1961 Oldsmobile 88 Is a Stylish Survivor, Hides Modern Surprise Under the Hood
3 October 2021 - autocar
Perhaps Oldsmobile's most iconic nameplate, the 88 debuted in 1949. Thanks to its potent Rocket V8 engine and successful NASCAR career, the 88 is often regarded as America's first muscle car.
The Oldsmobile 88 soldiered on for a whopping 50 years over no fewer than 10 generations. The original Rocket V8 also survived for 15 years, motivating five consecutive generations of the full-size. This 1961 Dynamic 88 is one of the last that rolled off the assembly line with a Rocket under the hood, some three years before the mill was discontinued.
But this well-maintained survivor with "mostly original paint and interior" is no longer a Rocket-powered bubble top. It's not something you want to hear when it comes to prized classics like this, but the good news is that the original mill was replaced by a more modern LS V8.
The powerplant in question is a 323-cubic-inch (5.3-liter) that appears to be of the Gen III variety. It was originally produced from 1999 to 2007 and used in a variety of Chevrolet and GMC SUVs and pickup trucks, including the Tahoe, Suburban, and Silverado. It delivered up to 310 horsepower and 335 pound-feet (454 Nm) of torque in GM's production models, but it's capable of even more with the right upgrades.
There's no word as to how much it delivers in this old 88, but we do know that it replaced a 394-cubic-inch (6.5-liter) Sky Rocket V8 good for 335 horsepower. While it might not be as powerful, the newer LS should be more reliable. But in case you're not into swaps like this, you can put the original mill back under the hood, as the seller is offering it (along with the original three-speed auto) with the car. Speaking of which, the LS mates to a 700R4 gearbox.
Engine swap aside, the 1961 Olds' looks as good as they get inside and out. The original white paint has been touched up and looks excellent, while the chrome trim shines like new. The red-painted wheels provide a cool contrast and a hint that this 88 is an unassuming, modernized hot rod, but the finish might not be original.
Things get even better inside the cabin, where the stylish dashboard is finished in a metallic burgundy color, as are the steering wheel and the door panels. The seats are wrapped in vinyl, finished in a similar hue, but include white inserts for a 1960s-specific two-tone look.
Granted, the fifth-gen 88 is not the most iconic of its kind, but it's a unique take on GM's bubble-top styling from the era. And it definitely looks a bit more futuristic and upscale than the 1961 Impala. The fact that the original Sky Rocket V8 is available for a reverse swap to original specs is a cool bonus.
If you're into early 1960s Oldsmobiles, this beauty is being auctioned off at no reserve by eBay's "sotaboyz." The listing attracted 20 bids and $12,700 as of this writing, but the listing will be up for another four days.