The 1954 Oldsmobile 88 and Super 88 rode a 122-inch wheelbase (as did the Buick Special and Century), but the Ninety-Eight's wheel centers were stretched to 126 inches. In overall length, the 1954 88 and Super 88 measured 205.3 inches and the Ninety-Eight was 214.3 inches. (In addition to its longer wheelbase, the Ninety-Eight's rear deck was stretched another five inches.) Annual changes in bumper designs would cost all Oldsmobiles two inches in total length by 1956; but for the most part, 1954 Oldsmobile components would be used through 1956.
The 1954 Super 88 offered a convertible option,
while the base 88 did not.
Body types in the base 88 series were two- and four-door sedans and a two-door Holiday hardtop coupe. The Super 88 was available in those same styles, plus a convertible. Finally, the Ninety-Eight came as a four-door sedan, two-door standard and Deluxe Holiday hardtop coupes and a convertible. The 98 softtop took more than just styling cues from the Starfire; it adopted the concept car's very name to become the Starfire convertible. The Fiesta convertible did not make the lineup for 1954, but its name would be revived for a new Olds station wagon three years later.
The best-selling body types in all three series for 1954 were the four-door sedans.
The symmetrical dashboard layout picked up on a theme begun in 1953. Round speedometer and clock dials sat directly in front of the driver and front-seat passenger, respectively. However, for 1954, new wing-like extensions bore auxiliary gauges around the speedometer and the radio speaker above the clock. Grey, green, or blue fabric interiors graced closed models. Colorful leather upholstery was used in Super 88 and Ninety-Eight convertibles and hardtops.
Among engineering changes for 1954, the Rocket V-8 underwent its first increase in displacement. However, that had been planned for. When the Rocket was originally developed in the late Forties, Wolfram (then Olds' chief engineer; he became general manager in 1951) urged the powerplant's designer, Gilbert Burrell, to allow for bigger displacements. Burrell did so with such features as widely spaced bore centers and a generally heavy block structure.
One consequence of the latter was that the block, in lower displacement form, was very lightly stressed.
The 1954 Super 88 had 15 more horsepower
than the base -- and 20 more than the 1953 model.
For 1954, the cylinders were bored 0.125 inch over, up to 3 7/8 from 3 3/4 inches, while the stroke remained 3 7/16 inches. That raised displacement from 303.7 cubic inches to 324.3 cubic inches. Along with the greater displacement, there was a higher compression ratio, up to 8.25:1 from 8.0:1.
For the standard 88, the engine had a two-barrel carburetor and an output of 170 gross horsepower at 4,000 rpm. The Super 88 and Ninety-Eight used a four-barrel carb that boosted horsepower to 185 at 4,000 rpm. Both versions had 20 horsepower more than their 1953 counterparts. Torque for both 1954 Rockets was rated at 300 pound-feet at 2,000 rpm.
Oldsmobile made annual increases in horsepower and torque throughout the mid-Fifties. Generally, they were the result of higher compression ratios, along with higher-lift camshaft grinds and bigger valves, especially for exhaust. Compression ratio hikes hinged on the availability of higher octane fuel, while the cam and valve modifications provided better breathing to take advantage of increases in compression ratio.
A three-speed synchromesh transmission was considered standard on all lines, but the automatic four-speed Hydra-Matic "Super Drive" unit continued to grow in popularity. With the lower body design, a problem developed in clearance for the Hydra-Matic, which was resolved by tilting the unit 22 degrees to the left. That had the added advantage of easing service access to the side cover and pressure regulator.
Oldsmobile produced 354,001 cars during the 1954 model year. That was below the division's model year record of 407,889 in 1950. However, the 1954 figure moved Olds from sixth place in the industry in 1953 to fourth place behind Chevrolet, Ford, and a stunningly strong Buick. It was Oldsmobile's best showing within the industry since 1905, when it completed a three-year run as America's best-selling make.
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