What was the first muscle car? The answer to that largely depends on who you ask. A Ford guy and a Chevy guy will give you two very different opinions, but generally, it is believed the honour should be bestowed upon Oldsmobile which back in 1949 had the foresight to stick its advanced over-head valve high-compression V8s — designed for the large 98 series cars — under the bonnet of the smaller 88 series. By the time the third-gen rolled off the line in ‘57, Olds had mastered the art of offering enthusiasts brute power with beautiful looks and there were none better than the Super 88 Holiday Hardtop.
It was equally at home when cruising along the boulevard as it was lighting up the rear tyres on the drag strip. A 371 cubic inch Rocket V8 was standard across the 88 line that year (it could be had with a three-speed manual or a Jetaway dual-coupling Hydramatic automatic transmission) but the J2 package got you triple two-barrel carbs that boosted power from 270 to 300 horses. Torque sat at an immense 542Nm. The J2 371 was a legend in its day, designed from the outset to burn up Nascar tracks with Lee Petty at the wheel.
The ‘57’s body was restyled; it was two inches lower and longer, so styling was a bit more rakish, the front featured a larger grille/bumper with “Oldsmobile” in block letters inside it, the rocket bonnet ornaments were moved to the tops of each fender above the headlights, while the taillights were inset oval lenses bringing to mind a jet exhaust.
The roofline was more rounded too while newly available on the options list was GM’s built-in air conditioning system which joined other amenities such as power brakes, power steering, power windows and power seats.
Overall, the Super 88 drew plenty of attention while standing still or when screaming to 100kph from rest — which it could despatch in under nine seconds and that wasn’t bad at all considering it weighed 1,970kg.
Today, they cost around Dh200,000.
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