The full name Oldsmobile was first used in 1900. Prior to that, the automobiles were known simply as Olds, built by the Olds Motor Works of Lansing.
In 1903 the Olds Pirate sets a World record at Daytona Beach covering 5 miles in 6.5 minutes. In 1905 two Oldsmobiles complete the first transcontinental race from New York, NY to Portland, Oregon in 44 days.
In 1922 an Oldsmobile establishes another record, traveling 1000 miles in 15 hours. Cannonball Baker drives a 6 cylinder Model 30 from New York to LA in 12 ½ days.
Total car vehicle production:
Ransom Eli Olds also put his name on a line of trucks: REO's.
Rocket Era 1949 - 1990The Oldsmobile Over-Head-Valve (OHV) Rocket V-8 was first produced in 1949. Originally named for its principal designer, Charles Kettering, as Kettering Power. Corporate GM policy disallowed that, so the powers that be, opted for Rocket Power. The plant where these engines were built was named The Kettering Engine Plant. The Olds OHV V-8 was the first to be produced in a sustainable quantity.
It was the second mass produced OHV V-8. In 1917 to 1919, Chevrolet produced a 265 CID OHV V-8, but production ceased. In 1955, Chevrolet introduced another, the 265 CID OHV V-8. The first Ford OHV V-8 was produced in 1954.
The first serious attempt at a commercially viable V-8 was by De Dion around 1910. Cadillac examined this design as well as the Hall-Scott aero engine, and released their vastly superior engine in September 1914. Cadillac is generally regarded as having the first successful production V-8 engine. They were also the first to introduce an inherently balanced V-8 (quartered crankshaft with integral counterweights vs. a flat 4 cylinder crank). However, none of these were OHV designs.
Oldsmobile produced an L head or flat head V-8 from 1916 to 1918 and from 1919 to 1921, but it was a side valve engine, not OHV.
Oldsmobile also built the Viking V-8 in 1929 and 1930. A 90 degree, 81 bhp 260 CID V-8. It used a horizontal valve design with triangular type combustion chambers. The block is a mono-block casting.
Some of the early V-8 engines are of fairly unusual design, beyond the early connecting rods. I believe the 1917-18 Chevrolet Model D V-8 was made up of two castings, basically split down the Center line of the crank. They were identical castings that were simply bolted together. Mono-block V-8's didn't hit until much later. Ford said they were the first to make a 'low cost' mono-block V-8, with their inception in 1932. This indicates that one or some of the higher priced V-8s must have been mono-block prior to 1932.
In 1957 Olds released the J-2 Golden Rocket. This was a 371 inch engine with a six-pack (it only came with a six-pack) that put out 312 horses.
I guess that once Olds hooked onto the Rocket name in '49 and people associated it with Oldsmobile, they continued to use it for many years because of that association. You could say that any Olds built V-8 from 1949 up is a Rocket engine.
The word Rocket on the air/cleaner decals was dropped in 1973, except for, (and I'm 99% sure) the '73, '74 and '75 H/O's. There were the ONLY ones that had Rocket on them past 1973.
All Olds V-8 pushrod engines produced between 1949 and 1990 are considered Rocket engines. The Rocket designation comes from the general design of these engines, not the HP rating. Super 88's with Rocket V-8s won many races in 1949 and through the 1950's. The Rocket V-8 has been credited with starting the quest for more power and hot rodding.
You may notice different variations of Rocket on air cleaner housings. Here are some:
The Musclecar War started when Oldsmobile introduced the first overhead valve V-8 in a relatively light body in the 1949. The war became hot when Pontiac brought out the GTO and Olds countered with the 442. As the decade of the sixties ended, more of the corporate limits were removed until they were building almost all out race cars. From 1968 to 1971, the 442 was a separate line that could be identified by it's VIN. The 1970 model year had more trick parts than almost any other year.
General differences among the power ratings of Rocket V-8s produced between 1949 to 1964, and 1964 to 1990 are in the manifold, carb, and air cleaner. Some small bracketry and the like is also different, of course. The distributor is slightly different in terms of either vacuum or mechanical advance, but nothing major. The main internal difference is in the pistons, with the 4-barrel hi-compression pistons having a more shallow dish than the 2-barrel ones. Heads and camshafts are pretty much the same, with W machines and 442's (hi-performance applications) using different heads and camshafts.
[ Thanks to Joe Padavano, Kevin Wong, Mike Van Auken, Cliff Feiler, Bob Barry, Greg Beaulieu, Mark Cornea, Kurt Heinrich, dj for this information ]
Oldsmobile engines can be basically broken into the following generations:
First Year Items
[ Thanks to Graham Stewart, Joe Padavano others for this information ]
Indy Pace Cars
Oldsmobile automobiles have paced the Indianapolis 500 more than any other car manufacturer.
[ Thanks to Brad Nicholson for this information ]