5 Classic Oldsmobiles Everyone Forgot About

Few names in the American automotive industry conjure such nostalgia and reverence as Oldsmobile. The brand has crafted unique and memorable cars for over a century. According to J.D. Power, Oldsmobile built upwards of 35.2 million vehicles. While the carmaker had its ups and downs throughout the twentieth century, it contributed substantially to automotive technology, style, and performance. Important moments in the history of Oldsmobile were marked by innovations in design leading up to the 1950s and iconic muscle cars of the 1960s and '70s.

But, for every iconic model like the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, 1964 Oldsmobile 442, and the 1968 Hurst Olds, several classic models have seemingly vanished from the public consciousness. Even though the influential automaker rolled its last vehicle off the assembly line in 2004 and shut its doors forever, it left a lasting impression. There are many popular examples of what made Oldsmobile a big name in the industry, but also often forgotten cars that, perhaps, didn't get the recognition they deserved.

1940 Oldsmobile Custom 8 Cruiser Series 90

In terms of stylish sedans, the 1940 Custom 8 Cruiser was the closest most Americans could get to a luxury car at the time. This four-door cruiser featured large, rounded fenders, a prominent profile with chrome accents, and larger dimensions than in previous years. It exemplified this decade of automotive design and provided some decent performance for the time. While Oldsmobile advertised the Custom 8 as "America's biggest money's worth," it also could come equipped with a pioneering innovation called the Hydra-Matic Drive.

For only $57, you could get an automatic transmission in your Custom 8 Cruiser, called Hydra-Matic Drive, that purported to transform the vehicle into "the world's simplest, easiest car to operate." There was no clutch or shifter in a car from a major manufacturer for the first time. Considering less than 15% of today's American vehicles offer a manual transmission configuration, according to Progressive, this Oldsmobile was far ahead of the curve. 

1962 Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire Wagon

This classic Oldsmobile was a strange mash-up of robust power and family functionality. The F-85 Jetfire Wagon had a limited one-year run in the early '60s and offered the Jetfire engine, one of the first to incorporate turbo technology. The Jetfire Wagon wasn't the first car to use this innovative performance enhancer; it was a unique variation of the Cutlass that had previously offered the turbo. The Jetfire engine was 215ci and could produce 215 horsepower with 300-pound feet of torque. With all its innovations, it's clear why Oldsmobile's strange F-85 Jetfire engine was way ahead of its time.

It wasn't just the engine that made this Oldsmobile interesting; it was the fact that a five-door station wagon came stock from the factory with hot rod performance baked in. The Jetfire Wagon may have only been produced for one year, but it started a genre that is still seen today. Take, for example, the more recent Dodge Magnum SRT8, a family-friendly wagon with a 6.1-liter HEMI V8.