One of the most historically significant vehicles of its era, the Oldsmobile F-88 is considered an iconic manifestation of classic automotive design from the 1950s. It was designed during 1952 and 1953, about the same time that the first Motorama Corvette was created. The F-88’s preliminary sketches were created by the veteran designer Bill Lange. With Art Ross’s direction, the F-88’s final design was completed in Oldsmobile’s main studio. The F-88’s interior was designed by Jack Humbert, who later became the chief designer of the Pontiac.
Built for the Motorama show circuit, the Oldsmobile F-88 shared the stage with the Oldsmobile Cutlass fastback sports car. Painted with metallic gold on the outside and metallic green on its fenderwells, the Oldsmobile F-88 was unveiled on January 21, 1954 at the GM’s Motorama at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.
The golden F-88 really was a showstopper. The musical backdrop and the vehicle display ran for six days with the Oldsmobile F-88 as part of the traveling Motorama show as it caravanned on trucks and buses to Miami, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. There were over 2 million viewers that season; however, after the car show was completed, the vehicles were then turned over to the sponsoring division. Top executives were then encouraged to destroy the vehicles or to give them to their favorite dealers as the cars could not be sold.
Design and Features
A two-passenger, high performance sports convertible, the Oldsmobile F-88 was a legendary experimental dream car, a beautiful dynamo on wheels. General Motor’s designers incorporated extensive striking innovations into this spectacular experimental convertible, including a 250 horsepower “rocket” engine, sparkling interior trim, custom rear deck design, low-positioned fiberglass body and natural pigskin upholstery. It also featured an exclusive complement of bullet tail lights, “hockey stick” side trim and an elliptical grille mouth.
Strictly a Dream Car
Harley Earl, the Oldsmobile F-88’s legendary automotive stylist, believed that the F-88 would outsell the Corvette and forever change the automobile history. Unfortunately, Chevrolet created more GM products, and it was able to convince General Motor’s board of directors to end the Oldsmobile project, and the F-88 never went into production. That is why the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 never became more than a dream car.
Nonetheless, the Oldsmobile F-88 was one of the most important concept vehicles ever created by General Motors. The F-88 was technologically superior to many of the era’s similar vehicles as it featured a lightweight body, a Rocket 88 V8 with large vertical exhaust outlets, door latches and power windows and a four speed hydromatic transmission. Its engine’s modified compression ratio boosted the F-88’s 185 HP to 250 HP with an undisclosed torque value.
This experimental coupe, had it reached widespread production, would have been a direct competitor to Chevrolet’s Corvette. Unfortunately, GM only built three Oldsmobile F-88 show cars. Each one is slightly different from the other, although all of them came with a concealed folding top. Only one of these cars still survives today. It set a world record when it was sold at the Barett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale Arizona in January 2005 for $3.2 million. John S. Hendricks, founder of the Discovery Channel, is now the proud owner of this 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 and has displayed it in the Gateway Auto Museum in Colorado.
Guest post contributed by Jarrod Cohen, on behalf of Chino Hills Ford.
Photo credit: kenjonbro