Perhaps you can hear the song through the dusty old windows:
“You women have heard of jalopies/
You heard the noise they make/
Let me introduce you to my Rocket ’88…
Oldsmobile introduced the Rocket 88 in 1949. It fit neatly between two brands already on the roadways, the Olds 78 and 98. The Rocket also introduced a new engine, a V8 producing 135 horses. In the past, Olds had relied on straight 6 and 8 engines. The V8 effectively booted both those aside.
With its lightweight Futuramic – a real term, spelled out in chrome – body, the new 88 could scat. In its first year of production, the 88 won six of nine late-model division NASCAR races; the next year, after other auto builders got over their amazement and hustled to catch up with Olds, the car still managed to snag the checkered flag at 10 of 19 races. Clearly, the Rocket was aptly named. It raced to the top of the must-have list for would-be hot-rodders.
The car also became a hit on the airwaves with the 1951 release of “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats – who were, in fact, Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm. Some music historians consider it the first rock ‘n roll song. They may be on to something; rock ‘n roll wasn’t afraid of double-entendre lyrics. Consider these lines:
Step in my rocket and don’t be late/
We’re pullin’ out about a half past eight/
Goin’ on the corner and havin’ some fun/
Takin’ my rocket on a long, hot run/
Ooh, goin’ out, oozin’ and cruisin’ and havin’ fun…
Did this old ’50 Rocket 88 ooze and cruise? Oh, I hope so. These days, it shares space with other forgotten road warriors in a silent edifice in Scottsbluff, Neb., 1,390 miles northwest of Atlanta
(Photos by Senior Junkyard Correspondent Harold “Tex” Colson)