Cohort Capsule: 1964 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Custom Sports Coupe – Olds Goes Bonkers With Giant Sporty Coupes

(first posted 5/18/2017)    When I first saw this Olds 98 coupe at the Cohort, shot by William Rubano, its understated and rather formal elegance is what caught my eye. But when I checked out the ’64 Olds brochure, I was in for a surprise: this is not the plain old 98 Holiday Coupe; this is the 98 Custom Sports Coupe. That means leather and fabric trimmed bucket seats, console, floor shifter, and a full complement of standard power conveniences along with the 345 hp Starfire V8 under the hood.

What makes the existence of “the last word in sporty elegance” surprising, is that Olds already had that basevery  firmly covered with its legendary Starfire coupe and convertible, which ushered in the whole big-sporty-bucket seat-console era, at least at GM. And then there was its slightly lower-trim Jetfire 1 sibling. And the slightly more prosaic Dynamic 88 and Jetstar 88 hardtop coupes. Olds was trying awfully hard to cultivate the “sporty elegance” image. A bit too hard?

Here’s the three 98 two-door models. I’d forgotten totally about the Custom Sports Coupe, but then it was only offered in 1963 and 1964. Having pioneered the big bucket seat-mobile (at least at GM) with their 1961 Starfire, Olds was obviously spreading the fire around, and very generously at that. And it worked, since apparently the Custom Sports Coupe outsold the regular Holiday Coupe by a healthy margin. But by 1965, it was gone, a victim of Brougham fever. Plush was in; “sporty elegance’ was out.

The Starfire sat on a somewhat shorter 123″ wb than the 98’s 126″, and had a distinctive hardtop roof design (along with the Jetstar 1).

Here’s the Jetstar 1, which was a bit confusing to me as a kid back then. Couldn’t they just have made some of the Starfire’s standard power accessories optional rather than de-content it and give it a new name? Yet it had the the same “Starfire” 394 V8 making 345 hp.

And for the really undynamic set, there were both the Dynamic 88 and Jetstar 88 coupes, which obviously shared their roofs with a host of other lesser GM B Bodies.

The 98 had to share its roofline with the Buick Electra 225 coupe, but otherwise its was also unique in the Olds lineup. So Olds fielded three distinct different full-size hardtop coupe bodies in 1963 and 1964. The GM Golden Days, when the more was merrier, especially its glamorous hardtops.

The only reason I can tell this is a Custom Sports Coupe is from the bucket seats visible in this shot, although “bucket” is hardly applicable.

These are genuine bucket seats, not the big, flat, wide thrones in the 98 Custom Sports Coupe. Do I also have to define “sports”? Let’s just say its application to this 98 is a giant stretch, in more ways than one.

Enough already. I was attracted to it because of its slab-sided handsome lines. And having been in thrall of the Starfire, Grand Prix and other big GM bucket seat cars of the times as a kid, I should have no reason to question why Olds decided to offer the same treatment in its 98. Maybe it’s just because I wasn’t aware of its existence at the time, and feel slightly cheated. I’d have loved to sit in one at the dealer’s showroom. Either way, it was a short-lived phenomena. The 98 just didn’t pull off the “sporty” them very convincingly.