Farm Find: 1956 Oldsmobile 88

This quite solid and seeming original 1956 Olds 88 four door is for sale on craigslist in Austin, Texas, though the car is actually located on the seller’s farm in Kerrville, TX. I think this is the “plain” Olds 88, not the “Super 88” but someone please correct me, if I am wrong. Oldsmobile sold 29,028 of this model in 1956.

According to the seller, this two tone blue Olds has been on the farm for quite some time and does not run. The engine is free and does turn over, so there is hope it can be a runner again without needing too much work. No doubt the interior is a bit musty from years of storage, and who knows if it can be salvaged or will need to be completely replaced.

The seller states that all the chrome and trim parts are present and intact. Some buffing ought to clean up the stainless steel pretty well.

The owners have had it for some time and want it to go to someone that would restore it to its former glory.

There is some rust present at the bottoms of the driver and passengers doors and the floor board on the driver’s side, which, while not illustrated in any photos, probably means there is more rust in the floors and trunk, and that will result in some extra work for the buyer. It does turn over, and the seller believes it would probably run with a little work. That may or may not be true.

As indicated in the photos, and described in the ad, it looks like all the window glass is good. I particularly like those opening quarter windows in the rear doors and that huge steering wheel is a beautiful thing to see.

I think what makes this car a bit out of the ordinary and well worth saving is the fact that it is a factory A/C equipped car. I have been unable to find out how many Oldsmobiles were made with air in 1956, but most of us who grew up in that era know that air conditioning was just not commonly ordered by customers in those years. The carpets don’t even look that bad in this view.

I am guessing this was a Texas car in the first place, which might explain the fact that it was ordered with air conditioning. The seller does not say, but as you can see in this photo, this car has power brakes and may have power steering as well, so it was an unusually well equipped car for its era.

And the original tube radio is present, though likely needs rebuilding also. It will need a new dash pad for sure.

I’d love to see this Oldsmobile back on the road. The Rocket V-8 is a tremendous engine. The asking price of $5,000 for a non-runner, even if the rust is minimal, seems high to me, but the seller says he will consider offers. I hope someone will buy this car, and take on the daunting project of restoring it. Getting that air conditioning to work again is no small task. There are many parts that are simply not available, and quite a bit of home engineering will be required. I found this discussion about mid-fifties air conditioning issues on the AACA forums, and admire the ingenuity of some of our fellow car rebuilders who have figured out how to get their ancient A/C systems running again.

Please someone get down to central Texas and buy this car. Keep the original 1956 license plates with it. Then send us pictures once it’s redone. I bet it comes with some great stories, and whomever restores it will have plenty of great stories of their own to tell.

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Comments

  1. 68 custom

    seeing that it also has Power brakes and the dealer add on emergency lights plus AC I am guessing this one is well optioned and would make a great parts vehicle for some one who wants to restore a 2 door!

    Like 1
  2. Ed P

    No, this is not a parts car. The condition is much to good. The apparent rust is minimal. One big question is the hydramatic transmission. I would bet on that needing a rebuild.

  3. Alan (Michigan)

    These can be extraordinary cars. They ride and drive well.
    But $5K, really? It needs EVERYTHING! I’ll tell you that just re-chroming the front bumper to a “driver” standard will set you back nearly a grand.
    This is a $1K car. I don’t chime in with this sentiment often, but this one is overpriced, by a lot.
    I have some solid experience with a ground-up on one of these cars, see my comments on a prior BF listing
    http://barnfinds.com/vintage-missile-1956-oldsmobile-rocket-88/

    • Frank K

      I agree, except it would cost thousands, not one, in chrome. Sad to see these things go to scrap but the the fact is, the basics of all basic restorations would cost 10x what its worth… not to mention its a 4 door.

      • Marshall

        I think four-doors are getting a bad rap. In my opinion, often the four-door version is the better looking version. And in this case, this is quite a restorable four-door with factory air, which was very rare. That alone is worth the price of admission into frame-off-resto-ville, or at the very least, a “driver” resto!

        Like 1
    • Keith

      Agreed, I’m a huge Olds guy, and had a 56 4 door 98 in much, much better condition than this (without AC) bought for $2500. This is a $1k car as you said, and the market and desire for these cars is waning….quickly.

  4. Woodie Man

    Looks like the humidity has been working on it for a while. I agree with Alan in Michigan. Somewhere along the way the asking price of inop worn out and throttled vehicles became a standard 5 K.

    While this would be fun to restore you’d be upside down chop chop. I hope someone with the wherewithall to restore it steps up.

  5. Matt

    It is definitely a Super 88 not a base 88. I own a Super 88 4 Dr sedan. They can make excellent cruisers. Plenty of room for the whole family. Plus easier to put little ones in the back.

    • David Wilk Member

      Matt: thanks for pointing this out. What are the differences between Super and standard? Does the Super have higher level interior trim? It looks like the Super came with 4 barrel carb, I had not noticed that before.

      • Michael Johnston

        I thought the super 88 was an 88 with the 98 motor . Back in 1961 our 59 super 88 looked just like any other 88 except the chrome emblem on front fenders says Supper88 and dual exhaust

        Like 1
    • Keith

      Easiest and quickest way to tell an 88 from a Super 88 (assuming scripts are missing of course) is that on a base model 88 the dash was just a piece of painted metal, on Super 88’s and 98’s it was padded.

      Like 1
    • James Sterling

      Is the difference between a basic 88 and Super 88:
      Basic 88 has a 202 V8 engine with two barrow carb
      A Super 88 has a 324 V8 engine with a four barrow carb?
      I bought a 1955 Oldsmobile 88 Holiday; it has a 324 V8 4 barrow carb; and the guy I bought it from did not know if it is a basic 88 or Super 88.

      • Tim Rusling

        My ’56 was a Super – I’ve never even seen a base car, to my knowledge.

    • James M Sterling

      How do you tell if a 1955 Oldsmobile 88 Holiday is a Basic 88 or
      Super 88.
      I was told that a Basic 88 has a 202 V8 Engine with a 2 barrow carb;
      and a Super 88 has a 324 V8 Engine with a 4 barrow carb.

      I bought a 1955 Oldsmobile 88 Holiday and the guy I bought it from did not know if it is a Basic 88 or Super 88.
      Mine has a 324 V8 Engine with a 4 barrow carb.It came with factory power steering and power brakes.
      Can anyone please help me verify if my Olds 88 is basic or Super?

      Like 1
      • James M Sterling

        Plus it has chrome all around form bumpers to trim on sides and trunk.

  6. curt

    Trust me…it is a SUPER 88, no question, trim at rear door, trip on trunk, on and on.

    Like 1
    • David Wilk Member

      That is good to know, I’ve always had trouble telling the difference.

    • James Sterling

      How do you tell if a 1955 Oldsmobile 88 Holiday is a Basic 88 or
      Super 88.
      I was told that a Basic 88 has a 202 V8 Engine with a 2 barrow carb;
      and a Super 88 has a 324 V8 Engine with a 4 barrow carb.
      I bought a 1955 Oldsmobile 88 Holiday and the guy I bought it from did not know if it is a Basic 88 or Super 88.
      Mine has a 324 V8 Engine with a 4 barrow carb.It came with factory power steering and power brakes.
      Can anyone please help me verify if my Olds 88 is basic or Super? Plus it has chrome trim on numbers, sides and trunk.

      • DayDreamBeliever Member

        Can’t answer that question, but I might suggest a terminology clarification:

        Carburetors are described as having “barrels”. A reference to the venturi tubes which channel the air and mix fuel into the flowing stream. So it is “2 barrel” and “4 barrel”. For whatever reason, the generally accepted abbreviation I have seen is “bbl”, as in 2bbl and 4bbl. I have no idea why.

        Two barrel carburetors can also be referred to as “deuces”, but I think only when in multiples, not singly. Every car freak knows that “Three Deuces” means three two barrel carburetors mounted in a line, usually on top of a V8 engine, but occasionally seen on straight 6 engines as well. A “quad” is a four barrel carb, so “two quads” is a setup with a total of eight venturies (barrels) between two carburetors on one engine. There are other combinations, of course….

        Hope someone can chime in to clarify what makes the distinction in the Oldsmobile models.

        Cheers!

  7. Kerry Glenn

    It DOES have power steering – the pump is visible in the engine photo.

  8. Clay Byant

    Most of it’s miles have been road miles. Notice the power brakes pad. Little worn…………

  9. Tim Rusling

    Anyone who recognizes my name knows I have a soft spot for underdog cars. I used to have the same year and model of car, minus the A/C. I think this is at most a $2,000 car because it needs almost everything. It’s cool when presentable, but isn’t really valuable. Today’s drivers will have a get-used-to-it curve when dealing with the pre-standardized shift sequence on the column.

    • Keith

      Hey Tim curious of your driving impression….I had a 56 Olds 98 4 door sedan, power brakes power steering, but always felt like I was driving a small bus. The driver’s seating position always felt very high to me.

      • Tim Rusling

        Well, the ride was pretty nice and secure. The one thing that sticks in my mind about the car is the Rocket engine. I’ve never, ever had such a vibration-free idle.The no ripples in a glass of water kind of idle quality.

    • Keith

      No doubt those are some of the smoothest engines ever. I’ve had a few 50’s Oldsmobiles and have yet to find an engine comparable to the Olds Rocket

      • James Sterling

        How do you tell if a 1955 Oldsmobile 88 Holiday is a Basic 88 or
        Super 88.
        I was told that a Basic 88 has a 202 V8 Engine with a 2 barrow carb;
        and a Super 88 has a 324 V8 Engine with a 4 barrow carb.
        I bought a 1955 Oldsmobile 88 Holiday and the guy I bought it from did not know if it is a Basic 88 or Super 88.
        Mine has a 324 V8 Engine with a 4 barrow carb.It came with factory power steering and power brakes.
        Can anyone please help me verify if my Olds 88 is basic or Super? It also has chrome trim all around.

        Like 1
  10. TonyM

    Had a super 88 4dr ht fully restored
    Had to sell in a hurry in 2013, sold it to a Californian for only $16000. Had over $30k in it. The car was dark grey and white with grey and white interior
    Just beatiful. I had it for sale for 2yrs before it finally sold.

  11. Bill Fitz

    It’s a Super 88. The identifiers are the circle around the 88 on the front fender, and the rocket thru the 88 on the trunk.

  12. Howard

    I have a 52 Super 88, it has more horsepower than the 88 cause it has the 4 barrel carb. The 98 has a larger wheelbase. And I think you might be surprised by that hydramatic. Mine sat for over 25 years and just needed topped off and works great. Those trannys are damned near bullet proof

  13. Marshall

    Speaking of 1952 super 88, Did anybody here see the 1988 movie “The Blue Iguana”? It’s a movie that I loved except for one thing, they used old vintage cars in chase scenes, and thus damaged them. The leader of the bad guys(Reno?) was driving an early ’50s GM car (a gray one I believe), that could have been a 1952 Oldsmobile. Anyway, it was one of many cars that got damaged in the making of that movie. Those cars were vintage even back in 1988. I just hate it when they beat up vintage cars in movies!

    Like 1
  14. MikeH

    These cars really look good so long as you don’t have to look a the front. It looks like a catfish with its mouth open. ’56 was the beginning of GM’s descent into Rococo styling.

  15. Kerry Glenn

    They had an unusual firing order that gave them a distinctive exhaust note.

  16. Brad

    The link that you sent regarding the A/C was incredible. A lot of information for free ! I had NO idea that there were so many details involved to get this old A/C system back up to snuff. Good job !

  17. George Plarre

    [ have 3 olds 88s one of them [ bought for my son when he was 16 so could restore it just to be a driver not for show I also bought him a parts car He switched over alot of parts so it would be roadable We junked the parts car and he drove it for awhile and then put it in the back yard to rust in NJ He was sending to the junk yard I said send it to me in NC and I will try to get running again which I did Getting ready to put paint on it Red and White also bought 2 other 56 88s 0ne from MAINE and one from Minnesota paid 3k plus shipping for each Hope to restore both LOVE THOSE 56s had a brand new 56 once price seems a little high I paid 1k too much but wanted the cars

  18. Curt

    Me to, loved my new 56 99 4dr HT, an ugly torquoise and black…and my Dad bought a new 2 dr HT in 56, beautiful light blue and white. Photo shows an exact dupe of his.
    Were you aware that car had the very first hydramatic that had a half-throttle passing gear? Didn’t have to mash the throttle all the way down.

  19. George Plarre

    did not know about the half throttle on the tranny Thanks Curt I will check it out

  20. Curt Bryan

    That was a nice feature of a nice car. The transition from top gear to passing gear was so smooth and easy. Prior to that, we had to floor the throttle and wait for the jerk into passing gear.

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