Like many, I have fond memories of my youth, and count myself fortunate to have grown up during some very special times. Seeing Color TV for the 1st time, watching man walk on the moon, seeing the computer age unfold, and being young during the muscle car era, are experiences that future generations can never again live. Also, burned into my memory, are images of those Olsonite Eagles competing in the Indy 500. It was a very special time for a lot of reasons.
In 2007, I began searching for an AAR Cuda. I knew the only way I could afford one would be to buy a project car and proceed to rebuild it. I purchased this blue AAR Cuda through an on-line ad. The Gurney and Olsonite markings were evident in the photos and I bought it with the simple presumption that one of the prior owners must have been an avid Dan Gurney fan. When the car arrived, I was struck with how professional the logos were done and I remember thinking how someone had gone to a lot of trouble to add these features to the car. The “Gurney Eagle” was done in individually cast, brushed aluminum letters, each secured to the tail panel with fine threaded pins. Since I like things factory correct, my plan was to remove the lettering and have the holes welded in.
Some who saw the car speculated that it was connected in some way to Dan Gurney’s All American Racers. I decided before I destroyed the logos in the restoration process, I should make some contacts regarding who added them and why. Contacts to various individuals seemed to confirm that AAR never owned any street versions of the AAR ‘Cuda and I considered the matter closed. I peeled the Olsonite decal from the fire wall and I unbolted the remaining Gurney Eagle letters from the rear panel and stored them away.
A search for the car’s build sheet is what lead me through the two prior owners and ultimately to Swedish Crucible Steel. When I received the car, it was missing the rear spoiler, the passenger side mirror, its build sheet, and it had ‘70 Challenger seats in it. I contacted Owner #3 and as we spoke, he confirmed that he still had the original spoiler and mirror. Later I flew down and bought those two remaining parts. As we visited, he told me the car had not been driven since 1978, told me about his street racing days and how he had swapped the seats with a purple ‘70 Challenger he had owned because he “liked Cudas best, but Challengers had cooler seats”…..and of course the build sheets went too. He mentioned that the 2nd owner was from greater Detroit and may know the whereabouts of the purple Challenger. He also said he did not know who put the logos on the car, but he knew that “some steel company” had owned it.
A few months later, I was able to locate Owner #2. He was still in the Detroit area. I called him that February night and he was exited to hear from me, stating he had owned that car from 1972 to 1975. The Blue AAR was his 1st car and to my amazement he recited the VIN to me over the phone from memory. He said that the logos were on the car when he bought it via R.E.A. Used Autos of Detroit. He said the prior owner’s name listed on the title was “Swedish Crucible Steel”, but he did not know what that was. He indicated that they had to have been the ones who imaged the car. He said the purple Challenger was long gone. Following our conversation, I looked Swedish Crucible up on the internet and it took me to the Olsonite Web Page! At that point things began to fall together.
Following this discovery that the ‘Cuda was owned by Swedish Crucible Steel, I was able to make contact with members of the Olson family. With 36 years passing since they last saw the Cuda, they were understandably surprised to hear from me, and were pleased to learn their Father’s Corporate AAR ‘Cuda had survived. We have since met and have exchanged information and photos on numerous occasions. Many of these photos are found within this website for your viewing. The Cuda has been restored, complete with the Gurney and Olsonite Eagle logos which were placed there back in the spring of 1970.
As I research those great years, I find Driver information to be plentiful, but a lack of information exists concerning the personalities and contributions of Sponsoring Owners. It is my hope that this web page might provide readers with the details of the Ozzie Olson race sponsorship and the amazing Olsonite Story…the story behind the “Olsonite Eagles” that so many of us recall from our youth.
My 1st car at age 16
Installing headers in the driveway
Olsonite's Cuda - Front