1955 Olds Rocket 88 / Photos, Specs, Model History

The car featured in this article is a 1955 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. This as an Oldsmobile full size car offering. You may even have heard the 1950's slogan " Make a Date with a Rocket 88"

1955 oldsmobile rocket 88

1955 Oldsmobile Rocket 88

The entire Oldsmobile line was redesigned starting a year earlier with the 1954 model year. In 1954 the first thing you would have notice was a lower and longer body shell with wrap around windows on the front and rear.

One cosmetic change was the availability of eighteen different colors and eighteen different two-tone combinations. When you view some of the restored models today, it's amazing how a smart two-tone paint combination can add class to a vehicle. The chrome Rocket 88 badge on the car's panel didn't look bad either.

The Oldsmobile Rocket 88

The Oldsmobile 88 was a model sold for fifty years from 1949 to 1999. Oldsmobile claimed that their 1949 model was  the beginning of futuristic design, which was proved to be fairly accurate.

The name "Rocket 88" was more of a marketing term than a model itself. Another catchy marketing name was Oldsmobile's "Golden Rocket 88". The official model would have been the Oldsmobile 88. The 1954 through 1956 Olds 88 models were the best combination of styling, engineering and performance to date for Oldsmobile. The Oldsmobile Super 88 model was a more luxurious version of the 88 model that first came out in 1951.

The Oldsmobile Rocket V-8 engines were to some degree another brand name for an older Olds engine. The difference was that their performance was enhanced with a new design.

oldsmobile rocket 88Olds Rocket 88 V-8 Engine

The Rocket V-8, engineered by Charles Kettering, came out in 1949 with an overhead  valve design and hydraulic lifters and was designed for performance or at least was named to further that image. Rocket V-8 performance however certainly did compete well against Cadillac.

Charles Kettering is considered to have been one of the best automotive engineers ever. Kettering held well over one hundred patents and is credited with developing the electronic ignition system, automobile lighting systems and many other innovations. Kettering became extremely wealthy from his patents and is noted for his philanthropic contributions including the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center which helped to found in 1945.

During the model years 1954 through 1956 the standard Oldsmobile V-8 was 324 cubic inches delivering 195 hp. The Olds 324 was also used with GMC trucks.

The Olds Rocket 88 engine went through modifications during the 1950's For the 1955 model year Oldsmobile increased the compression ratio which helped put out 185 horsepower for the Olds 88 model. The engine built in the 1955 Super 88 and 98 models delivered 295 horsepower.

See these additional Auto Museum Online articles on the links below...

Car VIN and Serial Numbers / What Tthey Tell Us

1956 Olds Rocket 88 Convertible

1965 Chevy Corvair Corsa


1955 Oldsmobile 88 Specifications

As mentioned above, the base engine for the 1955 Oldsmobile 88 was a 324 cubic inch V-8. The engine was referred to as the bigger bore Rocket 88 and put out 195 horsepower.

Brakes were four wheel hydraulic drum. Standard transmission was a three speed manual. Options included a Hydra-Matic automatic.

Front suspension were independent coil springs with rear being a longitudinal leaf spring.

rocket 88 1955

Rocket 88 badge on car trunk

Car dimensions included a wheelbase of 122.0 inches, an overall length of 203.3 inches, a width of 77.8 inches, a height of 62.2 inches and a weight averaging about 3,760 lbs. The Olds 98 models weighed more.

You may also enjoy the Auto Museum Online articles on the links below...

The 1955 Oldsmobile Collector Car

As mentioned above, the 1955 Oldsmobile 88 was in a series of Olds cars that were probably the best built and best looking to date. These American classics have excellent collector interest and the models you may come across in show or museum like condition will have high valuations.

olds 88 1955

Good looking two-tone paint on the 55 Olds 88

Non show quality cars will of course have a wide range of values due to condition but we have seen several, as of this writing, in the $8,000 to $20,000 range.

These could be daily drivers without mechanical issues. Lower prices would apply to non-restored vehicles. More restoration and newer restoration will mean higher valuation.

Show car condition 1955 Oldsmobile 88's, as of this date, can be seen in the mid to high $30,000 range.

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Auto Museum Online)

The 1968 Oldsmobile Muscle Car / The 442 W-30 Convertible

Make no mistake about it, the 1968 442 was a muscle car produced by Oldsmobile. The Oldsmobile 442 was introduced as an option package for the F-85 and and the more luxurious Cutlass models sold in the United States beginning with the 1964 model year. What does the 442 designation mean? The 442 is a configuration of a four-barrel carburetor, a four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhaust pipes.

oldsmobile 442

1968 Oldsmobile 442

The First Muscle Car

While the subject of which automaker created the first American muscle car certainly can be debated, there are those who contend that Oldsmobile won this distinction when they put a Rocket V-8 engine into their 1949 Olds 88 and Super 88 models.

With that being said, Oldsmobile returned to the muscle car field in 1964 when Pontiac unveiled the GTO.

The Pontiac GTO was the inspiration for Olds to come out with their 4-4-2 package. As mentioned above, the 442 signified a four-barrel carburetor, a four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhaust pipes.

The Oldsmobile 442 W-30

The automobile featured in this article is a 1968 Oldsmobile 442 W-30. This was a year in the middle of the American muscle car era before emission and safety standards changed the landscape. It was also a milestone year where the Oldsmobile 442 became it's own distinct model and no longer just an option. In 1968 Oldsmobile also joined forces with Hurst Performance Research Corporation to produce the Hurst/Olds shifter. The 68 Olds 442's were built on GM's new for 1968 A-Body platforms.

1968 Olds 442

The Olds 442 W-30 muscle car

In 1968 Oldsmobile 442's also had unique rear bumpers with exhaust cutouts and special exhaust tips. The car included standard equipment of heavy duty springs, stabilizer bars, special shock absorbers and wheels.

W-30 Option

The W-30 designation meant Outside Air Induction System. The W-30 was an available option in addition to the 442 option and added slightly more power. Some 442's with automatic transmissions employed column shifters instead of floor mounted shifters.

For the years 1967 through 1971 W-30's had red inner fender wells. The1968 and 1969 models have a four inch diameter hole cut in the horizontal surface of the inner fender directly behind the head lights on each side for the ducting to the under the bumper scoops.

All W-30s had the Rallye Pac instrument panel as standard equipment.

From 1966 to 1972, a W Series Oldmobiles were produced at Olds Lansing, Michigan plant.

1968 Oldsmobile 442 Specifications

The 1968 Oldsmobile 442 had a 400 cubic inch V-8 engine.The W-30 version delivered 360 horsepower. Out of the five available engine options for 1968, the Olds 442 W-30 was the second highest in horsepower with the 455 cubic inch limited edition Hurst Olds versions claiming 390 horsepower.

In all, there were four transmissions available on Oldsmobile 442's in 1968.

These included a Four Speed manual Wide Ratio, a Three Speed Turbo-Hhydra-Matic, a Four Speed manual Close Ratio, and a Heavy Duty Three Speed.

1968 Olds 442 dashboard

Dashboard on the 68 Olds 442

Suspension on the Olds 442 included both front and rear anti-roll bars that were stiffer than the standard suspensions.

Dimensions included a 112.0 inch wheelbase, an overall length of 204.2 inches, and a curb weight averaging about 3,560 lbs.

As mentioned above, standard equipment on the 1968 442 included heavy duty springs, stabilizer bars, special shock absorbers and wheels.

There were a total of 33,607 Olds 442's produced in 1968. Out of that number there were 5,142 convertible models built. The largest 442 production number for 1968 was the hardtop coup at 26,773 units. As a comparison, total 1968 Pontiac GTO production came in at 87,684 units which included 9,980 convertibles and 77,704 hardtops.

New car price for the 1968 Oldsmobile 443 was about $3,100 for the hardtop and $3,350 for the convertible.

Serial numbers for the 1968 Oldsmobile can be found on a plate on the left front door hinge pillar.

You may also enjoy the related AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below...

oldsmobile 442 w-30

Rear view of the 68 Olds 442

The 1967 Pontiac GTO History, Photos and Specs

The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro

Serial Numbers on Classic  and Antique Cars

The Powerful 1967 Buick Riviera


For more information regarding the Oldsmobile muscle cars, you may want to read...Oldsmobile Muscle Cars by author William G. Holder.

Another recommended book is...The Complete Book of Classic GM Muscle by author Mike Mueller.


The 1968 Oldsmobile 442 Collector Car

The Oldsmobile 442 from the late 1960's is a popular and can be a  valuable collector car. As mentioned earlier, the 1968 Olds 442's became their own model in line in 1968 after being an option package for the Cutlass making the 1968 models milestone cars. The Oldsmobile 442 is one of the great muscle cars from the greatest era of automobiles.

These were Lansing's last "golden age" muscle cars.

As always, prices for popular classic cars will vary due to overall condition, degree of restoration and particular model and engine. As of this writing, Olds 442's are often times seen on automobile auction lists and as of this writing we see restored models priced from the mid $20,000 range into the $40,000 range. Non-restored models with stock equipment may be found for about $15,000 and less depending on condition.

1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 / J-2 Option

The new design changed started with the 1954 Oldsmobile models with an entirely new look than anything before it. The changes were many.  In 1954 the first thing you would have notice was a lower and longer body shell with wrap around windows on the front and rear. In addition to that,  Oldsmobile offered buyers a choice of eighteen colors and eighteen two tone color combinations.

1957 Olds 88

1957 Olds 88 front end

The 1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 featured in this article also received a new look compared to the 1956 model. Among the changes for 1957 the Oldsmobile Super 88 had a lower roof and larger grilles and hoods. The body design looked very clean.

1957 Oldsmobile 88 Models

The Oldsmobile 88's were offered in two models. These were the Golden Rocket and the Super Golden Rocket. These are essentially the same as the Rocket 88 and Super 88. Hard to find better marketing brands than these especially during the years of increased aerodynamics and tail fins. The Golden Oldsmobile also recognized the automaker's fifty year anniversary. Engine colors were changed to gold to commemorate the anniversary. The Super Golden Rocket was an upscale version of the Golden Rocket.

1957 olds super 88

1957 Oldsmobile Super 88

The Golden Rocket 88 was an entry level model and was also available as a convertible.

You might also come across the Olds Super 88 Fiesta Wagon. This is a rare four door hardtop vehicle which came with a standard 371 cubic inch engine. Today these wagons are rare running or not. The wagon was offered as a Golden Rocket 88 and Super Rocket 88. If you wanted extra power for your family station wagon you could also order the J-2 carburetor option. The Rocket engines gave Olds station wagons a unique aura. Total 1957 Oldsmobile Fiesta Wagon production was 8,981 units.

Oldsmobile's J-2 Option

For 1957 Oldsmobile offered the J-2  option which was three two-barrel carburetors for the 371 cubic inch V-8 which was standard for both models. This engine was also called the Rocket 88. In a large way the J-2 option made the 1957 Oldsmobile a muscle car as well as a luxury car. The J-2 option was also referred to as the Tri-Power package. Surprisingly, Oldsmobile charged only $83 for the J-2 option. There was another off road J-2 option which cost about $385 and was really designed for competition use only.

1957 olds super 88 body

57 Olds Super 88 rear

Lee Petty, a stock car racer and father of Richard Petty, was recruited by Oldsmobile. The older Petty had won the 1954 Grand National Championship and Oldsmobile wanted him to help showcase their new engine. Petty pushed the Olds J-2 engine up to just under 145 MPH at Daytona.

As it turned out the engine was banned from racing shortly after when the AMA cited that the configuration was not a regular production engine when first introduced.

Olds was a bit late in offering the J-2 to the public. The Oldsmobile J-2 was discontinued after the 1958 model year because of rising highway deaths and because of the AMA racing ban.

This was also a period when, because of fatalities, the American automakers entered into a handshake agreement to discontinue their support of auto racing. While this ban was technically in effect, the automakers still kept their hands in racing in indirect ways.

1957 olds super 88 trim

1957 Olds Trim and wheel skirt

1957 Oldsmobile 88 Specifications

The 1957 Olds 88's came with a standard 371 cubic inch V-8 with the J-2 option Rochester carburetor available. The standard engine delivered 315 horsepower. Other reports put the horsepower at an even 300.

The 1957 Olds 88 had a Fisher body with dimensions that included a 122.5 inch wheelbase, a 208.2 inch overall length, a 76.4 inch width and a height of 59.8 inches. Weight was just about 4,000 lbs.

Front suspension were independent coil springs with rear suspension comprising longitudinal leaf springs.

Brakes were four wheel hydraulic drum. Power brakes and power steering were options.

olds super 88 emblem

Oldsmobile Super 88 emblem

Total Oldsmobile 1957 production was 384,390 vehicles. Super 88's represented about 132,000 units. The largest model segment were Sedans at 42,700 produced and the second largest produced model was the Holiday Hardtop at 39,162 units.

As a comparison, 1957 Buick production numbers totaled 405,098 vehicles, 1957 Pontiac passenger car production totaled 334,041 units, and 146,841 Cadillacs were produced.

The 1957 Oldsmobile serial number will be found on the left front door pillar.

Compare this 1957 Olds 88 to the cars featured on our AutoMuseumOnline articles linked below...

The 1957 Forward Look Dodge Coronet

1956 Olds 88 Convertible

1954 Pontiac Star Chief

1957 Olds 88 Make Great Collector Cars

Without a doubt, the 1957 Oldsmobile 88 is a coveted collector car. An Olds Super 88 Convertible with the J-2 Option (Tri-Power) in showroom mint condition is even better. Only about 7,100 of these convertible Golden models were built with a new car price of about $3,500 in 1957. For those models you will likely see auction prices in the very high five figure area. $80,000 to $100,000 would be an asking price.

two barrel carburetor

Two-barrel carburetor design

A 1957 mint condition Olds Super 88 without the J-2 option might have an auction asking price approaching $50,000. We have also seen a Golden Rocket 88 convertible, non J-2, priced in the $70,000 range.

The fact is that the 1957 Oldsmobiles were popular cars with big engines and more power options with the J-2. They were also milestone cars celebrating Oldsmobile's 50th year which helps their value.

The 57 Olds were not immediately big collector cars but they've gained that position over the past few decades.

As mentioned above, the 1957 models celebrated Oldsmobile's Golden Anniversary and any restored models in showroom like condition with or without the J-2 Tri-Power option should command good values. If you're looking for the most popular models they would likely be the Super 88 convertibles and J-2's.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)