Sale of the Week

This '59 Olds shows the tail fin era translates to online auctions

by David Zenlea
5 November 2022 2 min read
Photo by Auto Hunter

People in the art/antiques world like to talk about what’s happened to brown furniture. Some decades ago, when just about every American of means sought to fill their home with well-crafted, ornate wood furniture, these items were considered tangible assets. Today, they languish in attics and consignment shops. It’s a cautionary tale about how taste—and dollar values connected to them—can shift with time.

There’s an argument, which I’ve heard from more than one collector car industry type, that 1950s American cars are our brown furniture. These cruisers, with their acres of chrome and giant tailfins, were once the staples of every local car show and the pride of many collections, but just don’t appeal in a market in which even the older collectors tend to be too young to have coveted them when new.

It’s a well-reasoned theory. But the thing is, buyers don’t seem to agree with it. Hagerty’s index of 1950s American classics, which averages price guide values for 19 of the most coveted cars in the segment, sits some 50 percent higher than it did 15 years ago—near $150,000—and has posted strong gains for four straight quarters.

This 1959 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 shows that even the attainable classics from this era can hold their ground. It sold online this week for just shy of $30,000 ($29,926.50, including fees from Auto Hunter). This example, given its slight paint imperfections and small window crack, arguably brought a higher price than its condition merits—our price guide pins a “best in the world” example at $31,000.

Going by the “brown furniture” theory, this should be the sort of vehicle that slips through the cracks. Dynamic 88s, moderately-priced entries into the Olds lineup, were handsome and popular but for the most part aren’t what self-serious types might call the most ”significant” representatives of the period. The Virgil Exner-designed 1957 Chryslers were more innovative from a design standpoint—and although the 371-ci Rocket V-8 was nothing to sneeze at, the car didn’t have quite the performance cred of some contemporary Chevies or a “Wide Track” Pontiac Bonneville.

And yet, it’s still really cool, isn’t it? For someone looking for a rolling representation of midcentury American greatness and some Sunday cruises, an Olds from this era is a stunning deal. A contemporary Bel Air that looked this nice would likely cost more than twice as much. Keeping the car running should be fairly cheap, since your typical corner shop knows what do do with a pushrod V-8 and four-speed Hydramatic.

That helps explain why these Oldsmobiles get more attention from younger collectors than many of their contemporaries—some 60 percent of the people who call us for insurance quotes on 1959–60 Dynamic 88s are Gen Xers or younger.

This example, despite its slightly high price relative to its condition, seems well bought—try making a rougher example this nice for less. The first (and perhaps only) investment the new owner should make are a set of whitewall radials for daily driving.


  • Gary Bechtold says:

    It’s a stylish cruiser so I can see the appeal for someone who wants something with that ’50’s look.

  • Eldo says:

    American cars from the late 1950s/early ’60s generally had so much style that they need no modification to make them a “cool cruiser”.

  • S.Haring says:

    Watch for this V.I.N. on the export manifests to Sweden or Denmark… Nice looking Olds!

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