Car: Oldsmobile Golden Rocket, 1956

One of the stars of General Motors 1956 Motorama line-up, this space-age dream car certainly added sparkle to Oldsmobiles dowdy image. Its interior, too, boasted clever ideas that made for easy access despite a very snug, close-coupled cockpit.

1956 Oldsmobile Golden Rocket
The gold-painted Golden Rocket was a big pull at General Motors’s 1956 Motorama traveling show.

When the driver or passenger door was opened, a roof panel would automatically swing upwards. Simultaneously, the seat would rise by 3in (8cm) and swivel round 45 degrees to accept the occupant. Once enclosed, the driver was then faced with an incredible steering wheel. A thin rim was supported by two spokes that formed, de facto, the steering column, tapering right back into the dashboard to converge with the distant steering wheel “center,” which was actually a large speedometer. Buttons on the wheel meant it could be tilted to suit the driver, or make access even easier—a genuine innovation. The rocket-inspired exterior suggested ultra-rapid forward acceleration.

1956 Oldsmobile Golden Rocket
1956 Oldsmobile Golden Rocket
1956 model of the car Oldsmobile Golden Rocket
1956 model of the car Oldsmobile Golden Rocket

Positively glowing in its burnished gold paintwork, the plastic body featured prominent chrome warheads fronting each wing, which then tapered gently to two chrome tips. The effect was like two torpedoes, enlivened with two small fins at the rear that looked something of an afterthought. Among its 1956 Motorama stablemates on their pan-US tour, the Golden Rocket was eye-catching; on its own, it was sensational. When it was exhibited solo at the Paris motor show 18 months after its American unveiling, it was still acclaimed as one of the absolute stars of the show.

“The Motorama years put a tremendous strain on everyone because every studio had to work nights and weekends on dream cars.”

 Tom Christiansen, Gm Designer, In A Century Of Automotive Style By Michael Lamm And Dave Holls, 1997

Video: model of the car Oldsmobile Golden Rocket

Specification: model of the car Oldsmobile Golden Rocket

YEAR REVEALED: 1956
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Detroit, Michigan
HISTORICAL STATUS: prototype
ENGINE: V8-cylinder, 371ci (6,079cc)
MAXIMUM POWER: 275bhp
LAYOUT: front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
BODYWORK: two-door, two-seater coupé
TOP SPEED: unknown
NUMBER BUILT: one