1948 Oldsmobile Futuramic 98

Mechanically, the 1948 Oldsmobile Futuramic 98 was virtually identical to its predecessor, except that an increase in the compression ratio from 6.5:1 to 7.0:1 upped the horsepower from 110 to 115.

Though it didn't have a new engine, the 1948 Oldsmobile Futuramic 98 had a sleek new style.
Though it didn't have a new engine, the 1948
Oldsmobile Futuramic 98 had a sleek new style.

Tom McCahill, writing in Mechanix Illustrated, called Oldsmobile's flathead straight-eight a "product of the Dark Ages." The criticism was not altogether unjustified, although in fairness it must be noted that the 1948 Oldsmobile engine was no more out of date than similar powerplants offered by other makers, such as Pontiac and Packard.

In any case, Olds put the best face it could on its old engine: "You'll marvel at the satin-smooth, surging performance you receive from Oldsmobile's powerful 8-cylinder engine. Its new high-compression head adds that extra measure of getaway power that keeps you out ahead ... that extra measure of smoothness that makes all driving more enjoyable. It's economical to operate, too! Every gallon of gas goes farther in this beautifully engineered Oldsmobile power plant."

Styling, however, was another matter. Under the leadership of Art Ross, head of the division's design studio, Oldsmobile developed its own version of the new C-body. Up front, a simplified version of the grille seen since 1946 provided an Oldsmobile identity, now with only two upside-down "U" chrome bars (instead of four).

A two-piece curved glass windshield was fitted, a first for Oldsmobile -- and a feature that Buick wouldn't see for another year. Front fenders blended smoothly into the doors, instead of being "tacked on," as had formerly been the case, and rear fenders were no longer detachable, although they still carried a prominent bulge.

Taillights on the lesser 1948 models were redesigned to look similar to those on the new 98, though they weren't interchangeable. The 98's wheelbase was reduced by two inches, overall length by three (with the turning radius shortened correspondingly), yet thanks to its sleek lines the car looked longer than the 1947 model.

Height was reduced only fractionally, but the car was a couple of inches wider than the preceding model, which contributed to the illusion of lowness and length.

Aside from the Futuramic styling, some of the Oldsmobile 98's talking points in 1948-1949 were its "New Airborne Ride of the Future," accomplished via the "solid foundation" of a rigid X-member frame and low center of gravity, not to mention the "Quadri-Coil Springing" with "Heavy Coil Springs" at the solid rear axle and double-action hydraulic shock absorbers at all four corners.

"Dual Center Control Steering" had a worm and double roller design, for which Olds claimed added ease and safety of control. And then there was the "Unisteel Turret Top Body" by Fisher, "completely bonderized and sound-proofed," plus "Self-Energizing Super Hydraulic Brakes" and "Safety Glass All Around."

Five 98 models were offered in three body styles. Notchback four-door sedans and two-door fastback Club Sedans were available in either standard or DeLuxe trim, with the latter outselling the former six times over. The convertible, meanwhile, came only as a DeLuxe.

All were "Tailored in the mode of the moment," with the fastback combining "... the dashing styling of a two-door model with the comfort of a four-door sedan." The convertible was of course even more alluring: "Here is the car that, in many ways, goes farthest in carrying out the Futuramic idea. So gay, so modern, so youthful in style ... the Futuramic Convertible also brings you a hint of the future in its many automatic features."

Even the four-door sedan received credit as the "Fulfillment of the Futu-ramic idea." For an extra $105 over the base model, the DeLuxe sedan buyer received premium two-tone broadcloth upholstery fitted over foam rubber cushions, rear center armrest, special front and rear floor mats, clock, DeLuxe steering wheel, stainless steel wheel trim rings, rear fender skirts, 8.20-15 low-pressure tires, and even a glovebox light.

Convertibles also came equipped with hydraulically powered windows, seat, and top. Ragtop buyers could choose between two-tone Bedford cord upholstery, or a combination of leather and Bedford cord. The exterior finish came in a choice of 17 solid colors and 10 two-tone combinations, though the latter were supplied only on the four-door sedans.

Ceiling prices were established by the government in those days, and in response to inflationary pressures, all the American automakers were posting increases as fast as the Office of Price Administration would permit. Evidently, Oldsmobile was successful in persuading the authorities that the division should be compensated for the cost of tooling the all-new C-body, for between 1947 and 1948 the price of a 98 sedan was increased by 12.2 percent. In contrast, prices of the Series 70 Oldsmobiles were permitted to rise by just 8.2 percent.

The usual options were available at extra cost. Among the most popular were radio ($84 or $94), heater/defroster ($58), turn signals ($16), back-up light ($9), and of course Hydra-Matic, whose price had risen to $175.
In terms of styling, the 1948 Oldsmobile 98 proved to be a trendsetter, and by 1949 the entire Oldsmobile line featured Futuramic design.

Only minor trim differences distinguished the 1949 luxury Oldsmobile, visually, from its 1948 counterpart. Among them were a ring-around-the-planet medallion on the hood, jet fighter-inspired air scoops (incorporating the parking lights) under the headlights, reshuffled side trim, and small chrome fins above the taillights.

A large "Futuramic" emblem now rode at the very bottom of the front fenders just behind the wheels, but curiously there was no "98" badge to be found. It wasn't until 1952 that exterior nameplates identified the "Ninety Eight" (spelled out at this point). In 1948, a simple "8" badge had ridden on the decklid of the 98, and "Hydra-Matic" was part of the trunklid handle assembly.

For more on the 1949 Oldsmobile, continue on to the next page.

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