As I was leaving the bank this morning, I noticed this surprisingly clean Oldsmobile parked just outside the door.
As recently as ten years ago, seeing a car like this would have been a non-event. But today, with the number of eighties cars on the road dwindling – and with so many of its B-body brethren dying a slow and cancerous death – I decided to whip out my crummy camera-phone and snap a few pics.
This particular car looks miraculously clean, considering it’s a local car and thus has surely seen plenty of Minnesota winters. Aside from the ding at the top of the right rear quarter, it looks to be in pretty nice shape.
I’m not able to tell whether this is an ’84 or an ’85 – the Eighty-Eight remained much the same for those two years. But it’s definitely no older, given its dual-colored taillight lenses. And it couldn’t possibly be any newer, since its FWD replacement came to market for model year 1986.
This car also has the uncommon distinction of being, ahem, non-Broughamy. No padded top, no opera lights, none of that jazz – just two-tone paint, wire wheelcovers, and a respectable cloth interior. (Lose a couple of doors, and you’d really be speaking my language.)
There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a senior citizen owned car. It could even be in the hands of the original owner still… bought at the dealer down the street and kept forever, like so many cars of its vintage are in this aging town. Regardless, it’s good to see that its owner has kept it up and doing the job it was built for.
What’s equally commendable is that, despite the temperature having been -25°F just a couple hours ago, the car and its owner are still out and about. Apparently Gramps and/or Gram have no problem getting their Olds started on such brutally cold days as this.
I had always thought that all ’85s had the chrome eggcrate grille lifted from the departed RWD Ninety-Eight, but it appears that “non-Brougham” cars had the one shown.
Ha! This is the first thing I thought, too. The eighties were all about two-tone paint jobs. Or, if you were a Cadillac, “dual shade paint combinations”.
You don’t see this stuff anymore.
I know the 77-79 big Oldses like yesterday, but the differences between 80-85 I dont know without asking. But, I think the last year 1985 Delta 88’s had all red tailights? 80’s Olds experts?
Yawn. Once you’ve had a Ninety Eight, it’s hard to gin up enthusiasm for one of these lesser models. 🙂
I agree. My opinion might not be shared by most, but I think the options sheet is where the B bodies really come alive. When I was 17 or so, I found a 1982 Lesabre Limited that I really wanted to get. It was fairly clean for its age, had the velour seats and all the power goodies, and the 4.1 V6 under the hood, mated to a 200 4R. It reminded me of my grandpa’s beloved 81 Lesabre Limited that was similarly equipped, he dubbed the motor the “Big Six” (as opposed to its smaller relative, the 3.8/231). Sadly, he traded it for a FWD Lesabre before I was old enough to drive.
Dad wanted to look at it before I bought it, even though I was going to be paying with my own money. By the time we got back the next day, it had sold. I ended up getting a 83 Lesabre Custom a few months later, immaculate one owner car but it was a Custom with manual everything and a 307/3sp, good for 14 sec 0-60 and 17 mpg if you were lucky. I regretted it so much that I nearly didn’t go through with my commitment to buy it, and never held the car in very high regard the 2 years I owned it. It was slow, not particularly comfortable, and a pain to keep cool with the manual windows and dead A/C.
A year and a half ago I got my current B, a 86 Caprice Brougham. The 305/700R4 drives a lot nicer than the 307 did, although I’d still rather have the 4.1 (haven’t found another one locally since). There are other things I’d change if I could’ve, like springing for a lower geared posi and F41 suspension and nixing the vinyl roof. But bringing the brougham treatment to the party turns the B’s from decent to noteworthy cars in my opinion. Kind of like the difference between a 1963 Wagoneer and a 1991 Grand Wagoneer.
The ’85 88 Royale Brougham, for all practical purposes, was a 98 of 1984 . . . grille and interior. My late uncle had a dark blue on blue ’85 Royale Brougham. Ditto with the 1998 88 Royale Brougham . . .
It is a 1985. The 1984 had a different grille. That grille on that one was for base Royales only. The 1985 Brougham and Brougham LS had the 1980 98 grille and the Brougham LS had the 1984 98 grill initially. The 1986 Custom Cruiser had the 1981 98 grille. Around 1988 I think it switched over to the 1982 98 grille. Years later, Oldsmobile did it again( Royale Brougham LS) with the 1997-1998 Oldsmobile Regency. It was an Eighty Eight with 98 parts( grille, wheels, interior, and options). It did not have the fuel door release or the the digital electronic instrumentation panel.
Here is a 1985 Royale Brougham LS:
Royale Brougham LS used the back up lights, the interior, the B pillar opera lamps
from the 1984 Oldsmobile 98. They did this model because Ninety Eight had been downsized and Oldsmobile did not want to lose those Olds buyers.
From 1980-1985 Oldsmobile changed the grilles every year except on the 1983-1984 Oldsmobile 98.
I enjoy reading this website and I have read closely the comments on many threads. I wanted to post before especially on topics about GM cars that have been featured. I wanted to comment on past Ninety Eight threads because I own a 1995 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight and a 1992 Oldsmobile Toronado.
Good synopsis of the differences, most people get confused between the Brougham and the 1985 only Brougham LS. The Custom Cruiser grille changed in 1987. The 1986 was a one year only. The 1987 – 90 grille was the same as the 1982 98 save for the center emblem.
Thank you for posting this Keith. A great find. Thankfully, dry, cold winter days like this one, aren’t as damaging as when the temps are milder and roads wet, and the salt is especially active.
I always liked the safety touch of the amber lights, you can’t miss them. But they look out of place on a full sized car. They cheapen it some aesthetically, I find. Strange as that sounds.
I live in Central Canada, and since switching to full synthetic oil in the early 90s, I’ve very rarely had trouble starting or needing the block heater. Regardless of the car, I’ve found it made a big difference.
Cresys, explain please why you want the 4.1 v6, because . . . I strongly believe unless you live in an M.C. Escher painting and can go downhill everywhere, you do not want this engine.
Although it was preferable to the olds diesel in the Cadillac, I do know that in carbed version, it would have made something like 120hp and similar torque. 120 hp was sufficient for a K car or even for the much lighter X/A cars but not enough to move one of these beasts. the Chevy 305 FI in the Cadillac is enough to move it decently, but I cannot imagine what the 4.1 would be like in this. The Buick 3.8 isn’t a very powerful engine without the turbo. Trust me. These cars DESPARATELY needed the V-8 juice.
As someone who recently acquired a 3.8 powered B-body, and is mighty close to giving in to V8 temptation after logging only a few dozen miles, I can relate.
A lo-po V6 plus a TH350 in a 2+ ton car just seems like a bad idea, no matter how you slice it. Screaming down the highway at what feels like 3000 RPM can’t be saving much fuel vs. having a mild V8 and overdrive.
Good thing motor swaps are so stupidly easy in these cars, with no EFI (or even CCC, in my case) to worry about, and decades’ worth of engines to choose from 🙂
My ’84 Delta Royale had a 3.8. It would do 80-85, but it sounded pretty horrible doing it, so that range was best avoided.
Surprisingly, a B-Body with a 3.8 is pretty light, I believe around 3,700 lbs if I remember right.
Savage, I will acknowledge that I have only ever driven the one 4.1 powered B body, and it was a short distance and a long time ago. My memory is that it performed very well for what it was and I was impressed. One thing that helped is that they had 4bbl Quadrajets, instead of the 2bbl that the 3.8s had. Grandpa seemed pleased with his too, though I never got to drive it.
Are they as fast as a 305? Definitely not. My memory suggests that it performed better than the 307/3 speed that I had, though. Either way, I’d love to have the opportunity to drive one again. The rarity endears them to me, and I’ve heard/read that they can get very good gas mileage. With them only available from 80-84 in the B, C, D, E, G and K bodies, there can’t be that many left, especially since they were never common even when new.
At any rate, I think we can all agree that no stock 80-90 B-body (save MAYBE for the 9C1) could be considered fast, no matter what’s under the hood 🙂
Here I was thinking you were talking about the 250ci inline 6!
Back around 1994 or so, I had an 86 Cutlass and the E-Quadrajet decided to give it up. I was a young E3 at the time and didn’t have the $$$ to fix it so I wound up inheriting a nice grey 1983 LeSabre coupe with a 4.1L V6 from my girlfriend-at-the-time’s parents that weren’t using it since it was relegated to 3rd car status. I remember the six in the LeSabre felt very similar to the 307 in my Cutlass (which means it was no powerhouse) and I was impressed that it actually had a 4 BBL on it vice the 2 BBLs on the earlier GM sixes that I was used to seeing in cars from that era. It also got about the same mileage as my Cutlass if I remember correctly, which was probably around 20. The only negative was the car had about 90K miles on it when I got it and it leaked about a quart of oil a week from around the fuel pump, and when I went to look at it to fix it, I remember that I would have needed to lift the engine out to get to it so at that point I just decided to add a quart of oil every week. At least I didn’t have to change it.
I have logged hundreds of thousands of kilometres in these cars and without any reservation I can attest that the 3.8 V-6 absolutely sucked. It changed the entire demeanour of the car. The 307 was no powerhouse but in the city it had enough torque to make it nice to drive. This was especially true in the FE3 cars, which was very nice to drive indeed.
The 4.1 was never available in the Delta 88 but I have drive one in a LeSabre and it wasn’t much better than the 3.8. The irony was the V-6 cars were no better on fuel than the 307 since the drivers would put the pedal to the metal all the time to make it go at any sort of speed. The caused the motor mounts to break all the time.
No where near the personal experience you have, but the Buick 252 V6 seems to have been the Buick analog to stuff like the Pontiac 265, Olds 260, and Chevy 267. I have no idea how it compared to those engines though.
The 301/307/305 were then the next level up and the 250/231/229 were at the bottom.
I’m not surprised that the 252 isn’t that great, but if you’ve got a big nostalgic love over it for some reason, why not?
For fun here is a comparison of all these engine in power and torque for the 1980-1985 years as offered in the B-body/G-body, F-body and C-body cars.
1980 Chevy 229 V6 115 HP 175 torque
1981-82 Chevy 229 V6 110 HP 170 torque
1983-84 Chevy 229 V6 110 HP 190 torque
1980-1985 Buick 231 V6 110 HP 190 torque
1980-1984 Buick 252 V6 125 HP 205 torque(210 Cadillac 80-82)
1980 Buick turbo 231 V6 175 HP 275 torque
1981 Buick turbo 231 V6 170 HP 270 torque
1982 Buick 231 turbo V6 175 HP 275 torque
1983 Buick 231 turbo V6 180 HP 280 torque
1985-1985 Buick turbo 3.8 SFI 200 HP 300 torque
1980 Pontiac 265 V8 120 HP 210 torque
1981 Pontiac 265 V8 119 HP 204 torque
1980 Pontiac 301 V8 145 HP 240 torque
1980 Pontiac W72 301 170 HP 250 torque(also called E/C 301)
1981 Pontiac 301 V8 135 HP 235 torque
1981 Pontiac E/C 301 150 HP 245 torque
1980 Pontiac 301 turbo 210 Hp 345 torque
1981 Pontiac 301 turbo 200 HP 340 torque
1980 Olds 260 V8 105 HP 205 torque
1981-1982 Olds 260 V8 100 HP 190 torque
1980 Olds 307 150 HP 240 torque
1981-84 Olds 307 140 HP 240 torque
1985 Olds 307 140 HP 255 torque
1980 Chevy 267 V8 120 HP 205 torque
1981 Chevy 267 V8 115 HP 200 torque
1982 Chevy 267 V8 115 HP 205 torque
1980 Chevy 305 V8 155 HP 240 torque
1981 Chevy 305 V8 150 HP 240 torque
1982 Chevy 305 V8 145 HP 240 torque
1983-84 Chevy 305 V8 150 HP 240 torque
1985 Chevy 305 V8 165 HP 245 torque
1983-85 Chevy L69 V8 180-190 HP 240 torque
1982 Chevy CFI 305 V8 165 HP 240 torque
1983 Chevy CFI 305 V8 175 HP 250 torque
1985 Chevy TPI 305 V8 205 HP 285 torque
Perhaps because of the turbos, or because engines with the same displacement were produced for so many years, there seem to be plenty of people with love for the little Buick 3.8.
Me? I see them as being little more than commodity motors – nothing special, but served their purpose as the base-equipment motor of their time.
I know I’ve mentioned it in comments before, but I’ve had the worst luck with 3.8s of this vintage. My first car, a G-body Regal, went through three of them – one which lasted 15 years, the other two of which suffered bottom end failure in rapid succession. Dropped in an Olds 307 and never looked back.
(The 307 also seems to be widely considered a dog in stock form; guess mine must have been a fluke – pulled from a super-rusty early ’80s Olds 88, and made all the power that little Regal could need.)
I can’t speak to the 4.1’s strengths or weaknesses, having never driven one. In fact, I’ve only owned one, which arrived with a broken connecting rod – take that however you may.
The only running one I ever saw was in the late ’90s, in an ’81 Regal which was a perfect color match for mine. It had just arrived at my favorite local junkyard as a running, driving car. (The same rural yard that’s been featured here… yes, I really have been going there forever!)
The timing was perfect as we were searching for front-end parts after a deer incident left us needing a hood, grille, and nosecone. We made a deal, and were to come back the next day for the parts.
Unfortunately, the yard owner decided to drive it to town that night, and rammed a deer of his own on the way back – while doing 70mph. At those speeds, it looked more like he’d rammed an I-beam!
The 4.1 liter 4 BBL V6 offered from 1980-1984 was primarily a larger bore version of the infamous 231 V6. It used the same 8.0:1 compression as it’s little brother but borrowed the turbo 3.8’s roll fillet crankshaft, used different style head gaskets and offered a higher volume oil pump. It was rated for 125 Hp and 205 torque in most applications but Cadillac literature states 125 HP and 210 torque so I never knew if that was a misprint or the extra torque came from a different prom that Caddy used.
This engine is best served tied to the 200R-4 transmission but even in this setup is dangerously slow in the 3800-4000 LB C-body cars for highway passing and hill climbing. I drove both a 1982 Riviera which used a 3.15 final drive and a 4 speed transmission and also a one year only 1984 Regal Limited which also had the 4.1 tied to the 200 R-4(prior years could only have the 3 speed trans) and those cars moved out pretty good for a V6 and in fact felt nearly as peppy as the 307.
The only 2bbl 3.8 I’ve ever driven was in a 81 Regal, felt about on par to slightly worse than the 252 in the Lesabre. I feel like they’d be an absolute dog in a B with 110hp, and am frankly amazed that GM even bothered. 250 I6 and 252 V6 should’ve been the base engines imo. I also imagine that the 252 would’ve sucked with a TH200 and highway gears in the rear, and that they would be worthless in commercial duty as Canucknucklehead indicates.
I do like the later 3.8’s. I had a hotair turbo in my 85 Regal that ran good for what it was, about 8 seconds 0-60. I’ve driven several of the FWD injected motors, including a supercharged Series II that got over 30 mpg highway.
That color combination was quite common in Rhode Island. There was a dealer that must have ordered a bunch of them because I saw that exact car quite often. I’m thinking it might have been an option package that Oldsmobile offered for the year. The no vinyl top and wire wheel combo with the two-tone paint was very striking. It was also very different from the way most Delta 88’s were ordered in years past – vinyl top, single color, wire wheels – so for me it really stood out in the final years of the full-size Delta. Oh and by the way – did anyone else notice there is no passenger side rear-view door mirror aka right hand remote control mirror????
That car is very similar to my late great ’85 Delta 88 Royale. My car was also a very plain Oldsmobile, no A/C, plain cloth seats (no pillow tops), manual windows, no cruise, no tilt, but it did have the F41 suspension. My car had the dual aero mirrors, interesting that the feature car only has one chrome side mirror.
It was always a cold weather champ, starting at -30 degrees Celsius and colder. I had the choke set really well and almost was as good in the cold temperatures as a fuel injected car. My car was a daily driver up until 2007. By then, the Ontario winters had taken its toll on my battle against rust. The front A-pillars, rear trunk area and rear floor pans were starting to get pretty bad (even after repairs). The old slow 307 drove itself to the scrap yard without issue. Even the 200-4R and 7.5″ rear were all original.
Here’s a photo of my car in its later years in life (note the mid-70’s Cutlass wheel covers).
The one thing that I remember about my 307 Lesabre more than anything else is how well it started. Every time was the same: Pump the gas twice to set the choke, crank over for a second or so till it caught, watch the second hand on the giant analog dash clock to let it run at high idle for 45 seconds or so, punch the gas to kick off the choke, away you go! Once it warmed up, I used to joke with a fellow 307 owning friend (his in a 85 Toronado) that it would start before you could let off the key!
My 305, on the other hand, has to be cranked for a good 10 seconds while pumping the gas the whole time to start. My friend also had a 83 Monte Carlo SS with a 305, and that was even harder to start than my Caprice is.
My Lesabre also only had the drivers side chrome mirror, I added one on the passenger side to make it look more balanced and to gain visibility.
Lovely car, Bill. Here’s mine, staring down my `71 Cutlass.
Your Delta 88 looks nice, I like that it has no Vinyl roof. Is your Cutlass is a fastback? I am a big fan of 1970-72 with the fastback roof line over the Cutlass Supreme roof line.
Those were such good cars weren’t they
These cars hit a soft spot of mine–both sets of grandparents had these as some of the first cars I remebered. Mom’s parents had an 84 Delta 88 Royale Brouham, grey with a burgundy top and interior, and wire wheel covers. I’m fairly sure it had the 260 V8. I remember the first time we showed up with a new, extended-length 1989 Ford Aerostar: my grandmother (who drove the 88) commented on how big the Aerostar was, only for my dad to show her that it was 28 inches shorter than her car!
Dad’s parents had two, both a little more plain. One dark green, the other dark blue. The green one was an ’83 I think, no paded roof and flat wheel covers. The blue one was a company car my grandpa drove until he retired.
Now for something a little different (at least from the B-pillar back): Here’s a hearse spotted last fall. I have no idea if it was carrying any paying passengers, but was in a mall parking lot in Knoxville, Tennessee. I assume it started as a Vista Cruiser, I assume somewhere between an ’85 and a ’90, based on the grille insert. I have a few more photos if anyone’s interested.
That hearse has been out of service for some time- no self respecting funeral home would allow the coach to get to that condition.
It might have started off as a Custom Cruiser, but most coachbuilders make their own panels as necessary and stretch the chassis. That would explain the extended rear deck. The other option is cut the rear half down and use a fiberglass cap creating the body. At Classic we stretched Cadillacs to give 6 passenger seating plus a cargo area. An unusually popular configuration in Taiwan.
Thinking back there were a lot of two tone B Bodies back in the day, including dad’s ’78 Caprice Classic. My favourite was the 77-79 Pontiac two tone job though, as shown in this past CC article:
My buddy had a 1982 Cadillac Deville with the 4.1 liter V6 which cranked out 125 HP and 210 torque tied to the 200R-4 transmission and mandatory 3.23:1 rear gears. I drove that car many times and was really surprised how well it pulled that large car around town. A light tap on the pedal and that engine easily moved the needle up to 40-50 MPH. The downside was highway passing power and hills. Speed slowed quickly when a long grade came up and foot to the floor driving was required along with a prayer to pass on a two lane road where you got a lot of racket and little thrust.
There is only so much that 125 HP and 210 torque can do with over 3800 LBS of weight. That is why many consumers chose one of the V8 engines in these large cars back in the day. The 305 and 307 made 240 torque at low RPM’s up to 1984 and the 307 got a bump up to 255 at only 2000 RPM’s from 1985-1990. The 305 made anywhere from 145 to 170 HP depending on year in the B-body cars so there was always more Hp available to pass on the open road.
I’ve always wondered why there were (and why so few) non-vinyl roofed Olds from this period. I’m lucky, got a non-vinyl roofed Cutlass Brougham, which came with factory sport-touring suspension (FE2 before FE3 or F41 was available). Two-tone colour and everything.
My 84 Olds Ninety Eight Regency coupe was a non-vinyl car – as a big solid white 2 door, it had a classic look to it. You make an interesting point. Vinyl roofs were everywhere from the late 60s into the 80s, and it was the rare car (at least in the upper price range) that lacked “the rag.” Two of my favorite cars of my youth were two Chrysler Newports that my best friend’s father owned, both without vinyl tops. A black 72 Newport 2 door and a dark brown 77 Newport Custom 4 door hardtop (with skirts). Both of those cars wore their lines beautifully without the vinyl.
One thing I never figured out was colour-matching vinyl tops. A contrast or complimentary colour I can understand, but I never saw the point otherwise.
+1 I always thought the same thing. Why even bother..
Love those old boys.
If it was a Brougham, it would be a Royale with cheese.
This is MY 88 Royale 🙂 .