The 1991 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight was the last redesign of Oldsmobile’s top-of-the-line model. Built from 1991 to 1996, it was effectively replaced by the all-or-nothing Aurora, although both cars were produced for the 1995-96 model years. Oldsmobile, having come close to the brink in the early Nineties, was trying to remake itself into a maker of sporty luxury cars, rather than the type of cars your Aunt Cindy would drive. The Touring Sedan was one of the results of that marketing shift.
The first Touring Sedan was introduced on the 1987 Ninety Eight. It was meant as a response to cars like the Mercedes-Benz 300E, BMW 735i and Audi 5000. While just how many Mercedes, BMW and Audi owners went for the Olds is debatable, the Touring Sedan was very attractive, with Lear Siegler bucket seats in leather with adjustable lumbar and thigh support, burled walnut trim, and center console with “basket handle” floor shift. Outside, alloy wheels, fog lamps and side cladding set the Touring Sedan apart from the Regency and Regency Brougham. A touring suspension and larger stabilizer bars were functional improvements.
Aside from a revised grille and new alloy wheels in 1989, the package continued through 1990. The Touring Sedan was very similar in concept to the Cadillac Seville Touring Sedan, which was introduced for 1988. Both cars gave a European touch to what were pretty typical post-downsizing-era GM luxury cars.
When the Ninety Eight was redesigned for 1991, the Touring Sedan returned. One big change was the availability of the supercharged 3800 V6, good for 205 horsepower. As before, the Touring Sedan received standard alloys, body-color grille and a more aggressive suspension.
Inside, the interior again featured exclusive bucket seats and console, wood trim and full instrumentation. All in all, it was a pretty nice package, but that did not translate into big sales numbers. Only 4,280 were built in 1991.
In 1992, the Touring Sedan received new alloy wheels, the same type that was available on 1992 Eighty Eights with the touring suspension option. Other than that, the car was the same, and sales sunk further south, to 2,795 units.
Perhaps sales would have been greater if the Touring Sedan had the supercharged 3800 as standard, like the contemporary Buick Park Avenue Ultra. Most likely though, Ninety Eight shoppers didn’t know what to make of it (no bench seats!) and went for the Regency or Regency Elite instead, like this 1995 example pictured above.
Despite the lackluster sales, the Touring Sedan returned for 1993, for the last time as it turned out. There were no major changes, and after a mere 1,885 were sold, Oldsmobile pulled the plug on the model. Obviously, people were not very interested in the combination of a formal roof, enclosed rear wheels, bucket seats and console and available supercharged V6.
I personally like these very much. The idea of a sporty Ninety Eight is such a contrast, I can’t help but love them. I spotted this one while going through an intersection in downtown Moline. I saw the wheels and the front badges and thought “That was a Touring Sedan!” Of course I had to go back. This one is a ’92 or ’93 judging from the wheels. Let’s call it a ’92 since nearly 1,000 more were made compared to 1993. This particular one is a local car, as it has a dealer tag from long-gone Vincent J. Neu Oldsmobile, which used to be located across the river in Davenport.
We had had three or four inches of snow the night before that rapidly melted and turned most sidewalks into ice rinks, but I had to risk it and record this car. It looks like it was a pristine one-owner for a long time, as the trim is all there, the paint is still shiny and there is no rust, but the smashed grille and lots of stuff inside it tells me that the current owner is not aware of the fine automobile he or she is driving. At least it’s still here, earning its keep.