Oldsmobile introduced a new style of transmission in 1940 dubbed the Hydramatic. It was one of the earliest automatic transmissions developed by an automobile manufacturer - not the first, but certainly the most successful. After World War II, Oldsmobile - like most manufacturers - returned to automobile production using slightly updated versions of its prewar product.
Oldsmobile began using a new design style called 'Futurmatic' by General Motors in 1949. It was futuristic and forward-thinking, using design cues from space ships (albeit, the earliest forms or those imagined) and aircraft. The designs bused rounded quarter panels, rounded and integral hoods and trunks, and long, continuous lines. The new overhead valve V8 was equally futuristic and impressive, replacing the prior inline-six-cylinder engine, which had been in use by Oldsmobile in various forms since the 1920s. The new engine was called the Rocket 88, inspiring the 1950s slogan 'Make a Date with a Rocket 88,' and also a song, 'Rocket 88.' Coupled with the Hydramatic transmission, the new Oldsmobiles soon became very successful in stock car racing.
When Oldsmobile introduced the Eighty Eight Series in 1949, little did they know the name would be part of its lineup until the late 1990s. When introduced, it joined the already-existing 76 and 98 models and served as a replacement of the straight-8 engined 78. It used the same B-body platform as the straight-6 engined 76 but was powered by the new 303 cubic-inch Rocket V8 engine delivering 135 horsepower. Many consider this to be the first muscle car as it fit the formula - small, lightweight vehicle endowed with a powerful engine. It became very successful on the NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) circuits and won six of the nine NASCAR late-model division races in 1949, 10 of 19 in 1950, and 20 of 41 in 1952.
Called Futuramatic by Olds marketers, the Harley Earl design was concurrent with the introduction of the industry's first production 'hardtop convertible,' called the Holiday. Eighty-Eight series body styles included a club coupe and club sedan, sedan, town sedan, convertible and station wagon. Prices ranged from $2,000 to $2,400. The most popular body style was the sedan which found 46,386 willing buyers. The station wagon was the most exclusive with 1,355 examples sold. They wore Fisher-supplied bodies and came equipped with leather upholstery and mahogany panels. By mid-year, the wood trim was gone and Oldsmobile joined the ranks of those offering all-steel wagons. It is not known how many of the 1,355 wore wood trim vs. all-steel. 5,434 of the convertible found homes with buyers seeking drop-top motoring. Along with a wide list of body styles, buyers were able to select from thirteen standard colors plus eight two-tone combinations. The interiors were done in Bedford cord or broadcloth, cloth and leather combinations, and leather. Standard equipment included a clock, Deluxe steering wheel, turn signals, wheel trim rings, foam rubber seat cushions, floor mats, bumper guards, dual horns, cigarette lighter, solenoid starter, and safety glass.
The Oldsmobile 88 was the company's best selling model line for 1949, with 99,276 examples built.
Along with the Oldsmobile 88, the overhead valve V-8 engine was also available in the 98 models. It had 7:25 to 1 compression, 263 lb-feet of torque at 1,800 RPM, and 135 horsepower at 3,600 RPM.
An Oldsmobile 88 convertible paced the 33rd running of the Indianapolis 500, the first time an Oldsmobile had served as the official pace car. The car was a 1949 Rocket 88 driven by Sam Hanks.By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008