Package Deal: 1955 Oldsmobile Super 88 Drag Car

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Here’s an exciting project pair. Both cars are 1955 Oldsmobiles. One is a non-running Super 88 and was a drag strip car in a former life. The other is a running, “regular” 88 that might have an interesting future in its own right. It was purchased as a parts car to feed the racer, but the seller also had the idea that one could be used to tow the other to shows – after being restored, of course. Whatever the case, they’re both in Wallingford, Connecticut, and available here on eBay as a package deal for $6,295 (or you can make an offer). Thanks for the really cool tip, Vincent!

Oldsmobile redesigned its cars in 1954, so the ‘55s and ‘56s would evolve from there. There were three models offered in terms of trim, performance, or both: 88, Super 88, and 98. The Super 88 had better trim than the 88 and used the 98’s version of the same 324 cubic inch “Rocket” V8 engine. The 88 had a 2-barrel carburetor rated at 170 hp while the 88 and 98 had a 4-barrel good for another 15 horses. For 1955, Olds built nearly 58,000 of the 88 as a 4-door sedan while the same body style in the Super 88 broke 111,000 units. The cars differed only 55 lbs. in weight, 3,762 vs. 3,707.

Perhaps the relatively low weight of the Super 88 is what attracted someone to convert this orange and green Olds into a drag car back in the day.  As the story goes, the Super 88 was a fixture on the drag circuit in the 1960s and 1970s, most prominently at Connecticut Dragway. It apparently was quite successful as the 31 NHRA class winner stickers on the side window will attest. And faded lettering on the quarter panels validates a New England States Championship in 1966.

At some point, the car likely developed mechanical issues and the racing stopped. The motor is out of the car and from what we can tell everything is there to put it back together. Other than a few tweaks, the Olds is mechanically stock to adhere to NHRA rules at the time for the class the car raced in. It had custom headers made for it, but they’ve run their course and might be good enough to make copies from.

The car has been stored for the last 40 years, with 10 of those being outdoors which would explain the condition of the body and paint on the drag car. There is rust to contend with, and the seller describes the interior as “rough”. The other car, the 88, came out of Nebraska and was intended to be a donor for the Super 88. It has a better body and we’re told it runs but doesn’t stop. The seller had the idea of maybe turning them into a “tow and show” package and acquired a vintage tow bar for that purpose. But things change, and now all of it must go as a package deal.

I think the seller hit on a novel idea with the tow/show thing and if you restored the vehicles to match (swap the placement of where the green and orange go on the second car) what a nifty sight the pair would make at a car guy’s event. The Super 88 is sold with an old registration and a bill of sale, while the 88 has a title. For someone with vision, this could be an interesting project!

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Comments

  1. nlpnt

    I’d keep the green paired with white on the “tow” car, but otherwise I agree on that idea.

    Like 2
  2. joe smith

    Great memories. My dad had 3 55s. One bought new, one 4 Dr sedan with a stick. And a near duplicate of the 2 Dr HT bought new.
    Don’t remember seeing this one at Connecticut dragway.

    Like 2
    • al

      Joe I remember Connecticut dragway I was there for most of 1963 to 1964 when where you there my sister and I both ran gstock she in 1963 Impala convertible 250 HP 327 4 speed me in 1958 Impala 2dr ht 250 HP 348 3 speed stick great times

      Like 7
      • Joe Smith

        I was there a little later, late sixties early seventies. They were still running classes, brackets came shortly after. I remember the New Breed drag team running beautiful tri fives. Some real clean cars Butterfield and kiss Camaro. And my favorite Peacemaker 67 442.
        Funny cars in the 7’s
        Good times

        Like 0
  3. HoA Howard AMember

    Weeeell, the only ’55 Olds drag car I can find, is a 2 door gasser with drop front axle. I think what we have here folks, is junior “inherited” Auntie Evelyns car, and made the best of it. Stickers don’t prove much, and may have raced it on Sat. night. Oldsmobiles moment in the sun with the Rocket 88 and their stock car fame faded considerably by 1955 to more sedate cars, the kind your relatives bought. Makes a nice story though. I see a lot of this stuff baking in the sun out here, where apparently, junkyards are peoples back yards, with no interest and 4 “watchers”and no bids, confirms that fact.

    Like 4
    • 57Chevy

      Howard, you must be in the middle of Kansas or Nebraska as that’s just what I saw driving thru those states. Old cars sitting in peoples yards just rotting away!

      Like 1
  4. Dave

    I know exactly where these cars are. Practically broke my neck as we drove past them in the parking lot. I dont remember it at Connecticut Dragway ( Now Consumer Reports Test Track) either, but I wasn’t a real fan in those years. Just one of them would be a real project for me, I can’t imagine two.

    Like 3
  5. Will Fox

    A four-door drag car? Hmm…forgive me but you don’t see this configuration at the quarter mile too often,if at all! I bet in it’s day, that 88 sedan could scoot! Wish I was there back then to witness it!

    Like 5
  6. Kenneth Carney

    Get ’em both roadworthy and restore
    ’em. You sure don’t see too many of these at your local car show. The drag car would make a great sleeper
    with a freshened up 324 running a cam, headers, and a J2 manifold off
    a ’57 mill. Ditch the tranny it has and
    add a beefed up T400 to the mix and
    presto! instant sleeper! You’ve got a
    real winner with the car that runs.
    Just add brakes, tires, and drive.
    Whichever way you go, you’re sure to come out a winner.

    Like 2
    • Chris Eakin

      The Hydramatic used to be THE transmission for dragracing given the right treatment and there are probably still people who could do it, but the T400 might be less expensive just because parts are easier to find.

      Like 0
      • Rick Stoehr

        A trick used to “perk up” the stock COP (Cad, Olds, Pontiac) Hydramatics involved placing a spark plug washer under the line pressure plug that was on the outside of the transmission case, raising the line pressure and causing firmer shifts and vastly improving the low end performance of these heavier cars. Screw up, (l know from experience myself) and the torque of a stock bodied 324 4 barrel ‘55 Olds would bark the tires in all 4 up shifts if you placed 2 spark plug washers to raised the line pressure! It would also quickly kill the trans but it was fun while it lasted….

        Another little tidbit. Running a blown 394 Olds backed by the B&M version of the GM Hydromatic absolutely dominated the Gasser classes for a number of years during the 60’s!

        Like 0
  7. 57Chevy

    I thinks these piecers will be stuck in Ct.

    Like 3
  8. William Maceri

    I always admire a guy’s passion for cars, no matter what cars he has. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s only skin deep. A guy would need a ton of passion for the 55 Oldsmobiles. In the mid-50s those were mostly GM placeholders in between all the other GM brands flooding the streets. As a kid I remember seeing them all over the place. To me they were just big non descriptive cruisers with no real personality. It’s cousins were a lot more popular, and better looking. That said, Oldsmobile definitely earned its place in history, one of the original US auto brands, and many automotive engineering firsts, and for that I have respect. IMO, the 1959 model year was Oldsmobiles’ most attractive. In fact they were down right pretty, with beautiful fins and taillights. The 62 Starfires were also good-looking, but for the rest of the 60s they were just big, like railroad box cars. Aside from the mid-70s Cutless Supremes being the top selling car in the US, I can’t really remember what the 98 Regencys even looked like. Oh there was one more Oldsmobile headline. They were the first GM cars that took 350 cid V8s and converted them to Deisels which ranks as one of GM’s biggest blunders. Even my grandmother would know not to do that. But GM also has the Corvair and the Vega competing for the biggest blunder award. Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac and Chevrolet all overshadowed the Oldsmobiles through the 90s. In any event, I’m no one to question a man’s passion for a car, or cars. I therefore wish the best to who ever takes on these two beauties. That’s what makes the world go around. Thanks for a great post.

    Like 2
    • 57Chevy

      Wm., I don’t have enough fingers & toes to count how many cars I’ve had in my life, but I must say that my favorite of All of them was my ’55 Olds 2 Dr. Hdtp. Super 88.!!!!! Coral & White!

      Like 6
      • 88 Rocket Rick

        At age 5 I watched my folks buy a brand new 1955 Olds Super 88 Holiday Hardtop Coupe from Cline Oldsmobile on University Ave in St Paul MN. It too was coral & white with a matching leather coral & white interior. A drop dead gorgeous car that stood tall among any of the stylishly similar 2 dr hardtop coupes of the era.
        I’ve had a thing for Oldsmobiles and Olds powered vehicles of that era ever since that day!
        Go Rocket 88!

        Like 7
  9. al

    Oldsmobile was always gm experiential car any new thing would first be offered on olds if it proved to be good and popular with no problems than it would be offered on caddy and Buick main reason diesel was offed only in olds it failed was never offered in caddy or buick

    Like 1
    • Derek

      Better check your facts al, Buick did in fact have diesel optioned lesabres in the lineup. There weren’t many made but, you could get it. Buick and Olds regularly interchanged engine options in the early 80’s shuffle to appease the C.A.R.B. and C.A.F.E. standards. You just never see those early 80’s Olds diesels on the road anymore in their original form because they’ve been swapped and debadged or they’re in the scrap pile or nearest can of Campbell’s soup cans.

      Like 3
  10. V12MECH

    40 years ago you could show up at the dragstrip on a Wednesday or Thursday night , ” a thin field”, and with your dad’s 6 cylinder Chevelle, make a half dozen passes in your “class”, maybe a couple against a real race car , but you got a 10 second head start, go home with a nice trophy and a class winner sticker!

    Like 2
    • joe smith

      Perhaps, if your Chevell runs consistent et’s on the hundredth and your reaction times are consistently low.
      Bracket racing shifts the competition on to the driver.

      Like 0
    • HoA Howard AMember

      Union Grove had “grudge racing” on Sat. night. For a couple bucks, you could pop the hubcaps off, turn the air cleaner cover over( that did nothing) and run grandpas Nova or dads Olds. Didn’t matter, just good ol’ boy(or girl) fun. Got us off the streets. The cars were so well made, repairs were few, just explaining the bald back tire was the issue. The fun part, was most dads( not mine) couldn’t complain, as they did the same thing with THEIR old mans Nash out on airport road.

      Like 1
  11. V12MECH

    It’s a simple explanation for those who may not be aware how a slug with an automatic, that might run 17’s with a tail wind could get some gold, if nothing else in that weight/h.p. -time bracket shows up , you collect alot of stickers over a summer or 2 .

    Like 1
  12. Joe

    I grew up in Wallingford and remember seeing the Olds around during the 70s I remember it being in a garage in the Yalesville section of town then it ended up outside a small shop for years good to see it back out hopefully someone saved it.

    Like 1
  13. 5

    Rick, I never used those washers you were talking about & My ’55 Olds Super 88 would bark the tires from the start thru each shift except the shift into 4th gear!

    Like 0
    • Rick

      Really! With the exception of my ‘55 2dr sedan tire chirper everything I had was “as is” and well used. All I can say is Oldsmobile V8’s never failed to impress! Not until the EPA bandaid mandates got ahead of the technology.

      My last “big” Olds was a 1970 Cutlass XS which was basically a 442 with a bit upscale interior and a 455 with a 2 barrel carb. 14mpg in town, on the highway or pulling a plywood 18’ cabin cruiser, it didn’t matter. In typical Oldsmobile style I might add and really rough on rear tires from time to time…..

      Like 0
  14. Scott

    My dad used to run three Napa stores in Ft. Wayne,IN. and had an 83 Buick LeSabre diesel that he gave to me when I started my family in the early 90’s. It had 250,000 miles on it and just had head gaskets put on and got 34 miles per gallon and hauled my wife,myself and 3 kids until it had 335,000 mile. I sold it to get a truck and it still ran great but needed injectors. Great car.

    Like 0

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