Norvell turns heads with 1903 Oldsmobile

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 14, 2008

FRANKLIN—If only every vehicle required a mere gallon’s worth of gas to fill the tank, gas prices probably wouldn’t be an issue.

That’s the case with Jack Norvell’s 1903 Oldsmobile Runabout, which has a one-gallon fuel capacity. The 5-horsepower, one-cylinder classic gets approximately 79 miles to the gallon and can run between 20 mph and 30 mph. That means it probably wouldn’t be the best mode of transportation for a cross-country trip. It does, however, provide a genuine appreciation for the past and present styles of automobiles.

It also is a lot of fun.

“I frequently take it to state parks such as Chippokes in Surry,” Norvell said. “Once there I usually take kids for rides around the park. They just love it. Most people wouldn’t want kids riding in such a vehicle, but I’m just the opposite.”

Norvell also drives the car through holiday parades in Courtland, Sedley and other small towns in the area.

“I bought the car from my brother in 2003,” said Norvell, “and he bought it from a neighbor a few years prior. That’s about all the history I know on this particular car.”

Norvell has always had a passion for cars. From 1973 to 1987 he spent most of his time racing, whether it was drag racing or cross-country events. He was sponsored by Coca-Cola and raced at least 42 weekends during the year.

Since purchasing the car, Norvell has done very little to change its appearance.

“The only thing I’ve done with the car is add some pinstripes to it.”

Norvell says that all he plans on doing to it in the future is to give it a birch coating. This involves using hard, close-grained wood derived from birch trees and is commonly used on furniture and interior finishes in order to provide a more consistent, smoother surface.

According to Norvell, the car is very low-maintenance.

“Considering it’s only a one-cycle engine, it requires about the same amount of maintenance as a lawnmower.”