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Big Blue Survivor: 1953 Oldsmobile Super 88

In 1953 Oldsmobile offered three lines of cars, the entry level 88, the slightly larger and more luxurious “midsize” Super 88, and the top of the line luxury barge 98. All Oldsmobiles that year were powered by the famous 303 cubic inch “Rocket” V-8 putting out 165 horsepower. While no longer leaders in horsepower to weight ratio, the heavier 1953 Super 88s were very popular cars. They were solidly built, handsome examples of early 1950s General Motors designs that stand up well today, in either the two-door or the much more common four-door models.

It is unusual to find a car of this vintage that is still even mostly original, but this very nice looking Super 88 displays what appears to be its original light blue paint, offset by a white top.

This very solid old car is for sale on craigslist in Glendale, Arizona, offered by the grandson of the second owner. According to the ad, this car was purchased used by the seller’s grandfather in 1958, was driven by him until 1969, and then put away in his garage for many years.

The seller says he pulled the car out of the garage a few years ago and then spent $8,000 making it drivable, while attempting to keep it as original as possible. The body and trim do, in fact, appear to be quite solid and very much original, with only modest paint thinning from exposure to the sun, as is often seen with desert cars.

Mechanically, while the engine was not rebuilt, quite a bit of mechanical work was done, and it looks to have been well set up for regular use.

Some of the work done includes a new fuel system (this photo shows what appears to be a new gas tank), new brakes, new water pump, new wires, plugs and belts, as well as all new suspension pieces (coils, leaves and shocks).

The radiator is also original, but was “restored,” which presumably means rebuilt.

And as you can see from the interior photos, this car has new upholstery and carpet (though as I recall, these cars were not equipped originally with carpet, but had full rubber mats front and rear).

At first I was not sure about the paint, but I found an old 1953 paint chart that shows this color called “Acacia Blue,” and I then found a YouTube video of a literally identical, all-original car with the identical blue exterior and the same dark blue upper dashboard, which further supports this seller’s claim the paint is from the factory.

The seller does not mention whether this car comes with power steering, which would be a nice feature to have. I don’t think it does, as I am pretty sure all power steering equipped 1953 Oldsmobiles had the words “power steering” embossed on the steering wheel itself.

There is no mention in the ad about the transmission this car has – it would be highly unusual to have a three speed manual, and it is much more likely to feature a four speed Hydramatic. But 1953 was the year that GM’s Hydramatic transmission factory burned down, and as a result, many Oldsmobiles built later in the model run were equipped with the much less responsive Buick Dynaflow transmission. Cars thus equipped are just not as much fun to drive. That steering wheel is in extremely good condition for its age.

Even though this is a desert car, there is a bit of body rot showing in one rear quarter, and just a little bit in the other side too, which may indicate some additional hidden rust in the floors or trunk. A buyer will need to attend to that soon.

Like many of our readers, I have not yet adjusted to current old car values, and almost every car I see for sale seems over-priced to me. The seller is asking $11,500 for what is a solid, but relatively plain-jane sedan. As a driver quality car, if it checks out, even with some repairs needed (and find a set of wheel covers please!), based on current 1953 Oldsmobile values, the asking price for this car appears to be only slightly on the high side, and it’s certainly not completely crazy. What would you pay for a memory machine like this?  You can get in and drive it just about every day and measure your investment in the number of smiles it gives you. It should be reliable and might well last longer than most of us will. That might be worth quite a bit, don’t you think?


  1. jcs

    The listing has now been removed from CL. There does not appear to be a clutch pedal and there does appear to be the shift position indicator in the lower part of the speedometer. It does not, however give a clue as to the type of automatic. Since the hydramatic factory fire did not occur until mid-Aug., 1953, I would say that this car most likely has a hydramatic.

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  2. hhaleblian

    My old man’s car in 1955.

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  3. Howard A Member

    People may look at this car today and say, “what a doofusmobile”, but in fact, in ’53, this was one of the nicest cars you could buy. I always think of the family man that finally made enough to trade in that old Chevy he got after the war, and is moving up to a new Oldsmobile. Not quite a Cadillac yet, but had almost as much. Again, price is subjective. What they ask rarely is what they get, especially for cars like this, anyway. Like hhaleblian sez, my father’s Oldsmobile, an image, I heard, it couldn’t shake and in part, helped axe the brand.

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  4. Howard

    The body on my 52 has NO rot but the paint is peeling due to a lousy repaint some years ago. If someone gave me half what they’re asking for this one, they’d buy themselves a good old Olds

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    • David Wilk Member

      Howard — I love Oldsmobiles from the early fifties. Want to send some pictures of yours? Is yours a Super or a regular 88?

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  5. Woodie Man

    Well I count myself among those who once would have been happy to sell this car for 1500 bucks…..so…..

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    • George

      Woodie Man. I agree, but I was thinking $1200, and would not buy it to keep for $700.

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      • Woodie Man

        and I like it………it’s just.the inherent value of cars seems to have become decoupled from sellers perceptions……….that or my perception of current value is waay out of whack

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      • Howard A Member

        A little from column A,,,a little from column B,,, :)

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  6. Marty Parker

    The ’53 standard 88 is the same size as the super 88 and came with 150 HP 2 barrel carb whereas the super 88 shared the 165HP 4 barrel engine with the 98.

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  7. Pete

    Ok I like the car, It is a fairly solid mostly original example. Having said that, what did he spend 8k on? I see a new tank, probably sending unit, maybe gas lines and hoses and a filter. Maybe a new battery and tires and an oil change. I see the suspension and believe the brakes. With all that and paying to much to have someone else do it probably not even 4K for all that. I think this Cat has been watching to much Barret Jackson and probably went there in person. My gut tells me this car is worth 9K tops as it is. It’s a nice car, Just not perfect enough to bring what he is asking. IMHO

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  8. David Miraglia

    Nice olds

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  9. Ikey Heyman Member

    The asking price is a little strong, but it’s not outrageous. Maybe some of you older guys can remember those days when you could buy cars like this for $400 all day long, but those days are long gone. The seller shouldn’t take any less than $10K.

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  10. Mike Williams

    I inherited one just like it from my brother in the early 60’s. It was a fairly fast car for it’s weight with lots of torque and the Hydromatic worked great (I wouldn’t buy one without it). I used it mostly for car pooling.

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