Local man's replication a tribute to his grandfather

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Corbett resident Chad Olin stands beside his authentically restored 1971 Dodge  Coronet, replicating the vehicle once used by his grandfather, Oren Wes Olin, the city of Fairviews first police chief. The uniform, hat and law enforcement equipment also belonged to the elder Olin, who died in June 1982.

A few weeks ago, Corbett resident Chad Olin took his father, Lanny, for a ride in a car he had just finished restoring.

“I asked Dad if it was the way he remembered it,” Chad said. “When he didn’t answer, I looked over and he was wiping his eyes.”

The robin’s egg blue 1971 Dodge Coronet is a replica of the one driven by Chad’s grandfather, Oren “Wes” Olin, who was Fairview’s first “modern day” police chief from 1977 until his death in June 1982. The vehicle is an authentic representation of the original and meant to be a tribute to a man Chad calls his “best friend.”

A self-employed construction contractor by trade, Chad, 43, is an admitted tinkerer by hobby. His notion to recreate Fairview’s first marked police car began about three years ago, but grew legs from a posting on Craigslist several months ago.

“I knew my grandfather’s car was a 1971 Dodge Coronet, but they don’t show up for sale very often,” Chad said. “In December, one popped up from a young girl in Cottage Grove. At first, she wanted too much for it, but I watched, and in February, she dropped the price. I bought it for $2,000, and it has the original 38,000 miles on it.” by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Chads painstaking restoration included the dashboard switch control panel made for the car by Chads father, Lanny, in 1979. The radar gun was once used by Chief Olin, while the mounted shotgun is the same model weapon Olin kept in the vehicle.

Chad sanded down the chocolate brown frame, painted it blue and began a painstakingly accurate restoration. He located dated Oregon “E” license plates and a variety of authentic equipment, which includes a switch control panel made by Lanny for the car in 1979.

But Chad’s most prized score for the vehicle was the overhead light bar.

“I bought it from a guy in Eugene,” he said. “My dad engraved ‘City of Fairview’ inside the light bar that was on my grandfather’s car. When I got it home, I started looking at it, and the engraving is there. It’s the same one.”

Oren Olin, who went by “Wes,” was a retired Portland Police officer when he became Fairview’s chief of police in 1977. Since the position was new to the city, there was no official police vehicle. The chief was forced to share a pickup with the public works department to patrol the streets.

by: OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - Fairview Chief of Police Oren Wes Olin posed with his marked police vehicle, the first for the city of Fairview, in 1979. “Grandpa wanted to start driving during the day, but couldn’t because the guys in public works needed the truck to fix pot holes,” Chad said. “That’s when the city decided to buy a car.”

Wes went to Corvallis in January 1979 and for $700 picked up the 1971 Dodge Coronet from a sale of vehicles once used by campus security at Oregon State University. It was retired from service in late 1980s, stripped of the equipment and sold as a surplus city vehicle for $1.

The younger Olin admits to being briefly lured by a possible career in law enforcement, “until my wife talked me out of it,” he said. He admits he’s hidden the receipts detailing the costs of the police car’s restoration, preferring to remain ignorant of the total. Still, there’s great satisfaction that his efforts have earned the appreciation of the city of Fairview and other law enforcement officers.

“I loved my grandfather,” Chad said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to do this, but it isn’t just family history, it’s city history too.”

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