Cohort Outtake: 1985-87 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Coupe — Sometimes, A Sedan Looks Better

Photographed by Colin

I know, I know. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Blah blah blah. Is there really anybody that likes the looks of the downsized 1985 C-Body Buick Electra and Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight coupes?

The sedans are handsome even though they were introduced with one of GM’s increasingly ubiquitous formal rooflines. The Electra’s detailing was clean and elegant while the Ninety-Eight managed to wear its traditional styling cues quite well on its new, smaller body. Then there were these coupes with their tacky, puffy vinyl roof and odd rear quarter window.

GM’s shrunken full-size models may have been more efficient and more manoeuvrable and easy to drive, but unfortunately some of them, like the DeVille, suffered from looking noticeably smaller. All three of the C-Body coupes looked not only smaller but also rather malformed. Their sedan compatriots, in my opinion, were far more elegant.

While the Ninety-Eight coupe came standard with a vinyl roof, the Electra was available without one. Surprisingly, that didn’t help the styling much. The car looked like a two-door sedan at best, a rushed 11th hour design job at worst. “What, we were supposed to design a coupe too?!”

Oldsmobile print media conspicuously avoided showing the Ninety-Eight coupe from the rear. In comparison, its predecessor was regularly photographed from behind. Ah, that’s nice.

The market was moving away from coupes and moved especially fast from the Ninety-Eight coupe. Sales ticked up from 7,855 coupes in 1984 to 14,438 in the new FWD coupe’s debut year. But sales would crash in 1986—while Oldsmobile shifted well over 100,000 Ninety-Eight sedans, it managed just 5,810 coupes. Oldsmobile sold 4,207 of the cars in 1987 before pulling the plug on the Ninety-Eight coupe; the Electra coupe was also axed, while the Cadillac Coupe de Ville survived well into the 1990s.

Now, tell me: am I projecting my pro-sedan bias here or is there widespread agreement that the 1985-87 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight coupe was ugly?