Olds Rocket 88: New Again, Only Better

February, 2019

1951 Olds Club-Coupe Deluxe

The term “Muscle Cars” has been largely tied to the 1964 Pontiac GTO, although there’s a strong argument to be made that Chrysler’s “Letter Cars,” starting in the mid-50s, should have the title. But, what about the legendary Olds Rocket 88 cars that debuted in 1949? In their day, they were the hot cars on the street and the NASCAR track, winning 6 of the 9 races in their first year. Running into a Rocket 88 is a rare find, but we did just that – at the 2019 Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) in Pomona, CA. This 88, a 1951 Olds Club-Coupe Deluxe named “Silva,” looked to be original and fresh from the showroom, at least from the outside. However, looks can be deceiving, especially in an age where a multitude of aftermarket parts are available to modernize a classic car. When talking with the builder, we learned that this coupe had been restored with the plan to keep it looking original but with new technology – a trend that we are beginning to see more frequently. Probably the biggest example of disguising the upgrades to the Olds was the Rocket engine itself. It looked original on top, but in fact it was a cleverly camouflaged LS motor cranking out 600 HP. Now, that makes it a real Rocket! Scott Laitinen of SIC Chops gave us a walk-around tour of the Olds his shop had just finished. We were told this is a one-family owned car, and proving there is longevity in hot rodding, the lady who originally bought the car recently turned 100 years young.

GNRS Awards – 1st place winner: Mild Hardtop class and special award: Outstanding Detail