Parked Since The 1970s: 1955 Oldsmobile 88

The second-generation Oldsmobile 88 was made for three short years – between 1954 and 1956 – but they define 1950s cars for me. This two-door survivor project Oldsmobile 88 can be found here on eBay in Ogden, Utah with a $7,999 buy-it-now price listed.

Wraparound windshields and rear windows were part of the second-generation restyling that took place on the Olds 88 starting in 1954. Beginning in 1955, the oval grille treatment was a distinctive trademark of these cars and it would continue into the third-generation when the restyled 1958 Olds 88 took on a totally different look. Some would say that GM’s 1958 cars were the highlight for the 1950s but I prefer the earlier cars.

You can see that this is far from a perfect example and it’s hard to really tell the condition of the body without a personal inspection. The seller says that they got the car from the original owner and it had been sitting since the 1970s. The rear wheel skirts don’t show up in the photos but maybe they’re in the trunk. I think they give it a more elegant look with a nice, sweeping line as opposed to the cutout without the rear skirts on.

Our neighbor had a 1955 Olds parked behind his house down a hill by his garden and my brother and I used to play in it as kids back in the late-60s/early-70s. The interior on this car will need a lot of help to bring back the former glory. The dash appears to be complete but it’s in rugged shape and the seats are a mixture of gray and white with a front seat bottom that’s a different fabric in blue. I’m not sure what’s going on there? Then again, the door cards are blue and white so maybe the back seat and front seatbacks were replaced at some point? Confusing.

The seller refers to this car as an Oldsmobile Rocket 88 which wasn’t actually a model name but more of a marketing term. Most of us have heard of the legendary Oldsmobile Rocket V8 which in this case should be a 185-hp 234 324 cubic-inch V8. A 202-hp engine would have been available on the Super 88 and 98 models. This one has a rebuilt carburetor, new fuel pump, new fuel filter, an oil change, not to mention the brakes and front wheels bearings have been gone through and more. It runs and shifts well, and the brakes work but it’ll need to be gone through before any road trips are planned. Hagerty is at $6,900 for a #4 fair condition car and I’m not sure where this one lies, condition-wise, but one of you will know. Have any of you owned a second-generation Oldsmobile 88?

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Comments

  1. JerryDeeWrench Member

    One of my favorite cars. Had the same one in 63 with a J 2 engine and transmission. Was. A stop light wonder especially when me wife was driving. Lots of fun wish had it back now.

    Like 1
  2. Mike

    Dad had a 4-door because his mom talked him out of getting a T-Bird. “where are we going to sit when you drive us around?” Dad drove it around with plastic seat covers that would generate an insane amount of static electricity. He would pull up to friends and would shock the s**t out of people. He’s in his 80’s now and if he sees one on the street/TV/magazine, I get the story every time.

    Like 6
  3. Camaro Joe

    My Dad had a similar car, but a Super 88 in 1967. This one brings back a lot of memories. His car was around 30K miles in that era, really clean and not normal for the Northwestern PA rust belt. It was an all white interior but the same colors.

    It was around in the summer of ’67, but being a clean car he was a dealer and sold it before bad weather. That one was probably my start on wanting to collect 1950’s and 1960’s cars.

    Like 4
  4. bobhess bobhess Member

    Dump the repro hub caps for originals, if you can find them, do the body work and go. More than worth saving.

    Like 1
  5. local_sheriff

    I was just a signature away from buying a ’55 88 when I was in my teens; it’s still one of my absolute favorites of the 50s. Passed on it due to tranny issues. I remember it having a very unique chromed windshield visor as an integral part of the trim, never seen one later but it looked very OE.

    Unless I remember wrong the fender skirts for an 88 would not be full skirts rather half-skirts replicating the swept look of the 98 fender lip. IMHO the 88 looks even better than the 98 due to its stubby ‘shoe box’ shape. I won’t claim this air cleaner is incorrect, however all ’55 Oldses I’ve seen had the dual inlet box shared with Cadillac which now has become a popular retro piece

    Like 1
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Yes, sir, I think you’re correct about the upswept rear fender skirts. I thought that the dual-inlet air cleaner was for the upgraded 202-hp version, but I could be wrong on that.

      Like 2
  6. KevinLee

    My Dad had a solid white 1955. About 1967, he sold his to a fellow gearhead who turned it into a tire melting hot rod. I don’t remember if he swapped engines, or hopped up the Olds engine, but it made a huge impression on me as a seven year old when he backed it out if his shop, and lit the rear tires up effortlessly!

    Like 2
  7. jim aldi aldi

    I had 3 loved every one of em..

    Like 2
  8. Wayne

    This is the exact twin to a car my mother had in about 1966. It disappeared one day, with not a peep as to what happened to it. Then Mom was driving a 1963 Impala 4 door 327, 3 on the tree, 4bbl. and dual exhaust. Many years later I learned that mom totaled it.

    Like 6
  9. Del

    This is a nice car.All the initial good stuff has been done.

    Buy it and drive it while finishing the rest up as time and money allow you to.

    Love that OHV Rocket

    Like 3
  10. Wayne

    I think that everyone is partially correct about the air filter. The one in the picture is correct (to the best of my recollection) for the 2 barrel issue. And the “Dual Intake” air cleaner was on the 4 barrel carb. The one in the picture looks familiar to me as I had to “reattach” the linkage onto the carburetor. After mom went rocketing a lap or so around the Kroger parking lot with the throttle almost wide open until I reached over and turned off the key. (I was about 12 or 13 at the time.

    Like 5
    • local_sheriff

      The one installed here looks very reminiscent to the early ’55 Chevy 2bbl oil bath air cleaner. Any idea whether Olds and Chevy shared this box for their 2bbl applications or are similarities simply coincidental…?

      Like 1
  11. TimM

    Really nice looking and seems like it’s got mostly original parts on it!! Get her running, driving and stopping good and drive it around for not a lot of money!! Cool!!!

    Like 1
  12. Curtis Marquart

    Must be a typo , not 234 but 324

    Like 1
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Ugh, good eye, Curtis. You are correct, my apologies for that fumble-fingered typo.

  13. Ken Carney

    Gentleman, I think we’re looking at a 324
    cube Rocket here. And if memory serves
    me well, she cranks out between 180 and
    185 HP. Even in this docile form, cars
    equipped with this mill were pretty decent
    tire friers that responded quite well to the
    rodder’s touch. Cam makers like Isky, crane, and Clay Smith made high lift cams for this engine, and piston makers
    like JE and Jahn’s sold aftermarket aluminum pistons and ring sets that allowed you to raise the compression
    ratio to as high as 11.25:1. Want even
    more power? Then add the 3 deuce
    manifold from a J2 unit and watch your
    rear tires melt into useless gobs of goo!
    I saw a tricked out 324 like the one I’m
    describing in a chopped ’32 Ford sedan
    at the first Street Rod Nationals in Peoria,
    Illinois in 1970. All I could say back then
    was “Wow! What a car!” The fellow who built it was from Indiana. Parked next to
    the sedan, was Rich Sadlowski’s ’32 Ford
    3 window coupe running a variation of this same engine. Sadlowski’s car was
    totalled on the way to the Memphis Nats
    in ’72. Thankfully, no one was hurt. As
    for this car, fix what needs attention and
    drive it while you finish the rest of it. Or,
    make a Golden Rocket tribute car like the
    one used in W.W. & The Dixie Dance Kings with Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed.
    Any way you go, you’ll have a nice ride in
    the end.

    Like 3
    • Del

      Ken and I think a lot alike 😁

      Like 1
  14. Ken Cwrney

    Del, I can just see my mother in law or my
    sister in law driving this car even though
    it’s considered a large car, it’s quite docile and easy to handle with GM’s world famous power steering. Again, once the
    engine needed to be rebuilt, I would rebuild it using all or most of the parts I
    mentioned. And yes, I might even consider a set of Flow Masters too for that great ’50s rumble.

    Like 3
  15. Wayne

    Ken! In order to get that ’50s rumble, you need Glass Packs!
    Flow Masters will make it sound like a ’60s muscle car that was updated in the ’80s-90s.
    Just sayin’.

    Like 1

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