You’re looking at the Oldsmobile Rocket F88 concept car from 1954. Only four of these bad boys were ever made; only one survives today. It was sold at auction in 2005 to John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel, for the grand sum of $3.24 million.
This is the car that could have killed the Chevy Corvette, had not the Chevy people convinced GM to deep-six it. It was, according to Jessica Donaldson,
...Oldsmobile’s legendary dream car. A beautiful dynamo on wheels, the F-88 was Oldsmobile’s experimental convertible that GM’s stylists incorporated scores of striking innovations into. This spectacular sports car featured natural pigskin upholstery, low-poised fiberglass body, unusual rear deck design, sparkling interior trim and a special 250 hp “Rocket” engine. The elliptical grille mouth, “hockey stick” side trim and bullet tail lights were designed purely period Oldsmobile style.With its 324-cubic-inch V8 engine, this Olds would have blown the six-cylinder Corvette off the road, changing the course of automotive history.
Alas, it was not to be.
I had never been to the various Motorama shows at which these concept cars were exhibited, and even if I had been, I would have been too young to remember much. And yet, when I saw the photos, I thought that Rocket F88 looked strangely familiar. Where had I seen it... or something similar... before?
That’s when I recalled some of the old Mad magazines I had stored away in the bowels of Chez Elisson. Wally Wood, one of the great comic book artists of the 1950’s, was a prolific contributor to Mad back in the day... and many of the pieces he illustrated featured several futuristic-looking automobiles.
Not that he had to do much, mind you. What with their tailfins and other design gewgaws, many late-1950’s cars looked futuristic enough - at least by the standards of the time. But Wood’s art took those design concepts and ran with them. The result was amazingly similar to that Olds concept car.
You don’t believe me? Here’s proof:
Illustration from “Tomorrow’s Parents,” Mad Magazine, April 1961. Click to embiggen.
Check out the vehicle on the far left... a typical Wally Wood future-mobile, a look at Times to Come as imagined a half-century ago. That - and other Wallymobiles - had to have been at least partially inspired by that Olds concept car, don’tcha think?