By Doug Hill
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Roy Sherry has great affection for the 18-foot-long boat of an automobile that a girlfriend christened Lola.
If there ever was a car built for comfort, not speed, it’s his 1985 Pontiac Parisienne Brougham sedan. That’s not to say the old girl’s 5-liter V-8 won’t get up and fly, and with overdrive transmission, it miraculously achieves 26 mpg on the interstate.
The Pontiac will go fast, but it’s the luxuriously plush and comfortable interior that is truly remarkable. Button-tucked crushed velour bench seats in desert beige with matching thick carpet are described on the original Pontiac window sticker as “deluxe.”
Its full price as delivered to Ferguson Pontiac in Chickasha was $15,093. The original paint job, flawless vinyl top, extensive body trim treatment and even pin striping are all wonderfully intact. Lola was assembled only 350 miles away at GM’s Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kan.
Sherry was lucky to find the car. Actually, he wasn’t looking for Lola; she found him.
“I purchased the car Oct. 25, 2003,” he said. “I was doing errands and decided to pop by and say hello to my friend, Jim Barnett, who lives in northwest Norman.”
In front of the house was a car he’d never seen before. It was Lola.
“It was all sparkling clean,” Sherry said. “It turned out Jim was settling his mother’s estate and he had to get rid of this car. I told him I was interested and drove it five or six miles.”
The oil industry senior landman was so dazzled by Lola’s appearance that he didn’t even pull her dipstick for an indication that she’d been well-maintained. He’s bought many used cars over the years and generally does a detailed inspection first.
“This car was cosmetically so beautiful that I had to have it,” Sherry said. “Jim and I made a deal in a matter of minutes. I drove it home and just as I was turning into the driveway, the odometer turned to 50,000 miles.”
Although Lola was and still is a looker, her mechanical maintenance had been sorely neglected. Sherry remedied that in short order. He started by changing the sludgy crankcase oil and replacing all the filters. In his job, Sherry does a lot of driving, so he decided to take Lola out on the road.
“I drove her a thousand miles that first week,” he said. “It was my shake-down cruise.”
Lola ran like a champ with no hint of any kind of mechanical problem, and her fuel economy amazed him. He’d been hoping for at least 20 mpg. After that initial trip, Sherry took Lola to Jason McDonald and Jamie Day at the Firestone shop at 36th Avenue and Robinson Street. They changed all the belts, shocks, drained brake and transmission fluids, did a rear brake job and flushed the radiator.
“The engine was gunked-up, so I did a bunch of high-mileage formula oil changes to clean her out,” he said. “Now she uses a quart of oil every 3,000 miles, which is normal.”
No major system overhauls. No expensive part replacements. All she needed was just several hundred bucks’ worth of good sense upkeep.
“What I ended up with is a car that’s old and gaudy,” Sherry said, “but I could drive it anywhere. We could get in that car and take it to California right now, and that’s the way I like my cars to be — in that kind of condition.”
Indeed Lola is seductive in appearance but also inspired confidence climbing behind the wheel. Just sitting there for a moment before turning the ignition key recalled many GM cars of the past. Cheesy fake wood dashboard trim, sure, but mostly thousands of comfortable, safe, trouble-free miles on trips hither and yon.
Lola started effortlessly and drove like a dream. She rode rock steady with no hint of listing or swaying, and her front end tracked straight and true, with zero play in the steering.
Acceleration was amazingly responsive, and braking was firm and inspired even more confidence. For a car as long as three tall men, Lola cornered with easy grace. It was becoming difficult not to be jealous of Sherry. These covetous thoughts were dispelled by imagining that there’s no way Lola would fit in the garage.
“I like that there’s only one computer on this car,” Sherry said. “It’s for the ignition. The relative simplicity of all the systems is attractive to me. Unlike some of my modern cars, I can identify everything in the engine compartment.”
The view through the windshield of Lola’s lengthy hood with a centered, shiny trim bar and hood ornament appeals to him.
“It just feels right to me,” Sherry said. “The backseat and trunk are ridiculously huge.”
Lola isn’t his daily driver. He was three other vehicles, including an unlikely minuscule Smart car.
“Lola is great for trips with passengers,” he said. “I recently used it for a trip to a wedding in Stroud, and the four people who went with me had a luxurious ride.”
Have you seen a cool vehicle around Norman? Writer Doug Hill’s always on the lookout for future Dig My Ride columns. E-mail him at Hillreviews@hotmail.com.
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