Lot 166

Open Roads, North America

1938 Oldsmobile L-38 Convertible Coupe 'Safety Transmission'


$55,000 USD | Sold

United States | Auburn, Indiana



Chassis No.
Engine No.
Body No.
  • The only surviving Oldsmobile with the rare, innovative Safety Transmission
  • Handsome older restoration in spectacular year-correct colors
  • Well-equipped with numerous options and accessories
  • A landmark in General Motors engineering history

General Motors’ first attempt at obsoleting the manual transmission was the 1938 introduction of the Safety Transmission. With this system, the driver used the clutch only to get the car moving and underway; from that point, the transmission could be conventionally shifted, up and down, without manual clutch operation. It was, essentially, a semi-automatic gearbox. Unfortunately this innovation was not a wide sales success and was quickly subsumed in the GM lineup by the Hydra-Matic of 1941, which was, of course, a fully automatic transmission that would be used in its various forms for decades.

Very few automobiles equipped with the Safety Transmission have survived, with the example offered here being the only known Oldsmobile. It was originally restored in the early 1970s by Don Spieldenner, and was very popular in national competition, achieving Best of Show at the Oldsmobile Nationals in 1973, followed by an AACA Senior First Prize in 1974. Later the car was sold to Fred Greybeal, Jr., a longtime Oldsmobile enthusiast in Marion, Virginia, who changed its color scheme to this more inspiring, year-correct livery of Starlight Blue with a red interior. Mr. Greybeal held on to the Oldsmobile for many years, after which it took pride of place in a prominent Texas museum until its acquisition by the current owner.

The car remains a very attractive older restoration and a true eye-catcher, with great visual appeal and attention to detail. Further it has many of the available options and accessories, including a Deluxe AM radio and dashboard clock, as well as the rare dual sidemounted spares.

This is an ideal Oldsmobile for any collector who seeks the very rarest.