Triple Blue - A Sapphire Sandy Survivor
Bobby Canz describes himself as a Chevy guy. His first muscle car was a 1969 Nova SS he bought when he was 16. Yet he has also long had a soft spot for 1968 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 convertibles. “I have always liked that car, ever since I was in high school,” he says. “It was because of that car that I became an auto body mechanic, which led me to running and then owning my own auto body shop years ago.” So when he was browsing the internet for his next project car, along with search words like Nova he would try 1968 4-4-2 convertible.During an online search after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 he got a hit: a 1968 4-4-2 convert popped up on Craigslist.
He called the number, then made the trip to East Meadow, New York, to see the car. Natural disasters can be quirky things, erratic in their devastation. They will obliterate one thing while barely touching other ones nearby. In this Long Island neighborhood, the winds had knocked down many of the trees, one of which landed on the detached garage where the 4-4-2 was parked. The damage was so extensive that, when Bobby arrived, the tree and the remains of the garage had already been cleared away. The Olds sat on a bare concrete slab.
“It had been in that garage for a really, really long time, maybe 20, 25 years,” Bobby says. “It was dirty and rusty, and sat on four flat tires.” Fortunately, though, while the tree had damaged the car’s top fabric and bows, “it didn’t look like King Kong had stepped on it.” Bobby was able to learn just a few details about the car’s history. He says, “It was originally sold on April 2, 1968, by Mack Markowitz Oldsmobile in Hempstead, New York, to a lady from Westbury, Long Island.
I was buying the car from what I was told was the second owner’s son, so the car has been on Long Island its entire life.” The seller was an accountant, and it was tax time, so he was too busy to do the deal himself. “The wife was there; I gave her the money, and she gave me the paperwork,” recalls Bobby. “So I wasn’t able to find out a lot about the car, or learn why it was parked.”It wasn’t until he got the 4-4-2 home that Bobby discovered what he really had. “I was going to make a nice driver out of it, but as I was taking it apart I realized it was a numbers-matching car. I had thought about taking the automatic out and putting a four-speed in, but it would be a sin to rip it apart.”
So Bobby mounted what would be an 11-month rotisserie restoration back to stock spec. Other than the engine machining, which was performed by Merkel Racing Engines in Hauppauge, New York, he did all the work himself. He rebuilt the born-with 400ci engine, TH400 transmission, and 12-bolt rearend; blasted and powdercoated the frame and all the chassis components (“the underside of the car looks just as nice as the body,” he says proudly); and performed all the bodywork, including replacing both quarter-panels.
That last task was probably the toughest part of the restoration, he says. “The 1968 4-4-2 is a one-year-only car. The fenders are a little different from the 1969 models where the hood hinges go on. The ’68 has vent windows; the ’69 doesn’t. The bumper and the taillights are different from 1968 to 1969. So it’s very hard to find some of the parts, and not many are reproduced. They don’t make full quarters for this car, just skins, and just for the two-door hardtop, not the convertible. So I bought two quarter skins, and cut and fabricated them to fit the car.”
The Olds had been repainted at some point in its life, but Bobby knew it was originally Sapphire Blue. To get the paint color exactly right, he enlisted the help of his friend Victor Leal, who works at DuPont. With the correct paint in hand, Bobby brought the car to V&J Auto Body in Lindenhurst, where his buddies let him use the spray booth. Victor helped Bobby get the interior colors right, too. “It’s a triple-blue-optioned car,” he says, “so everything was blue, even the knobs on the window-crank handles and the buttons on the door locks. The convertible top frame was blue, not black as most are. I had to find the paint for the colors not on the trim tag, and Victor was a big help.”
When the car was finished in the spring of 2015, Bobby took it to a local cruise, where he happened to run into the president of the Long Island/New York City Oldsmobile club. From him he learned about the club’s annual Spring Dust-Off show. Bobby took it there and it won First in Class. In 2017 the car won again, not just the class win but also Best in Show—pretty strong for a car that’s driven to shows as well as local cruises.“There were only 5,142 convertible 4-4-2s produced in 1968,” says Bobby. “I’m not sure how many are left today, but I’m sure glad I have one of them.”