Many people have asked why America is called a “car culture.” The 1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic is a car that answers that question. Just looking at it creates images of family vacations on the open road long before the Griswolds ever took their epic “vacation” in their station wagon.
For 1950, the Oldsmobile 98 line was restyled from previous models, while its sibling 88 remained unchanged, largely because it already had several model options including a two-door convertible, hardtop, sedan, coupe and fastbacks, as well as a four-door sedan and station wagon. The station wagon version would become an icon of the age.
Oldsmobile station wagons had been all metal since 1949, when all tailgate and wooden window trim was replaced by wood-grained metal. The main difference between it and the Pontiac and Chevrolet models was that it offered better interior trim, plus the availability of General Motors’ fully automatic transmission and the power of a legendary Rocket 88’s V8 engine.
Produced in Wentzville, Miss., and both Flint and Lake Orion, Mich., the Oldsmobile 88 line was a representation of an image. Especially during the beginning, the Oldsmobile 88 was one of the better performing automobiles of its class. Named to complement the already existing 76 and 98 series, the 88 was meant to bridge performance with amenities. It would later be considered to be the “granddaddy of muscle cars” of the 1960s because of its high-powered engine compared to its rivals.
The standard station wagon in 1950 sold for $2,360 and weighed 3,610 pounds, while the 88 model was priced at $2,585 and weighed 3,810 pounds. The difference in cost and weight translated to 25 percent more horsepower, to 135 horses, which a feature buyer found worthy of the added cost. Popular during its time, the 88 inspired a popular song “Rocket 88” and a slogan, “Make a Date with a Rocket 88.” The rocket was eventually adopted as the Oldsmobile logo during the 1960s, though the 88 name continued to remain in the lineup until the late 1990s.
But the fate of the 88 was short lived. Of the nearly 408,000 Oldsmobile cars sold in 1950, only 2,732 were station wagons. Chevrolet sold nearly 167,000 station wagons starting at $1,994 during the same year, so Oldsmobile dropped both station wagon models. It would not produce another station wagon for another six years. But like many collectable cars, the Futuramic 88 would rise from its disappointing “new” sales and find life in the classic car market. A Futuramic 88 often sells for upward of $30,000, 10 times its original sticker price.