1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 Fred DeFalo

Olds For The Road – Fred DeFalo Finally Gets His 1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88

“I have wanted a 1950 Oldsmobile for 60 years, and now it is time to go back and have fun.”

That’s the simple reasoning Fred DeFalco provides for his latest cruiser, this clean Almond Green 1950 Olds Futuramic 88 fastback.

1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 Fred DeFalo

At age 78, Fred is old enough to remember when midcentury Oldsmobiles were the cars to have – and the cars to beat – for young enthusiasts prowling the streets. In the years before the small-block Chevy became a dominant hot rod force, Oldsmobiles and their Rocket V8 engines were the cars gearheads sought out for stoplight confrontations and drag racing. Introduced alongside the sibling Cadillac V8 in 1949, the Olds Rocket engine helped usher in the overhead-valve V8 era for American automakers and a new age of performance. It didn’t hurt that the cars they came in had clean, handsome designs that endeared them to both hot rodders and customizers.

1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 Fred DeFalo

Fred is a longtime Southern California hot rodder who has had more than his fair share of cool cars through the decades. His ’56 Buick was a Ridler Award contender and a Goodguys Vintage Air Custom Rod of the Year finalist several years ago, and his long list of vehicles before that includes a stunning ’57 Nomad and an award-winning ’36 Ford cabriolet.

Fred’s fondness for Olds was rekindled a couple years ago when this particular 1950 Oldsmobile fastback was listed on the sale bill at a Mecum auction in Las Vegas. It was already built into an updated cruiser with a modified chassis, LS1 engine, and fresh paint and upholstery, so Fred pulled the trigger, won the auction, and excitedly brought the car back to his home in Anaheim. He soon realized the car had been driven very little in the years since it was completed and would require some refining and updating to make it the reliable road cruiser he wanted. So, he spent the next year making changes and improvements.

The car is based on a modified original frame that has been updated with a Mustang II-style independent front suspension with coil shocks, rack-and-pinion steering, and disc brakes that stop much better thanks to a recently added hydroboost system. A four-bar rear suspension with coil-overs locates the 9-inch rearend with 3.73 gears and disc brakes. Fred had Chris Coddington machine a fresh set of 15×6- and 17×7-inch Hot Rods by Boyd five-spoke wheels, which are wrapped in Hankook rubber.

1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 Fred DeFalo

While the Olds Rocket V8 was the standard of its day, Fred’s fastback has been updated with the modern standard of performance V8s – a 6.0-liter LS1. Fred had it pulled and freshened up with aftermarket aluminum heads and Inglese eight-stack EFI, and the engine now delivers an estimated 500 horsepower and looks great doing so thanks to OTB air cleaners, Billet Specialties valve covers and accessory drive, plus plenty of painted and polished details. Sanderson headers lead to a custom exhaust with Magnaflow mufflers, while a 4L60E overdrive automatic helps keep the Olds cruising at pace with SoCal freeway traffic.

1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 Fred DeFalo

The fastback body remains basically stock, though it benefits from a smooth firewall, improved panel alignment, and fresh Almond Green paint – an original Oldsmobile color – which Fred credits to previous owner and original builder Ken Hodgen. Fred had custom under-hood panels built to clean up the engine bay, and he also took the time and effort to replace or refinish many often-overlooked details like window fuzzies, stainless trim, and other small pieces that improve the driving experience and add to the car’s appearance and overall quality. “I just started going through every little detail,” Fred says. “It’s all the little detail things that I went through to make the car correct.”

1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 Fred DeFalo

The inside of the car reflects the same general approach as the rest of the build, with many original elements enhanced by select modern parts, materials, and craftsmanship. The Glide front bench seat and updated stock rear wear custom two-tone gray leather upholstery stitched by Mark Lopez, with door panels and other soft parts upholstered to match. Dakota Digital gauges in an original bezel update the dash, along with an Ididit tilt column, restored steering wheel, and Vintage Air with vents in a custom lower dash panel. A Ron Francis wiring harness was used to update the electrical system. Original pedals, handles, knobs, and other small parts help maintain the car’s vintage character.

1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 Fred DeFalo

Fred is quick to give credit to original builder Ken Hodgen and the two subsequent owners the Olds had before Fred bought it. We all know that modified cars are never truly “finished,” and each owner added improvements before Fred incorporated his recipe of refinements. “Between the four of us, we built a badass car,” he says with a chuckle.

More importantly, Fred says, his 1950 Oldsmobile is now a great driver, one in which he’s already logged thousands of miles. “The thing doesn’t bounce, it doesn’t rattle,” he says. “It’s just a really fun car. No more trailers. I drive it and love it!”

Photos by Michael Christensen

Editor, Goodguys Gazette

Damon Lee began snapping photos at car shows when he was 10, tagging along with his father to events throughout the Midwest. He has combined his passion for cars and knack for writing and imagery into a 20-year career in the automotive aftermarket, writing for titles like Super Chevy and Rod & Custom and, more recently, working for respected industry leaders Speedway Motors and Goodguys Rod & Custom Association.