The Oldsmobile F-88 Concept Was Yet Another Harley Earl Masterpiece

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The sale of the fabulous 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 GM Concept Car was a revelation in a number of ways in that not only did it harken back to a golden age of automotive design, it was also a new benchmark for such concepts on the auction block.

As seven bidders threw their hats in the ring to take ownership of the iconic set of wheels, the bidding flew past the million-dollar mark quickly. By the time the auction was over, the F-88 had set a record at $3.3 million.

The F-88 itself was yet another Harley Earl concept car that has become a legend, and it was a pet project of the great executive and designer. Earl worked alongside the forefathers of the Corvette – Bill Mitchell, Ken Pickering, and Zora Arkus-Duntov – on this daring and sporty idea for Oldsmobile. At the time, it was dubbed the XP-20 project, and though four design studies were created, this car which was known by “styling order #2265,” and became the sole survivor of the process.

Oldsmobile created the F-88 in 1954, and Bill Lange made the initial sketches. The concept version took the chassis of a Chevrolet Corvette as base metal and also shared its 102 in (2,600 mm) wheelbase.

Just as with the Corvette and the Pontiac Bonneville Special, the F-88’s body was wrought from fiberglass.

The car featured a 324 cubic inch (5.3-liter) Super 88 V8 engine with a four-barrel carburetor topped off with a small, flat air cleaner. The Corvette rear axle used in the car had a ratio of 3.55:1.

Its interior was built around the console from the 1953 Oldsmobile model, and it featured a tachometer customized fascia for the various gauges. The carmaker later used the instrument panel itself from the F-88 concept on Cutlass models. The F-88 was sold to John and Maureen Hendricks for over three million dollars.

Craig Jackson, the President and CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auctions, said it represented a high-water mark in American automotive aspiration and design.

“The Olds F-88 became one of the most historically significant vehicles of its era. Many automotive historians consider the F-88 to be one of the greatest expressions of automotive design to ever come from North America,” Jackson said.