Oldsmobile Rocket

Well, it sure DOES pay to go rooting around in old barns.  Just look at what we found in Kansas recently:

Yes, these are an original pair of wire looms for a 1950 Oldsmobile 303.  The 303 was the first mass-produced overhead valve (OHV) V8 in 1949.  These are 1950 wire looms because they are gold with red letters, not natural metal with red letters like the 1949 version.  A quick search on the internet reveals many arguments over whether the Oldsmobile was the earliest example of American muscle (that’s right) or whether something like the Ford Mustang deserves that title (and that’s just wrong).

Oldsmobile appropriately called their short-stroke, high-compression OHV engine the “Rocket”, and it sure made the automobile industry sit up and take notice.  The other manufacturers were producing their own versions by the mid-1950s, but not before Oldsmobile impacted the record books by winning NASCAR championships in 1949, 1950 and 1951.  Even though the Rocket is a great name, Oldsmobile engineers originally wanted to name the engine after Charles F. Kettering, the retired GM research VP, but GM policy prevented that from happening.  Too bad, because Kettering more than deserved the honor.

Nicknamed “Boss” Kettering, his is one of those uniquely American stories that starts with very humble beginnings on a farm in Ohio in 1876 and ends with an estate worth more than $200 million upon his death in 1958.  In between, he spent his life seeking solutions to the problems of everyday life even when, or especially when, others were claiming it was impossible.   He made valuable contributions in the fields of medicine and aviation, helped develop new types of fuel, and even developed the refrigerant Freon.  He co-founded Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (better known as Delco) and invented the electric starter for Henry Leland of Cadillac, making Cadillac the first automobile without the dangerous and laborious hand crank.  Delco, of course, was later purchased by GM.  Upon his retirement from GM, Kettering held more than 140 patents.  He was a philosopher as well as an inventor and the source of some of my favorite quotes such as, “If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.”  In light of current affairs, however, I think I’ll end with this particularly relevant quote:   

“We have a lot of people revolutionizing the world because they’ve never had to present a working model.”

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