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


rayhull, I have a '49 98. The gear selector is clearly marked. N Dr Lo R. To start the car, you put the selector in N, turn the key, push the gas pedal down once, and push the “Start” button. When parking the car, you apply the handbrake, put the gear selector in “Lo”, then turn the key off, then move the selector lever to “R”. This, effectively, puts the car in “Park”.


Friend of mine sent me this article thought I would enjoy it. I forwarded to all my “Rocket” buddies. Interesting article to say the least, somewhat disheartening considering I restore 49-50 Olds. Now with so many articles that I see on the net I’ll take it with a grain of salt. I sure alot of us will have to agree the market over the last few years has gotten a little crazy with some of the prices some of the classics are bringing, especially at the popular auctions, which is great for the seller but I don’t think that’s true reality. Just my opinion. I have come across several good deals on these old Oldsmobiles in the past few years and with all the parts new and used that are available I think they’re still a very good buy. I purchased the two Olds highlighted in Hagerty’s Barn Find Hunter Oldsmobile Heaven episode. When we were unloading them I was shocked at the number of people young and older that stopped and talked to use about them. I do my best to get the younger generation, which I’m not a member of, involved in classic car restoration or preservation. The area I live in is very conservative which may or may not add to the problem. Like so many have said it’s the older generation that’s keeping these ole classics on the road. The younger generation doesn’t have the ambition to fix up, restore and keep things going like the previous generations. To much of a throw away attutude. But bear in mind this is a personal thing, a life style or as I’ve been told maybe a sickness. Either way as long as I’m able to I’ll keep luvin and restoring the Ole Rockets especially the wagons.


The early Olds were the fastest cars of their time. They established themselves as winners. They effectively ended the dominance of the Ford flathead. The Olds engine dominated racing for years and the body styles became famous along with the dominating performance. My interest was in drag racing and the Olds power plant competed well against the Chrysler hemi until it couldn’t tolerate the power levels being achieved by the evolving technology. A favorite was the Stone, Woods & Cook ‘Swindler A’ gasser. It was nearly unbeatable with a blown Olds. it was a sad day when they pulled out the Olds and replaced it with a hemi…and speaking of hot rods, the Olds ( and Caddy ) were the engines of choice to drop between the frame rails of a Model A or '32 back in the '50’s. All this history began with the early Olds. I cruised Van Nuys Blvd. for several years in a '50 Olds belonging to a friend. Good times! It’s a performance icon that can’t be denied and stands alongside the hemi, sbc.and flathead.


It’s true, there’s a significant history around these cars, but a history only if you are old enough to remember it. Almost everything the 88’s did that was significant was eclipsed pretty quickly by Chevys, Fords and Mopars. Beyond the history, these cars never were a hit with the custom crowd. Give me a dropped, frenched, chopped '50 Merc, or a 2-tone '54 Chevy with that iconic shark tooth grille in front of a warmed up small block Chevy V-8. Now, gaining entry to the custom crowd sparks interest in younger collectors so if there isn’t much to “do” to a Olds 88 then you begin to lose an audience. The more unique models, like the woodie wagons, have value to both purist collectors and younger audiences because they stand apart from everything else. That’s great if you are at a show hoping to see something you’ve never seen before, but that don’t mean all these kids in awe of your frame-off woodie restoration would actually want to own it themselves. I’d love to own a custom Merc, Ford shoebox, or early 50’s Chevy rat rod, but a stock 50’s 88? I’ll pass…


The lead story is sad but true -
I had two neighbors who each purchased new 1950 Olds 88 coupes (not hard-tops). I was 7 yeas old at the time, but well aware of cars. One 88 was owned by the kid next door, probably 20 years old, or so. He maintained it relatively well but it never saw the inside of a garage. The light blue paint oxidized and primer began to show through. The interior fared no better as his family had a couple of dogs that enjoyed riding with him often. Within a very few years. the kid moved out of his parents home, got married, and dumped the 88 for a for a brown Rambler wagon. - so much for appreciating his Olds.
The other neighbor was an older gentleman of foreign extraction, the custodian at my grade school. His 88 coupe was painted a rich metallic green. It lived a great, protected life in his immaculate garage,enjoyed ritual washings and waxings, and was only driven to work at the school, not more than a mile each way. Although not a witness to it, I am positive the interior and mechanical components received the same care.He was very proud of this car which was the envy of all of us junior gearheads. He continued to drive that coupe well past his retirement and well after I left for college in the '60’s. I can still visualize that beautiful green coupe, white walls and all, sitting proudly in his driveway.
I will always have a soft spot for '50 Oldsmobiles and enjoy these never fading memories. I’m 75 now, and certain that my former neighbors have passes on, but still wonder about those coupes. Could they still be out there somewhere? I hope there is still someone out there taking good care of them.


All 1957 Chryslers could have duals or quads depending on the state and respective laws in which they were sold. This is true for Imperials as well.

The black/salmon car is clearly a '57.


I’ve been lusting for one of these, and searching for years now.
Finally the prices are coming down to within my reach.

And BTW, I’ve noticed many collector car prices are tapering off from the crazy prices that have been paid in the recent past.

If anyone has a running project 88 olds for sale in So CA area
please let me know !


The auto industry can also be blamed for the future of the collector cars. If you look at the biggest sector of the markets today it’s all about the trucks and SUV’s. But especially with the SUV they all look basically the same. There is no great design differences that make one stand out from another. So to the younger generations its a ho hum attitude and the only thing they care about is not losing the electronic connection to their world of social media. Just look at cars that you pass and I would venture to say you find few if any of kids looking out the window at cars they are passing. Back in the day I was always looking and dreaming about owning some of the cars you saw on the road.


Have no fear the younger generation is here. As a fellow Classic Car lover & collector at 35 I think I’m young "enuff " to speak for the masses in a way. Me I have had about 15 classic cars rite now. Everything from Ford’s to Caddies to Plymouth s & Mgbs. Couple Jags & a lil Pre war 1924 race car I’m redoing. So believe me I love old cars. It’s something about a handmade car that I love. It’s mainly a thing when it comes to these cars but the future is bright. Technology now allows us to make parts for cars with 3d printing. So as prices come down things will change. Not having to take the car to a shop & fix them yourself is what you have to do, to really be able to own these cars. Working on a 1920s to a 1950 post & pre war car is a blessing . These cars survived all these years to bless us with the history of Craftsmanship that will never again be repeated in history with the materials they had of there time. How can you not appreciate a 70 year old car that starts rite up with fresh gas? Anyone who doesn't like these cars needs to appreciate the time & era of which they where built. I don't understand how people say they love cars but hate classic cars. I love every bump hard shift & thrust my classics have to offer. I would drive a classic car any day over any new car. I have a 2018 car also so I know. Jus to let everyone know it's not that we don't like them. It's jus a thing. Crazy prices for handmade classics pushes out the masses.

It’s hard to not want all the money for something so valuable but in order to keep our hobby alive prices need to come back to earth a bit or we are only gonna have rich guys driving around by themselves. Or looking at them because they paid to much. If you have the money to pay $100k go buy a new Porsche or something leave the classics for the 16 year old kid going to school who will love it. I gotta get new tires for this 65 Galaxie. Gotta go


At 70yrs old, ive had my share of collector cars. i sold my 55 tbird 4 years ago because i could see the handwriting on the wall. as popular as some cars have been, the people who liked them are aging out or dying. im keeping my 65 mustang convertible because i love driving it and am saving it for my daughter who loves it as much as i do. all the ragging on the younger generations irks me no end! have you all forgotten we were young once? as for young people not being interested, i see it as the fact that too many are having to work multiple jobs for minimum wage and simply cant afford a collectible no matter how inexpensive it may be. as far as lazy, i can say my daughter and son in law in their late 20s and all their friends are as hard working as anyone i know, so lets drop this stereotype of our kids and grandkids, if my daughter could afford a collector car, she would have one. also our local shows have embraced the japanese and european cars that these kids love, it helps keep this sport growing so lets be a bit more open minded.


I’m kinda confused as to why you guys would think a 1957 Chrysler couldn’t have single bulb high and low beams? My 1950 Ford has a dimmer switch as did almost every car I ever owned in the 50’s ???


Nonsense, the early 88s were the hot car in the day. That’s the reason the FIRST rock&roll record was “Rocket 88” and why Little Richard included it in his songs. You cannot argue with the success in NASCAR racing. I will agree the stepdown Hudson had better handling so that was indeed an advantage, plus Hudson’s flathead six was actually higher displacement than the early Olds V8s. Add Hudson factory high compression head and factory dual carbs, and you have Doc Hudson. GM did not support racing. That said, younger people today look at a step down Hudson today and think “bathtub” and have no idea it could perform.


That is a ridiculous attitude to take. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. At least you were able to tell what kind, year, make, and model that was coming towards you at least a half mile away, back then. Try that now with the Japanese styling that you youngsters have grown up with. What are you doing on this sight with your sanctimonious attitude. Find one for modern Junk.


I think you are absolutely right. All of the GM cars from 49-54 were ugly. My dad had a 51 Chevy and a 53 Chevy. The body styles were nothing to look at and certainly not collectible!!! You hardly ever see one at a major auction or at a car show. That should tell you something.


Wouldn’t call them “ridiculously ugly” by any stretch of the imagination. But then again, some people thought Pam Anderson was hot, too.
My '51 88-A had no problem getting looks and compliments.


For me, my grandfather was an Oldsmobile guy (he worked at Delco-Remy.)

However, the movie “Rain Man” portraying the unparalleled beauty of an Oldsmobile Convertible from this era, really spoke to me.

Upside down bath tubs? Perhaps. I like curves. On cars and women.

And, roads too, especially with my boy’s corvair, my old bug, or my vw truck.

The relatively young guy (35 is young now, I have to accept that, for it is a memory for me as well) has a point about the economics about classic car ownership.

Also, a point about, being able to work on your own classic, is a valid one as well.

Couple of more things on the economic side, and then I’m done.

New cars, the depreciation is a killer. Sure, breakthrough technology. However; most new cars (21st century) look so much alike it is laughable. Self driving buses/taxis that kind of thing will be in America’s future soon enough to combat this, but for me, that is an incentive to get into classic cars. They’ve all experienced the first wave of depreciation.

What a majority of the complaints about, I believe here now are on the second, or perhaps even 3rd waves of depreciation. These would be the market forces ruthlessly attacking the value of a completely restored classic. Perhaps some of it can be attributed to a disinterested younger generation.

Perhaps some of it can be attributed to a change in society, where car as tool, necessary form of transportation, and not as a work of art on wheels, an expression of the human soul.

This, this, is what all classic cars have in common. Even the ones that aren’t restored. This, this is what modern auto manufactures seem to miss, even when they try to tap into the sentimental vibe of the old classics with tributary models like the PT Cruiser, Chevy HHR, Chevy SSR, Ford T Bird (20th century edition), and VW Beetle.

Most of the money is spent on the tech, and the interior creature comforts. None of it goes towards any artistry on the exterior at all, anymore, if you ask me.



Interesting! What about the National Street Rod Association, Good Guys as well as other national associations? They all allow muscle cars up to certain dates, like the mid 1980s. They even have certain programs just for them, NSRA has programs for the 29 year olds. What is happening is that the younger generations are more interested in War Craft and other mind boggling video games! Not so much as being gearheads.


I remember the first Olds I seen. At least remembered anyway. My oldest brother had a "49 business coupe with the Olds V-8 running 3 carbs, Rochesters I think. Damn thing could lay a patch of rubber a block long. Mom hated it but Dad loved it as did I.


Had a "57 Fury that had quad headlights!


I’m 30 and own a pair of 55 and 57 Oldsmobiles. I’m fascinated with all things old. If I had the money, I’d be the second coming of the great Harold LeMay himeself.

Millennials and and anyone born in the digital age don’t seem to have an eye for craftsmanship. Give me a 50’s car over any 2019 car any day.
This pair are still under restoration.