The latest model in the Oldsmobile lineup for 1949 is the relatively light weight Rocket 88 powered by the newly designed and powerful rocket V8 engine replacing the less potent straight 8. With this new engine the somewhat stodgy Oldsmobile Corporation now has a car that becomes the star on the NASCAR circuits winning six out of nine races in the late model division. The old NASCAR king, the Hudson Hornet now has a successor. The Rocket 88 remains as a model sporting the same logo, the two eights on a rocket ship, in the Oldsmobile line up for fifty years almost until the company itself meets its demise.
The war had just ended and many people had cash and wanted to buy cars so the trend setting Rocket became one of the more popular choices of discerning buyers. Sales slogans like “Make a date with a Rocket 88” and “Drive the Rocket and whirl away” helped them pick an Olds. V8. The song “Rocket 88” is considered by many to be the first rock and roll song-popular in 1950. The 1950 model sports a new style one piece windshield and if the car has a badge on the bottom of the fender directly behind the front wheels saying “Futuramatic” it would have an automatic transmission. The base car is equipped with the three on the tree standard but a “delete for credit” option and if chosen the Hydra-Matic would be installed. The engine which has an oil bath design air filter is started by inserting the key, turning it to the right to the on position and then pushing the starter engage button mounted on the dash. The starter would still turn over without turning on the key but the engine would not start.
The rocket 88 is now the entry level Oldsmobile for the 1951 model year -the 88 sold so well that the Olds 76 with the six cylinder engine is dropped from the line up entirely. The entire Oldsmobile lineup is now equipped with the rocket V8 and on the new “B” platform with an I-beam frame. A more uptown Super 88 is available with restyled rear body sheet metal and the interior has luxurious items such as hydraulic power windows and electric seats. The “Super” version is on a slightly longer wheelbase than the entry level rocket.
For 1952 the base 88 is on the same wheel base as the super and now sports the same body panels as well. The entry level model has the 303 cu in (5.0 L)V8 with a 2 barrel and puts out 145 hp (108 kW) while the super version fuel is supplied by a new design four barrel and develops 160 hp (119 kW). All models for ’52 have new grills, revised tail lights, and upgraded interiors. There is a new automatic headlight control device offered as an option as well.
The 1953 model year still offers the super as the luxury package but only for this one year the base 88 s called the deluxe. The engine and transmission offers started out the same but a fire destroyed the GM plant where the Hydra-Matic was built so there were thousands of units sold with the two speed Buick Dynaflow automatic until a new plant was opened towards the end of ’53 to build the Olds automatic. Three new optionally available items in 1953 are the Fridgidair air conditioning, power steering, and power brakes.