The Oldsmobile 88 (marketed from 1989 on as the Eighty Eight) is a full-size car that was sold and produced by Oldsmobile from 1949 until 1999. From 1950 to 1974 the 88 was the division's top-selling line, particularly the entry-level models such as the 88 and Dynamic 88. The 88 series was also an image leader for Oldsmobile, particularly in the early years (1949–51) when it was one of the best performing automobiles thanks to its relatively small size, light weight and advanced overhead-valve high-compression V8 engine. This engine, originally designed for the larger C-bodied and more luxurious 98 series, also replaced the straight-8 on the smaller B-bodied 78. With the large, high performance V8, the Oldsmobile 88 is widely considered to be the first muscle car, although this title is disputed.
A large number of variations in nomenclature were seen over this long model run — Futuramic, Super, Golden Rocket, Dynamic, Jetstar, Delta, Delmont, Starfire, Holiday, L/S, LSS, Celebrity, and Royale were used at various times with the 88 badge, and Fiesta appeared on some station wagons in the 1950s and 1960s. The name was more commonly shown as numbers in the earlier years ("Delta 88", for example) and was changed to spell out "Eighty Eight" starting in 1989.
The 1954 Oldsmobiles were completely restyled with new longer and lower body shells and wrap-around windshields and rear windows. Wheelbases increased to 122 inches (3.1 m). Base models reverted to being simply called 88s after being designated as DeLuxe 88s for only one year and the Super 88 was once again the top series (beneath the larger 98). The Rocket V8 was enlarged from 303 to 324 cubic inches with 88s powered by a two-barrel, 170 horsepower (130 kW) unit while Super 88s came with a 185 horsepower (138 kW) version with four-barrel carburetor. Also, a safety padded dash became optional, at $17.
The 1955 models were heavily facelifted with new grillework, taillights and body-side chrome. Horsepower for the 324-cubic-inch Rocket V8 increased to 185 for 88s and 202 for Super 88s. At mid-year, Olds introduced the new pillarless four-door hardtop body, dubbed the Holiday sedan, in both the 88 and Super 88 series. The four-door Oldsmobile 88 Holiday, along with the four-door 98 Holiday, Buick Century Riviera, and Special Riviera, were the first four-door hardtops ever produced. Air conditioning became an option. The 88 had full instrumentation.
For 1956, styling highlights included a new split grille in front and revised taillights and deck along with revised side chroming. Horsepower for the 324 Rocket V8 increased to 230 for 88s and 240 for Super 88s. A new four-speed Jetaway Hydra-Matic was introduced this year to replace the original Hydra-Matic transmission that Olds had used since 1940. The new Jetaway Hydra-Matic retained the four forward speeds and fluid coupling unit, but added a new "Park" position to the shift quadrant and no longer required band adjustment as a specified routine maintenance. Inside, an oval speedometer replaced the round unit and a new foot-operated parking brake replaced the previous T-handle unit.