Junkyard Classic: 1990 Oldsmobile Eighty Eight Royale – No Cheese With This Royale

At this point I am beginning to believe that it is no coincidence that vehicles with red interiors are the ones in the best condition as they hit the junkyard.  Why this is so though, I am not sure of.  Take today’s second-to-last year of production ninth generation Oldsmobile Eighty Eight Royale contender for example: This is a vehicle that by all rights should look much further gone than it actually does.

Or should it?  After all, the engine is one of GM’s standouts, capable of many miles of effortless, reliable and surprisingly economical use.  This vehicle, apparently used mainly in Nebraska even though now in Colorado, has likely suffered through some tough winters, yet the body is in fairly good condition.  By this time in the life cycle of the Eighty Eight, Olds had the build mechanics completely figured out and the target market was likely to not be particularly abusive to it.

Sales of this version of the H-Body were strong throughout its production run until these last two years, where sales tapered off significantly.  Prior to this year’s front and rear refresh, this car was known as the Delta 88, presumably GM figured that spelling out the numbers was classier.  I wonder if buyers figured that a car known as an 88 seemed like an older car in ’89, ’90, and ’91 until it was redesigned for ’92?  There’s no good way around that line of thinking, unfortunately, except maybe to push buyers up into the Ninety Eight?  That model only lasted until ’96, avoiding the conundrum entirely.

Pulled over from the Buick division, the 3800 V-6 is one of the better GM engines and produced 165hp and 220lb-ft of torque by 1990.  I had the good fortune of having one in my ’88 Buick LeSabre T-Type and was thoroughly pleased with it.  Punchy but quiet, powerful yet economical, and thoroughly reliable, it was only further improved by being available with a supercharger, albeit not in the Eighty Eight.

The changes for 1990 really consisted of  revised front and rear ends and the name change.  The front gained these composite headlamps and a different grille with rocket logo and new bumper.  Rear changes were similar and while not making it look “modern”, at least helped to prolong things.

Dark tinted tail lights.  Practically a GTI.  Or not.  Actually perhaps it was a hindrance making it look “sportier” in that regard with its general buying audience as there isn’t much genuine sport to be had behind the wheel of this car.  It is surprising to realize that in 1990, on an Oldsmobile that is nowhere near the bottom of the line, a rear window defroster was still an optional feature.  At least this one has it.

That trunk though, that could hold a few sets of clubs to head to The Links On Golden Pond or wherever.

Getting back to that fantastic red interior though, what do we see up top?  Yes, we see an odometer with a reading of 219,581 miles.  The 3800’s a great engine, and the H-Body is generally considered an excellent chassis, but that’s still a very good number.  I wonder what gave out?  The 4-speed 4T60 transmission?  Or something in that 3800, perhaps emissions related?  Or is a faded silver on red cloth sedan from a defunct brand just so uncool that it’s impossible to find a buyer?

The 85mph speedometer certainly seems a novelty, even for back in 1990.  This sedan was supposedly capable of achieving around 124mph and in the middle of Nebraska exceeding 85mph would likely be a common occurrence.

Just look at that!  Besides the sort of sack-cloth looking texture of the seats themselves, there is really no discernible wear on any of this interior.  That’s a stark contrast to the General Motors that I am used to.  Why couldn’t all interiors wear this well?  That split bench seat looks like just the ticket to lounge on while traversing all 500 miles of I-80 in Nebraska from West to East.  And back again.

Back in 1990, I would snicker at the fake stitching on dashboards and perhaps make a comment that this Eighty Eight Royale really was a Royale with cheese. Nowadays though, stitching, real in some instances, and fake in plenty of others on at least dashboards seems to be de rigueur in many price classes.  Column shifters with a knob you could poke an eye out on seem to be gone for good though.  Still, there is something to be said for these quite legible and sensibly laid out controls, all of them up high.  And no center console!

The door mounted seatbelts are an idea that couldn’t fade away fast enough.  We’ve discussed them over and over here over the years and yeah, they sucked and didn’t work as intended.  My Buick had them as well, and not once did I leave them buckled as intended in order to slide in and out underneath them.

The manual window winder is quite the novelty as well, making this a very low-optioned car indeed. I suppose one less thing to break to help it beyond the 200k mark but definitely not a favorable point for resale.  But with power locks!  Both were standalone options but included in the second from lowest option package, which this one obviously does not have.

Perhaps the bumper’s been replaced on this one as it seems a slightly different color (blue?).  Could it have fallen afoul of Granny’s parking mishaps?  Sedans like this used to litter the highways of America by the millions.

I suppose the back bumper isn’t original either but at least it was probably easy to find one that fit and that was in better shape than the original part.  Those large doorhandles with the button below the handle were used forever, and always felt good to the touch with no give or flex.  Unless it was below freezing and you weren’t wearing gloves, that is.

I never understood what “Royale” stood for, meant, or was supposed to convey.  Royalty?  Hardly, it’s a mid-level sedan.  Whatever, I’ll never understand GM marketing.

Produced in Wentzville, Missouri almost thirty years ago and obviously repainted with some sloppy masking work at some point during its lifetime. I just figured the exterior fading was normal for the original paint, and perhaps it was.  Door jambs aren’t often repainted so this is a little curious.

Still, someone obviously took good care of this car judging by its interior condition.  Or perhaps the secret to long vehicular life is simply ordering the red interior although it apparently makes the car resale poison decades later.

Related Reading:

1990 Olds Eighty Eight Coupe by Brendan Saur