Unbeknownst to them at the time, when General Motor’s Oldsmobile division introduced the Rocket 88 model in 1949, they created America’s first real muscle car. It was a perfect combination of a lighter than usual body and a large, powerful engine. It soon became a darling among NASCAR drivers and this popularity translated into considerable consumer demand. I retrospect, the Model 88 changed Oldsmobile. Here’s the history of this fascinating car:
Prior to 1949, Oldsmobiles came with in-line, flat head engines. In 1949, however, the Model 88 featured the powerful, new 303 cu. In. Rocket V8 engine
. In one year, the model 88 vaulted Oldsmobile from a somewhat conservative automobile to a performer that became the one to beat on the NASCAR
(National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) circuits. Here are some of the race statistics: In 1949, the Model 88 won six of the nine NASCAR late-model division races, 10 of 19 division races in 1950 and 20 of 41 in 1952. It was soon eclipsed by the low-slung, powerful Hudson Hornet
, but it was still the first real "King of NASCAR."
In addition to being fast, the Rocket 88 offered many user advances. For example, it was equipped with a dual ignition mechanism. One needed an ignition key and the start push-button to engage the ignition sequence. Although mainly released with a four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, Oldsmobile also released the Model 88 with a three-speed manual transmission option. This was one of the reasons it was so popular among the NASCAR racers. The Rocket 88 car was also equipped with an oil bath air cleaner
The celebrity status that the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 enjoyed in the NASCAR circuit quickly led to an increase in market popularity. This created a pent-up demand for the car and waiting lists for this model were common for years. Its popularity even led to the creation of one of the first “rock and roll” songs, ‘Rocket 88′ by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats. It also inspired one of the 1950′s most popular slogans, ‘Make a date with a Rocket 88′.
The celebrity status enjoyed by the Rocket 88 kept the model in the Oldsmobile lineup until its closure in the late 1990s. An unprecedented run for what is considered America’s first muscle car.
Source: Covert Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram