Those who remember the market introduction of the first-generation Chevy Corvette C1 in 1953 will likely also remember a similar car that debuted as a concept from another General Motors division. The vehicle in question is the Oldsmobile F-88 Convertible Concept, sometimes referred to as Rocket 88, and it made its debut as an Autorama dream (concept) car in 1954.
The F-88 was penned by none other than Harley Earl and just like the Vette, it was a two-seat roadster with a fiberglass body. But unlike the C1, which was powered by a rather measly 150 hp (110 kW) Blue Flame inline-6 mated to a 2-speed Powerglide gearbox for the first two years of its existence, the F-88 cradled a 324 cubic-inch Oldsmobile Rocket V8 making a brawny 250 horses.
And it was never put into production.
The consensus, back in the 50s and even today, is that the F-88 wasn’t built since it would have threatened the Corvette. As the legend goes, Chevy — GM’s biggest and most profitable division at the time (and even today) — campaigned within GM against bringing the F-88 to market due to concerns that the Olds would hurt sales of the Corvette, which might not have been as attractive as an Olds with a big ol’ V8 under the hood. So The General decided against bringing the F-88 to market.
As history would have it, only two copies of the F-88 concept were ever assembled. One was destroyed, while the other was disassembled, and its parts stored in wooden crates. The rest was history… until recently.
On February 1, 2005, the only remaining example of the F-88 concept, a golden convertible, sold for a whopping $3.24 million to John and Maureen Hendricks at the Barrett-jackson Auto Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. Mr. Hendricks is the founder and chairman of broadcasting and film production company Discovery Communications that owns the Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet cable TV networks, among other ventures.
“While most of their brethren were destroyed after their debuts at GM’s Motorama shows, the gold-toned Olds survived this fate to become one of the most historically significant vehicles of its era,” said Craig Jackson, president and CEO of the classic car auction company Barrett-Jackson. “Many automobile historians consider the roadster to be one of the greatest expressions of automotive design to ever come from North America.”
This remaining F-88 is the cornerstone of the Gateway Colorado Automobile Museum, where the car is housed in a rotating display, all in a room of its own. Because it deserves it.
The GM Authority Take
Outside of the F88’s historic and sentimental values, we wonder what would (could?) have happened to Olds had the sporty roadster been produced. The oh-so-cool-and-sexy car might have changed the course of the brand, saving it from its eventual demise and for-grandpas only image. Either way, feast your eyes on this beauty: