A cornerstone of this column’s 24-plus years is the many contributions from loyal readers.
Tom Winkleman of Mount Pleasant provides the lead story and pictures today:
This Is The Car That In 1954 Could Have “Killed” the Corvette.
Well, that’s the story making the Internet rounds. Why that brash assertion about killing the Corvette?
The car shown here is a 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 convertible, a concept car. In 1954, the F-88 was a General Motors Motorama Dream Car and was one of the only two, or an unconfirmed possible three, ever created.
This F-88 is literally the only car left of its kind.
Chevrolet introduced the first Corvette in 1953, building only 300 cars the first year. It was a six-cylinder engine, an upgrade from a long-running Chevy truck engine and featured a Powerglide transmission and side curtains.
It is said Chevrolet lobbied GM management to kill the F-88 challenger, which boasted a V-8 engine and power windows.
After spending decades as a collection of parts stuffed into wooden crates, the F-88 was reassembled. That’s the F-88 shown here and was sold to John and Maureen Hendricks at the prestigious Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., for an unbelievable price of $3,240,000. John Hendricks was the founder of Discovery Communications.
The acquisition made automotive history and is now in the Gateway Colorado Automotive Museum in its own special room in a rotating display, worthy of the F-88.
Olds no more
No one could imagine in 1954 that in exactly 50 years, the entire Oldsmobile Car Division was KILLED!
And what a glorious history for Oldsmobile! Born in 1864 in Geneva, Ohio, Ransom E. Olds would become one of the most influential early leaders in the auto industry.
In 1880, it is reported he dropped out of school and moved to Lansing, Mich., where he opened a machine shop.
“Engines were one thing I could never get out of my mind,“ Olds told a writer years later. “I wanted to manufacture and it seemed to me that we could create a demand for small engines.”
Olds built his first self-propelled vehicle in 1886, a 3-wheel Steamer. The second Steamer was mounted on four wheels and was shipped to Bombay, India, thus making the first sale of a Michigan-made vehicle — and probably the first U.S. vehicle to be exported.
He developed his first gas-powered car eight years after Karl Benz, who is acknowledged as the inventor of the gas-powered motorcar.
One of the most memorable of early automobile advertisements was aimed at public resistance to going horseless: Olds advertised its Runabout as a challenge to Old Dobbin: “The Passing of the Horse ...The silent horse power of this runabout is measurable, dependable and spontaneous. The horsepower generated by supplies of hay and oats is variable, uncertain and irresponsible … there is nothing to watch but the road when you drive the Oldsmobile.”
Oldsmobile’s success carried on for more than 100 years, succumbing to GM’s need to downsize in 2004.
Dr. George G. Spaulding is a retired General Motors executive and distinguished executive-in-residence emeritus at the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He can be reached at 2 Wharfside St. 2A Charleston SC 29401.