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While it’s no secret that revheads love the roaring V8 engines of the 1950’s, the 1951 Oldsmobile 98 is perhaps one of the hardest to get your hands on today.

During its tenure as a division of General Motors, Oldsmobile slotted into the middle of the operation’s five vehicle divisions – above Chevrolet and Pontiac, but below Buick and Cadillac. Oldsmobile has long been noted for its ground-breaking technology and designs, and was one of America’s oldest automotive production companies prior to it’s shut down in 2004.

The youngest son of a blacksmith and a pattern-maker, Ransom Eli Olds was born in Ohio on June 3, 1864. Although Olds claimed to have built his first steam car as early as 1887 and his first gasoline-powered car in 1896, there’s no doubt that one of America’s finest automobile masterminds certainly came from humble beginnings. 

As a young man, Olds went to work for his family’s Michigan based machine-repair and engine-building business in 1883. Renowned as a “tinkerer” with a sharp mind, it didn’t take long for Olds to found Old Motor Works in 1896. Armed with the financial backing of lumbering mogul Samuel L. Smith, Olds shifted his new operation to Detroit in 1900 and rebranded the enterprise as Oldsmobile. However, it didn’t take long for disaster to strike, and a fire wiped out all but one of the small, one cylinder curved dash models. 

Light, reliable and relatively powerful for it’s time, that very same curved dash “Oldsmobile” became a commercial sensation after appearing at the New York Auto Show in 1901. Olds returned his primary operations to Lansing, Michigan in 1902, and soon got to work on initiating large scale production of the car using the progressive assembly-line system. By 1908, Oldsmobile was swallowed up by General Motors, and the branded six and eight cylinder vehicles produced were soon regarded as the company’s “experimental division”.

Americans loved their powerful engines but affordable price point, and by the 1940’s Oldsmobile were well and truly established as one of the key market leaders in the United States. The company was finally confident in what and how it could deliver new and innovative cars to the world, and the arrival of the Oldsmobile 98 in 1940 only cemented this.

The Origins Of The Oldsmobile 98

Produced for over fifty years between 1940 and 1996, the Oldsmobile 98 was the full size flagship model of the Oldsmobile brand. The name, which reflected a “Series 90” vehicle fitted with an eight cylinder engine, first appeared in 1941. The Oldsmobile 98 was regarded as the division’s “top of the line” model by both consumers and upper management at General Motors.

All this attention from the right people helped to ensure that the Oldsmobile 98 models received the most technologically advanced items on the market, such as automatic transmission, automatic headlight dimmers, and Twilight Sentinel – a feature that automatically turned the headlights on and off via a light sensor and a delay timer, as controlled by the driver. 

By the time the 1950’s arrived, Oldsmobile 98 models embodied everything iconic about the automotive industry at the time – bigger cars represented wealth. They cost more to build, they required more power to move, and therefore provided greater luxury. In the minds of many consumers, bigger equates to better.

For the first time, the third generation Oldsmobile 98 models released from 1940 to 1953 offered totally different styling during a single model year. Standard equipment on 98s included a solenoid starter, fender skirts, E-Z-l rearview mirror, and foam rubber seat cushions. The 98s also included front and rear bumper guards, vacuum booster pump, plastic radiator ornament, dual horns, dual sun visors, and cigarette lighter. Deluxe equipment added front and rear floor mats, deluxe steering wheel, wheel trim rings, rear seat armrests, and hydraulic window, seat and top controls on all convertibles. Upholstery was either broadcloth or leather, and the standard tire size was 6.50 x 16. 

While the consumers loved them, all of these annual changes weren’t exactly cost effective or efficient as a long term game plan for Oldsmobile. As such, one example of this is that the 1951 Oldsmobile 98 is now regarded as one of the rarest models to ever be released from the automotive titan, as it was only produced for two years before being bumped in favour of the next release. 

Your Guide To Everything Classic Cars 

Finding a fellow vintage auto enthusiast can feel a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, but rest assured that Classic’s Garage understands the thrill more than most. Having spent forty years collecting anything and everything from matchbox cars to hub caps, he’s successfully followed his passion to source, collect and stock beautiful and low mileage classic automobiles from around the world. With extensive experience in the automotive industry, it was only a matter of time before Wayne expanded on his love of vintage, iconic vehicles to share his knowledge and passion with the public.

Although his passion is for automobiles built before 1978, with a particular love for Buicks, Cadillacs, Lincolns, Oldsmobiles and even Fords, Wayne is just as passionate about the stories of the owners. Just like the cars, he has found that his fellow classic car enthusiasts all have wildly different attractions and logic behind their passion or hobby, and this often translates into how the car is presented. If it’s even remotely different, rare or just plain unusual, Wayne will overcome the relevant logistical and geographical challenges of bringing the cars to his showroom in Australia.

Classic’s Garage is a showroom conveniently located at Seventeen Mile Rocks, that specialises in the restoration and sales of vintage automobiles. In fact, he’s even got a fully restored 1951 Oldsmobile 98 model in stock right now. If you’re on the hunt for Brisbane classic cars – quite simply, Wayne is your man. If you would like to arrange a viewing or inspect any other of our classic vehicles, please get in touch with us today.