Make A Date: 1950 Oldsmobile 88

In 1949 Oldsmobile introduced its new “88” model by adding its powerful new overhead valve 303 CID V-8 to the smaller, relatively lightweight GM B-body. Some consider the Olds 88 to be the first muscle car, though doubtless that can be argued about, especially by fans of the late 1930s Buick Century. What is not in doubt is that the Olds Rocket V-8 was the first mass produced OHV V-8 engine sold in America.

These early Olds 88s became iconic symbols of post war American culture. The Rocket 88 was a huge success in early NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) racing series. Oldsmobiles won six of the nine NASCAR late-model division races in 1949 and 10 of 19 in 1950.

In 1951, Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, which was really Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythms, recorded a fantastic R & B song called Rocket 88, that some have considered the first true rock and roll song. It reached number one on the Billboard chart.

Let me introduce you to my Rocket ’88
Yes, it’s great, just won’t wait
Everybody likes my Rocket ’88

While many of us may prefer the two door versions of this body style, including the beautiful convertible model, Oldsmobile sold significantly more four door sedans. Today, four door examples are far more common and definitely more affordable, plus they are just as much fun to drive as their fewer door companions.

The 1950 Olds 88 sedan shown here is for sale on craigslist in Tempe, Arizona with an asking price of $10,000. It is said to be a barn find car with 95,000 miles on it. As plainly shown in the photos, this Olds has a beautiful new interior in the original style, and is outfitted with a new set of tires as well. My main complaint about this ad (and many others like it) is that the seller says this car has “everything original,” which is a ridiculous claim in light of its new interior.

I do wish some photos of the engine compartment and underside of the car were provided, and that the seller had said something about the condition of his car’s mechanicals. While the exterior of the car looks generally solid, with good chrome and no evident rust through, and it looks like it could be used just as it is, any prospective purchaser will need to know how much more work this car needs, even with that beautifully redone interior present. While the price here seems high to me, after checking the price guides, I realized my idea of this car’s value and reality are evidently not in sync, so maybe this is a pretty decent deal after all. What do our readers think of this good looking early family-style muscle car?


  1. Rustytech Member

    Now that’s a piece of automotive history. Amazing how nice that interior is. There’s some work to be done, but a nice driver when your done. Bet ya it more fun than a stove bolt 6.

  2. Anthony Rodrigues

    Great dashboard design on these Oldsmobiles….

  3. grant

    You guys are on a roll lately. A lot of real, attainable cars for the everyman. I feel like this one is a bit high, but I’m not an Olds expert so I may be way off.

  4. Woodie Man

    Impressed that David W knew that it was really Ike Turners band that did Rocket 88….Jackie Brenston was the sax player. Saw Ike many times as he lived in SoCal right up until his death. Still had it….Fishburne did a great job as Ike in Whats Love Got To Do With It.

    Beautiful car…to top it off, here’s my late pal, Rocket 88. RIP buddy.

    • rando

      I have done the Sun Studio tour in Memphis a couple of times. That’s where the original master was recorded and they still have the original master of it. Lots of history there. And different guides do their tour differently.

  5. Jesper

    I love my 1950. 88.
    Also a car from BF.

    • Woodie Man

      Too cool for school

  6. Bruce

    Upholstery work can be expensive, so with that taken care of, this would be my kind of car. Having spent my career in a body shop, putting a nice driver quality paint job on this mostly rust free body would be no problem. Driver quality because the car would not be worth a nut & bolt restoration, and well, I would want to cruise in it without worry.
    Being mechanically inclined, I might pull the engine also, freshen it up, and that would make painting the engine bay much easier.
    If I was closer, I might be in at 7 K…

  7. John S

    I am very sure that I am in the minority on this one, but I believe there can be two uses of the term “everything original” One means untouched, from the factory. But to me an equally valid one would mean not modified or deviated from the original in any way. No upgrades, no aftermarket performance or body upgrades. In keeping with the true originality. Again, I know I am going to get hammered on this one, and there has to be a line of demarcation between everything original with replacement parts and restored, but this would seem to be more on the side of originality.

    • David Wilk Member

      John, that is a fair point, but I think if a seller means that, he should say either “unmodified” or “as original” as saying a car is “original” does mean “as built” (with the general understanding “except for wear parts” usually).
      I understand we can have different opinions about just how original a car has to be to be called “original” but I do think we should follow basic standards of meaning so as to avoid confusion. At least for me a new interior or a replacement engine does mean a car can’t be called “original” anymore. I am sure there are many different views on this subject among readers here too, as you have expressed.
      – David

    • Puhnto

      While I don’t think it’s proper use of the word “original,” I do believe a lot of people who use the term, use it like “Bruce” indicated. If it’s original-like, to them it’s original. I don’t think they use it to decieve but because they have different parameters for the usage of the word.

    • Woodie Man

      I can see John S’ point. Thats the problem with the passage of time and people refurbishing and “modding” cars. Original to me , in the main, means the paint color, the interior fabrics, the engine, the tranny, the wheels, the chrome, the metal work, the whole kitnkaboodle is as it was built in the factory on day one.

      Once you redo the interior, repaint it even in the original color, rechrome the bumpers , rebuild the drivetrain etc….the car is no longer original. Now, if you repaint, reupholster, rebuild….its just as easy, as said below, to state that the car has the paint and upholstery redone in the paint color and reupholstered in the original fabrics and design. It now has the new paint and fabrics done in the original factory colors.

      In short more specificity helps. And always caveat emptor. Its really on us as knowledgeable car guys/gals to sniff out the bs….

  8. Jesper

    I only paid 1000$ for mine. Its running good, and gearbox shift ok. The seats and crome is not good, but ill repair seats, and recrome bumpers. Its 12 volt, and all lights work. There where only a bit rist in trunk, and floorpans in front of driverseat.
    It was a gamble to buy it, without knowing condition of driveline, but it realy running good.
    Later this month i get a pallet of parts from USA. With all the parts i need, for pass inspection, here in Germany.
    Thats complet new brakes new windscreen gasketset for carburator, fuelpump, and many other things.
    All in all, i realy had luck with the car i found on Barn Find.
    Thanks to all of you, and “viel spass in verkstatt”

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Jesper, I can just see this car in the left lane of the Autoban, blinking the head lights for that Porsche to “move over”. And gesundheit.

    • David Wilk Member

      Still one of the best looking Oldsmobiles ever. Interesting that yours and the one I wrote about here both have the aftermarket spotlight on driver’s side. Is yours a stick shift? Much rarer to find than the hydramatic.

    • Goran Lundberg

      Aber doch!

  9. Jesper

    The only diffrence on mine and this, is color, condition on seats crome on bumpers, and price.
    That for sale here, is a fine org. Example, i wish mine was so fine.
    But ok. When i have mountet my new parts, there is still 6500$ diff. In price.
    Mine is also Hydramatic, but its fine with me, as long as it works.
    Most cars here on this side of the pond, is manual gear, and im a bit tired of that.
    Automatic in a cruiser is fine.

  10. Loco Mikado

    “Oldsmobiles won six of the nine NASCAR late-model division races in 1949 and 10 of 19 in 1950”

    Until the step down Hudson’s with Twin H Power flathead sixes spanked them for the next three years straight.

    • G 1

      Lee Petty whooped them with a Plymouth.

    • David Wilk Member

      All good things come to an end :). Those Hudsons were fantastic cars. My Little League coach drove one, full of us kids, *fast* and we were thrilled.

  11. Dick in SoCal

    Olds was first in 1949 to put a modern V8 in the lighter GM A-body cars.Cadillac also introduced their similar V8 in 1949 and lost the Pan American race to a lighter Olds 88 coupe despite a 331 to 303 ci displacement advantage. For one year only in 1950, the Olds stick was a Cadillac-LaSalle tranny that was first used in the 1930’s and loved by hotrodders in all kinds of car bodies for being bulletproof. There are some good NASCAR video’s still on the web.

  12. Rolf Poncho 455

    (Poor Tina) Ike’s punching bag yes the song gose well with the
    Rocket 88

  13. jeff6599

    Once again, not a muscle car. There was no larger series of body styles from which to take the drivetrain. We know that the 98 was just a longer with the same rear axle, front suspension, front sheet metal and doors and deck lid. When will the description writers learn. They,ve had several years to learn about the details of their careers and now know what reference books to use.

    • Brad C

      Jeff… it’s a free blog, not the Wall Street Journal. And thanks to the lively and passionate peanut gallery, these factoids and anecdotes get hashed out and corrected ad-infinitum.

      “Mark 2s are NOT Lincolns, they’re Continentals!” WE KNOOOW.

      I’m thrilled the authors of this blog take the time to curate and present these cars from all over the web – not to mention putting up with the regular criticism. Plus, you’re still here! So it can’t be that bad. ; )~

  14. Brad C

    Boy, I love the visible age on this one. I’d probably try and color match some touch-up paint for the rusty scratches along the rear quarters. But with a thorough cleaning and matte clear coat – that roof, hood and trunk look fantastic just the way they are.

  15. Oliver R.

    What about “Sixty Minute Man” by the Diamonds in 1951??? Which song came first???

    • Woodie Man

      Sixty Minute man was released in May 1951. It was Billy Ward and The Dominoes.with Clyde McPhatter. Jackie Wilson replaced McPhatter a few years later.Rocket 88 hit number one on the charts in June of 1951 but was recorded in March of 1951,

      So who was first? :) Both great songs but I’m partial to Rocket 88.

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