The Oldsmobile from 'A Christmas Story' Is Still Going Strong

<span class="caption">Olds from 'A Christmas Story' Still Going Strong</span><span class="photo-credit">c/o MGM</span>
Olds from 'A Christmas Story' Still Going Strongc/o MGM

• Debuting in 1983, A Christmas Story is now a thoroughly quotable movie-marathon classic.

• "Some men are Baptists. Others Catholics. My father was an Oldsmobile man." The actual car in the movie was a 1937 Oldsmobile Six touring sedan, and it's still on the road.

• Rescued from obscurity after filming wrapped, the A Christmas Story Oldsmobile has had a few modifications added over the years but is still delighting anyone who sees it.

“Oh, fudge!”

Except, of course, it wasn't “fudge.” On-screen, Old Man Parker's eyes widen, his jaw drops open, and he leans one arm on the fender of his beloved-but-recalcitrant 1937 Oldsmobile. “What did you say?” he asks in disbelief. Uh-oh. Here comes the soap.


Although not a commercial success at the box office, A Christmas Story has nonetheless become a cherished part of the holiday season. Everyone knows a quote or two from the movie—“Fra-geel-eh. Must be Italian!”—and all of us can identify in some way with the protagonist, Ralphie. Who doesn't remember the first time they let slip a curse word in front of their parents, and suffered the consequences?

a christmas story
c/o MGM

The film was based on the collected writings of the great Jean Shepherd, who also narrates. In the 1970s, Shepherd was a regular monthly columnist for Car and Driver, where he penned many a gem, including stories of his Old Man that would be recognizable to any A Christmas Story fan.

From the December 1973 issue:

My Old Man wrestled with the wheel of his beloved Olds as he glared through the windshield at his age-old enemy, the other driver.

"Didja see that fathead!? Naturally, another one of them insane Illinois drivers. They oughta ban them guys from the road!"

At the age of five, huddled in the back seat, I was already being soundly indoctrinated into one of the great American myths, specifically the belief that all drivers from neighboring states are crazy and those from a specific neighboring state are lethal.

Said myth seems to hold true today, even if time has moved on from getting a mouthful of soap as punishment and BB rifles as most-wanted gifts. And, car enthusiasts will be pleased to hear, the Parker family's Oldsmobile is still trundling along, lighting up the faces of everyone who knows what it is.

“People come up to me and just say, 'You'll shoot your eye out!'” says Al Grondin of Wasaga Beach, Ontario, “There's just a lot of excitement about the car.”

While it takes place in Hammond, Indiana, in a purposefully nebulous time frame circa 1940, A Christmas Story was largely filmed in Canada (although the Parker family house is in Cleveland). It was a low-budget affair, and many of the classic cars that appear in it were driven by locals braving the salty, slushy snow of an Ontario winter. Thanks to the memorable tire-changing scene ("the Old Man always pictured himself in the pits at the 500"), this 1937 Oldsmobile is now a crowd-pleaser, but for a long time, it was just hidden away.

oldsmobile movie car from
c/o Al Grondin

A couple of months after filming wrapped, and before the movie premiered, the car was sold to a local. A '37 Oldsmobile Six touring sedan is a good-looking machine, all art deco design and chrome, and the plan was to restore it from its slightly shabby onscreen appearance. Ten years passed, and little happened.

In the 1990s, the Oldsmobile was bought by John Heary, a neighbor of the Grondins. He fixed the rust and installed a Chevy 350 V-8 and a GM TH350 automatic transmission, and updated the electrical system voltage from six-volt to 12-volt. While completing the bodywork, the decision was made to finish the car in black instead of its original dark blue.

Grondin acquired the Olds about six years ago after his friend and neighbor passed away. Knowing what it was, he had some signs made up and has entered the car in local parades and the like. It was also held on display at the nearby Saint Catherines museum, along with a fire truck from the film. Where previously the A Christmas Story Oldsmobile had hit its stockinged-leg light under a bushel, now it was back where people could see it.

A mechanic by trade, Grondin has had to do some work on the car, including hand-making new window guides. You have to think that, if Old Man Parker had actually existed, he'd have approved of the way his Olds still required a little elbow grease to keep going, and that wasn't tucked away in some museum.

“The interior is all original,” Grondin says, “And I'll never change any of it. It's just as it was when Ralphie opens the door to get out to help his old man fix that tire.”

It's a great preservation of part of a family-favorite Christmas movie. Grondin even had a custom “OH FUUDGE” license plate made up for the front of the car. He applied for a genuine provincial vanity plate with the phrase, but ServicesOntario wasn't having any of it and turned it down as an inappropriate phrase. Because we all know that Ralphie didn't actually say “fudge.”

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