The 1949-53 Oldsmobile 88 was a breakthrough design, so why doesn’t anybody want one?


The first generation Oldsmobile 88 was a hugely important car. When it came out in 1949, it introduced one of the first postwar overhead valve V-8 designs, the famous “Rocket” V-8. That large and powerful V-8, combined with relatively light body, was a formula that later blossomed into the muscle car.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/12/13/1949-53-oldsmobile-88-breakthrough-design-values


This is very disheartening to me as the owner of a 50 fastback, and a 51 88-A, plus many other 50 Oldsmobile’s in the past. My love for them started at the age of 9 years old. That was the first time I road in my 50 fastback. Took me from the time I got out of the service in 1968 to 1996 to break the original owner down to sell me her car. Yes I threw a good bit of money at to restore it, but it was a labor of love, not selling it anyway. The 51-A I’ve owned since 1970, so it’s part of our family also. I’m a die hard Oldsmobile man and staying that way. Guess I’ll start looking for some of those bargain priced 50’s and add on some garage space! They’re like jello, always room for more.


Unfortunately the older generation has brought this and future price drops on themselves by failing to include younger enthusiasts in their car shows. For decades the younger crowd have been excluded from classic car gatherings because older folks stubbornly fail to acknowledge anything automotive that was built after the early seventies. Rather than have some sliding 25yr scale to allow “newer” classics into their ranks, the good ole boys clubs has shunned many an enthusiast. You are now reaping the rewards of that.


The answer to the lack of interest in cars of the 40’ and 50s is simple. They don’t mean much to people born after that era. Let’s face it, the old car hobby is all about memories, memories of your youth, memories of the cars you saw in the dealers’ windows, cars owned by your father or other family member, and yes your own first car. The interest in memories of your earlier life prompts the sale of those earlier cars. Now it’s the muscle cars of the late 60s and 70s that are treasured. It’s just the way of the world. As my little old gray-haired mother used to say, “youth must be served”.


The answer to this question, is they are ridiculously ugly. Why would you want it, a 57 chevy is still iconic etc… But the styling and grandpa look of these things is way to much to deal with.


Would like to see some discussion of the Olds Hydromatic automatic transmissions of that period. I recall a neighbor having one and Park was achieved by pulling the unmarked column shift lever all the way down…at keast I think that’s what I recall as about a 7-year old. That unmarked gear selector reminded me of Chrysler products’ Fluid Drive (with clutch only for stationary changing of gears).


About a year ago sold a 1954 Ford Customline. It had been restored to original condition. Took about 3 months before I found a buyer from where else Florida. One of the calls I received inquiring about the car asked me about it, he was researching it for a friend. He told me the problem I would have selling it was “most of the people that would be interested in that year are dead”. Unfortunately he is right.


I have always wanted a '49 or '50 Olds 88, but the driving situation where I live (crowded and uncivilized) makes having a cumbersome old car sans airbags more and more of a liability, so I end up crossing owning most old cars off my bucket list. I do have a few old MGs and a few preserved Honda products circa 1990. Hondas include a ;91 Civic Si, '89 Prelude, and '92 Integra GS-R. The MGs get more attention from people, but the Hondas get attention along with inquiries about buying the cars. And it’s younger guys interested in the Hondas. And as I said earlier, driving conditions are so dangerous and unpleasant in most locales, that it’s bound to affect people even wanting to own a cherished car any more.


I would take exception to the notion that Olds was the car to beat in early NASCAR races. Perhaps a few as you mentioned in 1950 but after that it was Hudson-all the way . In fact it was Hudson up to the time of the Chrysler 300’s having 2 more cylinders. Something Chrysler crowed about . Crowing about finally beating an inline 6 with a V8. Olds couldn’t even do that.


It’s true—there is a decline in the interest of these cars…at least the '49 & '50 (my area of experience). It seems to be a generational “thing” (Hot rodder’s aging). They once meant a great deal some and I received regular requests to find them (Only 2 drs !). I don’t think there’s been a single request in 10 years. I do know that those same folks have done what they want with cars and/or quit.


Very good, insightful article and very thoughtful replies.
Of course it’s all correct and my short answer( adding another shovel of dirt onto the grave) is: that car is dead because most of the people that appreciate it are.
The Model T Ford is a bargain also but let’s face it, what Millennial would be seen driving one?
Let’s all us geezers agree not to die and we’ll keep the love of these ancient cars alive!


I’m 75 and had a few late 1940’s cars in my youth. Recently, I sat in a for sale, but not restored, 1949 Chevrolet sedan like I had when I was 16 years old. Boy, what a disappointment. Pretty crude car and kind of took away my enthusiasm for that period of classic. I have a friend that has a 1954 Ford sedan and it is now a “resto mod” with a new front suspension, disc brakes, modern V8, bucket seats, etc. It’s a nice ride, but cost $25,000 to get it there. I can understand why the late '40’s and early 50’s cars are losing buyers.


I have owned several 1949-1954. I would buy another but in most cases the price people are asking for one is
far more than what I think one is worth. I have looked for a “Driver quality” on for several years…


I think the issue is that a lot of collectors favor the cars that they remember when they first started driving. The cars from their high school years, if you will. I got my license in 1970 and have owned collector cars ranging from '66 - '67 Chevelle SS396s, a '69 427 Vette, and several '69 - '72 Mustang Mach 1s. I only bought 4-speeds as I love to manually shift. Today I have a '71 Camaro that I restored as original with its factory V-8 and stick shift.


The 1949 - 53 Olds was considered an old man’s car in its time.(Olds even had a “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile” slogan for a while.) The styling is bland, and images of them leaning way over in NASCAR races, while Hudson cleaned their clocks, illustrates their poor handling capabilities.


OK guys, I’m going to chime in here with probably a not so popular answer. I’m seeing the handwriting on the wall here so in the past four years I have sold four of my collector-type cars. They were an all-steel 1932 Ford street rod, a beautifully restored 1965 Ford Mustang coupe, a mint, mint, mint 1991 Cadillac Allante with 19k certified, documented original miles and a nice, original 1993 Cadillac Sixty Special. I’d been watching the markets for all of these cars starting to slide. I watched a lot to be sure this is what they were doing.

Each of those cars used to get a lot of attention when I drove them somewhere but as time went on, that was becoming a rare occurrence. It honestly had gotten to the point where most people paid them no attention no matter what age the people were.

I decided to sell them while there still was some interest in them and while they still were bringing decent money before they slid further. It’s just like the stock market. Buy low, sell high and I didn’t want to change that to “buy low, sell low”!

I now have no vehicles that could be considered collector-type cars except a 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS which is a really rare vehicle but who knows what that will mean in the years to come?

I enjoyed it for the 45 years I collected them but it is time to move on.


Hey. Does it really matter? I hope folks are buying classic cars because they love the cars, driving the cars, and the hobby. So many classics are pricing themselves out of the reach of many. Maybe cheaper cars will bring people back. While this particular car has zero appeal to be, I’m not too worried about my classic. I do not plan to sell it. That’s something for the heirs to worry about not me!


I like them, I’ve had a 52 Buick and 50 Chevy,
Similar styling, I’ll take it if someone wants to give one away.:blush:


This particular “ERA” has passed, along with Lead Sleds and Model A and Model T. Aging population. The younger crowd is not as interested and unwilling to pay the high prices.


I would also say that it’s not just the cost, but the efforts required to care for an aging item. Young people are…well, shall I say, not motivated to do much…to be delicate.