A lot happened on the American automobile scene in 1949, and Oldsmobile’s contribution was the overhead-valve Rocket V8 engine, which replaced the company’s elderly flathead straight eight.
This awesome power plant was a great selling point and Olds swiftly put their new baby in cars that did it justice. This annoyed General. Motors stablemate Cadillac/LaSalle (hitherto offering GM’s only V8) but Oldsmobile pressed on regardless, forcing Cadillac to upsize their own V8 in order to remain top dog.
Oldsmobile’s Futuramic range had been launched in 1948, before the new engine was available, but when the Rocket arrived it was dropped into the Futuramic 88, a last-minute addition to the ’49 lineup. The result was a breathtaking car that set new performance standards. Though the newly developed Rocket was also fitted to the top-of-the-range Futuramic 98, the 88 left the heavier car breathing tire smoke.
The 88’s outstanding performance was complemented by a handsome appearance, with a range of body styles. It was offered as a four-door sedan, four-door town sedan, two-door club sedan, two-door club coupe convertible and four-door station wagon, the latter having an all-steel body with imitation wood trim to maintain a traditional wagon look. America took to this special car big time, with a tad short of 100,000 units sold in 1949. The following year a two-door Holiday hardtop was added and the word was really out, with overall sales more than doubling.
The 88 also dominated NASCAR stock-car racing, underlining its competitive edge. It was revamped for 1951 but the winning name was too good to lose and the evolving model remained in production until 1999. This 1949 muscle car is still a pokey ride today, so the modern driver can appreciate the impact, made when it first appeared half a century ago.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1949 (until 1950)
5.0 I (303 cid) OHV V8
Top speed of 90 mph (km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 12,2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Valuable publicity was always given to the pace car selected for the high-profile Indianapolis 500 race at the historic Brickyard – and in 1949 that honor went to an Oldsmobile Futuramic 88.