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Home/Technical Info/Oldsmobile/ 11. Car Models Described/
Oldsmobile 1949-1953: The Early Rocket V8 Years


In 1949 Oldsmobile introduced two hot items: the 98 2-door Holiday Hardtop and the famous 303 CID "Rocket" OHV V-8.
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Article Name File Name
1949 Oldsmobile Production 1949_Olds_Production_-_All_Series.pdf
1950 Oldsmobile Production 1950_Production_1.pdf
1951 Oldsmobile Production 1951_Olds_Production_1.pdf
1952 Oldsmobile Production 1952_Olds_Production_1.pdf
1953 Oldsmobile Production 1953_Olds_Production_1.pdf
 
 
 
 
 

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By Society Staff – reprint with permission only

1949 Rocket Oldsmobiles
In 1949, all Oldsmobiles received the Futuramic styling. That modern styling also received the modern under hood boost it deserved - the new high-compression 303 overhead valve "Rocket V-8" engine. Coupled with the time-proven HydraMatic, the first real postwar Oldsmobiles were dynamite performers.

The big-engined/small-bodied Rocket 88 Series was king of the road and champ of the budding NASCAR stock car racing circuit in these early 1950s. With the Hydramatic, as no manual transmission was available early on, the Rocket won 5 out of 8 races in 1949. In 1950, Olds made the victory lane 10 out of 19 times

When introduced in 1949, the 303 CID V8 made 135 HP at 3,600 RPM and had a high - for the time - and had a compression ratio of 7.25:1. It was fitted with a Rochester dual downdraft carburetor. Both the 98 and 88 received this engine.

Eighty-Eight Oldsmobiles had an expanded chrome trim on the bottom of the front fenders with "Futuramic" embossed into the stamping. Above this trim stood "88" in chrome. Otherwise, the car was indistinguishable from the 76 (6-cylinder) line. Ninety-Eight Oldsmobiles also had the expanded chrome trim on the bottom of the front fenders with "Futuramic" embossed into the stamping; however, no  "98" was located above this moniker. Olds used the this year to introduce its popular two-door Holiday hardtop coupe model in the 98 line.

1950 Rocket Oldsmobiles
For 1950, a Holiday Hardtop Coupe was added to the 76 and 88 lines and another milestone - this marked the last year for a station wagon until 1958.

The 88 model with its Rocket V8 was one of the hottest performers available off the showroom floor. Body and chassis were almost identical to the Seventy-Six series with the exception of "88" embossed into the tail light housings. Standard and DeLuxe equipment packages were identical to those listed for the 76.

The 1950 Ninety-Eights differed significantly from other series cars and more closely resembled upcoming 1951 models. Still Rocket powered, it was considered sleek and swift in its day.

1951 Rocket Oldsmobiles
Gone for 1951 was the long-running inline six cylinder engine. Going forward, only a pair of chassis sizes and series would be offered - 88 and 98s.

The new middle "Super 88" series was styled completely differently from the low-price Eighty-Eight series and had more in common with the 98s. With its five body styles, the Super 88 offered the Olds buyer more selections than the other Olds series the result was almost 150,000 Super 88s were sold!

The 98 was, of course, the top of the line Oldsmobile for 1951. Three body styles were available, with the four door sedan and convertible featuring only DeLuxe equipment while the Holiday coupe could be had in either DeLuxe or Standard trim. But the competition was catching up and more Rocket boost would be needed to move the 98 line - help was on the way.

1952 Rocket Oldsmobiles
For 1952, Oldsmobile maintained its three-series hierarchy with the low-price DeLuxe 88, the Super 88 and the 98 - with the two 88 series cars sitting on the same chassis and differentiated only by content and trim. The 98 series now shared with Super 88s a new, higher-output, 303 CID 160 horsepower Rocket V-8. By a new Rochester 4GC 4-barrel the Rocket got the boost it needed.

For the lowly DeLuxe 88, 145 horsepower version of the Rocket V-8 was fitted - this with the earlier 2-barrel carburet ion offered from 1949-51. The Super 88 lineup was the most popular Olds series and with reason. It was now fitted with the 160 HP Rocket.

The 98 continued its long-standing position as the top-line model.  The series shared the new, higher output, 160 horsepower Rocket V-8 with the Super 88. It needed it with weights climbing to 4,111 for the convertible and the hardtop not far behind.

1953 Rocket Oldsmobiles
Oldsmobiles for 1953 were the first fitted with a 12 volt electrical system. Oldsmobile continued to offer a relatively modest bottom series with just two body styles available in the DeLuxe 88. Again, a lower horsepower version of the Rocket was exclusive to this series. Oldsmobile's middle series, the Super 88, offered the largest variety of body styles and sold the most cars.

The Super 88 was very similar in appearance to the DeLuxe 88. The Super 88 continued to share the higher horsepower version of the Rocket V-8 with the Ninety-Eight, something that would continue into the '60s.

Coming out of the Korean War, the economy was booming, and as a result, production for 1953 soared to 332,086 units. The Super 88 led the way with 198,951, and, in a great surprise, the 98 sold 100,330 units.  The DeLuxe 88 once again trailed way behind with only 32,805, and Oldsmobile management briefly considered dropping it

The big news was that the normally plush Ninety-Eight series got an even richer limited production model late in the year, called the Fiesta - a custom convertible. As was the practice at Oldsmobile, this model foreshadowed many 1954 styling features, such as a curved windshield. The Fiesta also had virtually every Olds option offered as standard equipment except for air conditioning.

To keep the horsepower hungry public satisfied, the Rocket engine's compression ratio was increased to 8.50:1 adding 5 more HP, but more important it took advantage of the 4GC carburetor's air flow.

However Olds knew that they had maxed out the potential of the 303 CID V-8. Without radical camshaft timing or ultra-high compression the engine would be stuck at about 175 HP. A change for the Rocket was in the wings and performance would rise. The 324 CID Rocket was coming.

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The 1950 98 Convertible's body was new, but the Rocket was the same - pumping out its solid 135 HP.

The 1951 Olds 98 Convertible was solid Luxury, but it was The 1951 Olds 98 Convertible was solid Luxury, but it was 1949 - even as the cars grew in size and weight.

The 1952 Olds 98 Convertible was the most impressive of the Oldsmobiles offered, and it now boasted a 160 HP 303 CID Rocket V8.

The 1953 Olds 88 Hardtop was a majestic machine. Upping the compression on the 303 CID Rocket netted only 5 HP on paper, but the engine was more responsive with the 4-barrel carb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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