Car of the Week: 1958 Oldsmobile 98 J-2

1958 Olds 98 Holiday hardtop

Oldsmobile’s 1958 models were powered by its Rocket V-8 that rightfully holds a position of tremendous stature in American performance history.

Introduced in 1949 with a displacement of 303.7 cubic inches and 135 horsepower, the Rocket grew to 324 cid in 1954 and to 374 by 1958. All 1958 engines had a 10.0:1 compression ration, up .5 from 1957. New conical valve springs were also used. Whereas the standard Olds 88 engine was rated at 365 hp @ 4400 rpm and 390 lbs-ft. of torque at 2800 rpm. It was fitted with a four-barrel Rochester carburetor and dual exhausts. The ultimate power option for 1958, the J-2 package, consisted of triple two-barrel Rochester carburetors. It’s power ratings were 312 hp @ 4600 rpm and 415 lbs.-ft. of torque at 2800. Except for the carburetors, all Oldsmobile engines were identical for 1958. Their compression ratio was 10.0:1 and an identical cam was used throughout the line.

1958 Olds 98 four-door sedan

The center carburetor on the J-2 was very similar to that used on the standard Golden Rocket 88 engine. The outer carburetors were connected by a progressive linkage, and a driver who used the J-2 with some discretion would enjoy fuel consumption figures comparable to those of the less-powerful 88 engine with the added feature of having considerably more power on tap when needed.

Both 88 models were available with a three-speed manual transmission. Most Olds buyers, however, opted for the Jetaway Hydra-Matic, which was standard on the 98. The four-speed automatic transmission had been introduced in 1956.

Although sometimes dismissed as just another chrome-laden late-‘50s American car, the Oldsmobile 98 was a surprisingly good-handling vehicle. Hot Roc magazine, which had some knowledgeable road racers on its staff, noted after testing a Super 88 in its July 1958 issue that “we … honestly believe that the 88 or Super 88 will hold its own with any current stock American car on mountain roads or highway curves… A stiff set of shocks and most of the so-called foreign sports cars would never know which way they went.” Perhaps Oldsmobile wasn’t too far off the track by calling its 1958 styling “The Mobile Look.”

1958 Olds 98 convertible coupe

Of course, the Olds 98 was a big road machine with a 126-inch wheelbase and overall lengthy of 216.5 inches. Its body shell was GM’s B-series, which was also used by the small Buick models.

Straight line performance of the 98 with the J-2 engine comes as a shock to many who heaped ridicule on Olds for its 41 lbs. of chrome trim. Motor Trend, in March 1958, reported a 0 to 60 mph time for its 98 test car of 8.6 seconds. The quarter-mile required 17.1 seconds @ 88 mph.

The 98 convertible wasn’t Oldsmobile’s most popular model for 1958, with a total output of only 4,504 units, but Olds was the top seller in its class and the 98 convertible was one of its crown jewels.

PRODUCTION CHART

ENGINES
(SUPER 88/98 SERIES) V-8. Cast-iron block. Overhead valve. Bore and stroke: 4 x 3-11/16 inches. Displacement: 371 cid. Hydraulic valve lifters. Compression ratio: 10.0:l. Brake hp: 305 at 4600 rpm. Torque: 410 Ibs-ft at 2800 rpm. Carburetor: Quadra-Jet four-barrel.

1958 Olds 98 convertible coupe

CHASSIS FEATURES

Wheelbase: 216.7 inches. Front tread: 59 inches. Rear tread: 58 inches. OPTIONS: Jetaway Hydra-Maticdrive. Heaterldefroster. Power steering. Power brakes. Deluxe radio. Electric antenna. Rear radio speaker. Super Deluxe signal seeking radio. Trans-Portable radio. Windshield washer. Back-up lights. E-ZEye tinted glass. Cadet sun visor. Electric clock. Air conditioning. Autronic eye. Power seat. Seat belts. Power windows. New-Matic air suspension. Dealer kit to convert air suspension back to standard suspension. All 1958 Oldsmobiles were powered by a Rocket V-8 engine. The 265-hp version was standard on Dynamic Eighty-Eights; the 305-hp engine was optional on any Dynamic Eighty- Eight, standard on all other models. A triple carbureted J-2 engine option could be ordered on any other 1958 Olds. It boosted power to 312 hp. Other engine options were a heavy-duty air cleaner and a heavy-duty crankcase ventilation system. A three-speed manual transmission was standard on cars in the Eighty-Eight and Super Eighty-Eight series. The Jetaway Hydra-Matic was standard on all Ninety-Eights, optional on all other models.

HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES
Factory announcements took place Oct. 30,1957, and the 1958 models were introduced Nov. 8, 1957. Model year production totaled 296,374 units for a seven percent market share. Calendar year sales of 310,795 cars were recorded, for a fourth place in the sales race. J.F. Wolfram was the chief executive officer of the division. Oldsmobile was solidly established as the sales leader in the medium-price class of the U.S. auto market. Its calendar year output included 13,705 convertibles, 63,259 two-door hardtops, 95,577 four-door hardtops and 13,265 station wagons. The four-millionth Hydra-Matic was built on April 8. 1958. Some Oldsmobile options and accessories with low installation rates included: air suspension (6.1 percent); limited slip differential (2.3 percent); air conditioning (1 2.5 percent); power windows (1 7.7 percent) and power seat (19.5 percent).

COLLECTOR VALUES
1958 Olds 98
Two-door convertible
No. 1 condition: $88,000
No. 2: $61,600
No. 3: $39,600
No. 4: $17,600

Two-door Holiday hardtop
No. 1 condition: $30,000
No. 2: $21,000
No. 3: $13,500
No. 4: $6,000

Four-door Holiday hardtop
No. 1 condition: $27,000
No. 2: $18,900
No. 3: $12,150
No. 4: $5,400

Four-door sedan
No. 1 condition: $21,000
No. 2: $14,700
No. 3: $9,450
No. 4: $4,200

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