Though some people might argue, the general acceptance is that the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 is America’s first muscle car. If not the first true muscle car, it was the precursor to all that would come. It’s combination of relatively light body and powerful high-compression overhead valve V8 engine vaulted Oldsmobile from a sedated conservative car to a leader in the industry. The Rocket 88 soon dominated the racing circuits winning six of the nine NASCAR late-model division races in 1949. It continued to claim victories in nearly half the late-model division races until 1952. During the 50′s it was not uncommon for “The car who won the races on Sunday to be the car that sold on Monday”. It’s success in the races also led to increased sales. At the time, it’s only true competitor was the Hudson Hornet.
Fun Trivia Fact: The Oldsmobile Rocket 88 is said to have inspired Rocket 88 a rhythm and blues song that is considered by some to be the first rock and roll song.
While the Rocket was only in production from 1949-1957, different Eighty Eight models were manufactured until 1999. While it may not fit the pony car image, the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket certainly ignited the enthusiasm that led to our most popular classic muscle cars.
In 1949, a brand new Rocket 88 convertible would set you back roughly $2,500, now you’ll be hard pressed to find a mint condition convertible for less than $100,000.
Check out this collection of classic ’49 Rockets. Click on thumbnails to view larger images.