Lot 204

Hershey 2018

1938 Oldsmobile L-38 Convertible Coupe 'Safety Transmission'

The Richard L. Burdick Collection


$72,600 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania



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  • Offered from the Richard L. Burdick Collection
  • The only surviving Oldsmobile with the semi-automatic Safety Transmission
  • Equipped with nearly every other available option and accessory
  • Formerly owned by Don Spieldenner and Fred Greybeal Jr.
  • A fascinating landmark in GM engineering history

The 1938 model year was one of both firsts and lasts for General Motors. While rumble seats made their final appearance on coupe and convertible styles, GM also introduced the new Safety Transmission, their first attempt at obsoleting a manual transmission. 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.

The Safety Transmission was not a wide success and was seldom ordered. More successful was the Hydra-Matic introduced two years later, which was, of course, a fully automatic transmission, and would be used in various forms for four decades.

Offered here is the only known Oldsmobile, a 1938 L-38 convertible coupe, equipped with the Safety Transmission. It was originally restored in the early 1970s by Don Spieldenner, in whose ownership it won Best of Show at the Oldsmobile Nationals in 1973 and an AACA Senior First Prize in 1974. It was later sold by the Spieldenners to longtime Oldsmobile enthusiast Fred Greybeal Jr., of Marion, Virginia, in whose ownership it was refinished in Starlight Blue with a red interior. The car has many of the available options and accessories, including a Deluxe AM radio and dashboard clock. Dual side-mounted spares were, by this time, quite rare, but this car has them, as well.

Richard L. Burdick acquired the car from the Greybeal family in 2007, and it has remained a feature of his collection ever since. The restoration is remarkably well preserved, with minor patina from age, and still has wonderful eye appeal and fine attention to detail, including restored top irons and a beautiful engine-turned dashboard.

This is a wonderful Oldsmobile in every important regard, with fine history and fascinating specifications.