Golden Rocket 88
Restored & Documented Golden Rocket 88 371 J2 Tri Power
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.
As with any 50s car, the tab on restoring the chrome had to be staggering, so be glad someone else was footing the bill instead of you. All of it is restored to show quality, from the massive front bumper and grille, to the unique 88 emblems under the cool jet-inspired taillights. You'll also note all the stainless has been buffed and polished, including the trim around the unique 3-piece rear window. Speaking of windows, all the glass is excellent, including the impossible to replace wrap-around windshield. Lenses and other details are beautifully restored, and I'm guessing that reproduction parts for a car like this are few and far between, so most of the items are either original or NOS replacements.
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. Detailing is first-rate too, from the Oldsmobile J2 Rocket decals on the valve covers, to the correct 2-barrel carburetors, to the original power steering system that's fully functional. You'll note that this engine sports a trio of shorty air cleaners on the carbs, but the original dual oil-bath air cleaner is also included for originality's sake. On the firewall, you'll see original wiper motor and correct vacuum diaphragms. An original Delco generator still makes the electricity, and the original radiator has been recored and reinstalled. Clamps, hoses, wires, and other details are correct, and someone obviously spent an awful lot of money making this Olds look and run right.
This car was given a complete frame-off restoration, and as a result is as clean underneath as up top. The Jetaway Hydramatic automatic transmission was introduced in 1956 was still a 4-speed like the original. The shift indicator often makes people mistake it for a 3-speed automatic, as it indicates D-S (for Super, not second), and -L, but the L position gives both 1st and 2nd gears, depending on road speed. The massive frame has been painted satin black as original, and the red oxide floors are solid and required very little work during the restoration (photos show almost spotless floor pans pre-restoration). Brakes were rebuilt to stock specifications, as was the suspension, although the car was given a subtle, aggressive look by tweaking the spring height slightly. Flowmaster mufflers on a true dual exhaust system let the J2 speak a little more profoundly, but other than that, this is a highly authentic restoration. The car currently wears a set of chrome Boss Motorsports wheels and 245/45/18 front and 255/45/20 rear Goodyear Eagle RSAs, but the original 15-inch steel wheels and plain hubcaps are included, all fully restored and wearing fresh Uniroyal whitewall radials.
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. Everything you can see or touch is new or restored, and is brilliantly done in every way. New black carpets compliment the white headliner overhead, and the door panels are simply spectacular. The white steering wheel is fully restored and all the chrome on the dash is done to the same amazing level as the stuff on the body. A trio of auxiliary gauges has been added down low, just to help you keep an eye on the J2, but otherwise its 100% as the factory intended only much nicer than they could ever have managed on an assembly line. The original radio has been upgraded to include a digital tuner and an iPod interface, but looks completely stock. The trunk is currently sporting a custom carpet that shows off the J2 logo, but an original trunk mat is included if you want a more stock appearance.
Documentation on this car is comprehensive. We have the original sales invoice showing that it is a real J2 car carrying a fairly stiff bottom line of $3978.24 after being loaded with options. The car also includes an owner's manual, 30,000 mile insurance policy certificate, service records from the original owner and dealership, and a stack of receipts covering the entire restoration. Of note, there's a notarized letter from the engine rebuilder, Ross Automotive Machine Co., identifying the original engine number and explaining that the newly stamped numbers are details on the engine work performed, should future mechanics need to service the engine. And, of course, there are all those restoration photos showing you what a solid, complete car this was originally, and how thoroughly it was restored.
If you sense that I love this car, you're exactly right. I love the look, the colors, the body style, and especially that J2 engine under the hood. I love that it's not a Chevy, and that its relative rarity makes it an orphan at many shows. It's fast, comfortable, luxurious, and at this price, about 2/3 the cost of a comparable Chevy. There are no irreversible modifications, and this car could be put back to 100% stock condition in an afternoon by simply replacing bolt-on parts. Whomever restored this car and spend all the money detailed in those receipts is so far upside-down on this car that he wouldn't be able to recover all of it, even if we could sell the car twice. This is one very special car, and I think once you take a good look at it, you'll fall in love, too. But you're surely not alone, so act fast and call today!
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