(first posted 2/1/2016) Is it any wonder the wheels started to come off Oldsmobile in the 1980s? While all of GM’s brands were guilty of expanding their reaches and cannibalizing each other – witness Chevrolet’s luxurious Caprice and Buick’s sporty GSX – Oldsmobile never seemed to have as clearly defined an image as the others. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Oldsmobile instalment of this series is marked with a melange of Oldsmobiles of all different flavors.
Cutlass Supreme Quad 4
Years produced: 1990-91
Total production: ?
The 2.3, double overhead cam, four-valve, four-cylinder engine known as the Quad 4 was developed by Oldsmobile. It debuted on the Cutlass Calais for 1988 and would go on to be used in all of GM’s N-Body compacts and the closely related L-Body Chevrolet Beretta, while later variants would also feature in the J-Body Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire and “P-90” Chevy Malibu of 1997. A forgotten application of the Quad 4 was in the W-Body Pontiac Grand Prix and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.
In the Grand Prix, it was treated merely as a base engine and was saddled with a three-speed automatic transmission; no manual was available. It was introduced in 1990 but discontinued after 1991. In 1990, the Quad 4 engine also appeared in the Cutlass Supreme in two states of tune. The base Cutlass Supreme came standard with a five-speed manual transmission and a Quad 4 engine with 180 hp at 6200 rpm and 160 ft-lbs of torque at 5200 rpm. For an extra $325, you could opt for a three-speed automatic transmission but then you received a Quad 4 with only 160 hp and 155 ft-lbs of torque.
The Quad 4 was an odd choice for a fairly large intermediate sedan and coupe, being both high-revving and noisy. However, Oldsmobile did not position their still quite new four-cylinder as a penalty box offering: although the 3.1 V6 was the most expensive engine in the Cutlass Supreme range, the Quad 4 was available with the International Series package. So equipped, a Cutlass Supreme received the firmer FE3 suspension, power front buckets, rear bucket seats and 215/60R16 tires on alloy wheels.
For 1991, the Cutlass Supreme received GM’s new 3.4 “Twin Dual Cam” V6, available with a five-speed manual transmission. The Quad 4, consequently, was de-emphasized. Its manual offering was dropped, leaving just the lower output version with a three-speed auto, and you could no longer specify a four-cylinder International Series. It seems most buyers chose the optional 3.1 V6 which had superior low-end torque and refinement to the Quad 4. As a result, the Quad 4 disappeared from the Cutlass Supreme lineup after 1991 and a four-cylinder would never appear again in a GM W-Body.
(Photos courtesy of CarDomain users cutty_supreme, jumpin_juggalo_5, and cutty1990)
Delta 88 Royale Crown Landau
Years produced: 1976
Total production: 4,360
The 1970s were not a great time for visibility. Opera windows were in vogue, leaving big blind spots aft of many vehicles’ B-pillars. To compound this, it became more fashionable to offer new roof treatments with even poorer visibility. The 1978 Ford Thunderbird Diamond Jubilee blanked out the rearmost side windows of the Thunderbird. Oldsmobile had done this first, however, with its obtusely-named Delta 88 Royale Crown Landau of 1976.
It combined three garish and trendy design features of the era: the aforementioned blind spot; a padded vinyl roof; and a stainless steel “landau bar”, also seen on cars like the AMC Hornet AMX. There was also a stand-up hood ornament and color-keyed wheels, similar to those found on the Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon. While that intermediate was a quasi-sporty offering, the Royale Crown Landau was anything but. Total cost of the package was $598; a regular Delta 88 Royale coupe listed for $5,146. For comparison, a base Ninety-Eight coupe coupe listed for $6,271. The Royale Crown Landau allowed B-Body Olds buyers a little extra distinctiveness without going the whole hog and buying a C-Body Ninety-Eight.
Interestingly, the roof modifications were performed by a certain outfit named Hurst, the same company that produced the extremely desirable Hurst/Olds Cutlasses of the late 1960s and 1970s. For all intents and purposes, this luxo Landau was the Hurst/Olds for 1976.
442 W-30 (1980)
Years produced: 1980
Total production: 886
The 442 package was available continuously from 1964 until 1980, re-appearing from 1985 to 1987 and then making a cameo appearance from 1990-91 on a Cutlass Calais. So, what makes this 1980 442 so noteworthy? Its four-barrel 350 cubic-inch V8 doesn’t seem especially interesting unless you consider the historical context. Namely, if you wanted a GM intermediate in 1980 with a V8 bigger than 305 cubic inches, this was it.
The ’80 442 was also noteworthy because it represented an improvement in performance over the previous year’s 442. This was virtually unheard of in 1980, a year when Ford and Pontiac, for example, introduced weaker V8 engines in their so-called performance models. The ’78-79 442 had been little more than a trim and suspension package, adding lurid decals, FE2 suspension but no extra performance. It was also based, inexplicably, on the Aeroback Salon body. In 1979, Oldsmobile offered a Hurst/Olds, based on the notchback coupe body of the Cutlass Supreme/Calais, that packed a 350 cubic-inch V8. For 1980 and minus the Hurst shifter, the ’79 Hurst/Olds became the 442.
The 1980 Cutlass Supreme and Calais received a restyled front fascia with quad headlights, matching the newly introduced notchback sedan’s front styling. This was a one-year-only nose for the coupes as 1981 would bring the distinctive, sloping grille that would remain for the rest of the coupe’s run.
The 1980 442 was offered only in a pair of two-tone color schemes: black/gold and white/gold, much the same as the ’79 Hurst/Olds. Unlike previous years’ 442s, the 1980 model’s 4-bbl 350 was exclusive to the 442 and pumped out 170 hp and 275 ft-lbs of torque; the only transmission was the Turbo-Hydramatic 350 auto. All 442s came with bucket seats (power optional), floor-shifter, 2.73 rear axle and FE2 rallye suspension. Because of emissions standards, the 442 was not offered in California.
The 442 W-30 Appearance and Handling Package, as it was officially named, added $1,425 to the price of a Cutlass Calais, the base MSRP of which was $6,715. After a small production run of just 886 442s in 1980, some of which received t-tops, the name was retired and did not return until 1985.
Years produced: 1977
Total production: 1
It is generally wise to make sure your product works and is saleable before you start advertising it in magazines and promotional material. Alas, Oldsmobile – or rather, American Sunroof Corporation, who were contracted to modify the Toronado – experienced last minute issues engineering the powered, glass t-tops that were the signature feature of the limited edition XSR.
The XSR was developed to maintain interest in the aging Toronado, this generation of which had debuted in 1971. By 1977, with the arrival of the downsized Delta 88 and Ninety-Eight, the Toronado was looking oversized, overstuffed and overdue for replacement. GM had also discontinued its convertibles in anticipation of rumored rollover standards and a coupe with power t-tops was seen as a novel feature and a desirable substitute for an open-top car.
Although 2,000 units were planned, only one XSR was produced – the prototype– and the project was shelved. Toronado shoppers were instead left with the XS, which featured an ordinary glass sunroof and also the XSR’s hot-bent-wire, wraparound rear window. The XS was priced around $3k higher than a regular Toronado; the XSR was intended to be an extra $450 more on top of that.
An extra $3k for a striking rear window – albeit one that seemed an awkward fit for the Toronado’s conservative body – seemed to be a steep asking price. However, if you were a Toronado buyer spending the extra cash, an extra $450 for power t-tops seemed reasonable. It was a shame ASC couldn’t get them to work effectively; the t-tops were supposed to slide in toward the centerline and stack over each other.
The prototype is still on the road and was even featured in the June 2003 issue of Collectible Automobile. ASC showcased it for several years and eventually sold it to a private buyer; it changed hands a few times over the years and was eventually restored. A few Cadillac Eldorados were also modified by ASC with power t-tops but production plans for these were also shelved.
As for the Toronado XS, 5,166 units were produced over 1977-78, or just under 9% of total production volume for the final two years of the big Toronado.
Years produced: 1964-65
Total production: 22,636
Try to make sense of this. Oldsmobile had a full-sized, “personal” coupe known as the Starfire. The problem was it wasn’t selling to their expectations. So, they decided to launch a lower-priced companion in 1964 and dubbed it the Jetstar I. But they also decided that year to launch that year a full-size Oldsmobile called the Jetstar 88 which, although related, was the cheapest of the 88 range that included the Delta 88 and Dynamic 88. Confused yet? Well, how do you think the buyers felt? Perhaps this explains why the Jetstar I was short-lived.
Maybe Oldsmobile was trying to establish “Jetstar” as their name for the budget model of that particular series (interestingly, Australia has a budget airline called Jetstar). But the Jetstar I was caught in a confusing morass of Oldsmobile names that included the similarly-titled Jetstar 88, Jetfire, Starfire… You get the picture. Also complicating things was the increasing popularity of the smaller Oldsmobiles including the hot-selling, up-sized F-85/Cutlass of 1964. Furthermore, personal luxury and muscle offerings were gravitating towards the intermediate segment.
A Jetstar I still gave you the bucket seats and console of the Starfire. Most importantly, the Jetstar I retained the Starfire 394 cubic-inch V8 with 345 hp and 430 ft-lbs, also used in the Ninety-Eight Custom Sports Coupe. To keep the price down, the bucket seats were trimmed in vinyl and power steering, power brakes and an automatic transmission were all options. If you added those options, you were within spitting distance of a Starfire as it cost just $150 more.
For 1965, the Jetstar I, along with the rest of the full-size Oldsmobiles, received beautiful, coke-bottle curves at the hips and more distinctive rear-end styling. Greater visual differentiation was employed between the Starfire and Jetstar I: the former received thicker chrome mouldings, while the latter had large, non-functional vents aft of the front wheels. The big news was adjacent to those vents: under the hood, there was a new 425 cubic-inch V8 in a tune exclusive to Starfire and Jetstar I models with 370 hp and 470 ft-lbs of torque, 10 more horses than the V8 in the Ninety-Eight. There was even a floor-mounted four-speed manual which like the Turbo Hydra-Matic was an extra-cost option; a three-speed manual remained standard.
Despite all these improvements, sales were less than half of 1964’s volumes: just 6,552 were sold. The Jetstar I line wouldn’t return for 1966 and that year would be the Starfire’s last. To take over the personal luxury slot, Oldsmobile debuted the achingly beautiful Toronado in 1966. Oldsmobile also offered plusher Cutlasses, a response to the market’s shift towards intermediates that would bring the mid-price brand extraordinary success the following decade. The sporty full-size coupe would soon be extinct.
Oldsmobile advertising used to ask, “Can we build one for you?”. Well, for those who wanted distinctive rooflines and windows or a little extra performance, they produced these five models, two of which were more powerful than their related Pontiacs and one with detailing more ritzy than that of a Cadillac.
In the next instalment, we will look at five more Oldsmobiles with very different missions.
Curbside Classic: 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2
Curbside Classic: 1992 Oldsmobile Touring Sedan
Curbside Classic: 1964 & 1965 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight
Back in the mid eighties I was a bartender. One of my frequent customers was a car salesman. One day he was talking and mentioned this car his boss had taken in on trade the day before. He was laughing and said he wished someone would buy it before he had to put it out on the lot, he thought it was super ugly and didn’t want it around his precious “nice” cars (he was a Ford salesman). Wondering what car he was ashamed of I stopped in there later that day. He took me into the back and sitting there in the cleanup bay was a ’76 Olds Delta 88 Royale Crown coupe in Lime Green with a white top and interior! I was in love! Needless to say it never made it to the lot, I went home in it that day. Enjoyed it immensely for about 10 years. Unfortunately electrical gremlins fried the dash wiring one day and she had to leave me. I still miss her!
So that opening picture with the dash lit up with red lights is familiar to you? 🙂
I’m surprised that a Ford salesman would have found the Delta 88 Royale Crown Coupe offensive. To me it looks like an Olds that was trimmed out by Ford. Reminiscent of those Cougars and Thunderbirds with the vinyl tops with matching trunk trim and wheels. I really like that Olds, I would seriously consider owning one of those.
It was a GM aka “Brand X” car for a Ford lot.
Yep jp, It was kinda jarring at first set into that Rubbermaid Green dash!
Jetstar 1 is interesting. Did they anticipate a 2 and 3 etc. or was it just to differentiate from the Jetstar 88?
It may be hard to ever get an answer. The brilliant folks at Olds who came up with this brilliant idea are probably either gone or don’t remember. Or would rather not remember.
Seriously; I remember when the Jetstar 1 came out, and I struggled with what Olds was doing here. It was very confusing to my eleven-year old brain. It still is…
It was a really baffling piece of marketing. I think Olds was responding to disappointing sales of the Starfire by offering a conceptually similar package for less money (although on an equipment-adjusted basis, it wasn’t actually cheaper, something that confounded the author of a Special Interest Autos article on the car years ago), but the confusing name and awkward positioning just misfired. They probably would have been better off upgrading the Starfire (to “Starfire Custom” or “Starfire 1000” or something like that) and adding a de-contented base Starfire.
Or maybe “Starfire 88” would have helped sales?
And using “1” as a supposed “sportier” trim? Suggests ‘cheapest level’, i.e. Plymouth Fury I.
“I think Olds was responding to disappointing sales of the Starfire by offering a conceptually similar package for less money…”
I will offer another explanation:
Pontiac Grand Prix
Well, yes, but the GP was also supposed to be a Thunderbird rival.
Yes, but have you ever compared the prices of the two?
The Grand Prix offered personal luxury at a price that was friendlier than the Thunderbird’s. I don’t think personal luxury coupes had been available at this price point before the Grand Prix.
So back to my point: the Jetstar I wasn’t a response to the poor-selling Starfire (and was it really selling poorly?), but rather a response to the Grand Prix’s success.
The mid-year 1961 Starfire, which was only available as a convertible, sold 1,500 units.
The 1962 Starfire was introduced with the rest of the line-up at the beginning of the model year, and available as a hardtop coupe and convertible. Sales jumped to about 41,900.
Sales of the restyled 1963 model slumped to about 25,800, even though total industry sales were up over 1962.
The 1962 model sold reasonably well, but sales were down for 1963, bucking the industry trend, and well below the sales of the Pontiac Grand Prix (which racked up over 63,000 sales for 1963).
From Oldsmobile’s perspective, the car’s sales were probably a disappointment.
The lower Starfire sales for 1963 could be attributed to the Grand Prix, which shot up more than 2x. And then there was new competition from the Riviera, which offered a specialized body.
Besides, by the time Oldsmobile decided to introduce the Jetstar I, the “disappointing” sales of the Starfire for 1963 had yet to be realized.
The Jetstar I was basically a de-trimmed Starfire that used off-the-shelf parts. I doubt that Oldsmobile needed the normal lead times to get it ready for production.
I think they may have boxed themselves in with the F-85 name for the compact-then-intermediate. This appears to have positioned those vehicles beneath the ‘C’ 98 and ‘B’ 88 while still alluding to them.
Logic suggests a ‘Jetstar 87’ or ‘Jetstar 78’ would have been a sufficient cue that this was a ‘below Jetstar 88′ model, but with ’85’ in use they were probably worried any sub-88 numeral might suggest a smaller body.
I suppose there are many examples but the later Buick GS400//GS340/350 is a better application of this principle.
Why not just ‘Jetstar’ on its own? I suspect this is what buyers and the public at large were already calling the Jetstar 88 in general conversation.
The Jetstar 1 wasn’t below the Jetsar 88 series. Actually, the Jetstar 1 was technically part of the Dynamic 88 series, which was the mid-range of the 88s. Well, that’s how it was in 1964, according to the Encyclopedia of American Cars. In 1965, the Jetstar 1 was considered a series of its own, but still above the Jetstar 88, and price-wise, probablt still Dynamic 88 repertory, depending on equipment.
Confusing, any way you look at it.
Jetstar 89? hehehe
The Jetstar 88 was a completely different concept from the Jetstar I. The latter was intended (I guess) as a cheaper Thunderbird rival with bucket seats, center console, and sporty trim. The Jetstar 88 combined the running gear of the A-body F-85/Cutlass and the bigger B-body to create a cheaper, somewhat more economical full-size Olds. This is why it was a baffling marketing decision — why apply confusingly similar names to two quite different products?
I don’t think Oldsmobile ever had an 86 (the -6 suffix indicated a six-cylinder engine, which wasn’t offered in the 80-series), although it would not have been too terribly illogical for the Jetstar 88.
I think the original rationale for the F-85 name, incidentally, was to sound like a fighter plane designation. (There was actually an F-85, but it never entered operational service; it was a ’50s McDonnell project, a little fighter intended to be carried by a heavy bomber.) Detroit was very big on that sort of thing in this era.
If I recall correctly, the name “Rockette” was originally under serious consideration for what became the F-85, but was dropped because it was too closely connected to the Radio City Music Hall dancers.
Both “Cutlass” and “Starfire” were names given to U.S. fighter jets in the 1950s, so the use of F-85 makes sense. The jet theme also fits with the “Rocket” name and imagery that Oldsmobile used in the 1950s and early 1960s.
I am a fan of all of these. Whether a distinctive roof treatment, or a special engine that will only appeal to a few, these are what should be offered as special editions.
Why not show what the last Olds 350s can do in a smaller car. Why not show what a HO Quad 4 can do with a 5 speed in a heavier car. The Quad 4 was to be the go to engine for all the big FWDs if there was another gas crisis.
The Jetstar even made some sense, as the seventies Monte Carlo proved there was a market for a low priced personal car and the coming Toronado was to be expensive.
Wonder if any of the car magazines comparison tested an 80 W30 442 against the new for 80 Mirada with the 1 year only 360 4 barrel. 185hp beats 160, but the Cutlass was lighter.
One prerequisite of the personal luxury car is a unique coupe body. The Jetstar I did not quite qualify. Yes it had a unique roofline & concave rear window, shared with the GP, (and the Starfire) but it’s size & shape varied little from the workaday Olds. It just didn’t stand out. Pontiac, being Pontiac of the day, managed to pull this formula off, but the Olds didn’t quite cut it.
It helped that the ’63-64 Pontiac had by far the cleanest-looking facelift of the ’61-generation B body shell and the only one that was a worthwhile improvement over the ’62. IMHO, the Olds was downright frumpy with Buick and Chevy somewhere in between.
I do think all divisions (but especially Pontiac) should’ve adapted the four-door hardtop roofline to the “standard” two-door hardtops and dropped the faux-convertible bows.
Just for future reference, the 88 line in ’64 was Super 88, Dynamic 88 & Jetstar 88, no Delta until 1965.
WRT the ’80 442, this was the car that the original owner of my ’76 Omega bought to replace it. He was a real GM fanboi. The Omega was a sharp black 2 door with white bucket guts, with AC. He wanted an SX without the stripes, so he ended up ordering a near SX ala carte, including the rally wheels, FE2 suspension and 4-spoke steering wheel. It also had the B&W T50 5-speed, super rare and as it turned out, super troublesome. I loved the car, but that junk trans ruined it.
Truth in Advertising, for once: If a man with a vintage P-38 (J or L) could afford to operate that thing, which BTW was also GM-powered, he could certainly afford that pricey Olds barge.
My first brand new car was a 1990 Pontiac Grand Am sedan with a Quad 4 engine. Calling it a P.O.S. would be a compliment.
Electrical problems from day one. Something kept draining the battery dead if it sat for an extended period of time. Eventually, Pontiac fixed it (after an arbitration meeting and four trips to the Pontiac service garage!), but I traded it 1993 for the newly-restyled ’93 Grand Am sedan.
Four service visits for the exact same issue?? Whatever happened to that Lemon Law thing…??? I thought it was supposed to be, “3 strikes and it’s replaced”…???
Oh well, that was almost 25 years ago.
Olds muddied the ’64-’65 88 waters with all those different versions with little visible differentiation, small wonder buyer response to the Jetstar I was poor. If Olds was hoping for a robust response to the Starfire as the Grand Prix was receiving, diluting its impact with the Jetstar I was a marketing mistake. None of us interested in cars then could figure out what it was all about. Now we know it was segmenting the segment, then segment those segments again…..and again…..
Have to agree. Studying the mid – late ’60s brochures for the 88 line is a bit perplexing. The cars were mostly attractive, but the micro segmenting of minor trim bits was a waste of time.
Agree, too. Was a big improvement to just call them all “Delta 88”. But then Olds added on gradually longer suffixes for higher trim levels. i.e. Royale Brougham
Even in the late 1970s, a fair number of people simply referred to them as “88s.”
While the ’71-’76 B body Olds played a big and very positive part in my childhood as my dad’s company cars, I thought that ’76 Crown Landau top was appalling the day it was introduced in my 12th year of life. A friend’s dad had one, in red. I never knew it was called the Crown Landau. You learn something everyday on CC.
The XSR Toronado never worked for me. It seemed like a desperate attempt to update an aging car trying to compete with fresh cars such as the Lincoln Mark V, which was fresh in 1977 and a smash hit on the sales charts. But, that car does have a freaky charm to me now, I’d put a T-top version in my garage and drive it for a few years just to see the reaction I’d get.
As an Olds fan, I like most of the rest of these specials.
I saw the ’76 Crown Landau as a ‘last hurrah’ for the “Tank” body Delta 88.
Many of these special editions (with the exception of the W-30) seem to be a case of Oldsmobile either desperately trying to be Cadillac or desperately trying to be Pontiac.
I had forgotten how early Oldsmobile’s identity crisis started.
Special editions are an old marketing trick, just another way to inject some ‘planned obsolescence ‘into the purchase decision. I loved cars as a boy, but even I thought it was odd that adults might base a purchase decision on whether it had some special trim.
I distinctly remember seeing my first Heritage Edition (?) Thunderbird with faux leather straps on the trunk lid (with faux buckles!) and thinking it was simply childish.
I am less judgemental now, these special editions add a nice detail for vintage car enthusiasts.
That’s the Sport Decor Option you’re thinking of. The Heritage was a fully loaded ’79 model that replaced the ’78 Diamond Jubilee.
That Heritage Edition trim was actually very nice and made an impact upon the look of that T-Bird. That Sport Edition with those trunk straps and orange wheels I thought was hilarious, and I was just a kid.
Pimpmobile straps is what they were.
Another fine article! Looking forward to seeing the ’62-’63 Jetfire in the next installment!
My favorites would be the 1979 Hurst and the even more rare 1980 442. They have gone up in value considerably the past 10 years due to there rarity. I once got the chance to test drive a white and gold 1979 Hurst with just under 100K miles at a dealer that was a one owner well cared for example and really loved the Rocket 350 torque. All it took was a tap on the go pedal and the car just seemed to surge forward with that awesome Olds V8 burble. Alas it was the near 9K asking price that prevented me from signing on the dotted line plus the rather high for the time 98K miles. But the car looked like it came off the showroom floor!
Did the 1979 Hurst Oldsmobile have a Hurst shifter? The 1980 442 in the photos looks like it has a standard GM column shift.
Yes the 1979 had the Hurst shifter. The 1980 went back to the conventional Calais and base coupe optional setup with T-handle.
The Delta 88 Crown Landau has a chrome band over the roof – seems like Ford did similar 20 years earlier with the Crown Victoria. Generally these cars look okay, but I’m really not so sure about this one.
What jumps out at me is the 442. A stand-up hood ornament on a 442? If anything is a symptom of losing ones way in life, that would be it. How many cars came with raised letter tires, bucket seats, a better suspension, and a hood ornament? Such mixed messages.
FWIW, the 1978-79 442 could be had with 305 4 bbl V8, though it was a Chevy block.
Always wonder why Chevy didn’t put that motor in the Malibu for a “sporty coupe” those years? Wasn’t used until the ’83+ Monte Carlo SS.
From what I can find, the 305 was also available on other Cutlass models so there doesn’t appear to be a unique uplevel engine option for the 78-79 442. Correct me if I’m wrong. Trying to wade through GM powertrains in the late 1970s is… arduous.
However, the ’80 442’s engine could not be had in any other Cutlass models, even Californian wagons.
Point taken, but still wonder why Chevy couldn’t use their own 305 4 bbl in A/G body, until the 80s?
The 305 was optional in all year Malibu coupes save the 1981’s sold in the States, other than California and Canada, where the 267 was the top gas fired engine. The thing to note was that for 1978 the 305 only came with the 2BBL carburetor in the Malibu line whereas in the Cutlass and Regal it came in both 2 and 4BBL setups. For 1979 the Regal went with Pontiac 301’s in both 2 and 4BBl setups and the Malibu dropped the 305 2BBL and instead had the 267 2BBL and 305 4BBL as the top option with 160 HP. The Grand Prix used Pontiac sources 301’s for both 78 and 79 with both carbs unless you lived in California where the 305 4BBL was the only option. The Lemans was even more confusing. For 1978 is also had the Chevy 305 2BBl but for 1979 the Pontiac 301’s replaced that. For 1980 the Lemans dropped the Buick V6 in place of the Chevy 229 but then went back to the 231 for all States in 1981. Note that both the 301 and 305 did not come with 2BBL carburetors for 1980 onward. That role was filled instead by the smaller 265 and 267 engines in response to the second oil crisis. 1980 also marked the last year that the 301 and 305 4BBL engines would be offered as an option on the entire A/G body line until 1983 when the corporate 305 small block took over as the top engine for this series. For 1981 and 1982 the small low powered V8’s took over as the coupe and sedan top engines with Olds affected the worst with it’s anemic 100-105 Hp 260 V8. Thankfully wagon buyers could still order 305’s in there Malibu and the Olds 307 in there Cutlass Cruiser’s and the Pontiac 301 in the 1981 Lemans. The 1981 Buick Century wagon had to make due with the 120 HP 265 as it’s top engine and the 1982 Bonneville’s top engine was the 252 4BBl V6. Ditto the 1982 re-named Regal lineup.
How any dealer or GM marketeer ever kept up with this craziness is beyond belief.
The “Royale Crown” (or Crown Royale?) – I will be in the minority here, but I hated the standard B-O-P B body coupe roofline so much, I considered this one an improvement. Yes, the stainless basket handle may have been a bit much, but hey, it was 1976.
I really liked the look of the 1964 big Oldsmobile – a little bland, but very attractive. Even though I grew up surrounded by Oldsmobiles, I hardly ever saw either a Starfire or a Jetstar.
And I am smacking my head today because this day, (2/1/16) is the very first time I ever noticed the unique roofline on the 1965 Jetstar I. Oy! I like this one a Lot better than the standard coupe roofline, which never looked right on the Olds’ big hips and open wheels. Maybe this stems from my early revulsion at the 65 Olds in general. The rear end of the 65 was one of the great styling fails of the entire 1960s, a position I still hold.
Also, did that top picture with all of the idiot lights on the dash lit up give anyone else a subconscious jolt? One look and my pavlovian response was to tighten my sphincter.
Haha yes it struck me too! What the hell just broke?
Everything, by the looks!
Since the 98 has the same cluster, YES.
Or maybe a “Olds 88 Royale with cheese”?
Nice article, yesterday I’ve seen a really nice yellow ’65 Oldsmobile Jetstar I 2 door parked on a driveway and was really impressed with its powertrain and how well good the car looks for its age, I never knew there was a ’76 Oldsmobile Delta 88 2 door without the opera window (never liked the opera window’s of the mid 70’s GM B-cars), I personally thought these cars looked better without the opera windows.
I don’t know what I hate more about the Delta 88 Royale Crown Landau, the really gaudy stainless steel landau roof bar, or the instrument panel. To me, it looks like the gas gauge was tacked on next to the idiot lights, and to make it look more symmetrical, they added that stupid box with the Olds emblem above it, next to the speedometer. This made the steering wheel look off centered with the instrument panel.
Growing up, my next door neighbors had a 1976 Custom Cruiser wagon. I’d often sit in the back seat ( the second row), and always noticed that strange design of the instrument panel, and how it didn’t look balanced.
I’ve just noticed something…. The Oldsmobile ad shown above for this car first calls it “Delta 88 Royale Crown Landau”, and then in the bottom of the ad, it’s just called “Delta 88 Crown Landau”. Was this special roof offered on both the Delta 88 base coupe as well as on the Delta 88 Royale coupe?
I wonder ??????
Needless to say I like the Crown Landau. But in answer to your dash question, the “stupid box with the Olds emblem above it” is where the option fuel economy monitoring gauge goes. With that option selected, there is somewhat more symmetry. I find that instrument panel to be clean and well organized.
sad because the 1983/84 Hurst Olds shifter isn’t posted
That’s hopefully in the next installment! I had almost bought an ’84 Hurst/ Olds (financing fell through), but I have always liked all of the Hursts, but more specifically, the 83/ 84 Hursts with their extremely over the top styling.
Muddying the waters with the Jetstar name, I suppose the Jetfire also added some confusion, too. Olds had some good ideas, but obviously had some execution problems…..had admitted that they had botched the wonderfully flawed turbo setup on the Jetfire and offered to replace it with a traditional carbed setup. The XSR, at least, they realized that the ambition was doomed.
Curious how the GSX and Caprice could be accused of cannibalization.
I thought I made that pretty clear. The GSX was a Buick muscle car on the A-Body platform when GM already had the Pontiac GTO, Oldsmobile 442 and Chevrolet Chevelle SS. The Caprice represented Chevrolet reaching up higher into mid-priced territory which was the domain of Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac.
The GS was the competitor to the GTO, 442, and SS. The GSX was a special performance package for the GS, much like the Judge was for the GTO. So how did the GSX cannibalize these performance models you mention?
Ditto the Caprice, a “me, too!” response to the Ford LTD. Considering the Caprice debuted in an era when brand loyalty was king and it was still several hundred dollars cheaper than a Bonneville, I’m still unsure how the Chevy cannibalized sales of other GM brands.
All Detroit brands, expect Caddy, Lincoln, and Imperial had “muscle cars” back in the good old days.
I see the GS and 442 competing with Mercury Cyclone, but really it was “all hand on deck.” And fun times too!
I like the Delta 88 Royale Crown Landau.
I like it so much I made some improvements
I think the giant Vinal top is an improvement over the horrible opera window that looked so awful like it was supposed to look like a coupe, but really wanted to be a sedan. Must be annoying to drive it to in the back. I had an 80 delta 88 and I swear the tail lights were the same. Ford and Chrysler did big coupes better. Even Ltd looked better with its weird Windows.
I like the 80 with the 350 engine and it’s beautiful styling. I hate the 81 shovel nose.
Those quad 4 cutlass is hideous and weird looking. That engine was junk. They were noisy and blew headgaskets and had too many moving parts. Too many parts and too much to fail. I hate the roof and Windows. I remember being horrified by these cars. The seemed so tiny and ugly. The old’s was the worst looking followed by the grand prix. The regal was the most attractive.
The toronados is a bizarre looking car with that weird rear window being added to an already weird looking car. I kind of like it for its strangeness. Its huge but the passenger compartment looks small compared to the huge trunk and hood. It looked very dated compared to a mark v. It would be a cool car to have as a beater with rust and dents and busted fender extensions. It would be the ultimate road clearing road monster looking evil and dangerous.
I prefer the 1981-88 styling more but what must have a Cutlass buyer thought going from a 1980 442 with 170 Hp 350 Rocket to a 1981 Calais with the then top option 260 V8 with 105 HP? It wouldn’t be until 1983 that the 180 HP 307 HO and 4 speed automatic came to the rescue.
John yours is better. It looks like a giant cutlass.
The rear windows of the big GM B bodies were not true “opera windows”. They were just rear windows, but didn’t roll down. Same as the Colonnade A bodies. Were not labeled or marketed as such on the ‘family cars’.
Personal Lux coupes’ small windows were the true ‘Opera’ ones. The ’72 Mark IV kicked off the ‘craze’.
No, the ’71 Eldorado was first.
In our small town someone owned a lime green 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Crown Landau that they bought brand-new. They kept that car quite a few years, and it was always spotless. It did stand out at the time, as most Delta 88s were either the four-door sedan or four-door hardtop. I remember the “regular” coupes as being quite rare, too.
Someone once described the full-size 1964 Oldsmobile as looking like an “overgrown Rambler,” and the Jetstar I only reinforces that description. I never particularly liked the 1963-64 full-size Oldsmobiles, and, unlike some, I think that the all-new 1965 models were both attractive and a major improvement over their predecessors.
Oldsmobile was the one GM division where the A-body was consistently more attractive than the full-size models in the mid- and late 1960s. That state of affairs would become a bonanza for the division in the 1970s.
I liked the early W-body Cutlasses, and the use of the Quad four engine in some versions was quite interesting for the times. Unfortunately, the execution of the actual drivetrain was a big disappointment, which was entirely too typical for GM at the time.
1988 was not the first year for the Quad-4. It was 1987. The Pontiac Sunbird and Grand Am could both be had with it as well. My parents were considering a Quad-4 equipped Grand Am when they were new.
I had such high hopes for the Quad-4 as an import-fighter. What a disappointment was the NVH compared to the imported competition.
I saw a Crown Royal years ago in Vegas. It was dark green,I liked it, looked better than a regular Delta. The 88 FWD Cutlass was a turd and all those stupid cars they built after the mass FWD change over in 84-85 suck most were just crap and destroyed their reputation. GM shot itself in the foot with that idea and dropping the A/G body.
Thanks a bunch William for this article. The only 88 Crown Landau I ever saw was in a salvage yard many moons ago. It was a very nice looking example in light maroon with a white top and interior. It had dual mufflers and tail pipes hanging from the rear however the engine, drive train and wheels were missing and it was always a mystery for me as to what it actually was. Seeing the Hurst badges on the ‘targa’ band and being a fan of the Hurst Olds’ from the 60s & early 70s as well as the big Oldsmobiles, I had visions of a hi-po full size Olds in the spirit of the Jetstar that had somehow slipped by the GM bean counters with a modified 455, specially tuned Turbo 400, Corvette style dual exhaust and some kind of styled wheels. Oh well, another bubble burst but I guess it’s better to know the truth.
Nice backstory on the Toronado XS as well, one of my faves from the ‘malaise’ era.
Sadly, each of these cars has to be taken in the context of the era in which they were produced.
By the 1970’s there was very little in the extreme makeovers every year – emissions and safety laws were constantly changing (and sometimes contradictory). Domestic automakers were left with fiddling with opera windows and vinyl roofs and large bodyside moldings to differentiate products because developing totally new models were prohibitive.
Full-sized cars were the last bastion of getting revised – by the time the oil crisis happened in 72-73, automakers were holding off huge revisions to existing aircraft carrier class cars – with downsized versions set to supplant these huge dinosaurs from a decade past (mentality wise), the automakers did what they could to make a profit off existing tooling.
And we have to remember that the 1970’s is generally an era in bad taste anyway – shag carpeting, white polyester suits, disco, and men’s knitted long sleeveless vests – all of this was expected – heck, even Mazda had a opera window and c-pillar window in a coupe they produced during this time. Celica’s were mini-mustang clones.
There is precious little logical reason to love any of these, but I was a teenager at this time and I loved those huge detroit pieces of rolling road excrement – to have traveled in those floaty things is an exercise in complete numbing experience – you floated – it was quiet – and if you weren’t driving you didn’t care that these cars handled like an aircraft carrier or consumed gas like Michael Moore at a buffet.
Cool article, but I would correct/add a few things to the Toronado section. I currently own a 1978 Toronado XS, hands down, the strangest car I’ve ever owned, (of 100+ GM classics). However, I feel this article should have made mention of the ahead-of-its-time COMPUTER system the 1977-78 Toronado XS’s are equipped with. Also known as the MISAR system. This was basically the PROTOTYPE set-up for instituting computer diagnostics into GM cars, which everyone knows did not officially happen until 1981. ONLY available in XS Toronados, 1977-1978. NOTHING else. After 1978, they took 2 more years to ‘fine-tune’ the system, and thus, OBD-1 was born. That’s WAY more interesting to me than a failed prototype… that I should also make mention of, there was not just 1- there were 3- yes, 3- XSR prototypes. Red, Silver, and Yellow. The Silver one is the one in the pics- which nobody knew actually existed until 2015 when it re-surfaced for the 1st time in 30+years, the 2nd is the red one, which is the previously thought 1-of-1 that has been restored, and the yellow was the actual 1st XSR made, and the ONLY XS EVER with NO vinyl roof. They found without the vinyl, the rear window doesn’t seat properly and it leaks, so they gave it to a local car dealer, and it was sold off in the early 80’s on a USED CAR LOT! Can you believe that?? Records show it was totaled not too long after…
Lots of cool info & very cool pics. One Olds that probably should’ve been included is the 1990 – 1997 Cutlass Convertible. Arguably 1 of the most attractive cars from the era (only 3912 made in ’92 according to w-body.com), & when was the last time you saw one?
I am a huge fan of the much maligned W-body Cutlass Supreme.. and I am a proud owner of a 1994 Cutlass Supreme convertible…
1994 was a unique year for the convertible as it still had the original unique Oldsmobile dash and was the only year the HUD (heads up display) was available in the convertible… 94 was the year that saw convertible production at its highest at 8638 built.. of those 8638, only 1597 featured the HUD, 1473 of those were equipped with the 3.4L LQ1 engine.
I love my 94 Cutlass Supreme convertible, and I am actively seeking a 5-speed International Series – preferably a 1990 LG0 Quad 4 but I’ll be happy if I can find a 91-92 3.4 LQ1 5-speed!
LOL the Toronado XSR advert that states “In fact, first impressions may lead you to think it’s an experimental prototype”…. If so, your first impression would be correct!
Those fat, ugly bodyside mouldings on the two 70s cars look like desperate attempts to make old sheet metal look different from previous years.
Small wonder that Oldsmobile got cancelled out; given the crapppppp they foisted off on us in the mid 1970’s until death.
I don’t entirely disagree, but do keep in mind the Olds Cutlass was the best-selling car in the United States in 1975-’76 and 1978-’81. That doesn’t automatically make them good cars, but GM’s accountants and shareholders cared a lot more about the company making popular cars than good ones.
GM’s best cars were Oldsmobiles. GM lost our family as regular customers when the brand closed. Not that they cared because we always brought used anyway.
The best car our family ever owned until my dad brought his 2014 Lincoln MKS was a 1979 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency Brougham Coupe. 350 gas V8 Black, black top, red velour interior, and a literal forest of Detroit’s finest fake wood accents.
We also had.
1977 Delta 88 coupe (white/red)
1980 G-Body Custom Cruiser. This car was the worst of the bunch. It had a 267 inch V8 that was only made one or two years and had lots of issues.
1981 Ninety Eight Regency Brougham Sedan (white/red).
1984 Delta 88 (brown/brown).
We brought Thunderbirds, Cougars, and Cadillacs when we couldn’t find anymore RWD Oldsmobiles. Our first FWD car came in 2000. My second car, a 1985 Toyota Camry that was impossible to kill. The whole car wore out due to rust and HVAC issues but the engine and trans never died.
I would do it all over again too! No Taurus or minivans for us.
A six year belated thank you for this article. Look at all of the COUPES! Love it.
I never much cared for the 1971-76 Delta 88, and that Landau roof is atrocious. That said, the profile view is so similar to the 1974-75 Cutlass Supreme coupe that I did a double take, as I generally like the Colonnade Supremes. Perhaps these were the last vestiges of the styling cues which reinforced divisional identity at GM before it all went to hell in the Eighties.
A belated thanks to William for all these well-researched special edition articles.
My uncle bought an all-new ’65 Olds 88 convertible for his wife. Turquoise with a white top and white interior. Black dashboard as I recall. Great Oldsmobile styling cues. Tasteful bodyside trim. Beautiful wheel covers. How they went from this refined sportiness to the blob-of-a-car ’94 Cutlass Supreme convertible is a mystery.
Chicago was the number one market for Olds. So I grew up surrounded by them. They peaked during the brougham years and by 1985, their collapse was quick. What made Olds so beloved in the Loop was the silent luxury, tufting and padding, and being as step above Chevrolet. When that fell out of favor, so did Oldsmobile.
How do you turn a 1980s plastic box into an Olds? Cars during this time were purposefully designed with high roofs, lots of windows, and sawed off for efficiency – everything that Oldsmobile was NOT. Olds tried to mimic the popular look, but the era was for Volvo, not Supremes. Auto culture seemed to turn against everything that Oldsmobile represented. The idea that Oldsmobile had to make an X car an Oldsmobile is kind of sickening in hindsight.
So, instead of going brougham, which was their strong suit, Oldsmobile waffled around in “Euro-land”. It was hard to imagine this attempt, which didn’t work. Oldsmobile ended up being a “me-too” GM brand with only slightly different takes on GM’s cookie cutter designs. None of this helped Oldsmobile.
Worse – the generation that loved Oldsmobile died off. The Boomers didn’t want a brougham-mobile anymore. There wasn’t a new generation of Oldsmobile buyers. While we can blame economics on the demise of Pontiac, Mercury, SAAB, and Saturn, Oldsmobile was euthanized years earlier.
Chicago changed. The blue collar families like mine, left with their last manufacturing paychecks. We packed up our JC Penney home furnishings, Sears and Robuck clothes, and Marshall Fields anniversary gifts and moved South. Section eight housing moved into the ticky-tack bedroom suburbs and brought every urban problem along with it. My mother had to pay a moving tax to help the city maintain the abandoned properties and police the drug flow on the streets we used to pay baseball on. Twenty years later, Chicago is now even worse. The days of Oldsmobile are long gone.
Chicago proper is now 3 cities, 1. poor as described, former middle class/blue collar, 2. rich, gentrified North Side, and 3. City workers on far NW and SW sides.
Yep, in 1988, Gm decided Buick should be ‘traditional American lux” [after dropping Grand National] and Olds be “import fighter”, but then so was Pontiac. Read so in Automotive News at the time. So, got Olds International Series, and Buicks with chrome. Guess which sold better?
Olds dealers were pushing 10 year old Cutlass Cieras and ignoring the W body. And then wondered why brand was dropped.
The Aurora, Intrigue and Alero/Acheiva could very well have been Pontiacs or Saturns, cannibalizing each other.
If Olds/Pontiac were still around, they’d just be re-badged CUVs, like Buick today, with no sedans or coupes.