If you think a fuel injected Chevy Bel Air was the top of the General Motors luxury/performance food chain in 1957, allow me to introduce you to this 1957 Oldsmobile Golden Rocket 88 with the J2 371 cubic inch engine.
For 1957, the basic 88 was officially named Golden Rocket 88, taken from Olds’ 1956 Motorama two-passenger show car. However, the only badging identifying it as such was a simple “88” underneath each taillight. 1957 also offered the “J2” option, with three 2-barrel carburetors atop the 371 cubic inch V8; making this a true luxury performance car before we even knew such a thing existed.
Don’t be fooled by the large-by-huge chrome wheels its wearing today, this particular 57 Golden Rocket 88 is an authentic J2 car, and is extensively and thoroughly restored to original condition from top to bottom (and yes, original wheels and tires are included). Sources differ on how many were built and into which bodies they were installed, but they all agree that these are extremely rare cars.
Our documents suggest that this is one of only four Golden Rocket 88 2-door sedans in existence with the J2 engine. The market hasn’t caught on yet, however, that these are faster and more luxurious than their Chevy cousins, and arguably just as attractive, making this one a tremendous bargain. Style, performance and luxury, this Golden Rocket 88 represents first-class 50s cruising today at a price that probably doesn’t even cover the paint and chrome restoration.
The two-tone bodywork on this car is spectacularly done and looks especially striking in black and white with a red stripe in the chrome trim that separates the two halves. And to answer your first question, yes, that’s the original color combination photos are included showing this car in original, pre-resotration condition, and everything is the same, right down to the red stripe.
Bodywork is beautiful, with straight panels and excellent fit throughout, evidenced by the miles-deep reflections in the paint. 2-stage urethane was used to give it an incredibly durable finish that will last decades if you treat it right, and with classic colors like black and white, it doesn’t look too flashy or modern the way other colors and metallics always do. Overall, the design is clean, uncluttered and streamlined, and in my opinion, one of the most successful body shapes to come out of the over-wrought 1950s.
The real story on this Olds is the J2 engine under the hood. In 1957, Chevy increased the size of the venerable small block V8 from 265 to 283 cubic inches, but the Olds still packed nearly 90 more cubic inches. With its J-2 triple-carb induction system, the Olds 371 was rated at an even 300 horsepower and 400 pounds of torque, 17 horses more than the much-celebrated-yet-finicky 1-horsepower-per-cubic-inch fuel injected 283.
And when they talk about Golden Rocket they are probably talking about the engine and its brilliant gold paint. Gold was an Oldsmobile engine color for many years, and in this engine bay, it really pops. Fully rebuilt during the restoration, it runs like new and the passing of years has proven that these are some extremely durable engines.
The black and white and red theme continues inside, and looking at the interior in this Olds only reminds me that General Motors was at the very top of their game in the late 1950s. From the tri-tone seats with patented GM comfort weave cushions, to the positively breathtaking instrument cluster, this interior is so artfully designed that you’ll find yourself sitting behind the wheel just admiring it as I did.