For 1949, the Oldsmobile’s Futuramic wide-line body style, which appeared the previous year on the top-of-the-line 98, was extended across the model range. The design was Oldsmobile’s first post WWII design, with flow-through fenders crowned by high-set headlights. Of course, the big news was the new “Rocket” 88 OHV V-8 engine, which displaced 303 cid and developed 135 hp. At the last minute a new 88 series was introduced, using the new V-8 in the small 70 Series body. The result was electrifying for the day, with 0-60 mph in 12.2 seconds and a 19.9 second quarter mile. Clear plastic hood panels were an option, though not very practical.
The 88 came as a club coupe, a fastback two-door club sedan, a four-door sedan, and a four-door station wagon. Early station wagons were partly wood, but were replaced by all-steel in the middle of 1949. There were more than a dozen colors and four two-tone choices. An Oldsmobile 88 convertible paced the Indy 500.
For 1950, the Olds 88 grew heavier chrome bumpers and the Holiday two-door hardtop body style from the 98 was added to the mid-level model. This was the last year for Olds station wagons until 1957, and the last six-cylinder engine for a long time. Herschell McGriff and Ray Elliot won the 1950 Carrera Panamericana Mexican road race in an Olds 88.
For 1951 the 88 range was expanded with a Super 88 line, while the Seventy series was dropped. The Deluxe 88 offered just a two- and four-door sedan, while side trim was modified across the range. Two-tone colors now totaled 10 choices, and the model’s chassis was strengthened.
For 1952, power was boosted to 145 hp in the Deluxe 88 and 160 hp in the Super 88. Fifteen color options were offered with 16 two-tones, and power steering was introduced. The year 1953 started with a disastrous $30 million fire at the Hydra-Matic transmission plant and a number of Oldsmobiles were fitted with Buick Dynaflow transmissions as an emergency measure. Front bumpers grew heavier and the dash was redesigned this year. Power brakes were offered for $33 and trunk-mounted air-conditioning cost a whopping $550. The range of color choices continued to grow. In 1954, Oldsmobile introduced an all-new 88, marking the end of the first generation of the model.
The Oldsmobile 88, is a durable benchmark for early 1950s motoring, with a reliable and powerful powerplant. Most were automatics and nearly one million were sold, so spares are reasonably available.
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