The Oldsmobile 88 is another line that GM manufactured for five decades and ten generations. For close to fifteen years the 88 was also Oldsmobile’s top selling line. The Oldsmobile 88 went by many different names throughout the years, including
- Golden Rocket
- L/S and LSS
- Celebrity; and
The 88 was advertised using the actual number 88 in the earlier years of production, but then in 1989 switched over to spell-out “Eighty-Eight”.
The 88 was first introduced in 1949 as a replacement for the straight-8 engine 78. The 88 shared the new Futuramic B-body as the 76, but was equipped with a Rocket V8 engine. It was this combination that not only expanded Oldsmobile into the racing realm, but became the contender to beat in the NASCAR circuit. The 88 won six of the nine NASCAR late-model races from 1949-1952. It would later be eclipsed by the Hudson Hornet, but would still remain its title as the original “King of Nascar”. The 88 also inspired the slogan from the 1950s “Make a Date with a Rocket 88” and also the song “Rocket 88”. The second generation would bring a restyle in 1954 with longer and lower body shells and new grillwork and body-side chrome in 1955. 1956 would close out the second generation with a new split grille front added.
The third generation brought a name change of Golden Rocket 88 for one year only in 1957. 1958 brought with it the “Chrome Mobile”, which included generous amounts of chrome trim and the Dynamic 88, which was marketed as a more entry level model with a less sophisticated and more economical engine. Despite the recession, there was only a slight decline in sales in 1958. When the fourth generation rolled around in 1959, all Oldsmobile’s were restyled. The 88 received a face lift with a longer, lower, and wider style with a B-body chassis. The 88 most resembled the top-model 98.
The fifth generation of 88 brought some of the most dynamic changes. 1961 brought an all new body and chassis design which was brought about as a representation of the after-effect of the recession. Mid-year, the luxurious Starfire was introduced as a sporty convertible. In 1962, all skegs were removed from the rear fenders because of Vice President of Design Bill Mitchell’s dislike for them. In 1964 the Jetstar 88 and Jetstar I were introduced. It was also the last year Oldsmobile offered full size station wagons until 1971.
With the 6th generation brought the Delta 88 and the Delmont 88. The Delmont was produced for only two years and was to replace the Jetstar and Dynamic lines. The Delta also included a sub-series which featured a plusher interior and a choice of bucket or bench seating. The 7th generation brought large and re-styled cars, including the Custom Cruiser station wagon which was the first full-sized Oldsmobile wagon since 1964. The eighth generation brought about downsized Delta 88’s- which in 1984 were renamed “Royale” or “Royale Brougham” models, and the Holiday 88 coupe. Additionally, all engines received GM’s new Computer Command Control engine management system.
The 9th and 10th generations brought innovations like door mounted and rear shoulder seat belts and driver air bags. The “Delta” name was also dropped from models. The coupe would see its last year in 1991, as would finally the entire 88 line in 1999. The 88 was eventually replaced by the Aurora V6 in 2001.