WHY THE 1961 OLDSMOBILE WAS A SUPER 88

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The Sensational Sixties were not quite on the table for many domestic car builders at the dawn of the 1960 production year, including the General’s Oldsmobile division.

Consequently, the 1960 Oldsmobile bore a noticeable resemblance to the 1959 Oldsmobile-but not the 1961 Olds.

We at MyStarCollectorCar believe the 1961 Oldsmobile Super 88 embodied all that was beautiful about early 1960s automotive design. It was obvious the 1961 Olds’ designers recognized the Space Race as a carryover automotive philosophy from the fin-crazy Fifties in the Olds Super 88’s overall style but they still wanted their creation to blaze its own path in a brand-new decade.

The net result was a car that embraced both decades (style-wise) but represented a bold new design statement created by the Olds team.

The link to the 1950s was most evident on the rear quarters of the ’61 Olds Super 88 because the car had round taillights that were deliberately designed to resemble booster rockets and were positioned inside a pair of subtle inverted tailfins that came to points at both the top and bottom of the quarter panels.

The 1961 Oldsmobile designers were able to create a rear deck that screamed fast at a standstill and forced competitors into chase mode in terms of space age style. The back half of the 1961 Olds Super 88 was a clever homage to the still-young Space Race, complete with a heavy dose of chrome to signify the car’s upper end status in the GM family. 

However, the front end of the ’61 Olds showcased the car’s approach to a new decade and reflected its designers’ innovative vision for the car.

The car’s four headlights were placed in close pairs on both sides of the ‘61 Oldsmobile’s unique inverted front grille. In fact, the car’s new front grille was a complete departure from the 1960 model and enhanced the overall style of the ’61 Olds Super 88.

The 1961 Olds Super 88 was a hefty two-ton automobile but the car was able to fly down a freeway because it had plenty of firepower under its hood with the aptly named 394 cubic inch Skyrocket V-8 engine.

The big brute engine corralled 325 horses and produced a muscular 435 ft. lbs. of torque, a very important factor when Olds Super 88 owners decided to trade MPG numbers for warp drive MPH stats on the road. In short, the 1961 Oldsmobile Super 88 was a rocket on wheels that looked the part.

It would be fair to say that many new automotive design eras in the past started before or after the first year of a new decade. An excellent example is the massive cosmetic surgery that occurred on many domestic cars in 1949 rather than waiting until 1950 to unveil a brand-new look.

Another solid example is the 1960s because that decade did not really get rolling in a new design sense until the 1961 model year for most domestic cars.

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section. 

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