This story originally ran in the Summit Racing catalog and first appeared on SummitRacing.com on 8/21/2006.
The 1949-52 Oldsmobile 88 is an American automotive icon. The car’s 303-cubic-inch “Rocket” engine was one of GM’s first overhead valve, high-compression V8s (Cadillac had one in ’49 as well), making the Olds one of the fastest cars of the day. The Olds was also the subject of what many consider to be the first rock-and-roll song, “Rocket 88,” recorded by Jackie Brenston in 1951. Small wonder everyone wanted to “Make a Date with a Rocket 88″ as the Oldsmobile ads of the day proclaimed.
Dennis Foley made a date with a Rocket 88 more than 50 years ago. Like any red-blooded, high school-aged gearhead, Dennis bought his first Olds 88 for the most obvious of reasons: “It was a fast car…the fastest one available at the time, and it was fun,” he said.
Dennis has owned other American classics—including a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr coupe with a 502 and a 1933 Ford 3-window coupe—but he always comes back to the 88. This 1950 Oldsmobile Holiday hardtop is the ninth 88 Dennis has owned. The car combines the timeless lines of Harley Earl’s design with modern power, handling, and comfort.
“I wanted a modern-driving car with big power, but I still wanted it to have a classic look,” Dennis said. Jim Capaldi, an old high school friend and high-end car builder, was tasked to take Dennis’ vision and turn it into the sleek, modern-driving Rocket 88 you see here.
The Holiday received traditional body modifications, including a nosed and decked hood, shaved door handles, and frenched headlights. The 55 year-old suspension was updated with a Fatman Fabrications Mustang II front clip, a RideTech airbag system, and 13-inch disc brakes. A set of Billet Specialties wheels and a 2003 Prowler Orange paint job finish off 88’s classic-meets-modern look.
The interior continues the clean, uncluttered look of the body. Many modern-day luxuries have been cleverly hidden—the radio is located in the center console, while the climate controls and the Nordskog digital gauge panel are tucked away behind a flip-down door on the passenger side of the dash. The custom leather upholstery was stitched up by Dave Studer at Suburban Interiors.
While the Holiday’s original 303-cube, 135-horsepower V8 was the hot ticket back in 1950, Dennis wanted a little extra go for his 88. A 1970 Olds 455 does quite nicely; with some go-fast goodies from Comp Cams, Edelbrock, and MSD, the big Rocket puts out an estimated 450 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque. A Turbo 400 automatic sends the twist back to a 9-inch Ford rear axle.
The Holiday hardtop is Dennis’ ninth 88. And yes, he is currently working on number 10—a 1957 wagon that should be finished by the time you read this. Sounds like it’s time for us to make another date with a Rocket 88, eh?
Frame: Stock with Fatman Fabrication front clip
Rear End: 9-inch Ford with Moser axles, limited-slip differential
Front Suspension: Mustang II A-arm with RideTech Shockwave coil-overs
Rear Suspension: Four-link with RideTech Shockwave coil-overs
Brakes: 13-inch disc on all four wheels
Wheels and Tires: Billet Specialties wheels (16-inch front/17-inch rear), BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires
Chassis Fabrication: Capaldi Enterprises
Engine and Transmission
Type: 1970 Oldsmobile 455, bored to 468 cubic inches; 450 horsepower/500 ft.-lbs. of torque
Block: Stock, bored .060 inch over
Reciprocating Assembly: Stock crank and connecting rods, 9.5:1 Wiseco pistons—assembly is balanced
Camshaft: COMP Cams Magnum hydraulic cam, 244-degree duration @.050, .518-inch lift
Cylinder Heads: Stock iron, ported
Valvetrain: COMP Cams lifters, COMP Cams pushrods, COMP Cams roller rockers, COMP Cams valve springs and retainers; Manley stainless steel valves
Induction: Edelbrock Torker intake manifold, 650 cfm Edelbrock Thunder Series carburetor
Ignition: MSD Pro-Billet distributor, MSD 6AL ignition
Cooling: Recored stock radiator, Spal electric fan
Exhaust: Custom 2 1/2-inch exhaust with turbo mufflers
Transmission: B&M Turbo 400, B&M valve body, 2,500 rpm stall B&M torque converter
Other Items: Summit starter, Summit 100 amp alternator, Edelbrock fuel pump, Rock Valley fuel cell, Mondello valve covers
Engine Machining and Cylinder Head Modifications: Seme & Son
Body and Paint
Modifications: Nosed and decked, shaved door handles, power lifts on hood and trunk, remote controlled trunk, hood, dash, and doors
Paint Color: PPG 2003 Prowler Orange with yellow pearl ghost flames
Fabrication and Paint: Capaldi Enterprises
Upholstery: Oyster leather
Front Seats: Thunderbird Super Coupe buckets
Center Console: Custom with hidden audio system
Dash: Custom with hidden climate controls and gauge panel
Gauges: Nordskog digital gauges
Interior by: Dave Studer/Suburban Interiors
Special Thanks To: My wife, Judy, and Jim Capaldi