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The 1959 Oldsmobiles even appealed to young Space Cadets

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Still image from video below.

In this vintage television ad, two young boys wearing space helmets experience from the backseat of their parents’ new Ninety-Eight what the redesigned ’59 Oldsmobile had to offer.

The “Rocket” tie-in between the car and their headgear is obvious. So too, is the lack of seatbelts, as the children move freely about the cabin, and the little girl even climbs into the front seat to sit with her mother while the car appears to be traveling down the highway. (It was a different era with regard to passenger safety.) You can also see that some of the interior close-up road shots were done in a studio with a filmed background.

Distinctions in standard equipment, interior and exterior trim, and pricing set the entry-level Dynamic 88, mid-level Super 88, and prestigious and longer Ninety-Eight series apart from one another. Some of those differences will be discussed in this article.

The two-door hardtop “Holiday SceniCoupe” and the four-door hardtop “Holiday SportSedan” offered the most dramatic roof configurations with slender C-pillars and no B-pillars. Oldsmobile described the SportSedan as having a “fleet roofline and full wraparound rear window.” Availability of those body styles, and the two-door sedan, four-door sedan, convertible, and Fiesta station wagon, varied by series.

Like its GM siblings, the cars of the division from Lansing were lower, longer, and wider for 1959. Their “Linear Look,” in Oldsmobile-speak, provided an expansive hood, roof, and deck, and a “Vista-Panoramic windshield.” Long sweeping lines and sculpted sheetmetal characterized the body sides, and according to the division, the new styling didn’t have tailfins, but rather “booms, accented by thin blades.”

The amount of exterior trim increased with the level of the series—Dynamic 88s had the least and the Ninety-Eights the most. However, with body brightwork reaching its zenith on the 1958 Oldsmobiles, the ’59s were comparatively spared.

The headlight pairs were separated by the parking lamps/turn signals, all floating in a full-width recessed rectangle-pattern grille and set above a substantial front bumper. Though the outward appearance remained quite similar, there were subtle front end differences between the 88s and Ninety-Eight. “OLDSMOBILE” block lettering decorated the center of the grille.

At the ends of the “booms,” oval taillamp lenses that were convex in the 88s and concave with bright highlights added in the Ninety-Eight were set into chrome-plated bezels that were also unique to those series. A broad trim panel with “OLDSMOBILE” lettering was added just above the large rear bumper, and once again the appearance differed between the 88s and the Ninety-Eight.

According to Oldsmobile published figures, though the 88s rode on a 123-inch wheelbase that was only a half-inch longer than the previous year’s, their overall length grew more than 10 inches to 218.4 inches. The Ninety-Eight employed a 126.3-inch wheelbase, very close to the 126.5-inch wheelbase of its ’58 counterpart—yet the ’59 body was 6.3 inches longer at 223 inches. Width was increased to 80.8 inches from 78.5 inches for all models, and the 88s’ Holiday SceniCoupe’s height was listed at a low 53.7 inches compared to the ’58 Holiday coupe’s 56.97 inches.

The new version of theGuard-Beam” frame was not only longer but also 9-inches wider, as its side rails were moved outward. It retained crossmembers and an X-member, but the latter now had a tubular center section.

Oldsmobile’s “Pivot-Poise” front suspension was comprised of unequal-length control arms, coil springs, spindles, ball joints, stabilizer bar, and shocks. And leaf springs and shocks were used to locate and control the actions of the rear end. “Air-Scoop” 11-inch drum brakes were updated for better heat dissipation by adding cooling flanges. Fourteen-inch wheels with 8.50 x 14 tires (Dynamic 88) and 9.00 x 14 tires (Super 88 and Ninety-Eight) were standard. Track width was 61 inches.

Under the hood of the Dynamic 88 was the “Rocket” V-8 rated at 270 hp with the standard two-barrel carburetor, and 300 hp with the optional four-barrel. A larger bore, 315-hp four-barrel Rocket engine debuted and came with the Super 88 and the Ninety-Eight.

Though a three-speed manual transmission was standard in the 88s, the Jetaway four-speed Hydra-Matic was a highly popular option and was also included in the Ninety-Eight, as were power steering and power brakes.

The more spacious interior featured a new Twin-Contour instrument panel and a Safety Spectrum speedometer that employed a color band under the number readouts. It was green up to 35 mph, then turned orange up to 65 mph, and red at higher speeds. An additional unique feature was a very wide glovebox. Each series differed in upholstery patterns and other interior styling characteristics.

How was the new ’59 Oldsmobile received? More than 382,000 were sold for the model year, eclipsing the 1958 total by more than 80,000 cars. How much of that improvement can be attributed to styling, engineering, marketing, other factors, or a recovering economy from the 1958 recession, isn’t known.

If the title and subtitle are any indication, Hot Rod magazine was impressed with the ’59 Super 88 Holiday SceniCoupe it tested in its June 1959 issue. “Olds…’59 Class Leader” was printed in large type across the opening spread followed by, “Styling, dependability, and lively performance—all longtime features are once more helping Oldsmobile dominate the medium price bracket.”

The test car was equipped with the standard engine and extra-cost Jetaway Hydra-Matic, power steering and brakes, and a host of other options, except for A/C and air suspension.

Its ride was described as smooth, and wind noise as low, but the suspension was said to be tuned too softly for proficient high-speed handling. Braking performance was satisfactory, and the optional power steering was recommended for its lighter effort and much quicker ratio than standard manual steering. Interior styling and finish were praised, but the seat design was called out for having too sharp of an angle between its base cushion and back.

The magazine reported a curb weight of 4,620 pounds with a full tank of gas, and the Super 88 accelerated from 0-60 in 8.4 seconds and posted a 16.7-second quarter-mile ET at 83 mph.

In summing up the test, the article stated, “The figures just given denote a pretty lively car, and the axle ratio was 3.23:1. By virtue of size, weight and springing, it would seem that Oldsmobile is more interested in a luxury car than a performance model. Yet still, they keep the low gear in for acceleration.”

We don’t know how many of Oldsmobile’s attributes the made-for-TV family got to experience during filming. Yet, given the fact that so many of us buy vintage vehicles based on the treasured childhood memories we have of them, we wonder if any of those young actors were inspired later in life to buy a ’59 Oldsmobile because of their recollections of making this ad.