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Ultra High-Comp 394! 1961 Oldsmobile 88 For $600

Broaden your General Motors horizons beyond Chevy and Pontiac and a whole world of interesting cars may enliven your pulse. Consider exhibit A, this 1961 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 in Eagle River, Wisconsin. It’s Oldsmobile’s version of the desirable 1961 Chevrolet Impala “Bubble Top,” so-called because of the greenhouse’s thin pillars and expansive glass. Best of all this one is only $600! Check out the listing here on Hemmings for more pictures and information on this dusty black barn-find.

These as-found pictures are nice, but a little effort to show the car at its best certainly wouldn’t hurt. See how sharp these cars can look here. Wisconsin may not be the first choice for someone looking to snag an early ’60s muscle car that needs a second life, but it’s hard to argue about the price.

The “Sky Rocket Ultra High Compression” V8 displaces 394 cubic inches (6.5L) compared with the contemporary Chevy’s legendary “409,” and the Olds made 330HP vs. the Chevrolet’s 360, but you might value the Oldsmobile’s 435 lb-ft of torque over the Chevy’s 409. Thanks to wikipedia.org and caranddriver.com for some details. This one seems highly original. Rather than sharing more information, the lonely seller invites everyone on planet Earth to call and discuss details.

Here we see a mixture of factory-painted metal and rust, well, everywhere. Buyers may be especially curious about the automatic shifter and gear indicator along with what looks like a clutch pedal left of the brake and gas. The glorious array of trim and instruments would look amazing when restored.

The Sky Rocket theme continues in those super-cool tail lights and unique lower valance. In 1961 everyone probably figured we’d have flying cars by now, and I want the rear of mine to look like this. I recently heard that “you can be given a wooden boat for free and pay too much.” Is this a bargain or an interesting car that’s too far gone?


  1. Ramone

    Doesn’t look like a bubble back. Seems to be a column three speed. Kind of rough, but a cool find.

    Like 13
    • robert kirk

      Look carefully and you can see the automatic gear indicator down the column. The whole thing looks like a manual transplant to me. Nice buy for sure, but a lot of work lies ahead for the buyer/owner.

      Like 6
      • Cattoo Cattoo Member

        Good Catch on the gear indicator.

        Like 2
      • Mike WH

        Ordering a 3 speed was unusual in light of the audience for Oldsmobiles and the modern times.

        I wonder if they just left the auto indicator in the dash and put in a 3 speed.

        Like 1
  2. jerry z

    I like the name on the air cleaner lid, ‘Sky Rocket’.

    Like 6
  3. Jeff T.

    awesome find for 600 bucks hard to find parts for though,well worth investigation if u in the area.

    Like 3
  4. Troy s

    Okay, so just how high of compression does this 394 have?? Seems a little early in the decade for twelve plus to one compression ratios.
    Olds really was into all that spacey rocket powered jet air craft stuff back then, out there but very interesting.

    Like 3
    • Dave

      Somewhere close to 11:1, IIRC. 394s were an integral part of the gasser wars of the 1960s, I’m thinking Stone, Woods, and Cook versus Big John Masmanian.

      Like 5
    • Chris M.

      Just as it says “ultra high compression” lol Somewheres tween 8:1 and 12:1.. Not be mistaken for the “really high compression” version of course.

      Like 2
      • Troy s

        Chris M’s answer reminded me of this over the phone conversation I had years ago about buying a Chevy truck with a “big V8 engine”. When I asked what size of V8 engine it had there was a pause followed by, in a heavy Spanish accent “its got a great big V8 engine! Ahahah”.
        “Well I’ll be darn”, I responded ” There’s a small block, a big block, and a great big block Chevy engine!” and quickly hung up the phone. Nothin but laughs, man.

        Like 5
    • CCFisher

      10:1 in 1961, 325 HP. 1962 – 63 were 10.25:1, 330 HP. There was a 10.5:1 version available in 1963 with 345 HP.

      Like 6
    • Dusty Car Finder

      Why anyone would think this is a “Bubble Top” is beyond me. For one thing this is a 2 door post, all bubble tops were Hardtops. Come on BF, check your articles

      Like 5
    • Duaney

      The Sky Rocket engine is the low compression, economy 2 brl. Can use regular grade gas.

      Like 2
  5. Bob S

    If I was closer, I would jump on this like a spider on a fly. If the body was beyond reasonable restoration, I would pull the engine and running gear to swap into a mid fifties Chevy or Ford pickup.
    The compression for the 394, 4 barrel engine was 10.25:1. I had a 394 in my car back then, and it was a wonderful engine. This one would be even more attractive to me, because of the standard transmission.
    I love the design of the Oldsmobiles of that period, but I wasn’t crazy about the design of the rear of the car. I didn’t like the view of the rear from the side.
    The Oldsmobiles of that era were my favourite cars for styling and performance.

    Like 4
  6. JOHN Member

    That is clearly not a bubble-top, but a 2 door sedan.

    Like 9
    • Alfamax

      Barnfinds must have posted that description before looking at the photos.

      Like 2
  7. art

    That car can fly. It has a neat speedometer that has a color speed band that goes from green to yellow to red. My sisters’ second car was a white 1961 Dynamic 88 and trust her younger brother, that car would fly and it was definitely into the RED. Don’t ask how I know.

    Like 7
  8. TimM

    Deal of the month for $600!!! Great car!!!!

    Like 5
  9. William Shields

    I’m presuming the “1961” license plate was a custom plate so at some point in its past it must have been someone’s favorite toy.
    I know here in Ontario a personalized plate sets you back a few hundred dollars, somebody thought it was worth it!

    Like 0
    • Paul Johnson

      The sticker on the plate is from 1976. The standard plates were a letter and 5 digits or 2 letters and 4 digits. A plate with a letter and 1 to 4 digits were special plates and cost an extra $3.00. All of our cars at the time had a letter and 5301, which was our street address.

      Like 0
  10. Miguel

    It would be great to see this car tearing up the highway.

    I hope it happens some day.

    Like 2
  11. Dave

    Cool car. No floor.

    Like 2
  12. Duaney

    It should be illegal for neat old cars to be stored in Wisconsin. The rust is over the top as usual for a car in Wisconsin. The only way to properly store a car there is in a heated, dehumidified dry building.

    Like 3
  13. Marshall

    Back in the 80s, a neighbor of mine had a low mileage teal colored 1961 Oldsmobile bubble top. I thought about buying it at the time as I thought it was cool. But this two door pillared sedan is still kind of rare, especially if it came with a 394 high compression engine and a manual transmission. As noted by another poster, the floor is at least partially missing on the driver side. And I notice rot along the rocker panel on the passenger side photo. And also, how come no driver side photo? It’s a given this does not run, though no mention of whether the motor turns over or not. But for $600, it ought to at least make a good parts car, or possibly a rat rod IF the rust is too serious. Either fate is better than the crusher! But new owner be advised: he may have to call down the county sheriff to evict the “Oldsmobile Hotel”!

    Like 0
  14. Bob McK

    A 61 Olds is on my list of what I must own someday. Love the rear end of these.

    Like 1
  15. Robert L Roberge

    Another one I let get away. Had a ’61 98 coupe w/full power in the early ’70’s. Gave a 100 bucks for it and drove it for years. Sold it for the gargantuan price of $200. Then bought a ’63 88 convert. Sure wish I had kept both.

    Like 1
  16. James Martin

    The three speed parts are worth more than the 600 for whole car. Think about the replacement for the automatic. Obviously this was done here.

    Like 0
  17. jimmy the orphan

    Shame its not a hardtop instead of a post. A factory 4-speed would be nice as well. Ok Ok it is what it is and the price is right. Did somebody put an automatic and whole steering column in ? I never liked the rear end on the 88’s. The Catalina/Ventura has a much better looking front and rear end IMO. Very cool with the hardtop. But that’s just Me. Later……………….JIMMY

    Like 0
  18. Barry L Klotz

    I owned a61 Super 88Convertibal in 68. It had a Ultra_High 425 with a gas gusslin 4bbl.

    Like 0
  19. Ron

    Bubble tops were hardtop cars, this is a two door post car…

    Like 1
  20. Pete Phillips

    I keep thinking I see an automatic transmission dipstick & tube at the rear of the engine. Lots of questions, but I’ll let someone else ask, as I’m too far away from Wisconsin to get this car.

    Like 0

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