Abandoned 1952 Oldsmobile 88 Gets First Wash in 60 Years, Shows Beautiful Patina

Produced from 1949 to 1999, the Oldsmobile 88 is famous for quite a few things. It was one of the company's longest-running nameplates and it was also Oldsmobile's most profitable automobile from 1950 until 1974. More importantly, the first-generation 88 was America's first muscle car.
1952 Oldsmobile 88 8 photos
Photo: IowaClassicCars/YouTube
1952 Oldsmobile 88 junkyard find1952 Oldsmobile 88 junkyard find1952 Oldsmobile 88 junkyard find1952 Oldsmobile 88 junkyard find1952 Oldsmobile 88 junkyard find1952 Oldsmobile 88 junkyard find1952 Oldsmobile 88 junkyard find
Wait, what? Wasn't that the Pontiac GTO? Not really. The GTO was the first to be advertised as a muscle car and popularised the segment. But what about the Chrysler C-300, which arrived with a 300-horsepower V8 in 1955? Yup, we can also call it a muscle car, but Oldsmobile dropped a high-performance V8 in a relatively small car (for the era) six years before Mopar did.

The 88 also has a successful NASCAR career to brag about. It won six of the nine division races in 1949, an additional 10 in 1950, and a whopping 20 in 1952. It was eventually eclipsed by the Hudson Hornet, but the Olds 88 remains the first "King of NASCAR." It also kickstarted the "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" business model.

Come 2022 and the 88 doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. Just like the Hudson Hornet, it's overshadowed by other classics from the era. And as a result, many 88s, including the more desirable two-door coupes and hardtops, are rotting away in junkyards.

The four-door you see here is one of those cars but unlike many of its siblings, it got lucky and soldiered on through decades of sitting like a champ. It may seem hard to believe, but this once-gorgeous 88 was retired in 1962, which means that it spent a whopping 60 years off the road as of 2022.

Rescued by YouTube's "IowaClassicCars," the Olds is in fantastic condition given the junkyard treatment it got over the past six decades. Sure, it has a huge ding in the roof and it's missing some trim, but it's not as rusty as you'd expect. On top of that, it shows some beautiful patina, the kind that people would pay a lot of money to have it done at a shop.

And it all looks even better after our host gives the 88 its first bath in 60 years. The interior is in pretty rough shape with rotten seats and door panels, but there's a bit of good news under the hood. Because this 88 still rocks the 303-cubic-inch (5.0-liter) "Rocket" V8 that made the series famous in the early 1950s.

Oh, and this car was also equipped with the optional Autronic Eye, an innovative feature back in the day. It included a system that dimmed the high beams when an oncoming vehicle was detected and then turned them back on when the opposing vehicle passed. GM introduced the Autronic Eye for the 1952 model year, so this 88 is one of the first cars that got it.

Back to the "Rocket" V8 in question, the old mill wasn't stuck, which is surprising after 60 years without a sip of gas, but our host didn't manage to get it running again. Even though he rebuilt the carburetor and got three out of four valves unstuck, the V8 refused to fire up. Yes, it's a missed opportunity to see this glorious Olds drive again after 60 years, but the fact that it was saved from a sad life in the junkyard is good enough for me.

Video thumbnail
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram Twitter
About the author: Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea profile photo

Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories