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The 1937 Oldsmobile

By Rohan Russell

1937 was a transition year for Oldsmobile and that was certainly the case here in Australia for the locally assembled models. There were several key changes that took place in 1937, the most significant being a shift from timber framed bodies to an all steel structure. The Holden Body plant at Woodville, South Australia also transitioned to an all steel turret top on Sedan & Sloper Coupe's to follow what Fisher Body had introduced in 1935 in the U.S. for the G.M. range there. Detroit executives apparently under estimated GM-H, they didn't initially believe that the Holden plant was capable of producing the All Steel Turret and were quite surprised when Laurence Hartnett - Managing Director of G.M-H confirmed that not only could the Holden Body plant produce the all steel turret top, but they had been doing so for the Chrysler, Dodge, De Soto & Plymouth bodies that Holden's had built throughout 1936 for the Chrysler Corporation.

F.37 Sloper Coupe.

The Oldsmobile range for 1937 in Australia remained restricted to just 4 models - the Sedan and All Enclosed Coupe (Sloper) in both F & L Series (6 & 8 cylinder). This year wasn't just a styling facelift like 1936, instead this was a full restyle year with more aero-dynamic styling over the previous three post depression year models. Soft top bodies were offered on other G.M. brands but not Olds in Australia, and side-mount spare wheels which were an option in the U.S sadly didn't make it on to the options list in Australia either.

With new body styling used in '37, Oldsmobile took the opportunity for a major redesign of engines too. The reliable side valve configuration remained, but engine capacity on the 6 cylinder increased from 213 to 229 cubic inches, and the 8 cylinder from 240 to 257 cubic inches - delivering an increase of 2 HP to 28.4 H.P. on the 6 cylinder and 5 H.P on the 8 cylinder to 33.8 H.P over the 1936 engines . These same engine designs largely carried through to the end of 1948 when Olds moved to overhead valve V8 technology with the Rocket engine and progressively phased out the 6 cylinder at the end of 1950.

1937 pricing was 6 Cyl : Sedan £435, Coupe £420. 8 Cyl : Sedan £485, Coupe £470. By comparison, the La Salle Sedan (the low priced Cadillac) was £730, and the Chevrolet Standard Sedan at £349. G.M-H offered a small range of optional accessories which included the Air Chief Car Radio, Cigar Lighter, Glove Compartment Door Clock, Deluxe Gearshift Knob, Wheel Trim Rings and Flex Spoke Steering Wheel (6 cylinder models).

The Moran Motors dealership in Brisbane showing the passenger car lineup for 1937

With the import duties that had been imposed by the Australian Government since the teen's on auto components from countries outside the British Commonwealth, G.M-H took the opportunity to import chassis, engines & drive-train components from other countries of the Commonwealth to avoid these taxes. G.M-H sourced Vauxhall components from Britain and Chevrolet Maple Leaf Truck components out of Canada right through into the '40's. Oldsmobile however was a different case, in the very early '20s General Motors - Australia used a similar arrangement to source Oldsmobile chassis's for 43.A (4 cylinder) series where the G.M. plant in Ottowa, Ontario Canada had been manufacturing Oldsmobile chassis for the Canadian market. However by 1934 there was no manufacturing supply options from Commonwealth countries for Oldsmobile chassis's & components, so Oldsmobile shipped "completely knocked down" (CKD) kits from the Lansing, Michigan plant to service the Australian requirements. These kits were sent to G.M-H satellite plants in major capital cities for assembly. Bodies produced at the Holden Body Plant in Woodville S.A would also be delivered to these satellite plants where they were dropped on to the assembled chassis's, then painted and finished ready for shipment to local dealers.

Colour & Trim Combinations for 1937 Holden Bodied Oldsmobile's were as follows -:
"Pearlecent" indicates metalic paint

Model Body Colour Code

Wheel & Rim Colour

interior Trim

6 cyl Sedan Washington Blue WASH Washington Blue / Black

Blue Leather

6 cyl Sedan Golden Beryl* GLD BRL Golden Beryl / Black

Brown Leather

6 cyl Sedan Nickel Green Pearlescent NCKL PLSNT Nickel Green Pearlescent / Black

Green Leather

6 cyl Sedan Peterkin Grey PTKN Peterkin Grey / Black

Grey Leather

6 cyl Sedan Galloon Grey ** GLLN

6 cyl Coupe Washington Blue WASH Washington Blue / Black

Blue Leather

6 cyl Coupe Coronado Tan CRNDA Coronado Tan / Black

Fawn Leather

6 cyl Coupe Nickel Green Pearlescent NCKL PLSNT Nickel Green Pearlescent / Black

Green Leather

8 cyl Sedan Bancroft Blue BNCT Bancroft Blue / Black

Blue Leather

8 cyl Sedan Murray Maroon MRRY Murray Maroon / Black Stripe

Fawn Leather

8 cyl Sedan Peterkin Grey PTKN Peterkin Grey / Black

Grey Leather

8 cyl Coupe Wendy Blue Pearlescent WNDY PLSNT Wendy Blue Pearlescent

Blue Leather

8 cyl Coupe Chermonte Cream CHRMT Chermonte Cream

Brown Leather

8 cyl Coupe Bancroft Blue BNCT Bancroft Blue

Blue Leather

* Golden Beryl on 6 cylinder Sedan's was discontinued very soon after initial production and replaced with Nickel Green Pearlescent (metallic).

** Galloon Grey on 6 cylinder Sedan's introduced from August 1937. Trim details unknown.

A Holden bodied F.37 sedan

Records from the Holden Body plant at Woodville S.A. unfortunately reflect "Calendar Year" production - not "Model Year" production, so the exact number of bodies for F.37 & L.37 models is unclear. The "Calendar Year" records reflect Oldsmobile body production as follows: 6 cyl. Sedan - 2489 , 6 cyl. Coupe - 197, 8 cyl. Sedan - 136, 8 cyl. Coupe - 12. Interestingly over the past 30 years, research of actual body tag numbers reveals the highest recorded body number for 6 cylinder sedans being number 1927, whilst calendar year production records show 2489 bodies being produced. Whilst the sample of body tags involved is relatively small in number, it still demonstrates the uncertainty that exists regarding how many 1937 models were actually built here. Oldsmobile records of CKD kits shipped from Lansing for export are over double these numbers and would include kits sent to Canada for assembly too. Australia & Canada were the primary users of CKD chassis kits as other export destinations such as U.K, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa were supplied fully assembled vehicles exported from Lansing.

Here in Australia U.S. printed shop manuals & parts books were made available by GM-H to service dealers & workshops with technical information, whilst new vehicle owners received a locally printed owners manual covering both 6 & 8 cylinder models. Dealer showrooms used a selection of sales brochures and folders to attract potential new owners. Some of these are shown below

Some of the Australian sales literature for the 1937 model.

Holden bodied L.37 Sloper Coupe.