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Back in the 1950s, Oldsmobiles were far more imposing than the typical Chevrolet.

Byline: Malcolm Gunn Wheelbase Media

Back in the 1950s, Oldsmobiles were far more imposing than the typical Chevrolet, Ford or Plymouth.

Oldsmobile cars had massive grilles and their bumpers looked as if they could bash right through a brick wall and come out the other side completely unharmed, chrome still gleaming.

The look, the rumbling sound emanating from the exhaust and the aura are what set these cars apart from the crowd.

Back then, many people never thought Oldsmobiles were particularly attractive until the arrival of the 1960 models. Compared to earlier versions, this collection of coupes, sedans, hardtops and convertibles seemed like a vision from the future.

In those innocent times, October was always an eagerly anticipated month. That's when North American automakers unveiled all their new wares at the same time. Dealerships stayed open late for the occasion and provided free coffee and doughnuts and balloons for the kids. With sheetmetal changing -- often drastically -- each season, there was always something exciting to see.

The 1960 Oldsmobile collection was no exception. Although constructed on the new-for-1959 steel frame, the only content the two years shared were the glass and engines.

Far from its usually frumpy shapes, the 1960 Oldsmobiles were wide and low as well as restrained in the quantity and size of glittery chrome adornments. The grilles were clean and simple and the bumpers actually appeared tiny when compared to those giant prows of the mid- to late-1950s.

Yet the most noticeable change on the Olds that year was a complete absence of tail fins that had been so prevalent in the late 1950s. Surprisingly, almost shockingly, the 1960 Oldsmobiles proudly showed off flat, featureless and finless fenders.

Also causing multiple double-takes were the taillights, as well as a rear bumper that had been smoothly grafted to the edges of each fender.

On the inside, an equally graceful dash held an elegant deep-dish steering wheel that effortlessly twirled when connected to the optional Roto-Matic power steering. The column also featured a plastic-topped lever that controlled the optional three-speed Jetaway Hydramatic transmission.

The 88 series, including the Super 88 Celebrity, Holiday 88 and Fiesta 88, were propelled by 371-cubic-inch V-8s with ratings of up to 260 horsepower. Meanwhile, the more luxurious Olds 98 line, with its longer (by 3 inches) wheelbase, received the 315-horsepower, 394-cube V-8. The bigger engine had already become the choice of many drivers on the NASCAR circuit at the time, including Lee Petty, father of Richard and grandfather of Kyle. Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500 in 1959 piloting an Olds.

The Olds convertibles were especially eye catching. However, the 88 and 98 SceniCoupe two-door hardtops, with their thin roof pillars and "bubble-top" rear window, complemented the rest of the car's modern facade. There was a wagon and four-door hardtop with a wraparound rear glass that made the Olds look the same coming or going.

Even with a $3,000 price for a base 88 -- well beyond the means of many families -- there were no shortage of buyers willing to shell out as much as $4,200 for a 98 convertible. Total sales topped the 150,000 mark.

Although it might have been the biggest year, 1960 would also prove to be the last for these land yachts as Oldsmobile began to shrink the line to more reasonable dimensions.

Styles come and go in the automotive world, but the 1960 Olds stands out as one of the more glamorous vehicles of the day, and therefore one of the more memorable.

* Malcolm Gunn can be reached at by clicking the contact link.
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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Nov 11, 2018
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