Throughout life there are some people you meet who leave an everlasting impression on you. This doesn’t happen often, it might only happen once, and sometimes you only have to meet this person once in order for the impression to last. Mark Olson (Oly) left this everlasting positive impression on everyone he met. The story of Mark Olson involves everything and anything one can dream of: hot rods, surfing, family, friends, racing, cruising, smiles, tears, and a battle with cancer that eventually took his life. Mark was born on Dec 29, 1949 and resided in Dinuba, CA. Mark attended Dinuba High School and Reedley College and eventually worked at Quinn Caterpillar as a diesel mechanic. He grew up on a family farm and felt at home on the ranch, so it was only natural that he began farming in 1984 with his brother-in-laws and uncle.
The thing that most people don’t know about tree fruit farming is that there are months of down time during the fall and winter. This down time allowed Mark to work feverishly on hot rods, tools, and on his shop. He loved anything to do with mechanics since he was a child. Everyone who visited his shop realized how gifted Mark was at fabricating anything he could dream of. He made his own English wheel, planishing hammer, frame table, shop heater, multiple go-karts, his own intake manifolds, multiple hot rod projects, and one 1923 Dodge Bucket that is one of the most beautiful/menacing roadsters anyone has ever seen. The Dodge Bucket, nicknamed the “Cancer Car,” was a project that Oly poured his sweat and blood into. As the build went on, the car evolved continuously into something more complicated with greater horsepower, a greater number of one-off parts, and it turned into a project that was more difficult to pull off. Mark was one of few people who could pull it off. The Dodge has a blown 426 Hemi in it and a long list of parts that he had to make himself. Oly’s knowledge of engines and his skills at fabrication made it possible for him to create such a beautiful car. Mark made the frame out of square stock steel, he fabricated most of the rotted 23 body, fabricated all mounts on the car, made his own roll cage, made the window frame and dash, and did all his own body work. Oly was a truly gifted person. The “Cancer Car” will always be known and remembered in the hot rod community as an awesome hot rod, but Mark’s legacy does not end there.
Mark’s life was so much more than just hot rodding. Hot Rod Coalition is a hot rod website, but behind every hot rod there is a person and their family. One would be hard pressed to find a more loving person and family than Mark Olson and his. Mark married Patti Shamoon in 1974 and they had two wonderful girls during the 80’s, Alissa and Jocelyn. Mark was diagnosed with abdominal cancer in 2005 and Mark began the fight for his life. Throughout their ordeal with Mark’s cancer, the family continued to spread their hope and love for life, positively affecting everyone around them. Mark became a member of The Reedley Nomad’s Car Club in 2006. Mark impressed and deeply inspired all club members with his positive attitude about life and his warming and contagious smile. Mark will be remembered more for his love and friendship than for any material object that he so wonderfully created. When friends and family think of “Oly” they will remember one thing more than all others, his smile. Mark left this earth on June 23, 2011 while at home with his family beside him. He will be greatly missed but he will be remembered forever.
By: Russell Zulim 9/10/11