The Future Looked Futuramic – Oldsmobile in 1949

  • Olds10
  • Assembly line workers celebrate a milestone in company history

It was a great time for the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors. Still riding the wave of the postwar seller’s market, the ultra-modern restyle that had been applied to the 98 line in 1948 now spread across all models. The new car, the 88, was the only one in its price class to offer an overhead valve V-8. The “Rocket” V-8 was destined to become a legend on the road and on the race track. The icing on the cake was being chosen as the official pace car for the Indianapolis 500 by the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association.

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If our account of Oldmobile’s fortunes sounds a bit exaggerated, it pales in comparison to the superlatives heaped on the new model in the ad copy above. The “surge and smoothness” of the Hydramatic, the only fully automatic transmission in the industry at the time, was trumpeted. Although the Rocket V-8 was rated at only 135 horsepower, the “great gathering wave of power” it produced promised to deliver “an exultant, air-borne freedom.” Such performance and breathless promotion helped keep Olds sales solidly in the top ten for the next decade. Photos courtesy of the Benjamin Ames Collection. Ads courtesy of Alden Jewell.

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7 Responses to The Future Looked Futuramic – Oldsmobile in 1949

  1. Dave Pool says:

    It makes you “wonder” if this was an “era in advertising” when copywriters were “paid” by the question mark as they wove each “breathless” pronouncement into the layout.

  2. Bob Ricewasser says:

    My Father purchased a 49 98 Club Sedan, which was the deluxe model. The hydramatic transmission was a little on the jerky side and the Rocket overhead valve V-8 would foul the little 10mm peanut spark plugs from time to time. The styling on this car was exceptional, but my Father only kept it for 2 years and traded it for a 51 Packard 300 series sedan.

  3. joe totton says:

    I did not know the hydramatic was standard equipment with the V-8s. That must have been a first at least in that price range. Does anyone know what whirlaway was? I had never heard of it. The Olds V-8 was pretty hot up until 55 at least.

  4. The Rocket 88 was immortalised in song by Jackie Brenston and his Rhythm Cats in 1951, with some people claiming that the song was the first rock ‘n’ roll record:

    https://rockhall.com/blog/post/jackie-brenston-rocket-88-first-rock-song/

  5. David north says:

    I grew up on 88 Olds, my uncle was a dealor on San Antonio
    When G. M. Hired me to design there cars in 1959 I became
    chief Designer for Oldsmobile. Thru good times like 1966, then not
    So good 70s to the bitter end in the 90s. Along the way some outstanding
    Engineering ,and I mite add, some good looking cars.

  6. Newark N.Y. says:

    In my little hometown that had a very successful white collar company, you were classified by the car you drove. The big guys drove Caddys, Vice Presidents had Buicks and young men starting out in corporate world had Chevys and Fords. Those who were independent thinkers, tinkerers, and really enjoyed their automobiles purchased the new Olds V-8′s with Hydra-Matic.

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