No Limits Magazine from the Auto History Preservation Society
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- "Preserving the past for the Future". Resources for the Historian, Researcher, and the Enthusiast -
Friday March 6, 2015
Oldsmobile from 1954 to 1958 - Bigger, Badder and then Bloated. Tech, News, Period Ads, Road Tests, Brochures, Magazines and More!

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Bonno 1957 Chevrolet

This 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is James Bonno's Legacy to his Father

1957 Fuel Injected Pontiac Bonneville

Pontiac 1955-1958 - From Stodgy
L-Head Straight Eights to Hot V-8s!

1966 Olds Toronado Cutaway

1966 Toronado Makes US Front
Wheel Drive Cars a Reality

1964 Plymouth Sport Fury Hardtop

Plymouth 1961-65: From
Disaster to Stability

1950 Mercury Coupe

Mercury's Post War "Flathead" Years

1949 Olds 98 Holiday Hardtop

The Oldsmobile 303 Rocket Years

1968 GTO COTY Ad

The Pontiac Performance Years

1956 Plymouth Belvedere

The Plymouth "Forward Look"
Years Detailed

1961 Starfire

GM Personal Luxury Cars
1961-65

1970 Performance Car Chronicles

What We're Preserving
and How We Store It

July 1969 Car Life Magazine

The Treasures of the Society's Magazine Archive

The 1957 DeSoto Adventurer

1946-1961 DeSoto
A Great Brand Declines

The 1946 Hudson

Hudson 1946-1957
The Slow Demise

1950 Packard Convertible

Packard 1946-1958
The Post-War Story

Jessi and Kurt Celebrate AHPS

Jessi Lang - Sometimes Winning Comes in Short Little Laps.

1955 Olds F-88

1954 Olds F-88 Sports Car
Part Two - Why NOT the F-88??

The first Mustang- 1965

Mustang: 50 Years on the Road

1965 Pontiac 2+2 and GTO Ad

The Paper Chase Part 1
Selling the Sizzle

1963 Cobra Ad


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


From the Automotive History Preservation Society
Oldsmobile 1954-1958 - The Rocket Grows in Size and Power!

1957 Super 88 Convertible

By 1957 Oldsmobile had won the hearts of buyers for clean lines, more than ample power and reasonably-priced luxury. This 1957 Super 88 Convertible could be had with a 300 HP triple-carbed J-2 Rocket V-8.

1954 Olds 88 2-Door Hardtop

The new kid on the block for Olds in 1954 was the 88 line's
2-door Holiday Hardtop Coupe. This model contributed
heavily to the increase in sales for that year
.

1955 Olds Super 88 4-Door Hardtop

The new 1955 Super 88 4-door hardtop sold 47,385 units
in its introductory year. It had the style and performance of the
2-door hardtop and the convenience of a traditional 4-door sedan
.

1956 Oldsmobile 98 Convertible

The 1956 Oldsmobile 98 convertible was called the "Starfire 98".
It sold well, given it was the highest priced car in the Olds
line, with 8,581 delivered.

1957 Olds Super 88 2-Door Hardtop

The 1957 Super 88 2-door hardtop is a collector's favorite,
but it lost out in sales to the lower-priced 88 2-door, likely
because for 1957 the famous 4-barrel Rocket V-8
was standard in the lower priced car.

1958 Dynamic 88 2-Door Hardtop

The 1958 Dynamic 88 2-door hardtop was a popular seller, and 35,036 were delivered. While a 2-barrel Rocket was the standard
V-8, powerplants all the way to the J-2R 325 HP engine could be had.

1957-58 371 CID Rocket V-8

The 1957-1958 Rocket was a very potent V-8. In 1958, with
the J-2 option producing 312 HP, but with the lightest Olds
weighing 4,100 lbs., top end was a driver's goal.

1957 Olds J-2 Brochure

The 1957 J-2 Triple Carburetor Option was so unique to
Olds Vehicles that a special brochure was developed to
explain it to customers. The emphasis was on "safe
passing", not on stop light getaway.
Click on the Brochure picture above to read or download it.

By Society Staff – reprint with permission only

Maintaining a Performance Reputation While Expanding the Customer Base

In retrospect, it is easy to fault Oldsmobile for slowly moving away from hard-edged performance in the years 1954-58. But, in fact, that's not what happened. During that period you could still get a pretty hot ship from your Oldsmobile dealer, it's just that the Division ceded the raw performance of the early 50s to Chevrolet and Pontiac, while moving upstream to capture more affluent buyers who wanted some luxo-show with their go.

Did raw performance suffer? To some degree, yes, but on a 30 MPH roll . . . maybe not. Let's follow the progression here.

1954 Oldsmobiles - adding Hardtops Across the Board
A rather complete styling change was made across the board for Oldsmobile in 1954 with the car losing some of its blockiness and showing a more rounded appearance. One of the most noticeable 1954 features was the "panoramic" wrap-around windshield previewed on the limited-production 1953 Fiesta. Some new two-toning options were added to the Oldsmobile line as well. Wheelbase was up two inches on both models, and a new chassis was featured.

The big news was the upgraded Rocket V-8, now with new cylinder heads and displacing 324 cubic inches. A 4-barrel carbureted, 185 HP horsepower V-8 was shared between the 98 and Super Eighty-Eight models. Gone was the rather misleading "DeLuxe Eighty-Eight" base model descriptor with merely "88," "Super 88," and "98" to describe the model lines.

Production for the model year was 351,634, up slightly from 1953's 332,086. A significant portion of the gain was in the base 88 series where a 2-door Holiday Hardtop Coupe was now offered

1955 Oldsmobiles - More Models More Power
In 1955 the '54 look was further softened and the grille took on a more oval shape with, as before, the more massive bumper completing the circle. The front fenders were peaked above the headlights, the wheel openings were more oval-like, and their trailing edges swept back toward the rear adding a feeling of motion when standing still. The roof lines were similar to 1954, but the car appeared slimmer and more streamlined, though, in actuality, it was not. Two-tone paint schemes were more widely used.

The Rocket V-8 sported higher compression and the Super 88 and 98 engine moved over the magical 200 HP mark.

Production jumped dramatically in 1955 across all of GM's lines, but no more so than Oldsmobile, which showed an increase to 583,179. This was 230,000-plus over 1954's 351,634.

It is said that the new 4-door Holiday Hardtop drove a majority of these new sales, but only 119,962 of this body style were sold across all series lines. The remaining 120,000 in increased sales was attributable to the increase in all the lines and most of all to the popularity of the 2-door Hardtop.

1956 Oldsmobiles - Production Drops but the Car Gets Better
For 1956, 21 factory colors were available with 26 sanctioned two-tone layouts. For the first time since the introduction of the Rocket V-8, the 88 Series outsold the Super 88. A second automatic transmission was added - the "Jetaway" Hydra-Matic.

The '56 bodies were more rounded, the hood rocket less intrusive, and the front bumper and grille were one complete oval unit. Instead of the two, small "jet intakes" of 1955, the entire opening now looked like one with a vertical center divider set back from the bulging oval.

The rear was more familiar, however, with the rocket taillights even more pronounced. Roof lines were more lithe, and the sedans were closer in appearance to the hardtops. The trim did a better job of accentuating the length of the car. In other enhancements, the 324 V-8 now featured 9.25:1 compression and 230/240 HP.

For 1956, production dropped by almost 100,000 to 485,458, but it was still well over 1954's 351,634 and the second-best production year ever

1957 Oldsmobiles - Perhaps the best looking '50s Olds Debuts
A restyle greeted Olds buyers for 1957. At the front, the oval grille and bumper was even more massive, but cleaned up. It was narrower in height and had the parking lamps inside the oval. "Oldsmobile" in large block letters spanned across the opening.

The "world" logo that had appeared on the front of the hood since 1949 was even more stylized and stretched horizontally to cover 1/3 of the hood face. The rocket hood ornament was reduced to a spear-like chrome strip, and a small replica of the former hood ornament was placed on each fender at the top over the headlights.

The sides of the body were a bit more rounded, and the "rocket tube" bulges trailing back from the beginning of the rear quarter were made more prominent. At the rear, the tail lights were no longer real teardrops but now were inset oval lenses still bringing to mind a jet exhaust.

Olds buyers could order a station wagon for the first time since 1950. The biggest news, however, was an engine size increase of 47 cubic inches to a massive 371 CID. Horsepower was way up, too, at 277, and there was no two-barrel carbureted engine, all lines received the 4-barrel Rocket V-8. A new option was the "J-2 Rocket" with three two-barrel carburetors, making a magical 300 HP.

Model year production peaked at 355,476 units, a significant drop from the previous year, and back to the range of 1953-1954 production. Management didn't realize it, but a recession was eating into sales.

1958 Oldsmobiles - What Happened to My Oldsmobile?
While the 1957 chassis and running gear were unchanged from the previous year, the body had a major restyle in 1958. For whatever reason, Harley Earl, the head of GM design, became obsessed with chrome and massive front/rear fascias. From smooth, curvaceous cars, Oldsmobile went to a blocky, chrome-laden jukebox.

At the front, dual headlights dominated, outlined in bright metal, making them appear even larger, The oval grille of previous years was replaced with a squarish piece set off by a massive front bumper protruding at the corners with very large parking lights. The hood was not rounded and flowing, but rather a squarish waterfall with "Oldsmobile" was spelled out on the face in 2.5" high block letters.

The side of the car was festooned with acres of bright metal, and the "rocket tube" culminated in a round taillight designed to look like an active jet exhaust. The entire top of the rear fender was capped with a chrome fin from the C pillar to the taillight. The rear was even more garish, with two "gun sights" attached to the squared-off trunk and were seemingly to fill up the large surface. Four backup lights - two to a side - were inset into the massive rear bumper.

While the car was not much heavier than its predecessor, the effect was a ponderous, ungainly road hog. This was especially noticeable to the buyer when placed next to a '57 Olds, which, while huge, looked lithe by comparison.

The ungainly (some say "ugly") styling and the deepening recession did not have a good effect on sales. Model year production peaked at 299,657 units - a significant  drop from the previous year and back to the range of 1953. The last gasp of Harley Earl was a devastating mistake . . . .

To Read More About the 1954-58 Oldsmobiles - Click HERE and Select your Year

To learn About the 1955-58 Oldsmobile Rocket
V-8s - Click Here

To see a 1956 Oldsmobile Road Test - Click Here

To see 1954-58 Oldsmobile Factory Ads - Click Here and pick your Year

To see 1954-58 Oldsmobile Factory Brochures - Click Here and pick your Yea


Help Us! We need the 1957 and 1958 Oldsmobile Large "Prestige" Brochures to scan!
(We will return them to you). Contact Eric White at eric.white@ahpsoc.org if you can help.

 


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