371 Tri-Power: 1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 Survivor

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In 1957 there was really no such thing as a muscle car. That’s what makes this ’57 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Hardtop a special vehicle. The original owner ordered it with a rare engine upgrade, making this one of the most potent American sedans on the market at the time. This one is a two-owner classic that has a genuine 54,000 miles on the clock. It isn’t perfect, but returning it to that state should not be difficult. If you feel that you are up to the challenge, you will find this Olds located in Phoenix, Arizona, and listed for sale here on Craigslist. You can park it in your garage for $18,500. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder MattR for referring this beauty to us.

It seems that this Oldsmobile has led a slightly adventurous life. The original owner drove the car fairly regularly from the day it left the dealership until he placed it into storage in 1983. At some point during those active years, that owner was involved in a minor fender bender. The damage was purely cosmetic, and part of the repair involved repainting the front clip. Otherwise, the remaining Banff Blue paint that graces its panels is original. It isn’t perfect because there are a few chips and scrapes across the vehicle. Having said that, the paint still manages to exhibit a healthy shine. As with the paint, the panels have also accumulated a few minor dings and dents. They are all repairable, and I can see no reason why a buyer would need to resort to panel replacement. The ever-present question of rust will not cause lost sleep because the car is rock solid. The chrome and trim are in excellent order, as is most of the glass. The windshield has a crack, but the owner has ordered a replacement. He says that he hopes to have this installed before the Super 88 heads off to its new home.

The standard 371ci Rocket V8 that found its way into the engine bay produced a healthy 277hp. That would’ve been enough to satisfy most owners, but some wanted more from their new Olds. For the 1957 and ’58 model years, buyers could specify the J-2 engine option. This saw the 371 equipped with thinner headgaskets to produce a compression ratio of 10:1. That wasn’t the end of the story because it also brought a set of triple dual-throat Rochester carburetors that bumped the output to a neat 300hp. That’s the numbers-matching beast that we find here, while the drivetrain is rounded out with a Jetaway Hydra-Matic transmission and power steering. The performance from the J-2 option, which cost the buyer a paltry $83, was legendary. It is worth remembering that this is a family sedan capable of seating six people in comfort and that it tips the scales at 4,370lbs. That makes the ¼ mile ET of 16.7 seconds look mighty impressive. Only around 2,500 buyers ticked the box next to the J-2 on their Order Form during its two-year production run. When the current owner purchased the Super 88 in 2014, it had been sitting in storage for more than three decades. The original owner had clocked 52,000 miles behind the wheel from new, and the current owner has increased this figure to 54,000 miles. He went through a careful process of reviving this classic, and it is in sound mechanical health. He says that it is happy to trickle along running on its center carb, but when you floor it, the engine comes to life and offers some serious performance. The owner includes some additional pieces in the sale, including the Owner’s Manual and other literature.

Apart from a new carpet set, the interior of this Oldsmobile continues the theme of originality. It is upholstered in a combination of blue and white vinyl and cloth, and the impression that it conveys is mainly positive. Until recently, the seats wore their dealer-installed clear plastic covers, but the owner removed most of them when they started to crumble from old age. The seats themselves are in remarkable condition, while the headliner appears as though it might be developing a repairable seam separation. The cloth inserts are parting from the door trims, but I believe that a competent upholsterer might be able to repair these without the need for replacement. The buyer won’t be getting luxuries like air conditioning for their money, but both the factory clock and AM radio are said to work perfectly.

In 1957, the term “muscle car” hadn’t entered the automotive vocabulary. However, this Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Hardtop was undoubtedly one of the fathers of that genre. Some enthusiasts focus on the legendary Pontiac Tri-Power setup as the catalyst for the horsepower war, but Oldsmobile beat them to the punch with this configuration by a few scant weeks. Our feature car isn’t perfect, but returning its presentation to a high standard should not be difficult or particularly expensive. When you consider that spotless examples with the J-2 option can easily fetch more than $35,000, the price of this car looks hugely competitive. Would you be interested in securing this groundbreaking vehicle as the next classic to park in your garage?

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Comments

  1. nlpnt

    That face! Wallace and Gromit, your car is waiting.

    Like 4
  2. MattR

    I think it’s got it going on at the rear. Check out those windows!

    Like 4
  3. bobhess bobhessMember

    My Dad’s first Olds except his was silver grey metalic, white top and the side trim had a red insert. Car was fast. Never did believe they could follow such a good looking car with the ’58s.

    Like 7
  4. HoA Howard AMember

    Looks like some elderly owner drove this car “by feel”, with all the boo-boos. While the ’57 Chevy got all the thunder, I’ve always believed the ’57 Olds was the nicest of the GM lineup. While this car does have the J2 option, I read it was very rare, as mentioned like only about 2,000-2500 units for the almost 50,000 cars sold in ’57. Probably the only reason this particular car was saved over the years. Regular 4 door Oldsmobiles were not sought after and junked accordingly.
    People may tire of my stories, but I’ve been around ( like poop on a tractor tire). Many years ago( late 70’s), I visited a small town in N. Wis. ( Phillips) that I eventually moved to, and once while at the grocery store, my friend went in to buy beer, he comes back and says” Howard, you have to see this”. An elderly lady had a car like this, only red and black, in perfect condition. It wouldn’t start, flooded with gas. It even had the original tar top Delco battery. We held the choke open, it fired right up. I couldn’t see the mileage but still had the plastic on the seats. I always wondered what happened to that car.

    Like 27
  5. Vince H

    keep talking Howard we love your comments.

    Like 18
  6. MattR

    Agreed.

    I am still thinking about this car. Are those dents – 3 doors worth and a front panel – still in the easier/cheaper range of repair? I am curious what and estimate of repair would be.

    Like 1
  7. Stoney End

    Sorta cool car. Nice color. (A neighbor had a 2 dr version of this back in the day. It was a gold color and had a lot more chrome as I recall.) It seems worth someone’s time…

    Like 1
  8. Bob McK

    I do love this car, but the front clip does not line up well and there are many dents. Repairing them and having the clip lined up correctly and repainting it will cost a small fortune. But if someone HAS to have this model, it is a good place to start.

    Like 3
  9. Dale Stevens

    A little to much money for a 4 door

    Like 1
  10. Frank

    This car was at tank. The beauty of these cars impossible to flip and even if you hit a telephone pole the bumper got a dent. I still recall the noise the air cleaner and carbs made when you floored it. A true Demolition Derby car!

    Like 1
  11. chuck dickinson

    There SHOULD be a “Super 88” front fender script behind the h/lights. That’s about the only thing externally to separate the 88 from the Super 88.

    Like 0
  12. Johnny

    Alot more car hear. Then what the new ones are. All those relays and trouble gadgets. Plus the ride and style the Olds has. Noe new one can compare to this-even with some dents. Its 64 years old. Take any new one and use it like this one and see what you have in 64 years. Two new car payments.Will put this car in really nice shape. I wish mine was in near the shape this one is in.Mine,s a 4 door hard top too.Light blue.

    Like 2
  13. Burger

    No muscle cars in 1957 ? Clearly our writer has not heard about what was going on over at Mother Mopar’s house. Starting in 1955, with th C300 Chrysler, the go-fast idea was spread across the board to DeSoto, with the Adventurer, Dodge D500, and Plymouth Fury in 1956. All cars specially built as performance models, with go-fast engines, transmissions, gearing, enhanced brakes, and suspension, often with special colors and exterior trim.

    Like 2
  14. bobhess bobhessMember

    Howard. We found a complete, rust free, original ’57 Chevy for a customer that included fixing damage on both sides like this car has. The 92 year old female owner said she was selling it because her garage door was getting too narrow. Agree on the mid ’50s “muscle cars”. There were some pretty hefty drive trains from most of the manufacturers at the time. Besides my Dad’s big engine cars my uncle had a ’56 Mercury station wagon with a factory installed police interceptor engine that would really cook when you mashed the pedal.

    Like 2
  15. HCMember

    Engineers and designers were very clever the way they did the 4 door hardtops and made them look like 2 door versions. Very clean car to be 64 years old. Removing and reattached all this trim with a full repaint will definitely push the labor cost to 10-12k. Great find!

    Like 2
  16. PRA4SNW

    gone.

    Like 0
  17. MattR

    Ugh. Another one I’ll regret!

    Like 0
  18. Foster BusbyMember

    Had a Super 88 ragtop w/ the tri-power, silver w/red interior, white top–bought it from a cousin for $500 in ’71, drove it like it was for a few, then restored it, complete w/skirts. Loved it!! went back to school (Embry-Riddle) and sold it for $14000 in ’86, would give 30000 for it back!!

    Like 0

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