Zac Brouillette bucks a few stereotypes that cling tenaciously to his generation. The 33-year-old University of Oklahoma Athletics Department assistant strength and conditioning coach is comfortable with no smartphone within reach. Brouillette converses fluently, confidently and enthusiastically with others twice his age or older. The Minnesota native is a total gearhead who loves the technology, driving experience and history of American vehicles from the 20th century. Brouillette collects, resells, drives, repairs, maintains and shows these old cars and trucks. One of the stars of his current collection is a nearly all-original 1941 Oldsmobile Series 66 business coupe. Brouillette is only the car’s third owner.
“About a year ago I was looking for an American-made mid- to late-1930’s coupe,” he said. “I put an ad out splattered all over these classic car Facebook groups and got a message from a guy with a friend who was thinking about selling one.”
Photos of the Oldsmobile sent to Brouillette depicted a stunning automobile. Certainly not a fixer-upper. The car had been originally sold new in Bemidji, Minn. Brouillette pulled an old dealership freebee keychain from his pocket to confirm spelling of the small town’s name.
“A school teacher bought it because it was one of the first cars with an automatic transmission,” he said.
The 78-year-old car’s three-speed automatic transmission still operates smoothly and efficiently.
“The school teacher kept it until 1956 when she turned the car back into the dealership for a new model,” Brouillette said. “The dealer had a small collection of 15 or 20 nice vintage Oldsmobiles which he added it to. The collection was all sold in 2016 when he passed away.”
Essentially Brouillette bought his 1941 model from a museum and that’s the kind of condition it’s in. The car had been repainted but engine, drive train, interior and most components are all original. He purchased a vintage paper sheet on-line titled “Colors of 1941 Oldsmobile” showing the car’s “Renfrew Green Metallic” chip. A Shop Manual for the car was in the glove box. Brouillette read the thick book cover to cover after the car was shipped to him from Minnesota.
“I like the Art Deco look that the car has,” Brouillette said. “There’s so much style and thought from the artists and designers who created the car in that era. The fine, ornate details make it a beautiful car and aren’t the kind you see in one today. Something about those 1930s and 40s coupes with the big fenders and the headlights right there have always been attractive to me.”
Brouillette’s first old car acquired was a 1937 Chevrolet.
“I was browsing Craigslist and came across it,” he said. “I like ‘barn finds’ and specifically 1950s to 60s pick-up trucks. So I like to have one (old) car and one truck. Right now I also have a 1953, five-window Chevy pick-up.”
But it’s the 1941 Oldsmobile’s artistic flourishes that make it most appealing to him. The polished wood dash retains its luster. Exterior trim includes turn signal lamp housings that recall architectural details at the 1929 era Sooner Theatre. A front grill treatment could have been inspired by Detroit’s cityscape of the time. A ride in the Olds was pleasant and smooth. The engine and transmission have never been rebuilt. Cute little crank handles make the windows go up and down.
“It just catches your eye,” he said. “People say about the Oldsmobile, ‘wow, that car’s just pretty.’ It’s an unforgettable car.”
It begged the question why Brouillette keeps and maintains a car older than his parents.
“It’s in my blood,” he said. “I came from a car family. My grandpa Wayne Brouillette was a mechanic going back to his high school days. He opened a shop and used to say, ‘Working on cars since 1938.’ He was drafted in WWII and a mechanic in the Army Air Corps. Grandpa worked in a Chevrolet shop in the early 1950s and opened a body shop in Sioux City, where I’m from, in 1959. My dad took that over in 1982 and he retired in 2013. I have two brothers who are into cars but none of us took over the shop.”
Going to the body shop as a kid is when he got hooked on classic cars. Brouillette started buying and selling moped scooters when he was in college to make a few bucks and support his old car and motorcycle hobby. His first purchase was a 1964 Ford pick-up. Then he made a little money selling it. He’d taken auto body repair classes in high school and was able to paint the old truck red.
“My goal is to take something dead and put it back on the road,” he said. “I like to take on some of these tasks and know the basics of turning bolts, probably more than your average guy.”
On the historical side Brouillette seeks out the vintage advertising copy and other artifacts related to his vehicles. He’s right at home with the older members of local car club Canadian River Cruisers and explained he spent a lot of time with grandparents growing up. Brouillette’s spouse Kelly’s family founded the Sullivan and O’Brien DeSoto and Plymouth dealership in Indianapolis, Ind. in 1932. They’re still in the business there with three dealerships selling Dodge, Jeep and Toyota. The family goes to the Indy 500 every year.
“She’s from a car family as well and is 100% supportive of my hobby,” he said.
Have you seen a cool vehicle around town? Writer Doug Hill is always on the lookout for future Dig My Ride columns. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.