I first spotted this 1972 Bill Mitchell-era General Motors C-body a couple years ago down here in sunny Daytona Beach, Florida. Yeah, I’m clear across the continent from the publisher of this blog out in Eugene, Oregon. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to stop at that auto repair facility and get a few images of it.
These “gentleman’s coupes” were built in both Lansing, Michigan and Linden, New Jersey back in the heyday of this now defunct automaker. I have been unable to locate any production numbers [Ed: 37k] for this sweet old coupe but I am fairly confident they are a rare breed these days. Unlike the often seen Coupe de Ville of this era, this may be the first one of these this olelongrooffan has ever seen.
It does, however, possess the Oldsmoble Rocket 455, spec’ed at 340 horsepower, mated to a TH-400 three speed automatic transmission. The Rocket is the first post war over head valve motor produced by General Motors. That introduction was in 1949 and later a newer generation was introduced in 1964. Until the demise of that highly regarded motor, they all were built at the Lansing, Michigan Oldsmobile plant.
This 8th generation 98, totally redesigned for the 1971 model year, contains all of the controls oriented to the driver. GM was big on that at the time, making the radio and climate controls off limits to the lowly passengers. That 3 spoke steering wheel was another component of their higher end offerings. The condition of the black leather seats and overall pampered condition of this ride reflect the care that it has been given to this land yacht over the past 39 years. When I saw it first in June, 2008, it had 73,000 miles on the clock. Today it has 89,000 so someone has clearly been enjoying this elegant coupe.
And please pardon the inability of my ultra cheap point and shoot image taker to obtain crisp, detailed images of specific points of interest. I should note that in its early years, Oldsmobile provided names to their offerings. In the late 40’s and early 50’s they offered a Holiday, Custom Cruiser and a Futuramic but by the late 50’s all of the nomenclature was provided in numerical form only. This continued on their top of the line models until the introduction of the Oldsmobile Aurora.
As I mentioned earlier, I had first spotted this ride a couple years ago. I have been mulling over what my introductory offering would be here at Curbside Classics. I usually capture just a front and rear image of a vehicle and while looking through my library, I realized this was the case with the majority of the images of automobiles in it. And it was true of this 98.
However, today while I was cruising up US 1, Ridgewood Avenue here in Daytona Beach, I spotted this previously seen 98 and I was able to stop and gather a few more images for this offering. This coupe is now for sale for $4,900 by the person who bought it from that wholesaler having the air conditioning system repaired when I had seen it last.
Divine Driven Intervention, if you will.
Now, I have this to say about that. The over all package of this luxury coupe is attractive in its own right but when you break it down into individual components, the styling can be rather subjective. I’m not a major expert in early 70’s American automotive styling cues so I have little experience in what Mr. Mitchell and his team were trying to achieve with the split grille of this offering. I know this was a common theme for Oldsmobile throughout the 1960’s and early 70’s but I would, in retrospect, have thought that with a new decade and a new generation coming of age in their respective auto purchasing abilities, “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” would have arrived around this time.
And I can share this with you: If my father had owned one of these back in the day and I ever got to drive it, I would have stuffed at least fifteen of my buddies in this trunk and snuck the whole lot into one of the last remaining drive in movie theatres in the Missouri Ozark Mountains back in the early 70’s. I should note this vinyl top, cracked dash and Flowmaster exhaust possessing coupe does have some significant rust bubbles showing just below the left side of that rear window. I hear it’s a rather notorious issue with vinyl-roofed GM cars. It’s hard to say if there are any structural problems with this ride, but as I am merely a casual observer of it, all is well, to my eyes, anyway.
And have I mentioned the “hugeness” of this premiere Oldsmobile? It is nearly nineteen feet long (227.8″), over six and a half feet wide (79.6″) and four and a half feet tall (54.6″)!!
And in closing out my virgin post here, does anyone else see a 60’s era Cadillac tail light and fin in the above image?
That car needs Cragars.
NO car needs Cragars. Or any other aftermarket wheels. Original wheels or wheel covers should stay. I think that would keep the value higher and the integrity if the car (if GM ever had any integrity) intact. There is nothing worse in my book than to see, say, a 1969 GTO “The Judge” with some stupid-looking Gragar of Keystone ugly wheels instead of the original Rally II’s. Aftermarket wheels suck.
Agreed. I hate those fugly Cragers or Keystone wheels. Pontiac’s Rally IIs are probably the best looking OEM wheels ever.
I totally agree! When surfing for old classics if I see a car butchered up with these new things they call wheels like the 17″-22″ I keep right on going!
Those gigantic aftermarket chrome wheels are like clown shoes.
Needs to be kept all original this is my baby and i love this car! Those wheels are ugly! Lol
One of the best riding cars on the road if you can find one your lucky! We love our baby!
NO way! Cragers?? would ruin it!
This is my favorite car of all time, truly a piece of art I really want to buy this car.
Ugh… so many memories of wafting along the Bayshore Freeway in My Uncles->My Cousin Marcus’s first car around 1986-87. I remember he couldn’t afford the fill-ups for it so he bought an equal vintage (72-73?) Dodge Colt that was Banana Yellow and stalled constantly.
Instead of letting him have the Ninety Eight back, my Uncle Albert “sold” (more likely just gave away) the car to another cousin’s husband that had a 1972 Cutlass Supreme Coupe in Sacramento. They made lovely book-ends, and were also weird ones considering their main family car was a 1982 Audi 4000
Wow, that car is gorgeous!!!
There is most definitely some Cadillac influence going on here. I have always thought too that the quarter panels on these were some of the most interesting I’ve ever seen.
Thank you for sharing!
And this is where we see further evidence of GM in the beginning of their unstoppable retreat from reality. Look at this and the Buick coupe. They were so gussied up, what was the point of Cadillac in a sense?
Beautiful car, though.
Around this time period one of the auto-mags (or maybe Consumer Reports) tested a fully loaded Impala against a Sedan De Ville. They told their readers that with the Chevy they got 90% of what the Cadillac was at about half the price. Their recomendation was, “buy the Chevy.”
Wow… The Ninety Eight and this Buick,
I just can’t get enough of staring at both of them. These were cars.
If only we could walk down the block and see these babies new in the showroom again, but with today’s technology applied.
Never happen, but at least a few of them will always be here for us to remember.
My 2nd car was a 1976 black/black Ninety Eight Regency Sedan, really enjoyed seeing this pop up on the ‘random’ box on the site.
That Ninety Eight coupe, so much style, class and character.
What a beauty, seriously… just gorgeous.
The problem wasn’t that they were gussied up. The problem was that the Cadillac wasn’t in any significant way a better car. Tho it didn’t actually bite Cadillac, Buick or Olds for 15 years. Then they all suddenly sank without a trace.
Thats an awfully large lump of sheetmetal Id hate to have to rub it down for a respray, it does have a touch of Caddy but since they are kin its no surprise. I remember one of these for sale on the roadside in Sydney years ago it wasnt very expensive but the fuel bill put me off and others as the grass was at headlight height before it disappeared rare car over there too
Great First post! Thank you for stepping up to the plate. I really enjoyed your write up on this often overlooked rather classy prestigious car.
I too see the Fins, and do not remember them existing on this car as such. I think the Back looks even better than the 72′ Cadillac. The Front is unique to Oldsmobile. I see a Flattened 1963-64 Cadillac Taillight in this years 98. I always quite liked this car, and It looks even better now that it is so rare to see one in this fine original condition.
The seat Clearly is not one of the more supportive bench models. I like all the Woodlike applique. It is a man’s car, the speedometer would be very hard for the passenger to check the speed, in addition to leaving control of the Radio & AC to the driver’s specifications.
If Gas was still 52c a gallon, I’d be tempted to cruise A1A in this fine boulevard cruiser.
Please keep up the good work. I feel like I can go to bed, having had my Old car fix for the day. Thanks so much.
I was out in northern California in the air force when these came out. I was really puzzled as to who would buy one of these behemoths, even when gas was 25.9¢ a gallon. Of course, my avatar above was no fuel-sipper, it was no where near that big!
The cracked dash? That, my friend, was known as the GM “Mark of Excellence”! It was common on all full-size GM models, no matter what make.
The only thing that I like about this car and others like it – it was a pillarless hardtop, and that still has value to me.
I love these big GM’s from ’71-’76. My dad had a ’72 deVille and I recently spent some time with a ’71 Coupe. I have to admit though as much as I like the Cadillacs I like this particular Olds 98 better. It’s cool, classy, sharp and it has to perform to at least the same level as the Caddy with its monstrous 472. Black on black? Yeah. Cool. A black on black Coupe deVille is a hearse without the storage out back. Too bad these cars generally don’t return as much driving enjoyment as they do visual delights. They’re just too big and heavy. They don’t handle well, the engines are sluggish (no doubt due in large part to the smog gear all over them and the massive weight they’re asked to tow around). I’ve driven Chevys with the 400 small block with the little 2 barrel and thought they where just as “fast” as the big Caddys and Buicks and Olds. So, what was the extra money for anyway? Finally, these lovely rolling works of art shudder and shake over anything but the smoothest pavements but love is blind and like LAx, if gas was 52 cents a gallon something like this would be my daily driver. 😉
Well done, Sir!
While I can’t get past the arrogance of the overt “wood” adhesive on the dash and the utter waste that cars of this era represent, they are among my favorites.
Loaded with Vegas panache and style!
That it looks just like a Caddy was no coincidence…unlike today, Cadillacs still had the cache that Mercedes and BMW have today. Cadillac owned the luxury car market. So just like Harley Earl did in the 1950s when he turned the lowly Chevy 210 into the gorgeous baby Cadillac with the 57Bel Air, all GM divisions made mini-me versions to capitalize on this. Back then it was a very successful formula.
Unfortunately, as time went on, they shared more and more parts and became even more similar, blurring anynreal distinctions and diluting brands.
Also unfortunately, by 1971 GM had started producing unbelievably cheap interiors. This particular car likely features vinyl – not leather – seats, and the BMW-like driver centric dash is el-cheapo plastico. Always such a disappointment to see such beautiful cars on the outside mated to such horrid interiors, but that was what sold back then.
What you can’t see in the pictures is just how low to the ground these cars were, and how cramped the interiors were given the cars huge proportions. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend sitting in or driving one to get a feel for what it was like 40 years ago.
I believe you are correct, as the brochure lists vinyl upholstery, but I’m having trouble finding a mention of genuine leather.
Further evidence of cheapness is seen in how the brochure explains the superiority of a one-piece slab of foam used for the seat cushion, versus building it in a multi-step process of springs, batting and foam.
My friend’s family had a 1972 Ninety-Eight Luxury Sedan. The body was painted that metallic, blah brown that was so popular in the early 1970s, and the vinyl roof was white, which meant that it would look dingy in a matter of weeks if not washed regularly. The car was reliable, but I remember riding in it and being rather surprised to see exposed screwheads in the door panels. It seemed to be a step down in quality from our 1967 Delmont 88.
These were good looking cars. But none of the GM full-sizers were especially roomy for their size, and their structural rigidity was definitely lacking. But the Oldsmobile models still had the Rocket rumble, which was one way to identify an Oldsmobile by sound. When GM began playing mix-n-match with engines in the 1970s, it was ultimately one of the first nails in Oldsmobile’s (and Pontiac’s) coffin.
Cool enough for a Grammy-winning jazz album in 1979.
Click on the photo to get a good look at that Olds pulling up on the left:
She’s a beauty. The rust bubbles around the back window corners are indeed endemic to GMs of this era, but given the age I think we can wink at that. What’s much more impressive are that all of the fillers-to-bumper are intact and look great. In my neck of the woods (South Louisiana) they all started crumbling on these cars after 5-6 years–around the same time that GM quit carrying them as repair parts. Eventually all of the Cadillac, Buick, and Olds big cars had huge open gaps between their quarter panels and back bumpers–they looked terrible. This car looks great.
She’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but some people still dig on these big cruisers. There’s a guy who lives nearby who has a very nice ’70s Lincoln Continental Town Coupe, all black or midnight blue (I’ve only seen it at dusk or night), and he’s still rolling it.
Update–being a ’72, this car has the older, close-fitting bumpers that did not require the flexible fillers to bridge the gap between bumper and sheetmetal. Beginning in ’73, the bumpers had to absorb a 5mph impact without damage to the car.
Longrooffan, great post on a neat car. I enjoy your blog, especially the junkyard journeys, and it’s good to see you at CC.
Hope to see more of your work. Really enjoyed this post.
While that’s a nice, clean, big Olds, for early seventies full-size GM muscle, nothing beats a Buick Centurion or Pontiac Granville. The latter, especially, after watching the chase scene from The Seven-Ups.
In a sad irony, the poor quality was matched only by the fact that they were the final, truly large, big-block engine BOF GM cars.
This was my father’s oldsmobile! Albeit, he had the brown on brown 1974 four-door. He passed away in 1981, but I really believe this was his favorite car. He really liked it and thought the engine was superb. And, he went from this car to a 1975 Cadillac Coupe De Ville D Elegance, but he gave the Cadillac to my mom not that long after and bought a 1976 Chevy Silverado truck for himself. He never had any problems with the Olds. I liked riding in the back seat back then at 10 years old. I thought it was a really classy car. I also liked the pillarless 4 door design.
I can describe this car in two words, John:
Great post. Did you mention that Dad was a Buick driver before he switched to Plymouth wagons on Bob Bingle’s advice?
Yep, you’ve been busy.
Now for a post about my polished Airstream!
I can honestly say that I love every single generation of 98 Oldsmobile. This generation is my favorite followed by the downsized last of the RWD models. (My least favorite is the first FWD models of the late 1980s.) These cars are big IN YOUR FACE Oldsmobile as it was meant to be.
These were fabulous cars. I put over 60k miles on one, back in the day. My mom bought it new, and I often borrowed it while she owned it, and then “inherited” it when she bought her ’78 Town Car.
It rode better than any other car I ever owned, and better than that Town Car. She kicked herself for buying the Town Car after she had it for a while, compared to the Olds.
Believe it or not, it also handled very well for what it was – much better than any other full-sized American car I ever drove. I refer here to “real” full-sized cars, as in mid-60s to mid-70s. It has really large anti-roll bars, coil springs at all corners, and GM’s A-arm front and trailing arm rear suspension. Good steering feel, and it might even have been variable-ratio. Really very good for the time. It also had large front disc brakes with good feel, and big drums on the back.
It was actually quite fun to drive in a spirited manner (with allowances of course). What I mean is that most big luxury cars of the time got all huffy and offended when you would lean on them. The Olds always said “Bring it on! Me want more miles! Let’s go!”
The 455 was surprisingly fast. It would pretty much keep up with base-engine musclecars from a roll.
Great car. In some ways this was the peak of the US automobile. This example was an absolute steal at $4500, needing AC work or no. You find another one in Florida, let me know, ok? 🙂
nice 72 98 for sale, kid going to college need the money. ILLInois. call 773-372-6041 my name is charlie.
Either the author didn’t do his research or the owner did some modifications to this car. The 1972 Olds 98 had the more elegant open style grill. The splitter bar bumper, shown here with rub strip, wasn’t introduced until ’73 or ’74. The 1972 trunk lid also had inverted louvers as part of the cabin ventilation system. If my memory is correct, the 1972 Olds 98 had a two spoke (horizontal) strreing wheel.
My father bought a black four door hard top 1972 Oldsmobile 98 Luxury Sedan when I was in seventh grade. I learned to drive in this car while driving on the twisty Wilbur Cross/Merritt Parkway in Southern Connecticut. When I graduated high school he turned the car over to me. By that time we had installed Sears heavy duty trailering shocks that firmed up the suspension. With a few extra psi in the load range D tires, the car handled quite well. Turning the air cleaner cover upside down allowed the engine to breathe a little better and acted like a megaphone. When the four barrel carburetor secondaries opened up, the 455 Rocket engine had quiet a snarl. Ba-WAAA!
I cannot speak for the author, but I believe that he is correct on the ID of the car. The 73 front bumper was the much heavier 5 mph version. The 72 had the split with some of the grille below the bumper, and the sales lit refers to a spring-loaded front bumper. It was the 71 with all of the grille above the bumper. I had also recalled that the flow-through ventilation with the exhaust vents below the rear window was gone after 1971 as well, and had been on all GM full sized cars that year. I cannot speak to the steering wheel, but those sometimes differed if you got telescope or not.
The rear is clearly a 71-72, as the 73 got the much smaller taillights that were all above the bumper. The photo below is from the 72 Olds brochure.
I was about the same age as you and spent a lot of time in the Olds showroom that year too, although my Mom bought a Cutlass Supreme. I wanted her to get the Ninety Eight, but that was never going to happen. A friend’s dad had a 73 Custom Cruiser, and what a pig it was. Awful, awful gas mileage. I would imagine that your Dad’s 72 was a little stronger. If his was actually a 71, it would have been pretty fast, I would imagine.
1971 was the year for all B-C bodys to have the trunk louvers. If your refering to the black 98 at the top of the page as a 73, your wrong. 1972! LOOK at the parking lights! 73 are in the valance, 71 are in the bumper! I’m a old olds parts manager, I know.
Heres proof of the 72 bumper.
I owned one of these cars – bought it for $700 in the fall of 1978, just before the 1979 gas crisis, with less than 70,000 miles. It was a light brown coupe, like above, with the most comfortable front and rear seats I ever sat in. The 455 engine was simply amazing. I drove it to over 120K miles, and did not do a thing to it, except for a tune up and tires. And yes, it was big. I am 6’1″ and I could lay down in the trunk. I sold it for $500 in 1981, after putting a sizable dent in the side. Truly the best looking of the line from ’71 to ’76, before the downsizing took placed in 1978.
WOW!!!!!! BEAUTIFUL OLD’s 98
I owned one in early 80’s, mine was the (what they called) pearl white with black top 2dr
the person that said he did not think that was the right front bumper…..sorry to say it is the right one because the 73 would not fit on the 72 and the 71 had the turn signals in the lower part of the bumper.
I loved that car and wish I could find another one like the one I had. I took it on several road trips and I was impressed with accually how well it did on gas on the road, plus it was like driving a real live cloud over the road the way it cruised so graceful and efferetlessly. Even around town (yes not the best on gas in town) it handled little like a sports car in many ways. I am from Illinois origanally so much snow in the winter and I found with the positrack on it I had no problems going anywhere I wanted to go, no kidding it literally plowed snow on many occasions.
Thanks for this posting of this beautiful blast from the past and great memory for me
now it makes me want another one again even more than before, although I think I would like to have it in convertable but I don’t remember it coming with that option that year.
I have one that my goal for years was to restore, especially exterior, it like the one here. Any restoration shops in Washington – Baltimore area excellent in restoration? I got on Internet to find perhaps non-rusted front fenders. It’s a jungle out there. Any exterior parts vendors out there that can help me find fenders and good trunk lid?
I’m 14 and a few months ago I dug a 73 Oldsmobile delta 98 out of my grAndpas shop where it’s sat for the last 20 years and it started right up and was running on 20 year old gas ( obviously gasoline was better back then) and I fricken love the look of these older cars like the Oldsmobile I was offered 1100 dollars for it a few days ago but didn’t accept the offer because I like the car to much.
My stepfather “sold” me one of his two 1972 Olds 98’s (the dark brown flake one, he also had a gold one) for $1 in 1984. That’s what I learned to drive in, and everything else since then has seemed small and gutless.
I had so much fun with that car, luckily I made enough money to keep it gassed up, took it to alot of road houses in Pennsylvania.
I still miss it! Thanks for the great photos posted.
hi i would like to buy this 1972 olds 98 you can call me at 361-406-9228…leave a number that i can call to get info on the car…thank you
How I love this car. I was 15 and learned to drive in my dad’s 98. What a beautiful car it was! White hard top over blue. Everything modern and electric and I believe it had white leather seats.
What ever happened to Mr. Rooffan???
Those wire wheels look way better than any Cragars… That would look stupid.
Do u still have the car and how much do u want for it…
Wow, what memories that 72′ Olds 98 brings back. My dad purchased a new one in 72 for my mom for her birthday. We first had a Nutmeg colored one with a light tan vinyl top which we had for about 2 months and for some reason I never knew of, it was returned to the dealer and replaced with a rare tan colored one with the matching tan vinyl top. I was yrs from having my drivers license at that time, but loved that car and would go sit in it whenever it was sitting home. My parents knew how much I loved that car and allowed me every opportunity to play with and in it, lol. They would allow me to drive it to the back yard where I would wash the car weekly. That car was certainly an eye catcher. One of my best buddies dad had a 72 Sedan De Ville, but the Olds had a younger sportier safisticated look about it that most younger people preferred over the Cadillac. I was always very proud to be dropped off at school in that car, lol. My worst adventure in that car was a few yrs later when I was taking drivers training (but I was a driving pro by that time, lol), I had my drivers permit, but one morning I missed my ride to school, my mom wasn’t feeling well and she allowed me to take the 98 to school (about 5 miles away). She told me “Park it once at school and don’t drive it until its time to come home!” Well needless to say, I HAD to show off to classmates. The high school was ALWAYS patrolled by a police officer and the drivers training instructor. I’m sure you know where I’m going with this, lol, so to make my already long story shorter, the instructor saw me driving with my best bud and a girl both in the front seat with me during lunch hour. He knew darn well I was still taking drivers training class. The officer pulled us over near school (after my attempts to evade them failed, lol). We had to walk back to school and I had to write a 5 page report on why I should not drive without a license, then turn it in the next day “OR ELSE”. Needless to say, the instructor had my report the next morning in his hands and my lesson was well learned. Of course the entire school heard about our “Joy ride” before the days end, lol.
Who can i get ahold of about this car? Is it for sale still?
1972 Olds 98 was the first car I had. I am trying to find specs on how fast this would go. I know one night out in the country on a straight road I had a friend with a Impala 350 took off. He got a head start but topped out at 115mph. I caught him and passed him almost like he was standing still. I figured 140 – 150mph and still climbing but the road was coming to an end. I also talked to a retired police officer who’s uncle had one. Challenged him one night on a nearly deserted 4 lane highway. He told me he took off and his uncle laid back until his tail lights were nearly gone. He thought he had won until he saw two headlights gaining unfortunately he could go no faster and his uncle blew by him with his 72 Olds 98. In the top end I think that car would pass everything except the gas station.
If anyone has speed stats or stories I would be interested to have them posted. By the way I only once ever went this fast in that car but it did cruise like nothing at 75 mph.
David had mine up to 120 plus one night and that 72, 98 4 door olds felt like it was floating down the highway. It swayed a bit on the highway curves but in no manner was it erratic and if felt like it was in the highway groove. What a massive intimidating car. I used to run a sunday beer league and was able to fit two halfkegs, the tubs, ice, bases, bats and a crate full of balls in that trunk. One could live in the trunk or backseat.
I bought this Beauty and dont even drive it!
I inherited a 72 98 coupe from my grand dad in 81. To this day I still consider it the finest vehicle I’ve ever owned. Solidly built, reliable, comfortable, handled surprisingly well especially considering its size – I nicknamed it the Whisper-jet. I’m confident it represented the pinnacle of American automobile manufacturing. Truth be told, all of the early to mid 70s vehicles I owned were damn good cars.
I just purchased a similar car (sans pinstripes). I have wanted one since I was 16.
Have owned a 1973 98 coupe. They float down the road like nothing does today. Long wheel base, sheer weight, and soft suspension combined to make an incredible feel. The sedan commercial for the new “regency” for 72 had a diamond cutter in the rear seat cutting a diamond while moving down the road.😆 They coddled the occupants well. Satisfying to drive and self aggrandizing.😢gone.