Oldsmobile Golden Rocket

General Motors was more circumspect with its concept cars than its 1950s competitors. It had evolved an annual show called the General Motors Motorama which travelled from city to city giving potential customers a close look at the company’s latest models.

Each year, the star of the show was a one-off machine that incorporated the most extreme thinking of the designers, stylists and engineers who created the production models that people actually bought and drove. The difference was that all GM’s concept cars, up there on the platform amid the `000hs’ and `aaahs’ and the glitzy lighting, were equally driveable.

Behind the glamorous presentation and the ‘shocking’ extremity of design was a carefully graded marketing exercise which might, as the Corvette had already proved, take fire in the public imagination, and create a whole new production success.

The Oldsmobile Golden Rocket Concept car of 1956 typified General Motors’ ability to dramatize stylistic and technical innovation. It looked like an aggressive shark flanked by the fuselages of two fighter planes, with their chrome propeller cones as bumpers (pretty but ineffective, since the ‘shark’ nose protruded by several inches in the middle).

With its wraparound front and split rear windows tapering into a teardrop, and arrow-flight fins curling slightly outwards above the slimmed sweep of the cigar-tube rear profile, the all-golden car really did suggest a rocket. It embodied the future. Open a door, and a roof panel raised automatically, the seat rose three inches and swivelled outwards, and the steering wheel tilted for better access.

The Golden Rocket was full of ergonomic and technical innovations which influenced whole generations of production vehicles. It was everything a concept car should be —sacrificing safety considerations (the car would never be made in this form) for a glimpse of attainable desire. A beautiful and clever car.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

USA

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1956

ENGINE:

5.3 l (324 cid) V8

PERFORMANCE:

N/A

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

The Golden Rocket Concept car starred in several Motorama travelling shows. Its ‘wow!’ factor tempted General Motors into naming a 1957 production series the Golden Rocket 88, but these cars, though a close relative, looked nothing like the concept original. The only surviving concept model changed hands for $3.24 million.

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