Glenn Miller - At Last!


The Oldsmobile "Rocket"

The Oldsmobile Rocket V8 was the first post-war OHV V8 at General Motors. Production started in 1949, with a new generation introduced in 1964. Like Pontiac, Olds continued building its own V8 engine family for decades, finally adopting the corporate Chevrolet 350 small-block and Cadillac Northstar engine only in the 1990s. All Oldsmobile V-8's were manufactured at plants in Lansing, Michigan.

All Oldsmobile V8s use a 90° bank angle, and most share a common stroke dimension: 3.4375 in (87.3 mm) for early Rockets, 3.6875 in (93.7 mm) for later Generation 1 motors, and 3.385 in (86 mm) for Generation 2. The engine could be classified as a small-block, but Oldsmobile used a higher deck height for a 4.25 in (107.9 mm) stroke to boost displacement to a big-block-like 455 cubic inches (7.5 L).

The Rocket V8 was the subject of many first and lasts in the automotive industry. It was the first mass-produced OHV V8 in 1949; and was the last carbureted V8 passenger car engine in 1990.

The first generation of Oldsmobile V8s ranges from 1949 until 1964. Each engine in this generation is quite similar with the same size block and heads.

1st Generation -


Rocket V8 303 engineThe 303-cubic-inch (5.0 L) engine had hydraulic lifters, an oversquare bore:stroke ratio, a counterweighted forged crankshaft, aluminum pistons, floating wristpins, and a dual-plane intake manifold. The 303 was produced from 1949 until 1953. Bore was 3.75 in (95.2 mm) and stroke was 3.4375 in (87.3 mm). Cadillac used a distantly related motor which appeared in three different sizes through to the 1962 model year; though the Oldsmobile and Cadillac motors were not physically related, many lessons learned by one division were incorporated into the other's design, and the result were two engines known for their excellent power-to-weight ratio, fuel economy, and smooth, strong, reliable running.

The original Oldsmobile V8 was originally to be advertised as "Kettering Power" after chief engineer Charles Kettering, but company policy disallowed the use of his name. So the engine was sold as the Oldsmobile Rocket. The engine was available in Oldsmobile's 88 and Super 88 models, which acquired the nickname Rocket 88.

The 303 was available from 1949 through 1953. 1949 through 1951 "88" 303's came with a 2-barrel carburetor for 135 hp (100 kW) and 253 lb·ft (343 N·m). 1952 88 and Super 88 V8s used a 4-barrel carburetor for 160 hp (119 kW) and 265 lb·ft (359 N·m), while 1953 versions upped the compression from 7.5:1 to 8.0:1 for 165 hp (123 kW) and 275 lb·ft (372 N·m). For comparison, a 1949 Ford Flathead V8 produced just 100 hp (74 kW).


1949-1953 Oldsmobile 88
1949-1953 Oldsmobile 98
1952-1953 Oldsmobile Super 88

2nd Generation -

The 324-cubic-inch (5.3 L) version was also produced from 1954 until 1956. Bore was increased to 3.875 in (98.4 mm) and stroke remained the same at 3.4375 in (87.3 mm). All high performance 324s came with 4-barrel carburetors. The 324 was shared with GMC trucks.

The 1954 88 and Super 88 V8s used an 8.25:1 compression ratio for 170 and 185 hp (126 and 137 kW) and 295 and 300 lb·ft (399 and 406 N·m) respectively.

The 1955 upped the compression to 8.5:1 for 185 hp (137 kW) and 320 lb·ft (433 N·m) in the 88 and 202 hp (150 kW) and 332 lb·ft (450 N·m) in the Super 88 and 98. For engines built during the first part of 1955, the 324 skirted pistons had a reputation for failing due to the cast aluminum skirt separating from its steel interior brace. This problem did not appear until the engine had over 50,000 miles (80,000 km) on it. By late 1956, many Olds dealers learned about the problem.

Compression was up again in 1956 for 230 hp (171 kW) and 340 lb·ft (460 N·m) in the 88 and 240 hp (178 kW) and 350 lb·ft (474 N·m) in the Super 88 and 98.


1954-1956 Oldsmobile 88
1954-1956 Oldsmobile Super 88
1954-1956 Oldsmobile 98

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