Although still tied to the Futuramic Ninety Eights that pushed Oldsmobile into the stratosphere of the 1950’s a few years too early, the once again warmed over line topping Rocket Oldsmobiles had plenty of new before they were more fully redesigned for 1954.
Like a sneak preview of the potential return to the showroom in the years to follow, enough goodies went above and below the skin for 1953 the keep viewers glued to the screen for the latest flight into the Pre-Interstate highway space. Here’s why folks continued to make dates with rocket powered Oldsmobiles in 1953.
As the horsepower race warmed up even further, Oldsmobile couldn’t be left out as the the brand that threw the first punch in the battle in 1949. The last upgrade to the original 303 cubic inch Rocket V8 saw a reworked manifold and upped compression ratio to allot for 165 horsepower in Super 88’s and Ninety Eights. 170 was on tap for the new glamour boat Fiesta Convertible.
As the weight continued to increase on the Ninety Eight in particular, each new horse under the hood kept it competitive with other horses in the race, notably DeSoto’s Firedome, Chrysler’s lesser New Yorker, The Hudson Hornet, Buick’s new nailhead powered Super and Roadmaster and even Lincoln dipping into the price zone of Oldsmobile with their downmarket Cosmopolitan.
A number of these rivals borrowed what was native to Oldsmobile however; the Hydra-matic fluid coupling automatic brought 4 firmly self shifting gears to ease the process of ambling away from town into the country.
However, a fire at the Hydra-Matic plant during the model year meant some Oldsmobiles (and Cadillacs and Pontiacs as well) mean some 1953 Oldsmobiles are blessed/cursed with the silky smooth and sluggishly shifting Dynaflow Automatic from the Buick division.
Power assisted optioning was everywhere elsewhere, as Power Brakes and Air Conditioning joined Power Steering on the options list. It’s strange to think of assisted driving as being line options in our modern world where a crank window is virtually no existent and power seats find their way into price leaders.
Once upon a time, a fine near luxury boat like a Ninety Eight Olds offered all of these items as options, slowly rolling them in as standard equipment as time went buy and these features became more commonplace purchases among buyers. Honestly, to handle the bulk of these beasts, a little non-human muscle was needed to steer and stop these behemoths, so they were more-than-welcome additions to the 1953 options list.
New starting power in the upgrade to a 12 volt electrical system facilitated all of the new gadgetry to function with less trouble than the competition. Mild styling updates, including a surprising de-trimming of the Ninety-Eight in the ever-increasing chrome sweepstakes and a pod-intake scoop grille that hinted at 1954 styling features kept the zaftig body as fashionable as possible.
The Ninety-Eight continued to carve out a vehicular perspective of “why pay more for.” It was a high enough hill with capable performance and well-crafted luxury that would constantly trouble two tiers of GM finery above it. In that reality, the 1953 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight would be the last fully “C” bodied ones through 1961, when the larger Buick and Cadillac ones were slightly downsized.
The New for 1954 Ninety-Eight came to life as an extension, and exclusive modification of GM’s new “B” body shell, adding wheelbase and length, if not interior room over the 88 models. All of this, along with an ease on Korean War manufacturing limitations saw healthy sales for all Oldsmobiles. 27,920 people saw the $2,771.00 entry price (approximately $25,500 in 2017 dollars), started adding options and agreed “why buy more” and break the bank on a Cadillac Coupe DeVille or Roadmaster Riviera. This formula would serve the Ninety Eight righteously until there became too little a price, styling and feature difference between it and its more snobbish sisters.
14 thoughts on “(Found In) Elmwood (Oakland, California): 1953 Oldsmobile Ninety – Eight Holiday Hardtop Coupe”
Nice to see this Coupe soldiering on .
Not many left, my drunken buddy from Okla. left his 1953 Fiesta convertible out side, top down full of news papers in the dirt in Fontana, Ca. for decades until he died .
It was *pristine* when he bought it….
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That’s decidedly a waste considering the Fiestas regularly fetch 6 figures these days.
Nice to see Oldsmobile month continuing.
As much as I like hardtops, I think this is one of those cases where the 4 door has better proportions.
I’m going to two to squeeze two more Oldses in before I go on Vacation! And agreed, the Sedans decidedly handled the extra length better, these hardtops looked a lot better as 88’s.
Nope, I disagree with you both, lol. This is one of those rare cases – strictly IMO – where the longer rear deck actually works (and I almost never, ever say that!). Plus, the Olds 98 of this vintage was better looking than either the Buick Roadmaster or Cadillac Series 62 mainly due to the less fussy detailing; the stylists must have skipped the martinis for lunch and restrained their urges to plaster the 98 with chrome.
SIX FIGURES ?! . wow .
My Son, when he rode with me as a Child always liked me to point out what the various oldies were that we’d see, (Los Angeles has more cars than Detroit _ever_ did) then when I’d often say ‘ I had one of those, it was/had blahblahblah’ ~ he’d say ” why did you have all these cool cars yet we’re now driving in this thing ?! ” .
Because my Son : I can have pretty much any car I want and I do ~ I don’t want any other cars than the ones I have now, be they jalopies or jewels .
Me, I like this Olds quite a bit, I mostly had Sedans as a young man because I always drove (safer) and Coupes jammed full of people isn’t as much fun .
I really miss my tri tone 1954 Pontiac Super Chief Coupe, straight eight flathead engine and Hydromatic drive, a beauty with color matching leather diamond tuck upholstery, one owner before me, it was tired but still a beauty that rode like a dream and ate up the miles silently @ 80 ~ 85 MPH .
When Bob-O died, he had several hundred old cars and they all *vanished* pretty quickly, his Son had no interest and no other Family members that I recall .
Sad tale of the fate of the old cars, Nate. Thx for sharing.
Well I’m old ya know ;
I have had a deep love of old cars since Childhood, it never stopped nor went away .
I wish I had photos of all the oldies I’d find in my travels in the 1960’s and 1970’s….
I just to to – day got my iPhone thing able to download it’s photos and one of a blue 1964 (I think) Oldsmobile will be up soon on TTAC or Curbside Classic I think .
Since we’re on the subject of Oldsmobiles, how about that name, “Holiday”? What better designation for a coupe of any [Oldsmobile] sort to make you feel like you are taking a ‘holiday’ every time you get behind the wheel? Too bad car names don’t come anywhere close to being this romantic today. It seems ironic now, with every other car branded by a numeric designation of some kind, that Oldsmobile wasn’t able to make ’88’ and ’98’ work for them. Of course, a name alone doesn’t guarantee a good product or good sales. Still, would love to have had Olds dump that godawful ‘Achieva’ nameplate for ‘F85’ – how might that have turned out? They could even have branded Silhouette and Bravada numerically… Oldsmobile SX78, Oldsmobile BRX8? Ah, hindsight.
You’re on Curbside Classic? I’ll have to look for you there. That was how I found Dynamic Drive. What is TTAC?
TTAC : http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/
A fun place IMO .
Oh, yes, I know that site. I haven’t been on there often, which is why I didn’t recognize the acronym. Let me know where and when you post about your Oldsmobile find, Nate, so that I can follow, thanks!
I just sent them the pictures, I have no sway over where/if they get posted .
Just another nice old unrestored California car, ya know….
I will keep an eye out, Nate. Thanks.