakage or other troubles for lengthy periods. Flanged axle shafts are now used, eliminating two frequent sources of looseness, namely, the tapered hub and shaft attachments. Brakes and steering are in step with successful modern practice. Hydraulic self-energising four-wheel braking produced splendid percentages of efficiency and sudden decelerations showed uniform skid marks at all four wheels. Normal pressure suffices ordinarily. The drawings show how carefully the drums are sealed against entry of mud and water. As an added security, the righthand lever (mounted below the dash) acts independently on the rear drums.

In the steering gear, which is a worm and double roller design, there is an interesting refinement. From the drop arm the linkage is through a heavy tie rod and swinging arm to symmetrically-arranged short tie rods. Thus each wheel is under perfect geometrical control. The steering was judged to be particularly satisfactory for this type of car, not too high geared for ease of handling, yet free from excess backlash and responsive. Over the rough going it was not difficult to hold the course; the independent suspension and improved linkage was quite capable of taking care of alignments and absorbing the shocks. Improved suspension arms are also productive of better riding and stability.

The Oldsmobile Series 60 Riding Comfort

Roomy and comfortable to a high degree, the new roadster should have a successful run. Sedan comfort is available with the hood in position. Steel construction permits use of integral sloping screen pillars and strong three-point attachment for the hood. The rear compartment is equally spacious and well upholstered. The "60" is a delightful car to handle and the roadster seating facilities driver vision. Five passengers may be transported in comfort in fair weather, three at other times at front. The steering wheel is large and conveniently positioned. A large, clearfaced instrument panel ahead of the driver is unobstructed and indicators may be read with ease. To this end the top sector of the wheel is made larger than the other two. The car under review consequently has much to commend it. Based on a strong, deep sectioned X-braced frame, high powered and easily controlled it offers at reasonable cost luxury motoring with definite fuel economy.
NRMA Open Road Test Course
NRMA Open Road Test Course.
1940 Oldsmobile Series 60 Woody
Oldsmobile Series 60 "Woody" Wagon.

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