Our Oldsmobile ’88’ raced its first NASCAR event on March 8, 1953 at Harnett Speedway in Spring Lake, North Carolina with Dick Passwater driving. He raced this car in twelve of the 20 races in his NASCAR career. With this car, Passwater had one win (Charlotte – where he passed Tim Flock in a Hudson for first place with only 3 laps to go) and nine top ten finishes (six in the top five). This car was gifted to the Museum by Mr. Passwater in 1996.
In 1949 Oldsmobile introduced the “Rocket V8” which was a modern post-war overhead valve, short-stroke engine. This engine put Oldsmobile in the forefront of performance and that year a Rocket Powered Olds 88 was chosen to be the Indy 500 pace car.
From 1952 to 1954 the NASCAR circuit was dominated by Hudson. But in 1953 Oldsmobile responded with horsepower improvement and was able to win the Manufacturers Cup in 1955.
However, Oldsmobile racing dates back to 1902 when Ranson E. Olds and Alexander Winton raced their two cars on the sands of Daytona Beach. Each were able to reach a respectable top speed of 57 miles per hour. The following year the “official” Daytona Beach Race started , again with Olds and Winton pitted against each other. They were joined by a Stanley Steamer. This 3-way race was the the beginning of what would become NASCAR in 1948.