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The Last Oldsmobile 88

Fifty years after motorists first were asked to "Make a date with the Rocket 88," General Motors Corp. has officially retired Oldsmobile's 88 series, marking the end of the line for America's longest, continuous car model.

The automaker on Tuesday presented a black, four-door sedan for a spot at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum.

The 88, featuring America's first high-compression V-8 engine, was launched in 1949 and quickly became Oldsmobile's best seller. A red Rocket 88 was the pace car at that year's Indianapolis 500 and another Rocket 88 won the inaugural Daytona 500 a decade later.

"They were very well built," said Dave Violetta, a retired engineer who spent 37 years with GM. He owns five Oldsmobiles, including a 1932 sedan.

"They would make it to 100,000 miles, back when 100,000 miles was unheard of."

Production peaked in 1955, when 465,000 of them rolled off the line. The 1960s saw the 88 grow longer and wider, while the 1980s brought major styling and engineering changes. The last Olds V-8 was manufactured in 1990.

Ten million 88s were built before the last one rolled off the line Jan. 6 at Oakland County's Orion Assembly Center. That car, a special 50th anniversary edition with gold trim, joined its predecessors Tuesday at the Transportation Museum.

The plant's employees all signed their names on the inside of the hood. The end of the Olds 88 and the Buick Riviera, which was discontinued last fall after a 35-year run, meant the layoff of 1,400 workers at the Orion plant. GM has said the company will try to place workers at other plants.

GM discontinued production to turn attention to more profitable Olds models, such as the Aurora and Intrigue.

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