ROCK ‘N ROLL AND MUSCLE CARS...
IS THIS WHERE IT ALL BEGAN?
photos / words - Randy Lorentzen
A lot of folks will argue over what’s the first Rock ’N Roll song, while many music historians will say that it was “Rocket 88” by Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm. (Yep - that Ike Turner) Hell, many will even argue whether or not Ike Turner even wrote “Rocket 88”, or if it was one of his band members Jackie Brenston. The original version of the song was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, though Jackie was the saxophonist for Ike Turner’s “Kings of Rhythm" at the time. Supposedly the Delta Cats were the “Kings of Rhythm”. On top of that, the song was based on the 1947 song “Cadillac Boogie” by Jimmy Loggins. Just to further Muddy the Waters, (pun intended), Ike Turner later said himself that he didn’t think that Rocket 88 was the first Rock ‘N Roll song, he felt it was R&B. But he did believe that the song caused Rock ’N Roll! Long story short, R&B couldn’t get played on the white radio stations as it was considered black music. So Sam Phillips of Sun Records kept an eye out for a white singer that could sound black, and one day a kid named Elvis Presley walked through the Sun Records door, and the rest is history.
Want to start an even bigger argument? Let’s start in on the first Muscle Car. Many will point to the most obvious, the ’64 Pontiac GTO. It was a game changer. But the line maybe less defined than that. Like trying to pick the first Rock ’N Roll song, it’s not always a straight hard edged starting point. The line contains a lot of blur, and even a few curves. Some will argue for the Chrysler 300 in 1955. It’s hard to overstate or imagine today what an impact a 300 horsepower car had in ’55. The Corvette finally got a V8, and it was rated at 195 horsepower, and the ’55 T-Bird was rated at 193. The Chrysler had them both beat by over 100 horsepower!
So it’s here that we’re going to take a stand. We believe it was the Olds Rocket 88, first introduced in the 1949 model year. The first “high Compression” overhead valve V8, it made 135 horsepower. Within auto design and engineering practices of the time, this was huge, especially considering the fact that the Olds at that time wasn’t considered a “large” car. Due to it’s instant success with “Rocket Power” it’s easy to point to it as the car that lit the fire that started the horsepower wars of the ’50’s and then throughout the ’60’s.
One of the many things that make Chris Cyprus’ 1950 Oldsmobile 88 Club Sedan so bitchin’, is that he and the guys at Wheeler’s Speed Shop in Huntington Beach California didn’t screw it up. They took what was already a beautiful design and just made everything about it even better.
Starting with a 324 c.i. ’54 Olds Rocket 88 engine, they enlisted the mastery of engine builder Tom Masak who installed an Isky roller cam and roller rockers. Sitting between the iconic stock valve covers is an Offenhauser intake manifold with what looks to be 4 Stromberg carburetors, but in reality is an Autotrend electronic fuel injection system, seamlessly integrated to maintain the period appearance. A stock distributor with an EFI pick up lights it off and feeds the custom made and ceramic coated headers by Wheeler’s Speed Shop. It all comes out the back through a set of Stainless Works Vintage Round Mufflers. A 200R4 trans hooks it to the rear wheels and along the way a custom built aluminum radiator keeps everything as cool as it looks. Fact is, the guys at Wheeler’s said that the engine compartment was the most challenging part of the car. Making it all look right, while using the original heater and EFI.
The frame is stock ’50 Olds as is the rear axle, with a Fatman’s Mustang II front suspension with rack and pinion steering, and it all rides on Ridetech Shockwave air suspension. Rear brakes are stock drum while Ford Granada 11 inch discs are up front and all are fed by an ABS electric power booster and Wilwood proportioning valve.
Keeping with the original look the guys at Gabe’s Custom Interiors did the beautiful upholstery in the original print material, mixed with black leather.
A Flaming River steering column looks like it belongs. An original dash full of chrome sets it all off like jewelry setting in the front seat.
And as if a great plastic surgeon were to be approached by Sophia Loren, you’ve got to know when to say no! There’s nothing to improve.
The fastback lines of the original GM design needed nothing. Just layers of mirror straight black paint, skirts, and tons of chrome refinished by Sherm’s Plating.
The first is always the best - as it’s the original. There is no better version recorded of Ike Turner’s Rocket 88, after all it caused Rock ’N Roll. And there is no better version of the original Muscle Car than a Oldsmobile 88 Club Sedan. After all, it caused the Muscle Cars wars that followed. Those big block Chevelles, Hemi Road Runners, and Ford Boss 429’s of the ’60’s are all the offspring of the Rocket 88.
“The fastback lines of the original GM design needed nothing. Just layers of mirror straight black paint, skirts, and tons of chrome.”