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Lost Rocket, ’57 Olds 88 with Banned NASCAR V8 Found Rotting in a Yard

Hudson initiated work on the Hornet, a NASCAR-dominating car from 1952 to 1954. The “Fabulous” Hornet, featuring an inline-six engine, gained fame. In 1949, preceding the Hornet’s release, Oldsmobile unveiled the 88.

The “Rocket” 88, propelled by a new 303-cubic-inch V8, clinched two NASCAR championships and won the Carrera Panamericana. Its success waned in 1952 as the 88 grew larger, but Oldsmobile attempted a NASCAR comeback.

In 1957, the third-gen 88, equipped with the J-2 high-performance option, reached muscle car status. With a 371-cubic-inch Rocket V8 and three-two-barrel carburetors, it produced 300 hp and 415 lb-ft torque.

Oldsmobile enlisted NASCAR legend Lee Petty to drive the J-2, but NASCAR banned multiple carburation in 1957. Around 2,000-2,500 J-2-equipped 88s were produced in 1957-1958, now rare classics due to wrecks and abandonment.

Surprisingly, the four-door sedan remains in decent condition. Despite worn red paint and surface rust, most chrome is intact. The interior, with original upholstery and a firm headliner, defies typical issues seen in 1950s classics.

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