One of General Motors’ most successful marketing plans was “planned obsolescence”, in which the company produced new-style vehicles more frequently and made them more desirable.
The result is that people will trade their current models for the latest, latest and longest before they wear out. It was Alfred Sloan who created that plan and served as GM’s chairman or board chairman for nearly 34 years. Other automotive companies followed the annual model change plan and I believe other industries are also involved in the planned obsolescence (how many cell phones do you have?).
Oldsmobile had a busy time since the mid-1950s. New styles were being introduced three years in a row. It is reported that one of GM’s designers took a look at the Chrysler line for 1957, which made the previous model look outdated. It was generally agreed that the GM Style was left behind in 1958 but not for long.
For 1959, the planned obsolescence at Oldsmobile and GM was in the works again. The new 1959 model Olds sold 28% more than the 1958 model. The 1959 Oldsmobile was a complete redesign from the previous year, sometimes referred to as the “ChromeMobile” because it was loaded with Chrome. The term used for the 1959 Oldsmobile was “linear form”.
Other makes and models had larger and sharper taillight wings, with Cadillac being the champion in that category, while Oldsmobile flattened the hood, deck, and rear fenders and removed most of the previous year’s chrome. It offered multiple roof lines, and the Holiday Sport Coupe was a columnless two-door hardtop with wraparound glass at the front and rear.
One feature that may have prompted consumers to upgrade to the 1959 model was the “Safety Spectrum Speedometer”, a new bar-graph speedometer with not only a traditional arrow indicating speed, but a graph below that gauge. which was showing a green stripe at a speed lower than this. 35 mph, an orange stripe up to 65 mph and then red for any higher speed. Oldsmobile had been a leader with its high-performance rocket overhead-valve high-compression V8 engine, introduced in 1949. Some, though not all, consider the Olds 88 to be the first muscle car.
The car in issue, the 1959 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Coupe, is a large and heavy car that is completely original in its interiors, exteriors and mechanicals. It’s not some well-restored car, but it is a car made by General Motors 62 years ago and looks (almost) like it just came off the assembly line. It sits on a 123-inch wheelbase, is 18.2 feet long and weighs 4,280 pounds.
Its retail base price was $3,175 or approximately $30,325 in today’s dollars. Color options were offered, including 25 body colors, excluding two-tone combinations. This car is Glacier White and Carlsbad Black. This Olds has been in Paul Sotello’s family for about 10 years, and he has owned it for about two years. The car had 70,850 original miles on the day I interviewed Sotello.
“The first owner kept the car until 2009, when it was sold to a museum in Pennsylvania,” Sotello said. “My wife’s uncle had one of these when he was in high school, saw it and asked the museum’s curator to sell it.”
Sotello doesn’t know how much was paid, but he got the car after his uncle passed away.
“I’ve never seen an Oldsmobile Super 88 before,” said the Danville resident, “but the first time I saw it, I fell in love with the car.”
It has a 394-cubic-inch Rocket V8 engine rated at 315 horsepower and mated to a three-speed hydraulic transmission with a different gear selection pattern that is used today. The sequence of transmission “PNDSLR” reads for “Park, Neutral, Drive, Second Gear, Low Gear and Reverse”.
Olds had the Base 88 and Super 88 with fender skirts and other features. “Wow” features include a “high-beam detector” mounted on the dash to automatically dim the headlights when another vehicle is approaching. It also gets power windows, power brakes and a three-way power front bench seat. The most unique feature, however, is the car’s portable AM radio mounted inside the glove box that can be pulled out so the owner can enjoy ball games at the picnic table or music on the beach. The radio has a separate lock so it can’t be stolen and it plugs into the car’s electrical system to keep the battery charged.
Surprisingly, it is an almost daily driver. The owner estimates the current price to be between $60,000 and $70,000, but there will be no sign of it for sale anytime soon.
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com. To see more photos of vehicles in this and other issues, or to read more of Dave’s columns, visit paranews.com/author/david-krumboltz,