Herman Miller's 1955 Oldsmobile

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Contemporary Convertible. Peter Sukalac shot the car for Rod & Custom magazine. The story appeared in Rod & Custom September 1959.
Another photo of the Candy Lady from Peter Sukalac's Rod & Custom featured story. According to Sukalac, "simple changes prove best design." Photo by Peter Sukalac, courtesy of David Donaldson.
Herman proudly displaying his trophies from shows and drag races. Photo by Peter Sukalac, courtesy of David Donaldson.
Painted a striking Candy Apple Red, the interior was upholstered in a matching white and red. Photo by Peter Sukalac, courtesy of David Donaldson.
A photo of the Candy Lady taken at an indoor car show. David Donaldson believes this might have been the Oakland Roadster Show. Photo courtesy of David Donaldson.
Notice the trimmed wheel wells. Photo courtesy of David Donaldson.
Photo courtesy of David Donaldson.
Photo courtesy of David Donaldson.
The trunk was upholstered to match the interior. Photo courtesy of David Donaldson.
Herman scrapped the stock grille in favor of a 1956 Chevrolet Corvette grille. Photo courtesy of David Donaldson.
John Hagensen has owned the Olds since 1972. "My kids pictured now range in age from 32 to 40 years old, so that would give you an idea of the age," he told Kustomrama. Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
Another old photo of the Olds from John's collection. Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
Around 2019 John was trying to determine the significance of "DEAD ASS" painted on the dash and he found Herman's phone number on county records. "I kept getting hung up on calling, and finally wrote a letter with my contact information. Herman called on a Saturday several weeks later, stating "I think you have my old car" and both he and his wife talked for over an hour telling me all about their memories of the car, which were detailed and vivid. I thoroughly enjoyed that conversation. The next evening I got a call from Herman where he started by saying "I think you have my old car." He then told the same stories and his wife did the same. After a total of 3 or 4 calls, I received a call from the couple's daughter asking why they were calling me. She informed me they both had significant memory issues but remembered everything about that car. We became friends." Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
John became friends with Herman and his family. Upon Herman's passing away, his children gave John pictures and memorabilia related to the car, including 68 trophies. Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
Do-It-Your-Self! Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
The Olds as it sat early in 2021. John is redoing and updating the old custom with an Art Morrison frame with modern suspension. Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
John also installed a 455 Olds engine in the car when he redid it. Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
Except for a few modern touches, it will appear with the exterior and interior just as it did in 1959. Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
The front bench seat is ready to be installed back in. Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
The door panels. Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
Herman's old Corvette grille. Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.
Photo courtesy of John Hagensen.

1955 Oldsmobile Convertible owned by Slo Poks of Vancouver member Herman Miller of Vancouver, Washington. Given a mild custom treatment, Miller's Olds was featured in Rod & Custom September 1959. That iteration was nosed, decked, and shaved for door handles. Minor side trim had also been removed, before Herman scrapped the stock grille in favor of a 1956 Chevrolet Corvette grille. A striking Candy Apple red paint job made the car stand out in a crowd. The paint also gave name to the car, which was shown as the "Candy Lady." Inside, it was dressed up with a matching white and red custom upholstery. The trunk was upholstered to match the interior. Peter Sukalac shot the car for Rod & Custom magazine, and according to him, "simple changes prove best design." Total build cost was supposedly $1400.[1]


A Stunning Custom

Herman drove the car every day while striving to keep it in show condition. He also raced it at the strip, running it in the C/Stock class. Turning 88, the car did well at Shelton, Bremerton, Dalles, Scappose, and Medford. In 2021 fellow Slo Poks member David Donaldson told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that the car truly was a stunning custom. "Years before I was a member of the POKS, I was a junior high school kid who used to see her at the downtown Shell station ...a bunch of us kids would be mesmerized by that car! You could visually dive into the paint job just like a lake of water." According to David, the car won trophies everywhere she went, "including the Oakland Roadster Show."


The Rumors

According to rumors, the car was damaged while being trailer-ed one time many years ago, the tow vehicle supposedly blew a tire and both cars ended up off the road badly damaged. David Donaldson had heard that the Olds had been somewhat resurrected over a number of years and was back on the road. "Unfortunately, it has lost all of her custom details and splendor, and she is painted a regular red."[2]


The Truth

In September of 2021 John Hagensen told Sondre Kvipt that the car was never wrecked, and that it was a story that had circulated for years. "I have owned the car since 1972, and it still retains all of its customizations. We are just finishing updating to an Art Morrison frame with modern suspension and a 455 Olds engine." The car went through several owners after Herman before John got it. "Probably around 2 years ago I was trying to determine the significance of "DEAD ASS" painted on the dash, and found Herman's phone number on county records. I kept getting hung up on calling, and finally wrote a letter with my contact information. Herman called on a Saturday several weeks later, stating "I think you have my old car" and both he and his wife talked for over an hour telling me all about their memories of the car, which were detailed and vivid. I thoroughly enjoyed that conversation. The next evening I got a call from Herman where he started by saying "I think you have my old car." He then told the same stories and his wife did the same. After a total of 3 or 4 calls, I received a call from the couple's daughter asking why they were calling me. She informed me they both had significant memory issues but remembered everything about that car. We became friends. Herman's wife Rosemary passed just after that and, upon Herman's passing away this last January, his children gave me pictures and memorabilia related to the car, including 68 trophies."[3]


Back on the Road

Hagensen planned to have the car back on the road before the end of the year. "It will appear as it did in 1959," he told Kustomrama, "with the exterior and interior just as it was, but the suspension and running gear is now all updated."[3]


Magazine Features and Appearances

Rod & Custom September 1959


References




 

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