Always a luxury more than necessity, convertibles, obviously, gave motorists a most efficient form of ventilation.
The air bells rang telling the shop that someone wanted gas and Stu, his hands full overhauling the transmission on a Volvo, asked me if I would take care of the old man "in that block long Olds". I was was just hanging out in the shop and obliged believing that by doing menial tasks for him I could move up the food chain and start actually working on cars. The stuff that dreams are made of for an 8 year old. I knew it was wrong for him to ask me to do it and know now that Stu was in violation of every single child labor law there was in New York State at the time but it mattered little to me at the time. I was out of the house and surrounded by cars. Life was good.
With the advent of ventilation systems and ultimately air conditioning, after World War II, the limited convertible market shrank considerably.
The old man behind the wheel of the Ninety Eight looked at me through squinting eyes and told me bluntly while looking away from me, "Five dollars. Premium". I nodded in acknowledgment with an enthusiastic "yessir!" and got to work putting the gas pump handle into the filler pipe behind the spring loaded license plate. All the while breathless at the amount of money the man was spending on gas. And for the good stuff too. "This is how rich people live", I thought to myself.
1970 was the last year that General Motors offered a convertible on their full size "C body" platform. Similar to "B Body", save for a longer wheel base, the Olds Ninety Eight shared its frame and body shell with the Buick Electra and Cadillac DeVille.
My dad never spent that kind of money on gas when he filled up the bone stripper Ford Ranch Wagon he had. Think Ford Country Squire with any shred of luxury removed from it then add some soulless taxi car into it. That's a good start. That Oldsmobile Ninety Eight seemed like a car from another world to me. As close to me as it was when I was pumping gas into it, it was a billion miles away.
The Oldsmobile "Ninety Eight" number-name goes back to 1941 and Oldsmobile's range topping "Series 90", the "8" denoting an 8-cylinder engine. Lesser Oldsmobiles over the years were series 60, 70 and 80. The Series 60 was retired in 1949, the same year the Oldsmobile 78 was replaced by the 88. The Oldsmobile 76 was retired after 1950. This left two remaining number-names, 88 and 98 to carry on until 1997 when the Oldsmobile Regency replaced both of them.
The old man fired up the Olds the instant he heard the unmistakable sound of the license plate frame snap up after I screwed the filler cap back on. I didn't even get a chance to tell him to have a nice day as he peeled out of the station; the right rear tire giving out a slight chirp as he hit Merrick Road heading eastbound. I shrugged my shoulders and took his gruffness with a grain of salt. After all, he was rich. And the rich can do whatever they want.