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Home/News and Feature Articles/*Featured Cars and Trucks/Oldsmobile Featured Cars/ 1970s Cars/


Its not often that race cars get a second chance, and most often if they do, they start off as a "basket case" that is almost impossible to document or return to original. Not so with Tom Kelly's 1970 W-30.

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Tom Kelly's W-30 started out as a famous record-holding D/SA race car . . . .

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1970 Oldsmobile 442 W-30 - From racer to driver: a not too common path for Tom Kelly's W-30
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By Tom Kelly and Society Staff – reprint with permission only

The Strange Genesis of the Music City Rod Shop D/SA

Few cars follow this route, as we all know. Usually they go from driver to race car, and that's the way they stay. Many more start out as race cars, and disappear into the sunset when their career is over. Tom Kelly's car went the other way, and we are all better served for it.

We'll let Tom tell the story . . . .

It has been 15 years now since the purchase on my 1970 442 W-30 and I guess a great time to tell the story. It all began in June of 1995, I was not looking for another 442, as I already had one - plus other muscle cars. A good friend of mine, Greg Crosby, called me from Yorba Linda, Ca. to tell me of a W-30 he had heard of in the area. He was having his driveway resurfaced and the contractor noticed the Corvettes in his garage and said he was an Olds guy and that he had a few 442 W-30 cars he wanted to sell. My friend called me immediately and gave me all the info along with the fellow's phone number. I felt that I did not need another car at the time, but I called anyway, as my friend has very good taste and if he was excited I thought I had better be.

I called the seller, Chuck Ortez, and our discussion began. Chuck told me that the car for sale was a 1970 442 W-30 with 10,600 original miles! It was Sherwood green with white stripes and some rare options including W-27 aluminum rear, trans cooler, 4-spoke sport steering wheel, SS I wheels - and best, he had all the original paper work!

He told me that it had been a D/SA NHRA drag car for 20 years. The best thing about that was that the strict class rules did not allow radical body modifications. In fact, the original driveline and interior were removed when it was new and only returned to the car in 1989 after it was pulled from racing. All the pertinent numbers were matching!

My interest was perked, to say the least, so I called my friend in California and arranged to stay with him and his family so I could go out to see the car. I met the seller, Chuck Ortez at his business in Placentia, California on Saturday June 3, 1995. Chuck gave me the lowdown on the car and it's history.

He told me he bought it from Fred and Joanne Connell of Nashville, Tennessee in 1990. Fred had bought it from Hippodrome Oldsmobile in Nashville as a present for his wife and took delivery on December 18, 1969. The car was as you see it in the photos when purchased, but Chuck said that in 1990, when the car was repainted to remove all the racing decals and lettering, he had the stripes done in white, his preference, changing the original gold.

It was delivered when new as a "dog dish" hubcap car, but Chuck purchased and mounted SS I wheels. He also added the power steering and power brakes. In the 5 years he had owned it, he put on 2500 miles, the mileage was certified at 8238 when he bought it in September of 1989.

In discussion, Chuck told me that this car had been an NHRA and IHRA national record holder! He had numerous pictures of the car at tracks all over the country, where it ran low 11's @120 miles an hour. I was very impressed with the car, but I wondered if it was worth the $10,000 he was asking.

Chuck seemed to know the value of the car as he was a high performance 442 collector - and had two other W-30 cars, a 1966 and a 1967. He said he would have a hard time selling those (remember, this was 1995, Ed.) and even so they would be more money if I was interested. We went for a test drive and the '70 drove like a new car which, for intents and purposes it was. Best, it was awful quick! I told Chuck that I needed to think it over and would get back to him.

Well, I didn't do too much thinking and the next week I called and bought the car and had it shipped to me in Phoenix. WOW, it was that an exciting time when I realized what I had just purchased, a 10,000 mile completely documented 1970 442 W-30.

When I got the car and paperwork, I began to go through the records. All the paperwork was there, a broadcast sheet with envelope, the bill of sale, a notarized mileage certification, the original Tennessee registration and countless pictures!

I called the "Music City Rod Shop" in Nashville, which sponsored the car, as I could not find Fred and Joanne's phone number. They were elated that the car was in good hands and the owner gave me the Connell's number. I made contact and they were more than glad to give me all the info they had on the car's history. Then Fred Connell mailed me more materials - completing an extensive file. Having the history of the car on paper makes it even more exciting.

I have owned this green and gold beauty for 15 years, and it recently turned 16,000 miles. It may be the lowest documented mileage 1970 W-30 in the land. I have been working to return it to it's original, as delivered, look. The stripes are back to gold and the "dog dish" caps and "XT" wheels are back on the car. I still have to remove the power steering and brakes, and that will be my next project.

I still stay in contact with the Connells, and in fact I visited with them in Nashville last Month, where I got to see the same house and the same garage that the W-30 grew up in! The Connells are still involved in drag racing, now with a 1987 Olds Cutlass in P/SA running 13 second times and a 1980 Chevy Monza in GT Class running in the 10's! They kept the 1970 in excellent shape as they always treated it like one of the family. It was never butchered as a race car, like many are, and it remained a true stock W-30 and I thank them for that. This is such a special W-30 that will never leave my hands and certainly will not make a return to the drag strip. It's retirement has been well earned.

I have owned many 442's and W-30 cars over the years along with a few Toronados and over 150 other makes and models. I have always liked the enhanced Olds interiors over the other manufactures and the 442's could certainly hold their own in the performance category. When I was married in 1968 I owned a 1966 red 442 4-speed convert that we used in the wedding. I also have a very nice original 1965 442 post car in my collection. I am a member of the Oldsmobile Club of Arizona.

Thanks for letting me share my story - and the story of the Music City 442.

Tom Kelly, OPC member #00022.

. . . but today, it's a driver and a show car.

Build sheet confirms it was always a W-30. Item below is a build envelope. Most Fisher body workers didn't bother to tuck the sheet in the envelope. Must have been a mid-week car.

Typical W-30 under hood, except it look like a resto, but it's a clean up. Car has power brakes and steering. Tom will remove them to return it to original.

Super sano W-27 was removed from the car and it raced with a standard rear. The underbody of a former race car shows that staying off the road pays dividends

The interior in Tom's car is like new - it should be, the only occupied during its racing career was the driver's!

Here is the original order sheet and receipt for the car. The options are clearly marked.

Coming or going, this is one heck of a good-looking car.

The Music City car at the NHRA Nationals. It's not often that you see two 1970 W-30s racing each other.

Does anyone know the identity of the gold car?

Another great shot of the car under way.

Tom's window sticker

Low miles - you bet!

Race cars end to be that way, but this one is really documented.

Muscle Car Review thought this car was a winner too.