John R. Ford's 1956 Olds Rocket 88
(from Volume 26, Issue 317)

story by John R. Ford, photos by Michael B. Kelly


My wife and I were in California in 2005 competing for Street Rod Elegances at the Goodguys show when I came across a group of cars competing in Rod & Customs Ego Rama, a combination of a drag race, 0-60-0, road course, long range cruising and a car show. To excel at all of those elements is quite a feat, and to top it off this 1956 Olds Rocket 88 that had driven from Livonia, Michigan after just being finished by Detroit Speed was in the chase. As it turned out the owner had a ‘32 ford and a ‘47 Olds driven by his daughter also in the contest, and overall the ‘56 Olds came in 2nd place to his 32 Ford. I think at that time I knew I was going to be the owner some day. That same year I saw the car at Shades of the Past getting a Top 25, a year later at Bowling Green, Kentucky I watch it on the drag strip racing its sister car, a ‘47 Olds, with the ‘56 clocking a 13.30 on that run. The funny thing is years later I realized it was the only car I took a picture of in California, Bowling Green, Kentucky and Pigeon Forge ,Tennessee.

Fast forward to 2018 and a phone call from Michigan, “do you want to come see and drive it?”. Nope! Instead “How much and when can you ship it to Florida?” was my response, and that’s when I became the owner. I am not new to street rods, customs and drag racing as I started driving at 13 in Laporte, Indiana as my Grandfather was mayor and the police tended to leave me alone in my first car a ‘34/35/40 Ford pieced together that I latter traded for a ‘50 Olds bubble coupe. I ended up starting a rod shop behind my main business which I had for 23 years in Sarasota, Florida, I was very fortunate to have some very skilled craftsman and we amassed over 35 Boyd’s Picks, 3 NSRA Louisville Pros Picks one great 8 finalist, plus several Foose picks. That was a lot of fun. We even built some celebrities cars over the years. Our last build was in 2005, a 1933 laid back Vicky for Kent Findley, an Imaginer at Disney. He left our Florida shop with 6 miles on the car to Goodguys in Indy where he received a Boyd’s Pick, Street Rodder Top Ten and a photo shoot....the full trifecta. He still owns the car today located in Orlando, Florida and we intend to do Pleasanton, California one more time.

The ‘56 Olds is a driver. When it was built the odometer was set back to 0 and it now has over 33,000 miles. It has a lean burn chevy engine dressed to look like an Olds rocket 88 (doesn’t fool any real hot rodder), mated to a 4L60-E transmission with an 1,800 stall converter, and a 9-inch Ford with 4.11:1 gears. Detroit speed did the build in 2005 and it was the 1st car they used a Camaro gen 1 clip on. Advance plating re-chromed and polished the stainless steel, and Baer 13-inch slotted rotors we utilized for the stopping power. The interior remains stock with new old fabric and a super cooler Vintage Air unit. Out of the over 200 cars I have owned, it is my 2nd favorite ever. CN