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Fabulous ’51: Olds Rocket 88


First introduced in 1949, Oldsmobile’s Rocket 88 was the factory hot rod of its time. With its relatively light weight body (3,507 pounds) it shared with Chevy and Pontiac, the Olds engine bay was stuffed with the company’s modern OHV 303 cubic inch V-8 engine, producing 135 horsepower and torque of 263 pounds, at only 1,800 rpm, it was one of the fastest sedans on the road in its era. When new, these cars inspired many drivers to go fast. Songs too – James Cotton’s song, Rocket 88 is one of the best and most famous: “Yeah, she’s straight, just won’t wait. Everybody likes my Rocket 88”


This 1951 standard 88 four door sedan is for sale in Staten Island, New York on here on craigslist with an advertised price of $9,200. It’s equipped with the rock-solid Hydramatic automatic transmission, and of course that famous Oldsmobile engine.


When I was growing up, these Oldsmobiles were sought after used cars by teenagers, as they’d become an inexpensive means of going fast. The Rocket 88 reputation for speed and handling was well deserved. They were raced by stock car drivers and by street racers all over America. I thought they were great looking cars then and now, even in sedan form.


This one shows remarkably low mileage, with only 48,000 miles claimed, original paint and an interior that look exceptionally good. It’s hard to believe that the original lacquer could look as good as this paint does, but there are no obvious signs that it has ever been repainted.


The engine compartment appears very clean and original.


This is the view that many other drivers saw! That rear bumper is a bit of a problem, and any buyer will want to check the rockers, floors and trunk for rust, but overall, this is a great looking car, a fantastic survivor, and one that will produce  alot of smiles for its new owner.


  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    Are you sure that’s a ’51? I’d be more inclined to guess a ’50. I always thought the taillights on the ’51 were out on the tips of the fenders instead of just inside. Just sayin’. Don’t get me wrong; I still really like this car…

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    • Howard A Member

      Hi geomechs, I had to look that up, as I came up with both style tail lights for ’51. Apparently, the “Super 88″ in ’51 had the different tail lights, ( and .5” longer wheelbase) while the base 88, still had these. For ’52, the base and Super 88’s had the newer style.

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  2. wuzjeepnowsaab

    That looks every bit like an honest car at a realistic price. Beautiful looking driver!

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  3. AlanB

    That would be Ike Turner’s Rocket 88 (released with his sax player Jackie Brenston being credited along with “his Delta Cats”)

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    • Rando

      Glad someone caught that. I appreciate James Cotton as a blues musician, but Rocket 88 is claimed to be the FIRST true Rock & Roll song recorded. At Sun Studios in Memphis. I’ve done the tour a couple times and they still have the original master of Rocket 88.

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    • David Wilk Member

      My mistake for crediting Rocket 88 to James Cotton. I should have been more careful in my research. The song was actually written by Jackie Brenston, who recorded it with Ike Turner’s band in early 1951. http://www.figmentfly.com/bb/music4.html
      It is still a great song.

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  4. Dave at OldSchool Restorations


    .”sought after”…yes, the light 2dr coupe, not the 4 dr sedans like this one.

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    • David Wilk Member

      Club coupe weighed in at 3,435 pounds, only 72 pounds lighter than the 4 door sedan.

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  5. Larry Brantingham

    Yes, I think it’s a ’50, too. The body changed quite a lot for ’51. However the engine isn’t quite right – it should have a Rochester “turtleback” carburetor and a spark plug wire retainer bolted to each valve cover. A four door like this one was my first car.

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    • Marty Parker

      T his is an early ’51. Just a few minor differences between this and the ’50, including one piece windshield, the word “Oldsmobile” followed the contour of the globe on the hood and trunklid, rather than in a straight line, and as you mentioned, different carb. and wiring loom. Also, the transmission worked a little differently. A little later the “Super 88” was released with the new bodystyle and included previously listed items.

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  6. Charles

    One can tell this is a GM engine due to the distributor placement; a bear to change points, rotor and condenser. Had a friend in the early sixties who had a maroon two door sedan, it was a would really get “down the road” without a problem. Nice car, don’t know what happen to it……

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  7. Marty Member

    What a beautiful engine.

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