Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The chosen car of the Chosen People

In Cleveland's east side Jewish community in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the car of choice (if you couldn't afford a Cadillac) for the chosen people was an Oldsmobile. 

And not just any Oldsmobile, but an Oldsmobile from Abe "A.D." Pelunis.  (The A.D. stands for always dependable!")

My father owned two of them - a 1966 four door Delta 88 Holiday hardtop, and then a 1967 Delta 88 Hardtop four door.  The story on the 1966 was dad bought and brought it home.  Six weeks later it was stolen.  When they found what was left of 1966 Delta,  the 1967's had been delivered so he bought the same model in the same color. The car lasted forever.  When Dad made the jump to a used 1969 Cadillac in 1970, the Olds went to my brother, then to the next brother.  When it was last seen it was junked in Pheonix sometime in the 1970s.

In the 1970s, the midsize Olds Cutlass became synonymous with Bubbies living in University Heights.  Thousands of Jewish grandmothers (and grandfathers) bought Cutlass sedans and coupes from Mr. Pelunis.  The parking lot at May's on the Heights looked like an Oldsmobile lot on sale days.  So were the temple lots.

And why were they so popular?  They were dependable, affordable, and they were nicer than Chevrolet's or Ford's or Plymouths, but not as ostenatious as a Buick or Chrysler. And Oldsmobile said that you had arrived and could have nice things, but you didn't overpay.

From 1959 to 1968 Old's full-size cars had a forward edge as they tried to appeal to younger buyers. By 1969, they pretty much threw in the towel - the full size cars grew to resemble larger and more dour interpretations of what the aging client base wanted.

And to me, this is why the brand died.  At some point everyone's grandmother or grandfather bought an Oldsmobile.  Nice but not too showy.  And when GM striped the car of dependability, what was the point of even owning one?

Oldsmobiles are not common like they used to be.  Finding a good one is like finding a needle in a haystack.

I like a good challenge.


  1. We had a 1964 Super 88 until 1967 when Dad moved up to a Caddy. He chose model and make; Mother chose the color. I can remember all of our family cars but can't remember my own. TB

  2. Now that you mention it....
    I went through the list of my teen friends in Ohio, and I think you are right. I just never thought to tie it to a group of people before. Mostly in the Cleveland area it was Ford & Chevy, for the obvious reasons....

    Did you ever get to see the Delorean Morgue?

  3. With the exception of a Ford Country Squire, I can not think of anyone at the temple who would be caught dead in a Ford. The GM Jews bought from the following: You bought your Buick's from Friedman up at Mayfield and SOM Center Road, your Old's came from Abe Pelunis, Pontiacs came from Avery and Chevrolets were from Blaushild. Chyrsler's were a rare breed - it was either an Imperial, or a Town & Country and that was from MidPark because Larry Axelrod was a charecter.

  4. No, Cookie, that's not what I was saying...
    I meant the population general, so many people were connected to the Ford & Chevy plants, Many of them got discounts or at least supported the company that employed their families in Brookpark, Amrap, etc. I think Olds came from Detroit or Windsor Canada, maybe Youngstown.... Don't quote me, that was a long time ago.
    In my family, when we had money it was Cadillac, when we did not it was Mopar... (Father worked in Aerospace and the first time I heard the word modem was in around 1972)...

    (So... Give me a 300 series, hands down!).

    I just meant that, when I thought about it that the Kushings, Kauffmans, Emgassiers, Schofields & Girardins all drove Olds....

    BTW Olds made one Hell of a station wagon (belonged to the Snyders), an F'ing land yacht!


  5. the '73 88 convertible i bought 9 years ago has been virtually trouble free. shall i keep you posted if i ever chose to part with her?

    and yes, we did have ONE olds, but had far more chrysler products.
    we east coast jews had a lot of nerve.

  6. Wally, but what I meant was in the Jewish community on the east side it was Oldsmobile, hands down. Fords and Plymouths and Dodge's were for other people. And Mercury? can't remember anyone owning one.

    Larry Axelrod - the potentate of MidPark Chrysler Plymouth drove Imperials with custom leopard interiors.

    Now the non Jews drove everything. But the Oldsmobile was the great equalizer.