Oldsmobile Super 88 Convertible

They say that timing is everything. It’s not quite everything in the automobile business, but it is a big factor. Just as America’s automakers were coming off of a respectable though not stellar 1957, along came the second “Eisenhower recession.” The manufacturers’ plan, however, had been for bigger and better. Some lowered and lengthened their cars, others simply made them look bigger and bolder. A significant segment of the populace rebelled, and sales skidded from 6.1 million cars to 4.2 million.

Actually, the 1958 Oldsmobiles were no bigger than the comparable 1957 models, although their wheelbases were infinitesimally longer. The accent lines and trim, however, were horizontal, which, coupled with a roof nearly an inch lower, gave the appearance of much greater length. Surprisingly, the 1958s were lighter, model for model, than their predecessors. General Motors’ 1958 cars, the Chevys apart, are generally regarded as the most lavishly trimmed, but the Oldsmobiles, when viewed in hindsight, look relatively staid, handsome in fact.

The Golden Rocket 88 from 1957 was renamed Dynamic 88, while the “value model,” the Super 88, retained its old designation. The Super 88 was basically a Dynamic 88 with a 98 engine, the difference in 1958 being in the carburetor. The Dynamic 88 had a two-barrel, while the others had a quad, good for 40 more horsepower and a similar helping of torque. Other differences included a padded dashboard, foam rubber seat cushions, courtesy lights, and side moldings on the Super 88. 

The standard engine for the Super 88 in 1958 was a 371-cubic inch Golden Rocket V-8, developing 305 brake horsepower. All Oldsmobile customers, however, could opt for the three-carburetor J-2 version, which was rated at 312 brake horsepower. The J-2 package had been released to the public in January 1957, aimed at competition applications but available to anyone, although the company said it was “not recommended for street use.” Joe Wherry of Motor Trend reported a 0–60 time of 9.4 seconds in a J-2-equipped 98, when anything under 10 seconds was remarkable. The J-2 88s later recorded times under eight seconds. The racing applications dwindled, however, when NASCAR boss Bill France banned multi-carburetor setups. When 1959 rolled around, the J-2 option had been discontinued.

312 bhp, 371 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine, four-speed Hydra-Matic transmission, coil spring independent front suspension, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 122.5 in.

Part of the RM Auctions event for John Staluppi in December, 2012.

Source: RM Auction
Photo Credit: Teddy Pieper

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