Rags to Riches: Barn find Tri-Power Oldsmobile gets restored | Barn Find Hunter - Ep. 101 - Hagerty Media

There are literally millions of configurations of “old cars,” but if one person could rightfully claim to have seen them all, it would be Tom Cotter. This rare 1957 Oldsmobile convertible, however, caught Tom by surprise when he first found it back in early 2019. It only made sense that the car would someday be reborn to a second life—but not because of Tom’s influence alone.

Not long after the Barn Find Hunter episode had aired, the red-and-white convertible popped up for sale on Facebook Marketplace, where its current owner Rob found it in December of 2019, unaware that the Olds had starred in the show. The ’57 was improperly listed as a Rocket 88 rather than a Super 88, its correct title. Rob thinks the mislabeling helped to disguise this great find.

The Super 88 is rare for a few reasons. Rob points out that the car has minimal rust and its excellent condition, combined with the J-2 tri-power option, makes it a particularly special piece of history. The odometer reads just 17,000 miles, but when Rob discovered it, the Olds’ engine was clearly in need of some love. The exhaust seats had cracked and were leaking. Rob points out that this was a common failure point on the 371 V-8s because they got hot-rodded more than the other Olds engines of the time.

It wasn’t easy for Rob to get this car back on the road. In fact, Redline Rebuild expert Davin Rekow was the first to try and get the Super 88 running, but he declared defeat after finding the 371 locked up solid. The mill was worth a full-blown rescue effort, but Davin simply didn’t have the time. Rob dove into the engine and found the root issue: Rodents had taken up residence in the number five cylinder. All the nasty stuff they left behind after years of living in the block meant that the engine was in desperate need of a total rebuild.

The Olds V-8 is all back together now and better than ever. Rob can’t wait to put some miles on the car after the 11 months of work required to return it to well-deserved health. His story proves that finding these cars is one thing; bringing them back to life is an entirely different challenge. It’s a task worth tackling, however, even if your project isn’t as rare as this ’57 Olds. If you want to see more barn finds and discover the stories behind them, be sure to subscribe to the Hagerty YouTube channel and look for new videos every week.

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