Abstract Exact analytical solutions for a class of unsteady unidirectional flows of an incompressible second-order fluid are constructed. The flows are generated impulsively from rest by motion of a plate or two plates or by sudden application of a pressure gradient. Expressions for velocity, flux and skin friction are obtained for both large and small times. It is found that large and small times solutions are dependent on the coefficient of viscoelasticity. The solutions corresponding to Newtonian fluids can be easily obtained from those for fluids of second order by letting the viscoelastic parameter to be zero.