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Parked In ’98: 1956 Oldsmobile 88 Hardtop

The previous owner of this 1956 Oldsmobile 88 Hardtop treated the vehicle to a complete restoration in the late 1990s. It was then parked under blankets in a barn in 1998 and has only just emerged. It has been returned to a roadworthy state and represents the chance for someone to acquire a turn-key classic. The Oldsmobile is located in Angleton, Texas, and has been listed for sale here on craigslist. You can drive this beauty home for $25,500.

The two decades that this car spent in a barn doesn’t seem to have hurt it much. The Ice Green and Alcan White paint still holds a wonderful shine, as does all of the almost flawless chrome and trim. One of the trim highlights is the enormous front bumper. It is an imposing piece of chrome and gives the front of the Olds a distinctive appearance. The Hardtop has spent its life in Texas, and this has helped it avoid all of the rust issues that can plague these vehicles. The panels are super straight, and the gaps are consistent. The tinted glass seems to be free from defects, and the new whitewall tires add a classy finishing touch to the exterior. One of the strongest attractions of this car for potential buyers is the amount of time that has passed since the previous owner performed the restoration work. Poor-quality work can deteriorate pretty rapidly, even under the best of conditions. There are no apparent issues with the work after two decades, which suggests that everything has been completed to a high standard.

Powering the Oldsmobile is the 324ci “Rocket” V8 engine, that packs 230hp. This is backed by the 4-speed “Jetaway” Hydramatic transmission. At 3,870lbs, the Hardtop is not the lightest car on the planet. Even so, that 324 was capable of pushing the car through the ¼ mile in a neat 18 seconds. As part of the original restoration, the previous owner treated the engine to a rebuild. It then sat dormant for 20-years but has been carefully revived. All of the belts and hoses have been replaced. At the same time, the fuel tank was replaced, as were the plugs, plug wires, cap, and condenser. The brakes came in for some attention, with a new master cylinder and other braking components fitted. The owner finished things off by adding five new whitewall tires. The Olds is a numbers-matching vehicle, and the presentation of the engine bay is first-rate. Sadly, that’s about all that I can tell you because the owner doesn’t indicate how well the vehicle runs or drives. However, he does say that everything works, which augers well in that department.

The person who buys this Hardtop isn’t going to have a lot of work to do on the interior. It’s all been done, and it remains spotless today. The cloth upholstery on the seats isn’t original, but it is in excellent condition. The white upholstery is correct, and it appears to be perfect. There is some very slight stretching of the headliner in the rear of the vehicle, but that should be straightforward to fix. The carpet looks faultless, as do the door trims. The dash is a thing of symmetrical beauty, and the glove compartment in the center is a quirky design feature. Once again, everything here is said to work, except for the clock.

The rear seat area presents better than the front, and I suspect that no-one has sat there since the restoration was completed. One of the attractions of cars from this era is the amount of available interior space. You’d have to be pretty tall to run out of leg-room or headspace in the back of one of these classics. Making them even more attractive to passengers is the amount of glass. Some 2-door vehicles can feel claustrophobic for rear passengers. However, I doubt that this would be an issue in an 88 Hardtop.

There is no doubt that some barn finds are better than others, and I would have loved to be a fly on the wall the day that the owner unearthed this one. It presents so beautifully that it seems a shame that it spent so many years in hiding. I would love to know the story behind that because it could be an interesting one. However, it means that someone can now become the proud owner of a turn-key classic that would seem to need nothing. Could that person be you?


  1. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    This is a really nice car that looks like it needs nothing. The colors in and out just scream 1950s and it’s a desirable hardtop. At the price listed, it should sell pretty quickly, it seems like a good deal.

    Like 11
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Curious about the red back up lights… Nice looking cars and great donors of that great big engine and transmission combination. They fit nicely in ’40 Fords and ’53 Studebaker coupes.

  3. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    I was part of a team which restored a 4-door version of this a few years ago. Amazingly, almost identical in color scheme and interior. We installed a Chevy 350, with a 350 TH. Disc brakes, a few other upgrades. Was a great car.

    Interesting the original shift pattern, with Reverse at the opposite end of the range from Park. I wonder how many times drivers backed up, when they expected to go forward in a low gear?

    • A.G.

      In the fifties GM Hydra-Matics and Borg-Warner automatics used the PNDLR pattern. In 1957 GM started using the PRNDL pattern.

      Like 2
      • local_sheriff

        ‘R’ would be at the far right as late as ’64 on the Dual Coupling Hydramatic (Pontiac) and Roto-Hydramatic(Olds/Pontiac).

        While such a pattern may seem weird by today’s standards the location of ‘L’ and ‘R’ next to each other was to make rocking a stuck vehicle out of mud or snow easier

        Like 5
    • Dusty Stalz

      How do you restore a car by putting a different engine/trans combo in it and modern brakes?

      Like 5
    • Bob C.

      That Hydramatic hung around on some GM cars until 1964. They were often blasted by the NHTSA because of the shift pattern.

      Like 1
  4. Pat

    Either, the instrument panel picture was taken at a very high speed, as the speedo needle is buried, or the speedometer isn’t functioning as it should.

    Like 3
  5. Phlathead Phil🚗🇺🇸

    My Uncle Philip had one, only in all white.

    This one, and it, were both beautiful creations.

    It was a sad day when the last “Olds-mobubble left the phactory.

    Like 3
  6. JP

    Great looking ’56 Olds!

    Like 2
  7. Bob Mck Member

    Beautiful! Someone save this.

    Like 2
  8. Vince H

    Sounds like the transmission has been replaced. The hydramatic in these were a 4 speed.

    • Paolo

      Ad says original Superdrive 4 speed.

      Like 2
  9. Chuck Dickinson

    A perfect example of a restoration that was compromised by using the wrong material for the seats. The original is available, so why not ‘do it right’? The labor cost on an interior is the same whether you use the right stuff or the wrong stuff, so the savings could only have been a couple hundred dollars. Now, you’re left with a restoration that isn’t quite complete, and to fix it, the seats would have to be re-done. Makes absolutely no sense to do the interior incorrectly. The SMALL savings are more than offset by what STILL needs to be done on this car to correct the previous shortcoming and make it right.

    Like 5
    • Bob Ricewasser

      I agree with you 100%. I tell people the same thing all the time & try to explain that they will devalue their car by using incorrect materials, non factory colors & wheels, etc.

      Like 2
  10. ACZ

    Boy, does this bring back memories. My first car was a 56 Olds 88 4 door. Unfortunately mine didn’t look this good. I bought it for a whole $10. That’s about 400 cars ago but as they say, you never forget your first.

    Like 1
  11. charlie Member

    Uncle had a ’56, I was driving my father’s ’56 Chevy 6 Powerglide, which I floored frequently, upshifted at 55 mph, did not push you back in your seat. Uncle told me to floor the Olds, and WOW, said this teenager. On the other hand it was not as good as the Chevy in the corners.

  12. CaCarDude

    Very nice car this ’56 Olds, I see no mention of the shift indicator with the “S” in the lineup, this S actually stood for Superdrive, which in turn was like a passing gear, it would actually downshift for the much needed lower gear power. I drove my Dad’s ’54 Old’s 2 dr hrdtp back in the early to mid sixties which was very similar to this ’56. Having that little extra power kick when you needed to pass grandma out on that country road was nice. This car could use a new speedo cable and steering wheel restoration. Oh and needs the clear plastic back up light lens. This is one Old’s I would like to have in my stable today.

    Like 1
    • Paolo

      Look again, it has the Superdrive.

      Like 1
    • Bob Ricewasser

      As I recall, the letter S on the shift quadrant stood for Super. When selected, it prevented the transmission from shifting into high gear. The transmission was called a Jetaway hydramatic.

      Like 1
      • ACZ

        Very well done Bob. You are correct. The thing that some folks didn’t catch is that some early 56 models came with a 4 speed Hydro. Easily identified by not having a “P” on the shift quadrant.

        Like 1
  13. KNJ

    A great car, great color combo. Agree with aforementioned incorrect material on the seats. I find this occurs quite frequently on cars of this era. Have viewed numerous ubiquitous 1955-1957 Chevrolets that suffer from the same familiar malady. The seat materials do not correspond with the original scheme distracting from the overall appearance of the car.

    Like 1
  14. Thomas Haywood

    Truly a beautiful 56 olds. As to the not as original interior , this one appears to be well done and looks really nice. I did always like the original ones , however in a car that has a major look of as stock ( especially on the outside ) this is not a deal breaker for me. I own a 59 corvette . It has a 327 c. I engine out of a 65 vette. I also put disc. brakes on the front and torque thrust d wheels on it to compliment the flint grey metal paint. I very much like it with the changes i’ve made.

    Like 2
  15. Larry W.Menefee

    I had that exact same car when I was in high school in the early 60`s. I was by far the best car I have ever owned.Same color and everything….that thing was SO fast for it`s time.

    Like 1
    • Bob Ricewasser

      I had almost the exact same car except mine was a Super 88 & had power steering & brakes. It was also the same two tone colors with non-padded dash.

      • Bob Ricewasser

        Yes, some of the early models had the Hydramatic transmission. To lock the transmission, you put the gear selector in reverse. To start the engine, you had to move the selector all the way up to neutral.

      • ACZ

        You know your Oldsmobile’s!

        Like 1
  16. charlie Member

    The seat material on the ’50’s cars was VERY short lived, which explains the plastic see through seat covers. My mother, having had seat covers but on our 1950 Studebaker when new, vowed that she would sit on the real seats of the ’56 Chevy that replaced it, seat covers when the seats wore out, which the driver’s seat side did at about 50,000 miles and 5 years. My 18 year old Audi, with 185,000 miles, has seats which still look like new. The old days were not always better.

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