Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Go Granny Go! 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 Sedan Race Car

In hindsight, the 1949 Oldsmobile 88 series cars were simply the match thrown on to the gasoline of post-war youthful exuberance. It's new OHV 303 cubic-inch V8 engine trumped the legendary Flathead Ford by 100 horsepower, and when paired with the (relatively) lightweight body shared by the 76 and 88 series cars, became a race-day performer, winning both NASCAR stock car races and local drag races. Labeled by some as America's first musclecar, it also was the subject of America's first rock 'n' roll song, "Rocket 88" by Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston.

The car shown here is a 1949 (standard) Sedan, which had lived a former life as a bracket racer in the Midwest. Driven by Nebraska racer Andy Rager, the rear quarter panel is decorated with "Go Granny Go!," a poke at the sedans humble appearance.  Andy Rager was a cousin to Nebraska Hot Rod Racing Association Hall of Famer Bob Rager, whose son Roger was CART and Indy 500 driver and the 1980 USAC Rookie of the Year. Livery proudly proclaims the stock 135 horsepower the 2 barrel 303 Rocket engines came with, but at some time this car was updated to a 324 block with 303 heads. Period but rusty headers are in place, with exhaust cutouts underneath the car. The car probably raced up until the early 1960's, given that it ran in the NHRA M/S class, determined by a formula of weight and horsepower. Despite its staid looks, this would have been one of the fastest cars on the streets back in the early 1950's.

The interior of the car has been stripped, although the dash and its spartan gauge arrangement are still in place. A floor shifter controls the 4-speed Hydramatic transmission. Floor pans and trunk are rusty, but the full frame on the car remains solid. The engine is in place, though a four barrel intake sits in the trunk. It is a project, but a very worthwhile one.

The draw of course is the great livery and faded (rusty!) paint job that pretends nothing. For authentic hot-rodders or fans of the Race of Gentlemen, this is the desired aesthetic. The car as it sits is an indisputable race relic, waiting for the rest of its history to be unearthed. Most importantly, it comes with a clear title dating back to 1955 and wears Nebraska registration from 1966.