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


Don McAtee's '63 F-85 Cutlass Coupe was purchased from the original owner, a business associate of Don's father, in 1974. Don bought it from his father in 1984 and began a full restoration in 1991. Production of the '63 Cutlass Coupe was 41,343, and the base price was $2,694, which was $291 more than the base F-85 Coupe.

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The Cutlass was introduced in the F-85 line in mid-1961 as a two-door coupe with bucket seats. It featured an all-aluminum, 215 cubic-inch V-8 jointly developed with and shared with Buick.

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1963 Oldsmobile F-85 Cutlass - Don McAtee plans to keep this one in the family forever
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By Society Staff – reprint with permission only

A business associate of Don McAtee's father purchased a 1963 Olds F-85 Cutlass Coupe new from Yates Oldsmobile in St. Louis, Missouri on August 13, 1963 for his wife to drive, and she used it pretty much only as a grocery-getter. Don's dad told him that she never liked the car but still kept it for a little over 10 years and putting about 37,000 miles on it over that time. Her husband drove it to work one day, and, after Don's father saw it, he fell in love with it. They were interested in selling it, and a deal was struck and the car brought home on May 14, 1974. Don's family immediately took a long family ride in it, topping the trip off by a stop for ice cream.

Don's father had a company car for personal use, so the Oldsmobile was mostly driven by his mother, who put very few miles on the car. Don, his brother, and his sister all drove the car a short time before getting their own cars, and Don actually took his driver's license test in this car. He drove it on his first date, to the senior prom, and on his first camping trip. Needless to say, the car has a lot of sentimental value. His family put another 30,000 miles on it, and then, on March 30, 1984, when it had a little over 67,000 miles on it, he bought it from his father. 

Some of those miles were rough ones at the hands Don and his brother. They had quite a few places they could go to see what top speed could be achieved. The right rear tire would always wear out quicker than the others. Can you say peel out? They did.

The first wave of compact cars from GM came in the early 1960s, and the '63 F-85 was among the last of the Y-body B-O-P (Buick, Olds, Pontiac) cars built from 1961 to 1963. This included the Buick Special/Skylark, the Oldsmobile F-85/Cutlass/Jetfire and the Pontiac Tempest/Lemans. These cars had unitized-body construction with a front sub-frame that cradled the engine and front suspension very similar to the construction of most modern cars today. Sales were not as GM expected, and, in 1964, GM switched to the A-body intermediate cars with body-over-separate-frame construction that everyone is familiar with.

The only engine available in the Oldsmobile was a 215 cubic-inch all-aluminum V-8 including block, cylinder heads, and intake manifold. This engine was jointly developed by Buick and Oldsmobile. Buick's version used the "Nailhead" style semi-hemi cylinder heads while the Olds version used the wedge-shaped style combustion cylinder heads made famous by the "Rocket" engine in 1949.

The base engine in the F-85 line featured a 2-barrel carburetor and developed 155 hp. The "Cutlass" was an upgrade model that came standard with a higher, 10.25-to-1 compression ratio 4-barrel version rated at 185 hp. The aluminum engine proved expensive to manufacture and was discontinued after the 1963 model year, and GM sold all the tooling to the Rover Company of England in 1967. 

Don's car has the optional close ratio Borg-Warner T-10 4 speed manual transmission that was introduced in mid-1962. GM did not keep production records for transmission type, but it is estimated that only 500 cars in the entire F-85 line were produced with this transmission

When Don bought the car, he already had intentions of bringing it back to original condition, and, on June 28, 1991, he started a complete, ground-up restoration. The car was in pretty good shape because it had been garaged most of its life. It had solid floors but needed some relatively minor rust repair and to be. Also, the vinyl seat upholstery was cracking, and the padding was coming out of the driver's seat.

Don completed the restoration over several years, doing most of the work himself in his garage. He completely disassembled the car and organized the parts in boxes and bags with labels. The only work he farmed out were the body paint top finish coats, which were done by a friend who owned a body shop, seat upholstery, chrome plating, and engine work.

Everything, including front and rear suspension, was disassembled, stripped to bare metal, and painted with self-etching primer. He did the final painting on every single piece except the body. He performed all the necessary body work and sprayed the primer-filler while leaving the block-sanding to the body shop. All mechanical components were individually restored using new bushings, seals, bearings, etc.

The original engine was completely rebuilt and bored .040 over with the cylinder heads milled slightly. Don reassembled the engine and rebuilt the carburetor and fuel pump using "modern fuel" compatible materials. The engine now displaces about 220 cubic inches. The combustion chambers were measured to be 37.5 cc which means the engine now has a 12:1 compression ratio after the rebuild. The interior was completely restored using the original-type materials. 

The car was repainted in its original colors. The top is Provincial White and the body is Midnight Mist, which is a dark blue metallic paint that almost looks black when it isn't in direct sunlight. The interior is the original style white Morocceen with black trim and dash pad. The carpeting is black. The trunk is lined with a fine woven pattern fabric material with a thin foam backing that Don found to match the original. 

Don has two sets of wheels for the car. He restored the original fourteen-inch steel wheels and wheel covers and put reproduction B.F. Goodrich Silvertown bias-ply whitewall tires on them. Also, he has a set of aftermarket chrome wheels that were patterned after Chevy rally wheels and are shod with radial tires. The car handles much better with the radials.

Don has the original Protect-O-Plate booklet that lists the delivery date as August 13, 1963. He found the original build sheet (Oldsmobile Production Order - Dealer Copy) when removing the seats, and it lists the production date as July 25, 1963 at the Lansing, Michigan assembly plant. The original owner's manual, in a folder with the dealer's logo and address on it, is still in the glove compartment. The original rear license plat frame with the Yates Oldsmobile dealer logo is still on the car. Don also has the bill-of-sale from when his father bought the car from the first owner.

Don thoroughly enjoys showing off the car at local shows, and it has won several awards. His proudest moments were in receiving "Best of Show" awards twice at an all-Oldsmobile show in St. Louis. Over the course of 18 car shows in which awards were given, the car has won five Best of Show Awards, two Best Original/Stock Awards, one Grand Champion award, eight 1st Place in Class Awards, one Top 30 award, and one special award, "Mike Vernon's Choice" trophy, at a benefit show for a police officer who was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty. Don plans to one day turn the car over to his children and then grandchildren, and he hopes that the car stays in the family forever.

Click HERE to see: 1963 Olds Jetfire Road Test in the Tech Section

Click HERE to see: 1963 Oldsmobile Brochures (Log In Required)

Click HERE to see: 1963 Oldsmobile F-85/Cutlass/Jetfire Ads (Log In Required)

Coming or going, the '63 Cutlass cut a fine profile.

Don restored the interior using correct, Morocceen fabric.


Don had the engine rebuilt, including a 0.30 overbore resulting in a 220 cubic-inch displacement and a 12:1 compression ratio.

Rebuilt engine and transmission, ready to be reinstalled in the car.

Don had the car repainted in its original colors--Provincial White over Midnight Mist.

Don's car next to a younger Oldsmobile sibling, a '64 Starfire convertible, at one of the many car shows Don has taken the car to.