Collector Cars

1960 Oldsmobile Super 88 Convertible

by John Heilig

SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE:            394 cid V-8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 240 hp @ 4,600 rpm/375 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm
TRANSMISSION:      Three-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:      N/A mpg city, N/A mpg highway
WHEELBASE:         123 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:    217.6 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:    36 in. (est.)
FRONT/REAR TREAD:  61/61 in.
CURB WEIGHT:       4,203 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:     18 gal. (est.)
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  21 cu. ft. (est.)
TIRES:             850 x 14
INSTRUMENTS:       Speedometer, fuel level, analog clock.
EQUIPMENT:         Air conditioner, AM radio, 
                   heater/defroster, power steering, 
                   power brakes, outside rear view mirror.
STICKER PRICE:     $3,976 

It isn't very often I get a chance to drive a car that's 37 years old. I wish I was in as good condition as this car was, although it is younger than I am.

Through the efforts of my good friend, the Honorable Arnold Rapoport, I had a chance to drive his 1960 Oldsmobile Super 88 convertible. But there's a story behind how we arranged for the drive.

My wife's first car was a 1960 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 coupe. When we were in Lansing, Michigan, for Oldsmobile's 100th birthday bash, she went crazy for all the 1960s that were out there. And there weren't that many there. I guess 1960 wasn't a popular year. Since we were at Oldsmobile's birthday party, we were planning her birthday party. Judge Rapoport and I decided it might be nice to recreate those years in the her 1960 with a day or two in his 1960.

With some friends of ours, we "double dated" and went to a small local fair. We put the top down and drove out. We were going to go to a drive-in movie or restaurant, but you can't find too many of those anymore. But we had our double date in the Olds, and then we went home and watched a video. It was as close as we could get.

The first thing that impresses you about the car is its size. The car is enormous. It's hard to believe that the cars we drove at that time were all about the same size. Her present car is a 1988 Olds Cutlass. the 1960 Super 88 is about three feet longer and the difference appears to all be in the trunk.

1960 was also the year when styling moved away from the outrageous fins. The `60 Olds has what might be called horizontal fins. It's an interesting styling touch. Many people prefer the `59 Olds, particularly because of its rear-end styling, but we liked the `60 because of its cleaner styling.

The instrument panel consists of a linear speedometer and a fuel gauge, with "idiot lights" for generator, oil pressure and radiator temperature. The speedometer is green from 0-15 mph, orange from 15-65 mph, and red from 65 mph on up. I was impressed with how easily this 37-year-old car was able to get in the red zone.

And it handled reasonably well, because it's a heavy car with a long wide footprint on the ground.

There's a bench seat up front and a bench seat in the back. Each seat will easily carry three passengers and might even accommodate four. I can't remember if we ever had that many people in our car, but it was possible in that time. With cars that size it's easy to understand how entire families were able to take vacations in sedans well before the era of station wagons and minivans.

I sat behind the wheel (my wife refused; the car was so much larger than she remembered) and was impressed by the size of the steering wheel. It is at least 18 inches in diameter and is 1/2-inch thick. You're using this huge thin wheel to steer the car. There is a horizontal chrome spoke across the middle with horn buttons. There's a chrome shift lever on the right and a chrome turn signal lever on the left. Every other control is buttons. The radio is a tube radio that takes time to warm up. We liked the decent heater, because the night we drove the car a cold front moved in and it became chilly.

The gear shift lever worked a three-speed automatic gearbox. It was a different pattern from modern cars--PNDSLR. I'm not sure what the S stood for, but I was forever having problems finding reverse.

We had wind-up windows, wind-up wing windows and spotlights on the driver's and passenger's side. Ideally, the lights are used for finding house numbers, but I'm sure they were also used for spotting pretty girls (I forget!). This car was definitely a "babe magnet" when it was new and driven by the young men of the era. Even today it attracted a lot of attention.

The Olds also had a wraparound windshield. This styling feature of the1960s can be a real knee-knocker when you're entering the car. The A-pillar intrudes into the door area. This car also had aftermarket lap seat belts up front. In the rear were no belts.

The power top dropped into a well behind the rear seat in a matter of seconds. It also raised fairly quickly which was good when it started to rain.

The Super 88 is powered by a 394 cubic inch (6.45-liter) V-8 that was rated at 240 horsepower when new. Based on its present performance, it was swift.

Our ride in the Super 88, especially since it was a double date, was a fun event. I wasn't prepared for this quick run back in time, nor was my wife, because it was a surprise. Cruising around in a car from our dating days was a lot of fun. We had opportunities to ride in some old Oldses during the birthday bash, but we had the chance to drive this one and it was more fun. One thing I liked was that it wasn't a 100-point restoration, so we could touch things and enjoy it. Thanks. Judge.

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