No Limits Magazine from the Auto History Preservation Society
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Wednesday October 1, 2014
Membership Drive, '54 Olds Sports Car, Other News Stories, Check Out Our Ads, Thousands of Road Tests, Hundreds of Brochures, & More!

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1963 Cobra Ad

The Cobra Story - a Focused View
into the 1963-67 Car

Jerry Lester Gran Torino

Check Out Jerry & Sue Lesters'
1972 351 CJ Ford Gran Torino

Cro-Sal Olds 455

Oldsmobile's Twin Turbo
Can-Am Aluminum 455!

1959 Ramchargers High 7 Mighty

Ramchargers Stories - Part 04
The "High & Mighty"

1963 Pontiac 421 GP

Big Bad Boys - Muscle Cars
did not start with the 1964 GTO!

1963 Ford-Mercury 427

Ford's FE Big Block Story
Part 1 - 1958 through 1965

1972 44s W-30 Test

The Big Sleep: Performance in the
In-Between Years 1971-1982

1962 Max wedge 413

Chrysler's"RB" Wedge Development Through the Years

1970 Chevelle LS6

1970 - Screaming the loudest
before you die!


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1954 Olds F-88 Sports Car

This view shows that the 1954 F-88 was much more handsome
and powerful looking than the "sister" Corvette.

The F-88 Interior

The F-88 interior was very, very modern for 1954, with true
bucket seats, leather, and all the most modern and luxurious appointments for its day - power windows, steering, brakes.

An electric Folding top

An electric folding top in a convertible sports car was unheard
of in 1954 - a hidden one was even more so. The Corvette
had plastic side curtains (windows) that needed to be stowed
by hand and a manual folding top .

324 CID 270 HP V8

The 324 CID V8 sported two 4-barrel cabs, ultra high
compression and a hot cam. The 270 HP was conservative!
Compare that to the '54 Corvette's straight six's 150 HP.

324 CID 270 HP V8

How close to production was the car? Here's an "Interior
Color Choices" brochure that was handed out.


1954 Olds F-88 Sports Car: Part One - Why the F88?

Could it have saved the "Rocket" from extinction?by AHPS Staff - reprint with permission only

Maybe you don't know what the F-88 was or you think we mis-typed F-85; nope, we were right on with our nomenclature. You see the F-88 was that famous 1954 Motorama Oldsmobile sports car that was auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson for over $3 million a few years ago.

You might ask how a 55 year-old show car could have saved Oldsmobile - after all selling the car for $3 million wouldn't have even made the footnotes in Lansing's budget in 2004, the last year of operation. Well, selling off an old concept car isn't what this article is about. What we are talking about is how moving the F-88 to production would have and could have changed the Oldsmobile brand in the eyes of the public and even perceptions at GM.

For those of you who either are yawning or think we are nuts, please look at the picture of this car and follow along - humor us if you will. Let's talk a little about the car, and not about what happened just yet. You see, the F-88 was designed to be build as a real sports luxury car and it was designed concurrently with the C1 Corvette.

GM Gets Sporty.

Buick had released their Skylark sports luxury car in 1953 to add "pop" to their newly introduced V8. Though considered  a similar concept to the Corvette and called a "sports car" - it was a "sport luxury car" and it was built on a modified Buick Chassis. Think 1962 Ford Thunderbird.

With the F-88, Olds, on the other hand, took the idea embodied in the Buick LeSabre and Wildcat sports car concepts and went one better. They were thinking luxury, handling, high performance and sharp leading-edge styling. As such, they went one better than the early Vette, because they tapped into just about to burst performance market. They correctly saw that any "sports car" had to have some hefty zip and not just styling zap.

The F-88 was not supposed to be just another pretty face, but in fact contained all the pieces of what we know the performance puzzle was coming to be back then, and for 1954, super dramatic: 270 HP V8, 4-speed auto transmission, low center of gravity; even BUCKET SEATS and a CONSOLE. Trust us, this was earth-shattering in the day. And unlike the Corvette of 1953-54, it had roll up windows (electric) and a working electric hideaway folding top!

More importantly, the car was not a styling buck; you know, a fiberglass rendering on a non-rolling chassis with no power. No, the F-88 ran, drove and was completely capable of production, having been tested and evaluated during the period from mid-1953 until it debuted at the 1954 Motorama. It was so production-ready that Harley Earl, GM's chief stylist, had a copy made for his personal use, which he drove for almost 10 years! A third car had been produced and it was the "mule" used to test the car's roadworthiness - over 20,000 miles worth.

To put this car in perspective, in 1954 Olds stated that it was faster than any US production car and could out-handle and out brake anything on the road. If you look it its credentials, it was likely true, Fast forward to 1957 and consider this same car fitted with a 312 HP 371 cu. in. Olds J-2 and think how it would have crushed even the FI Corvette with its 283 HP given they would have been the same weight.

Was it better than the Corvette? By a landslide (and much more expensive), but unfortunately its positives became its downfall.

Olds Go Power Gets a No GO

If it was so great, why didn't go to production? Did Olds lose interest? Nope. Did the penny-pinching accountants kill it? Nope.

It's potential success stopped it. When Olds indicated that they were considering the car for production, the howl from Chevrolet could be heard as far away as California. Why? Well, consider that the C1 Corvette, even with the V8 finally appearing in 1955, was considered a styling flop and it was already a sales dud, and you begin to get the picture

Chevrolet successfully argued that there was not enough "room" for two "sports cars" from GM in the sports car marketplace - though the people Olds were chasing weren't likely to buy a 'Vette in the first place - no they went and bought a Thunderbird in a 5 to 1 ratio over Corvette, much to Chevy and GM's chagrin. Common thought is that the F-88 could have stolen 50% of the Thunderbird sales through 1955-57 or about 26,000 units - in the five-year period 1953-1957 Corvette only sold a TOTAL of 14,146 units

In fact, in the three years of two seat production T-Bird sold 53,166 - almost as many cars as Corvette sold in its 10 years up to the '63. Sting Ray. So which idea  for the sports car market was better; Chevy's or Olds/Thunderbird? The market was there - Chevrolet did not properly exploit it - the F-88 would have - because it had the Thunderbird beat in every way possible.

But Let's Go Back to Why It Came to Be

Before we go its death, even before it had a chance to live, let's tell the story of the F-88 and how it came to be. Back in the heyday 1950's, all the manufacturers were excited about power and performance, and all were releasing new and powerful OHV 8s, flashy styling exercises and such to capture the public's imagination and promote their models.

Olds, having had the OHV V8 since 1949, and who at the time enjoyed a reputation as GM's performance car, was somewhat ahead of the curve, and saw no reason to do anything like a mocked up concept car like that. Olds was considered the "engineering" division and had taken on experimental and early production "tests" for the last few decades, for example having worked to help develop, produce and sell the Hydramatic trans when Cadillac and Buick saw it as "too risky a venture" back in 1938 . . .

To read Part One of the story - Click HERE

To read Part Two of the story - Click HERE

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