The Lost Rocket: 1957 Oldsmobile 88 with Banned NASCAR V8 Found in a Yard

That’s when Hudson began working on the Hornet, a full-size car that rose to fame by dominating NASCAR from 1952 through 1954. I know, the “Fabulous” Hornet featured an inline-six engine instead of a V8, but I’m not here to talk about that. In 1949, a few months before Hudson unleashed the Hornet, Oldsmobile introduced the 88.

Powered by a then-new 303-cubic-inch (5.0-liter) V8 mill, the “Rocket” 88 not only won the NASCAR championship twice but also took first place in the inaugural Carrera Panamericana.

Its motorsport success came to a halt in 1952 and the 88 slowly morphed into a larger, heavier rig, but that’s not to say that Oldsmobile didn’t try to bring the nameplate back to the oval track.

It happened in 1957 when Oldsmobile redesigned the 88 for the third generation and introduced the J-2 high-performance option. Essentially a three-two-barrel carburetor upgrade similar to Pontiac’s Tri-Power option, J-2 bumped the output of the 371-cubic-inch (6.1-liter) Rocket V8 from 277 to 300 horsepower. Torque was just as impressive at 415 pound-feet (563 Nm).

With the 88 now back into muscle car territory, Oldsmobile hired NASCAR legend Lee Petty to drive the car to oval-track glory. However, the J-2’s racing adventure came to an abrupt end when NASCAR outlawed multiple carburation during the 1957 season.

Most experts agree that between 2,000 and 2,500 Oldsmobile 88s were fitted with the J-2 option in 1957 and 1958. With many of these cars wrecked or abandoned in junkyards, the J-2 is now an extremely rare classic.

The 1957 Super 88 you’re about to see below is one of the lucky ones that got rescued after sitting for years in someone’s backyard.

Amazingly enough, the four-door sedan is still in good condition. Yes, the red paint has seen better days there’s plenty of surface rust on the body, but most of the chrome is still there and the car appears to be complete.

The interior is also in great condition with the original upholstery still in one piece. Impressively enough, the headliner is not saggy, which is a common issue with 1950s classics.

But the most spectacular thing about this Olds is that it still rocks its original, numbers-matching J-2 engine. It could use a good cleaning and most likely won’t run without a bit of work, but it’s downright fantastic that this 65-year-old mill is still complete. //

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