(first posted 3/30/2011. Revised 11/14/2016) It was the rear door that did it. I should never have opened it.
Yes, these mega-size GM cars have gotten a lot of love here over the years. And there’s a whole lot to love about them. But GM overshot the mark, and by doing so, turned a whole lot of buyers to mid-sized cars. And to pay for all that extra steel (and a few other things), GM really turned the bean counters loose. Their solution (among other things) was hard injection molded plastic, acres of it. Of a particularly nasty and deadly kind. It’s something that one might be able to excuse on a Vega, but not on a big Olds sedan.
It’s been an oft repeated mantra here: GM quality began to slide in the mid sixties, to one degree or another, and in different manifestations. But there were also improvements that compensated for them: the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission combined with the final maturation of GM’s smooth and powerful V8s made for a creamy drive train. Disc brakes appeared, and 15″ wheels reappeared. GM’s variable-ratio power steering was the best, and when it started applying itself to the science of handling, it quickly rose to the top too, in that regard. That’s why I called the 1970 Impala the Best Big Car of Its Time. Not everyone agreed, but it sure beat what was about to replace it.
The bigger, wider, heavier thirstier 1971 full-size cars by GM simply jumped the shark. Full-size cars had been getting too big, IMHO, since the 1958s replaced the just-right-sized ’55 -’57s (I’m referring to Chevys just now). Intermediate sized cars had to happen, and it’s no coincidence that when the Chevelle appeared in 1964 sitting on the same 115″ wheelbase as the tri-five Chevys, everyone made lots of references to that fact.
Perhaps this CC really ties in more to the CCCCC, since that’s all about the rise of the mid-sized Cutlass to the top of the heap. Anyway; the 1970 GM big cars just squeaked through the portal of acceptability and sanity; the 1971’s bulging sides didn’t. Amazing what a couple of inches and three hundred extra pounds will do.
Take a look at this engine compartment; the big 455 Rocket engine block is almost lost in there. Looks more like a Buick V6 hiding behind that long fan shroud. No wonder GM had a V12 engine program going at the time. Certainly plenty of room; V16, anybody?
By 1973, the Rocket had lost a bit of its thrust, rated at 225 (net) hp. Still, it was able to give a decent nudge in the backside. No, the problem with this big Olds lies not under the hood, but elsewhere; other than its excessive size, that is.
What brought it all crashing in on me was opening the back door, so that I could get a shot of the dash from there. Holy Taxi-Driving Mother of all Rubbermaid! I had forgotten just how cheap GM suddenly got with its interiors. I mean, I knew it, but had forgotten the nasty details.
In 1971, GM introduced its millions of buyers to hard plastics, and of a particularly nasty sort. It made its most memorable appearance in the Vega that year (above), where the whole door panel was one flimsy, flapping piece of hollow plastic.
But I had totally forgotten that this same stuff appeared in the doors of Oldsmobiles! And the exact same color too! Maybe that’s what really pushed me over the Deadly edge. This was one of the vaunted brands in GM’s upscale portfolio. And it looks just like a 1971 Biscayne taxi I drove. Well, that had all-black interior, and just as well.
And it’s not just the door panel, but the seat upholstery too. GM vinyl in the sixties was a wondrous thing; sleek and shiny, and thick and durable, befitting of the “Morrokide” moniker Pontiac branded its version. Suddenly in 1971, the vinyl looks and feels cheap, like a Tijuana re-upholstery job, back in the day.
That dashboard may have a certain bizarre visual period-piece appeal, but don’t look too close. GM’s heavy investment in plastic injection machinery was on full display.
Compared to the solid gleaming dashes that were in an Olds ten years earlier, well; nothing stays the same, sadly in some cases. But let’s get back to that rear door. It wasn’t just what I saw after I opened it; it was the act of opening and closing it that sealed the Deadly Deal.
Ok, this is an old car; but go open any rear door of a similar-vintage Mercedes. That has to be the pinnacle of the worn-out bank vault analogy. And, no; I didn’t and don’t expect a car that cost a third or so of a comparable ’73 Merc to do as well in that department.
It’s the vivid memory of how much crappier the ’71 GM doors felt compared to the ’70s. I know: I drove both a 1970 and 1971 Chevrolet taxi, each with maybe half a million miles on them. The 1970 felt a whole lot more structurally sound compared to the 1971; everything is relative. Just getting the doors on the ’71 to close at all on the first try was a serious challenge. Don’t ask me about the rear seat on the ’71 that kept coming loose; not the stuff from which tips are generated.
For what it’s worth, GM learned quite a big lesson from these cars; the downsized B-Bodies that appeared in 1977 were a major act of penance for GM’s Deadly Sin of Gluttony, and even the interiors improved from what has to be an all-time low point. Next time, I’ll just not open the door, and save myself a bit of trouble.
V16? Well all ya gotta do is weld two V8s together. 😛 BTW at least the 98 had a slightly nicer interior.
The difference betweent the two dashes is evident. The ’73 is crass and ugly and the ’63 efficient, lean, attractive and functional.
We had ’71 and ’72 LeSabre’s in the family simultaneously. The ’71 was a sedan with the B pillar and those doors closed with a solid thunk. The ’72 was a bucket of bolts pos hardtop and I had forgotten about not being able to close the door on the first try.
You would need to wind up like a pitcher to get that front door closed.
We wouldn’t stand for such quality today.
While a teenager at the time, what I remember most about those two cars were the excellent power steering you mention with a hint of road feel and just the right tension and the 3 speed transmissions that in first gear sounded like a bus.
Sometimes I would continually, slowly depress the gas pedal just to hear that winding out sound and to see how fast I can get it going before the shift.
IMO all the full sized ’73’s by GM were ugly and reflecting the company’s ethos at the time. It’s a bit of a surprise they built the fantastic ’77-’79 Caprice Classic a few short years later.
I was stuck with one of these for awhile, the car pictured could almost be the very same one. Driving it was like sitting on a big, cheap sofa playing a driving game on a far away screen. Absurd levels of driver isolation coupled with ridiculously bad, wallowing road manners. This and the ’79 Country Squire were by far the two worst cars I ever had the misfortune to own.
BTW, like the accursed ’79 Country Squire the interior is more like cheap rubbermaid knock-off. If they’d contracted rubbermaid to do it it might have actually been kind of cool.
Efficient, lean, attractive, functional and DEADLY. No seat belts and in a crash you would be thrown right into that efficient, lean, attractive and functional dash. Actually, you would probably go over the efficient, lean, attractive and functional dash and through the efficient, lean, attractive and functional windshield. That efficient, lean, attractive and functional dash had one function: bodily harm. And it did it efficiently. Nothing attractive about that.
The design is fine, the cars just needed more safety features.
That said, I’ve always found ’50s and ’60s car dashes to be neat but kind of like staring at one of those old refrigerators with lots of chrome heaped on and a few gauges added in. Not something I want today.
Was 1973 not the year airbags were optional with GM?
I thought it was the ’74 model year when GM offered air bags on Cadillacs under the ‘Supplemental Restraint System’ tag.
GM installed them in 1,000 Impalas according to this article
Fancy that. I thought it was the 1974 model year. I have a 1974 Cadillac showroom booklet and it offers up the SRS option.
Early example of an airbag deploying in a movie: The 1976 film ‘MOVING VIOLATION’ starring Stephen McHattie, Kay Lenz, Eddie Albert, Lonny Chapman (as the evil redneck Sheriff). → Over halfway through the movie one of Sheriff Chapman’s dopey deputies smashes his Caprice Classic into a wall of bricks and woozily gets out and says “If it weren’t for that air bag I’d have bought it”.
One of the Everly Brothers (forgot which one) sings a theme song over the opening credits called “DETROIT MAN”.
Bit melodramatic eh, Kev? A ‘functional dash’ has more than 1 function and it’s main purpose is not to kill its driver. Good grief.
I find the 73 dash to be functional (I admit, I like the angled “cockpit” design), with all controls in easy reach, and the 63 to be garish, with function (such as it was) following form.
My dad had a nearly identical ’73 Delta 88 hardtop sedan. He bought it used right after my parents were married, and while he was between jobs, circa 1979. I don’t think my mom’s ever forgiven him. He still talks about how smooth and powerful that Rocket 455 was on the highway; she still talks about how the thug he sold that piece of junk to demanded his money back when he claimed the aforementioned 455’s block was cracked.
My parents have been allergic to private party sales ever since.
I agree with your dad, nothing like that 455 Rocket Engine. I would love to drop that engine into a mustang and watch it fly. Lol
I wonder how these compared to the equivalent Marquis or Monaco when new. I have the 1974 Mercury brochure and the Marquis looks pretty good, you could even get leather as an option. Even the Monterey door panels looked better than this Olds.
I’d have to agree that Ford had it together. I just peeked at a 73 LTD brochure and it definately looked to be nicer than that Olds..
There’s a ’73-74 Galaxie 500 for sale at my local Ace Hardware, so I took a look at the interior. The armrest supports and B-pillars are made of the same plastic as the Delta 88’s door panels. It makes me wonder–if somebody had maintained the plastic with Armorall from the beginning, how would it have held up? After all, the car I looked at is 37+ years old, and the plastic was somewhat deteriorated, but still hanging in there.
About 10 years ago I talked with a factory rep from a major industrial plastics manufacturer, and he told me that plastic has a definite lifespan and has to be nourished for optimum life. One of the tips he gave me was to store weedeater string in water to keep it strong. I’ve tried it, and it really does last longer that way. So why not automotive plastics?
The real treat of the trip, though, was a ’74 Gran Torino Elite, backing out as I
walked up. I gawked at it like a tourist, until I realized that the owner was staring back at me, so I just gave a little wave to show that I’m harmless and darted into the store. The old girl looked pretty good–which may say more about my taste than I wish to reveal.
My 73 Chevelle had the same style door panels originally. It was the Deluxe model though so it was expected.
It’s almost like the GM full sizers of this era were designed to be enjoyed from the outside only. Even that’s not easy..
(I don’t think I’ve ever read an article from Paul where he actually sounded mad! 😀 )
I had a ’73 Galaxie 2 dr hardtop from 2000 ’til 2005 and it had the same crappy plastic door panels, with identical stress cracks on BOTH armrests from the same screw to the vinyl pad. behind the door handle. I think this was an industry-wide syndrome, even VW was using pressed-cardboard paper panels and black plastic interiors at the time.
With all the complaining about GM and Ford plastic door panels, I’m reminded of the even crappier panels on the foreign cars of the same era. Vinyl-wrapped masonite! Now that was crap.
I believe it was cardboard. But it still held up better than GM’s crap if you took care of it. GM’s crap still looked bad when you DID take care of it.
It amazes me that we used to consider vinyl seats acceptable in a near-luxury or luxury car. In the early 70’s you could even get vinyl seats in a Cadillac (the Calais).
However, not all 70’s GM interiors were like that, especially if you upgraded to a Ninety-Eight or Electra, most of which had various kinds of fabric on the seats (brocades in 1971-73, with velours coming in especially in ’74) and better materials on the doors.
And while these cars are indeed huge, the fuselage styling put the maximum interior width at hip and elbow level which makes the interiors feel tremendously roomy.
Base model Caddys now have “leatherette” upholstery – at least on the ATS, SRX and CTS you have to add the “luxury package” to get real leather – and there’s no cloth option, division-wide.
Whether or not it’s the same stuff in a top-of-the-line(!) Sonic or fleet-spec Express van isn’t mentioned…
Dad replaced a ’66 Galaxie 500 with a maroon ’72 Delta 88 with a 455. Dad drove 55 and still only got 13 mpg.The black vinyl seats were fun & games in the the summer, but GM knew how to make an a/c worthy of a meat locker. Was driven thru at least 22 states on various family vacations. Only mechanical problem (while on vacation) was a new water pump in IN.
1973 we were in Colorado. One stop was a cabin in the mountains. Since was easier to show us, then give us directions, mom’s friend meet us in town. Soon dad was hustling the 88 along a curvy two lane road much faster then he was used to (There are no curves in NW Iowa only straight roads to be driven at 55) trying to keep up with an Audi 100. That was my introduction to Audi and the automotive world beyond GM land yachts.
By the time I started driving it had been demoted to 2nd car by a ’78 LeSabre. The motor had lost a few of its horses, top speed was an indicated 95mph. A ’69 327 Impala walked away from it. The brakes worked from 95 to 55 before brake fade set in, didn’t try that again. Still it was faster then the LeSabre which could barely peg it’s 85mph speed-o-meter.
In the winter I’d start the car before getting in the lunch line and turn it off when I finished eating. Otherwise it wouldn’t start when school was done for the day. It took a quarter of oil per tank of gas. It wouldn’t shift out of 2nd unless one let off the gas and counted to three.
My favorite feature was when the speedometer broke. Once fixed it read 15 mph slow. When one mentioned it seemed like we were going too fast, I’d point to the speedometer and say were only doing 50-55.
By business partner in Saskatchewan has a very nice 1977 Cadillac Sedan Deville. While riding around in it last summer, ever time I had to close the door it took two tries. It made me remember the old saying from the 1970s, “GM two slam doors.” Anyway, my partner used to swear how great these old sleds are as daily drivers and steadfastly refused to drive anything else, even though is is quite well to do. That is until his wife put her foot down and demanded he get something more respectable and practical. Now he has an Acura TL and he never touches the Caddy.
Funny that, eh?
It is funny considering we are talking about cars developed over 30 years apart. Today’s Cadillac’s do not require two door slams from any that I have driven.
Paul, we need (or maybe we don’t) a close-up shot at the GM “Mark of Excellence” – the large, full-depth cracked padded dash! You just teased us with the dashboard shot! How dare you! The first time I looked at the full-sized Chevys beginning with that year in the showroom of Daoust Chevrolet in Marysville, Ca, I was shocked, to say the least! It was a Caprice 4 door hardtop, and upon closing the doors, the entire “B” pillar along with the doors visibly shook! As much as I preach about pillarless hardtops on here and on TTAC, I imagined getting T-boned in this coast-to-coast expanse of sheet metal and plastic and cringed. The door panels? Indeed! Hard, multi-piece plastic with a couple of pieces covered in vinyl and carpet, all screwed together. Very flimsy. Under the hood? Those bracing bars to try to hold all the excess metal from falling off and flapping around. What happened, Chevy? Why did you do this? I was just as disillusioned about Chevy as Jack Baruth was as he discovered the truth about Mr. D.E.D when growing up! I decided right then and there I would never own one of these, pillarless or not, sad to say. I focused my attention on the Chevelle and Nova sitting nearby. Later, the Vega. Wow. Another story. Gee, Paul, thanks for the awful memory! Still fun, though!
I’ve been meaning to take a picture of a Delta 88 that is parked out front.
Looking at wiki, I think it is the later model. (headlights). Amazing if it is “downsized”. Can’t imagine how big this one might be.
This ’73’s 88’s seats were identical to the all vinyl benches in my Dad’s ’71 Custom Cruiser. They were very durable, and in the white color, kept very cool and the vinyl didn’t stick to your back, legs, etc.
I do admit the door panels on this particular 88 do look somewhat “cheap”, but that was the price of admission or compromise to getting a car in the lower medium price range, that, driveability wise and with other features, more than made up for the bargain door panel assemblies and seats. The 88’s of the day were a better full size value than the competition including intra-divisional comparable rivals from Chevy, Pontiac and Buick. Certainly a better car than competing Dodge Polaras/Chrysler Newports (sans 440 V-8).
The Olds 455 four-barrels (even the smoggers) still had more than enough torque and everyday driving grunt to embarass many other cars, especially FoMoCos of this malaise era. They could pass anything (but a gas station). Very durable engines – best of the GM V-8’s in terms of ruggedness (IMO).
BTW – m brother in law had a ’71 Delta 88 up in Eureka, Cal – T-boned by a drunk – he walked away without a scratch after being hit on the DRIVER’s side. Drunk in a Nissan – not so lucky.
The first thing that comes to mind when seeing that dash is Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar”… Come on over here boy have a cigar… Just like that song, this car has no compliments for its industry. The dash comparo is damning indeed, nice job again!
And hey, this is one of those “explosion in a spaghetti factory” engine bays! Vacuum line kingdom…
How soon they forget. GM didn’t stop building their wonderful metal dashes by choice, nor choose to make a heavy investment in injection-molding machinery. They were in effect required to make the dashes out of plastic, by law. The first serious motor vehicle safety standards, remember? And once the dashes had to be plastic, and padded, the rest of the interior had to match. As to the quality of the plastics, the industry simply weren’t good at making automotive interior plastics back then (and indeed, maybe still isn’t).
All American cars went in the crapper from 1967 to 1973. Heavier, more expensive, more cheaply constructed (to try and hold the increased costs down), new materials that sucked, uglier, slower. Thank the government. The shock of it all knocked the heart out of the US auto industry. It has never really recovered.
Yes but it’s easier and more fun to keep trying to come up with Deadly sin articles for GM even when the other makes were doing similar things. This is another car that doesn’t really belong on this list without bringing up various other makers early 70’s interiors.
I remember looking one of these over 4 sale in Sydney it looked cheap inside compared to my 83 Commodore It ran ok but I figured the gas bill would kill me so passed it up.
Well, ask any pro Demo Derby driver what their favorite cars are, they will swear by 71-76 GM. It’s in the eye of the beholder.
Also, the early 60’s dashs were not crashworthy. Padding was mandated in the late 60’s I think the 73 dashes were fine for thier day. Classic Car club would call pre-48 cars dashes as the best, so again it’s all subjective.
Yes, The federal goverment smoked GM into making these plastic & padded dashes. Very sad from the 60’S, But i remember studying in voch. school in the late 80’S that it was a safty issue. I owned a 1973 Delta 88 royal convertible with the rocket 455 & I do have to say that car was a blast on the highway top down @ 80 MPH. Had to run it on 93 octane or it pinged like crazy. At the time 93 was $1.80 a gallon, No way i could own her today. Ahh yes the good old days!
I’d rather be in a crash in the ’73 than the ’63 with that dashboard and the non collapsible steering column. While the ’63 is obviously aesthetically cleaner, the ’73 is more ergonomic and certainly safer once your knees smash into it if you’re not wearing at least the lap belt portion of those two part seat belts. Aside from it being a regulation, It wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to be making a metal dash when industry wide, all cars were like this by then. Even designwise, the earlier dash is rather spartan if you picture it replicated in the ’73.
You don’t have to worry about shattering your right kneecap on the ignition key in the 73 either.
I couldn’t really hit the metal dashboard of my ’64 Falcon; the steering wheel with the chrome horn in the center is too big. My face wouldn’t get through that to touch the bare metal of the dash. I ate the horn once. On March 2, 1994. On the way to Palm Beach Atlantic College in downtown West Palm Beach, FL. For an Old Testament Bible exam. Hit the back of a taxi on the way there. I wasn’t speeding, but the road was wet and I thought the taxi was going through the yellow light. He didn’t. I couldn’t stop. My fault. Oops. Ticket to me for careless driving. My one ticket since 1989.
In that Delta’s defense I think it is a base model and there was a Royale model that had a much nicer interior. My mom’s ’72 Toronado had the same dash with gold applique vs the woodgrain, although the passenger’s side was slightly different. I think it was a pretty cool looking dash overall.
On the other hand, it WAS an Olds. Surely even a base Olds should have been better inside than a Chevy or Pontiac, not just differently styled.
This base Olds 88 interior was a bit upscale from that year’s Chevrolet Impala, which did not have carpeted lower door panels, chrome-trimmed pedals, the deluxe steering wheel and column that were color-keyed (all Impalas and other ’73 Chevys had black steering wheels and steering columns regardless of interior color). The Delta 88 was on par with a base model Buick LeSabre and in between Pontiac’s Catalina and Bonneville. The Delta Royale added a much nicer interior trim just below the level of a Chevy Caprice and on par with a Bonneville (Pontiac’s top-line series at that time was the Grand Ville) or Buick LeSabre Custom or Centurion. A Royale Town Sedan came with a full front bench seat in cloth or vinyl while the Royale Holiday Sedan and Holiday Coupe came the same upholstery selections but with a notchback bench seat with armrest, and the convertible used a all-vinyl interior with the notchback bench seat.
1973 Chevrolet Impala interior. Notice the black steering wheel, column and instrument panel trim. Also, plain plastic door panels with no carpeted lowers.
Close up view of ’73 Chevrolet Impala dash – Green interior with black steering wheel and column, and instrument panel trim. This was America’s best-selling car in 1973. Trade up to a Caprice and you’d get a color-keyed custom steering wheel, woodgrain instrument panel trim and upgraded door panels with assist grips and carpeted lower sections.
And now the interior of a 1973 Ford Galaxie 500. Somewhat better than the GM cars but not much. This was not a great period for car interiors except for a few luxury models. Probably the best car interiors in 1973 came from Pontiac, which had magnificent wrap-around cockpit instrument panels on its big cars and on the Grand Prix and Grand Am. The GP and GA both had dashboards with Genuine African Crossfire Mahogany trim that was repeated on the console in both cars and the door panels on the GP. Not even the more expensive Cadillacs, Lincolns or Imperials had them.
Ford had a somewhat driver-centric, wraparound dash on their ’69-’70 models; maybe they thought of it as a fad & got tired of it. BMW ads later on made much about their version of it.
Wow…that view of the green 1973 Impala dash is EXACTLY the same view I had the day I took my driving test in 1983. My parent’s first brand new car was a dark metallic green four door 1973 Impala. It had the same green vinyl seats and green dash as shown in this picture–we had the same black steering wheel too. I liked the car–a lot….but I never did fall in love with the “poverty” dog dish hubcaps that came with the car. My favorite memory is of listening to the 350 engine exhaust from the back seat. I don’t know if it had duals from the factory, but I always remember seeing two pipes under the bumper–the duals did not have an H pipe, so it had a certain staccato edginess to it.
I like that better than the Olds. Can I delete the carpet, though?
I have a 73 delta 88 and I don’t think it’s a “deadly sin”. as a matter of fact I’m quite happy with mine! I looked at the lines of the car, exicuted a plan, and built a head turning, reliable, street machine. After owning the car for a while in it’s stock form, this is the vision in real life that I had for the car. I now have the best of both worlds, a big comfortable car to go on long trips while getting decent gas mileage, and a 350 rocket with enough power to scoot the rear of the car over a couple of feet when getting second gear rubber!
Just ran across this post from the site’s random section.
“…executed a plan, and built a head turning, reliable, street machine.”
Nice looking 88, what you have done with it appears to work well.
Now… Let’s hear about that Town Coupe resting back there
J.B., your ’73 Delta 88 is a Royale Holiday Coupe, which has a nicer interior than the base Deltas and a lot more upscale than a ’73 Impala. Great looking car. I do agree GM used cheapie materials for the door panels at that time but that was probably necessary to meet Federal safety standards as was the dashboard design.
Hey J.B. , Brings back fond memories as I had the same car was a Royal Holiday coupe same as yours. Ran the wheels off of it and it was the best car in the snow I’ve ever driven. Mine was the same color as yours also but I’d made a few mods. Replaced the springs front and rear plus installed heavier front sway bar and added a rear sway bar and station wagon wheels as they were wider. Could do boot leg turn arounds at 70+ mph putting it dead center of opposite lane every time. Had a turbo 400 trans with a shift kit that was bomb proof plus the kit picked me up a could miles per gallon. Knew a girl had the 73 455 Delta royal and the 350 rocket with stock internals but increased breathing 🙂 would have it for lunch so I know what you are talking about when it hit second at full song. Thanks for the flashback. 🙂
A request could you send a couple of photos of the engine compartment minus the air cleaner so i can view all the hoses and wiring my son is putting my delta back together .i originally took photos but my phone broke took in for new but they keep the sim card where photos were stored would appreciate
Agree with you. The 1973 (and 1975) GM full size Coupes and sedans from Chevrolet and Oldsmobile are truly nice cars. I had a 1974 Caprice Sedan and loved it. It still exists today. Has been restored to top mint condition by the present owner. The dash was a joy to look at whilst driving, the steering wheel had a perfect size and tilt.
I never understood the facination for Mercedes cars. In particular the cars from the 1970’s, 1980’s and early 1990’s. The seats are too hard, the steering wheel too large, with a rigid angle and impossible to tilt, Even the S models in the1980’s. I drove them brand new up untill 1984. You cannot sit straght up restring both arms evenly on the door and the center arm rest. Whereas you can steer a US full size car with two finges whilst driving over 70 miles per hour, you will need to hold firmly on the steeringwheel in a Mercedes 250/300 to keep in straight on the road, ispecially with cross winds. This is the reason why many buyers of old Mercedes taxis lower the cars in the front. Up untill the design changed to the circular headlighst in the 1990’s, we called the 250/300 cars for “slam twice” cars, as you had to slam the doors twice to close them, if all windows or the sunroof was closed.
The automatic transmission in the 250/300 models were a drag, if you were used to the flexible GM full-size transmissions, as they were very hesitant to shift down uphill. I drove the 250/290/300 models in the 1990’s whilst my private car was a 1973 Cadillac Coupe dë Ville. I always shilfted the Mercedes cars down manually, going uphill.
the 1973 (and 1974!!) I am not so thrilled about the 1975-76 models.
That back seat looks rather awkward to get into for such a large car.
Only problem was the window. I always rolled the window down whilst having passengers getting in and out of the back seat,.
“you will need to hold firmly on the steeringwheel
in a Mercedes 250/300 to keep in straight on the
road, ispecially with cross winds. ”
I thought those higher priced German cars tracked straighter, and had heavier steering away from center, like lots of caster angle
And now the interior of a 1973 Ford Galaxie 500. Somewhat better than the GM cars but not much. This was not a great period for car interiors except for a few luxury models. Probably the best car interiors in 1973 came from Pontiac, which had magnificent wrap-around cockpit instrument panels on its big cars and on the Grand Prix and Grand Am. The GP and GA both had dashboards with Genuine African Crossfire Mahogany trim that was repeated on the console in both cars and the door panels on the GP. Not even the more expensive Cadillacs, Lincolns or Imperials had them.
I checked. It wasn’t real wood. It was an applique.
My sources state the wood on the 1973 Grand Prix’ interior was real.
1973 Buick LeSabre interior. Similar in appointments to the base Olds Delta 88 except for the fact that a deluxe steering wheel and chrome-edged pedal trim were optional on the base Buick LeSabre, and no carpet was on the lower panels of the Buick. The Buick buyer in 1973 could get a nicer interior by stepping up to
the LeSabre Custom, or the Centurion whose appointments were similar to the Olds Delta 88 Royale.
1973 Buick Centurion interior. A step from either the base LeSabre and LeSabre Custom. Added custom steering wheel and notchback bench seat or optional 60/40 bench seat. Door panels, however, were identical on all the B-body Olds, Buick, Pontiac and Chevrolet full-sized cars with upholstered upper section and hard plastic lower. Much nicer door panels with full-length door rests housing power window and seat controls were included on most Olds 98 and Buick Electra 225 models, and all Cadillacs.
1973 Pontiac Catalina interior. On par with that year’s Chevrolet Impala but could be upgraded by spending an extra few dollars for the optional all-Morrokide vinyl interior plus the Decor Group that included a Custom Cushioned Steering Wheel and Custom Pedal Trim Plates, plus full wheel covers and chrome exterior moldings – all of which came standard on the base Oldsmobile Delta 88. More upscale interiors were offered by the Wide-Track people by stepping up to the Pontiac Bonneville or the top-line Pontiac Grand Ville, which was the most luxurious B-body car offered by any of the GM divisions.
1973 Pontiac Grand Ville interior. The flagship of the Wide-Track Pontiac fleet, the Grand Ville had the most luxurious interior offered in any GM B-body car that year – provided you ordered the optional Custom interior trim (this is the Grand Ville standard interior in all-Morrokide). To get even plusher appointments required stepping up to the C-body cars including the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, Buick Electra 225 or the Cadillac DeVille (there was an entry-level Caddy called the Calais but its appointments were more on par with a base-level 98 or Electra, or even a Chevrolet Caprice, than the DeVille).
1973 Pontiac Grand Ville with optional Custom interior that added upgraded upholstery and trim patterns along with cut-pile carpeting, pull straps on rear of front seat and, on sedans, 2 rear cigar lighters. Unquestionably the most luxurious interior in any GM B-body car that year. But still the same old plastic lower door panels as lesser models and not quite up to the standards of the door trim of the ’70 Bonneville Brougham.
And for one more parting shot. The rear seat detail of an excellent condition 1973 Pontiac Catalina Safari wagon with low mileage and very well maintained. Has standard expanded Morrokide interior in saddle – pretty much on par with other early ’70s GM B-body cars.
We young’uns coined a phrase for
the vinyl seat-in-summer experience
in the late-60s and early ’70s cars still
prevalent on the roads by the early ’80s:
I had a ’73 Delta 88 4 door hardtop with the 455 Rocket in college. BEST CAR I EVER OWNED! Gas was cheap, and that beast could burn rubber all day. People don’t believe me when I tell them it had 2 in-dash ashtrays; one for the driver and one for the passanger. Car was HUGE, took over 20 feet of speaker cable to put 6x9s in the trunk! Just wish I hadn’t blown the motor and sent it off to the crusher, was planning on turning it into a full time convertable the following summer. Oh the memories…
Chevy dashes from that era cracked and crumbled like crazy, but I have yet to see a Buick or Olds dash from that era with more than a couple of stress cracks at the defroster register edges…
Oh yeah. Bravo Mercedes. Bravo.
What is the biggest difference between the Oldsmobile Delta 88 and the Mercedes w116 6.9?
1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 $ 4,108
1973 Mercedes 450 SEL $ 15,438
It is pointless to even mention Mercedes given the vast difference in price points.
My parents traded in a ’67 Mercury Monterey 4 door sedan for a ’73 Delta 88 Royale 4 door hardtop with a base 350 2 barrel I remember when I was 16 back in ’79 I revved the car in neutral and slammed it in drive a the front two wheels came off the ground my friends were laughing. That was a indestructible car. I now own a ’67 Mercury Monterey like my dad had I ironically just did brakes on a ’72 Delta Royale for a friend
Reading this article on the ’73 Delta 88, I am reminded of the last time a Ford guy tried to give a review on a Camaro. My instant response is, ‘really? no, tell us what you actually think about the Delta 88.’ In all truth, there are lemons and there are good cars, and ironically most of the time, they both come off the same assembly lines. This was ever-present in Detroit then, just as it is for Japan now.
The NEW (not like new, not almost new, not perfectly restored) 1973 Delta 88 that my family bought in September 1972 was nothing like the car you describe. The ‘naugahyde’ (as it was deemed by most in the day) was textured, supple and resilient to kids and dogs for years. The 350-Rocket (which we decided as a result of constant oil fiascoes which led up to the OPEC ’73 embargo shortly later, was a genius idea) would sufficiently power the car for our family’s purpose was very strong. It also lasted 173,000 miles before a crate-replacement took its place in 1983, when my aunt bought it and had it repainted.
The car came with an 8-track AM/FM, tilt wheel, and that beloved in-dash ‘Fasten Seat Belts’ insane flashing square (1″ x 1.5″) and the beloved SIREN of death (that finally found it’s death-horn hotwire cut). The only ‘design fault’ that our family agreed (the buzzer was Fed-mandated) should have been designed differently was the joiner-strip between the front and rear door windows, which was an interesting concept in ‘removing the B-pillar’ that didn’t work. It didn’t work, and the rainwater coming in like a hosepipe proves it didn’t work on the highway, or the carwash. Chevy’s of the same era suffered the same fatal flaw.
Our car STILL drives around town. After my immediate family bought it and sold it to my aunt in 1983, she gave it to her ex-husband in settlement in 1990. He drove it until 2001, when he sold it to another in 2008, and it now is in it’s fifth owner’s hands – and still doesn’t look that bad 32-years later. No telling how many miles it has on it, since it left the family’s control at around 274,000 miles – but I’m anxious to see a modern 4-door sedan capable of comfortably carrying 6-adults, a dog, and 800-pounds of groceries in the largest mafia trunk ever put into a car, like this car could.
It had its flaws and faults, but for the $3,422 we paid for it, my guess is that even over the years, it hasn’t amassed $10,000 in total investments. That’s like $0.03 per mile. Now, what were you saying about your prized Mercedes?
Sounds like a fun beastie to drive. All cars have their faults, but my thought is: Pick the car with the faults you can live with! I fancy cars from the ’60s and ’70s. The fewer computer chips the better. Cars don’t need all manner of digital equipment and sensors to get a person from Point A to Point B.
Could not agree with you more. This is what keeps me driving cars from the 1970’s. To me the 1980’s is a decade of horror, whereas the 1990’s started out fine with the new Town Car.
I have driven these cars all my life and love it. I would buy my 1974 Caprice Classic back any time, and I would love to have a 1973 Coupe dé Ville again. I am afraid the guy who bought the one I had, gave it its death sentence in record time.
I currently drive a 1975 Continental Mark IV since 2002 and love it.
Talking about faults with plastic you have to live with here, there is an issue about the arm rests panels on the doors. The plastic gets fragile with age. I have a spare set, which I plan to reinforce with fiber glass on the back side, before installing them.
Other than that it is a real pleasure to drive.
Nice car. Looks comfy, too. 😀
I’ll take you for a ride
Lance Cole wrote:
“The only ‘design fault’ that our family agreed
(the buzzer was Fed-mandated) should have
been designed differently was the joiner-strip
between the front and rear door windows, which
was an interesting concept in ‘removing the B-
pillar’ that didn’t work. It didn’t work, and the
rainwater coming in like a hosepipe proves it
didn’t work on the highway, or the carwash. ”
In the case of the highway, those big ol cars flexed and flopped around like a waterlogged mattress! The result? That meeting point between the front and rear side windows opened up intermittently, letting the wind whistle in on a dry day, and rain when it was wet.
I can picture it now, going over closely spaced deck joints on a long highway bridge: b-bump-fsss! b-bump-fsss! I’m sure you could see the door panels and dash twisting and flexing in such a scenario, and the backs of the front seats(if buckets, leaning in toward each other, then outward, with every bounce over a deck joint, lol 🤣🤣🤣
Of the 1971-76 Delta 88’s taillights the 1973’s were my least favorite’s, they looked rather plain compared to the 1971-72’s and the 1974-76 Delta 88’s.
Brings back memories of my great grandmother’s ’72 Delta 88, in 7up can/street sign green with white vinyl top and green floral patterned cloth upholstery…the last car she owned before she died in ’84…the big old boat soon to join her just two short years later after my aunt ran that cream puff into the ground and destroyed it. Seeing these pictures of that hideous dash now over 30 years later is amusing however, after having such fond memories of that car I now see what a shed it really was. The colour was great, however, and still to this day love that bold green on the Olds’ of that era.
I’ve always liked GMs cars of the 70s. They were perhaps the best looking cars overall since the early 60s. My only complaint, a small, but deadly sin, was its lack of proper gauges in their instrument cluster. Warning lights are an ok supplement to needle gauges, but they suck as a gauge. And it’s not just Oldsmobile, but all GM cars.
My brother owned a used ’73 Delta 88 2 door hardtop for about 3 years. I drove it several times.
I thought the exterior was a quietly classy design. The 350 enging/TurboHydraMatic automatic, variable ratio power steering, disc/drum brakes and factory air conditioning made for a smooth, pleasant, fluid car. Nothing spectacular, no one part stood out, just a pleasing car to drive.
But that interior! Bland vinyl seats, thin carpeting, cheap plastic door panels (in a none to cheap OLDSMOBILE?), dull dashboard with only a tiny speedometer and gas gauge? It made me yawn to look around at the interior.
This car was better driven at night, when the good stuff prevailed and the dull interior could not be noticed.
I’m not on-board with this as a Deadly Sin. At most, I’ll give a nod that low-end Buick and Olds interiors could be a little overboard in this era, and not helped if you ordered the relatively rare vinyl. Forty years of fading doesn’t help matters either.
It seemed like GM got started with some of this injection moulding with Pontiac Bonnevilles around 1968. It was a was to provide some sculpting that could not be done with a hardboard door card covered in stamped vinyl. But, I’ll also concede that GM got some cost savings using these moulded panels across several lines of cars in the early ’70s.
I spent a lot of time with these door cards in higher trim Oldsmobiles in this era, and the better optioned cars were quite competitive for their times with other makes, and could be very nice places to be. Interestingly, the entire door card on my 2012 mid-trim F-150 Lariet is moulded plastic, and nobody is calling foul on the best selling vehicle in North America.
This was the more typical Oldsmobile experience, my dad had the dark blue interior on page 15 of the brochure – his ’74 Olds was among his favorite company cars of all time…
You and I are normally on pretty much the same page, but here we diverge. I spent the decade of the 60s putting my hand on that ergonomically perfect chrome pushbutton door handle, listening to the “click” as those big GM doors opened and then listening to the solid sound as they slammed shut.
These were just not there, and whatever changed in GM’s body engineering crept through the entire line by the time the X cars came out in 1980. That these super heavy doors made that terrible “fluff” sound as they closed (and as the panels shuddered against them) was just a fail. I will admit that these were very durable cars with a lot to recommend them mechanically, but it was the big FoMoCo cars of the era that became the champions of perceived quality by their reassuring door slam and more traditional interior materials.
I’d agree that the ’60s interiors had far more elegant bits and pieces, and the ’77 vinyl over hardboard door cards were actually something of a throw back. We had probably every other year of the ’77-’84 Olds 88 in high trim, and they were very nice indeed.
I’m just not as down on the interiors in these cars – the subject Olds is low line, and ugh, that muddy green-brown dash with that off-white interior was an awful color combo. It took some careful ordering to make a full-size Olds this miserable.
My ’76 Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham used a similar lower door card, and I recall something about Olds managing to sell a few of them 🙂
And, I seem to recall that long plastic full length arm rest on every darn big Ford we had cracked right in the middle! The ’70s were wonderful!
Supposedly, GM had to add huge steel girders to the doors of these models to meet crash safety standards. But you’re right, the doors on these cars never felt or sounded solid when in use.
Fords of this era were mostly rusted (or somethinged) off the the roads by the time I was old enough to pay attention. But despite their supposedly sloppy assembly, these GM B-bodies ran and ran like termites for a long time. You’d see them covered with dents and with bent frames and still blasting down the freeway at 70MPH.
If it was it was only in the costliest and largest Ford models in the 70’s. The various Granada’s, Pinto’s, Fairmonts and Mustangs all suffered from cheap sounding door closings, had heavy hard to close doors on one try, save my horribly cheap Fairmont doors which were so thin and tinny they always sounded like something was breaking, and had questionable interior materials with loads of squeaks and rattles. I know because I grew up with these exact cars during the 70’s and 80’s and my 1979 Fairmont and my Grandfathers 1975 Granada and my uncles 1971 Pinto really soured the families taste on Ford products.
Preaching to the choir, sir. I vividly remember when these came out in 1971. Almost my entire extended family had been buying GM B and C body cars for years. I hated them as a kid, but because they were so dominant and so good. Every time I slammed the door on someone’s Mopar I quietly seethed, wondering why Chrysler couldn’t make bodies like GM could.
Until these. The whole body construction was flaccid. The 1965-70 had never been the most rigid car in the world, but these were awful. I once watched one of these drive over some railroad tracks and could actually see the doors dancing. And those hard plastic interiors, not even Chrysler was that cheap (yet). It was even more pathetic in the more upscale models like this Olds when they glued a little piece of carpet to bottom of the plastic panel.
The 1977 B bodies were head and shoulders better than these. It is only the anvil-like drivetrains that generate in me any love for these. I like these better than I did in the 70s and 80s, but it would almost be impossible not to, given where I started. And as I think about it, other than my Grandmother’s 71 Delta 88 Holiday coupe, every single member of my extended family shunned these.
I have a 1972 Delta 88 Royale with the 455 Rocket Engine (What a gas guzzler). Looking for a decent body to put the engine and tranny into. The body rust on mine is too far gone I think. Love the car, nothing like getting a fuel rating if gallons per mile!
Did the whole plastic door panel thing start with the 1970 Chrysler E-body? There are stories about how the guys on the assembly line had a hell of a time jamming those poorly formed panels into the cars. Worse was how they would magnify the hollow sound inside the door every time the door was closed and greatly contributed to the feeling that the cars were junk. It’s rather ironic since the Chrysler A-body still had door panels where the top portion was exposed, black-painted metal. While there were detriments (like trying to put your arm on one after it had been exposed to the hot summer sun for a while), the trade-off was a much more solid feeling door.
It’s also worth mentioning about how twisted the whole vinyl versus leather thing has gotten. Unless it’s a really high-end car, today’s leather interior is nothing of the sort. Real leather is split-grain and most car leather is this ersatz, ‘bonded’ crap which is vinyl chemically treated with a few leather bits. I think the whole thing began with Mercedes and their MB-Tex vinyl interiors. The problem is the Germans are better at treating their vinyl so it does, indeed, closely resemble real leather. The domestics? Not so much.
“rs. The problem is the Germans are better at treating their vinyl so it does, indeed, closely resemble real leather. The domestics? Not so much.”
That’s because in America it’s all. About.
Yes your right. A German car costs more money than most any American equivalent.
If you want quality you have to pay
for it. Here it’s all about quantity and
the bottom line.
Those molded plastic door panels were certainly a “thing” in the early 70s. In addition to the 1970 E body, there was the 71 Javelin and do I remember these in the 71 Charger/Satellite too? I know they made it into the 74-78 Mopar C body, though they were done a little nicer in at least some of the models.
Maybe someone at GM was inspired by this line from the movie “The Graduate” — “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word … plastics!”
I had a 2000 BMW 3-Series Touring with black leather. Bought it in 2003 with 14K on the odometer. The leather really wore out. But the V-Tex in both my 2011 and 2015 Sportwagens held up fine – and still does on the 2015.
Yes a pickup grade interior in a semi high end car and no seat belts, We didnt get these cars new out here and the few that have surfaced since have all been brought up to standard for compliance which includes seatbelts for all passenger positions something that began turning up on 1971 Australian cars due to their ADR laws, Vinyl seats are quite rare on cars here and other than my 59 Hillman and other cars from that era to the late 70s nothing has it, Cloth is far more comfortable and hard wearing if its done right leather not so much if its cheap grade.
Vinyl was unpopular in Australia because you’ll suffer third-degree burns in the summer if it’s been parked in the sun for very long.
Cars with vinyl seats commonly had cloth seat covers installed. There were some very nice, very comfortable sheepskin covers if they wanted to spend a little more.
Photo #5(filthy armrest): Attack that panel with
half a bottle of Mr. Clean, wait 3-5 minutes, and
wipe with cloth or paper towel. Should look
I can understand the plastic dash, but moulded plastic door panels? In an Olds? And not just the door panels, but the back seat view shows so much plastic where once you’d have found vinyl – the B-pillar cover, the trim alongside the rear seat. Cheap.
How long did the plastic door trims last before they showed signs of fading, discolouration and other signs of aging?
Depends on how well they were taken care of, how much sun and moisture they were exposed to. I bought a ’71 Pontiac that had spent all its life outdoors in 1982 and the door panels were pretty well oxidized by that time. The ones on my ’75 Buick however which has been covered most of its life still look like brand new today. Darker colors seemed to hold up better than lighter colors for some reason.
Not sure why there is so much hate for the Olds ’71-’73 dash? I don’t find it ugly and never did. I remember my mother’s ’72 Toro and how cool it was at night when the little blue lights lit up the different sections of the dash. The wrap-around effect was really cool when you sat in the driver’s seat. Maybe you have to experience one in person to appreciate it?
And the worst thing is these rusted badly fare more than a 70 or 77 up. In about 1980 I got my ass beaten for poking holes in the fenders of my dad’s friends 73. With my finger it was so rusty. If you slammed a door you could hear rust falling. I remember that ugly rust bucket had a well preserved interior but it was not upscale like a grand marquis or Ltd. But not as awful as amc either. It was mechanically good and powerful. Dons wife was a timid, paranoid fearful woman who thought people were out to get her for no reason. One day a ‘vw bug with the bumper guards hit her at a light and got stuck on the trailer hitch. Sons wife panicked and drove off dragging the bug with her. She thought they were chasing her. Since no matter how fast she went they were right behind her flashing light a and blowing horn. This terrified her and she drove 5 miles to the police station where she licked her self in and blew her horn until a cop came out. Very little damage to the Oldsmobile. Infact it was so rusty it didn’t really show in a invincible way. Around 1983 Don fell through the floor thankfully in the driveway and then junked it.
Lower front valence, where the license plate is mounted, is made from fiberglass. A large number of these cars lost their front plate holders leaving a baseball sized hole in the valance. My guess is that they were ripped off by automatic car washes but I don’t know for sure.
Trivia: the vinyl skinned urethane foam dash crash pads in these cars were moulded by the Olsonite company in Canada. The famous product of the Olsonite company was the plastic toilet seat. (These crash pads were quite sensitive to cold, and it was easy to crack the skin, or break off some material, on a cold day by hitting your knee against the outboard lowere corner climbing in and out of the driver’s seat.)
Olsonite was also famous for sponsoring the AAR Eagle Indy race cars. After a few years of seeing their name on the cars, I learned what that they made toilet seats. Never knew about their custom molding business.
Actually the entire front header panel was fiberglass on these. The 88 had a cast metal grill, the 98 and Custom Cruiser had a cast plastic egg crate grill. Both had spring loaded mountings to to move away on impact to a front bumper.
I dunno, those self-destructing plastics used in cars back then wasn’t limited to GM, if I recall.
“Horrified” is the term that comes to mind when I looked at Chevy’s offerings in the early 1970s. I hung out a lot at the Marysville Chevy dealer – Daoust Chevrolet when I was in the air force and I became quite familiar with the cheapening going on. The main reason I went to mid-sizers for my interest. The large four door hardtops really impressed me with how the whole side of the car visibly shuddered when you closed one of the doors. That stub B pillar wouldn’t do much in a T-bone collision!
I don’t miss those old road hogs. Pillarless style, yes. Shabby construction, no.
Oh, one more point I’ve made many times: The “GM Mark of Excellence” as shown by the large crack in the padded dash that was very common on the GM full-sizers.
I agreed, the entire industry was moving to plastics. This was especially important in making a dash that could absorb energy in a crash. The problem was that the plastics technology just wasn’t as good as it is today. It’s not as if GM used shoddy plastic while Ford used the top notch stuff. It was pretty much the same and they all had issues. I have seen and experienced dash cracks in all makes from the 70’s, not just GM’s.
I guess GM can be criticised for using the plastic on their lower door panels of their “higher end” products. Quite frankly, it never bothered me as the plastics actually are well suited for lower door panels to stave off kicks from boots while being easy to clean. Then again, I am more pragmatic when it comes to my interior choices. While not the best quality, the plastics in our 1970’s cars always held up fine with a little regular cleaning. Mind you, I am in a northern climate. I find it ironic we criticized these cars for having plastic on the lower portion of their door panels, when most cars today have completely plastic door panels. Maybe GM was just ahead of its time…. 🙂
My ’64 Falcon sedan has a bare metal dashboard. I’d swear I’ve seen other Fords of this era with a ‘padded dashboard’ — except the layer of padding is so thin you’d still re-arrange your face if you hit the dash hard. I wonder if people back then actually believed such a thin layer of padding would prevent facial injuries? → At least with my el cheapo Falcon there are no illusions of ‘padded dashboard safety’. It’s all right in front of you: Mean and metal.
Also, I honestly don’t know what a ‘collapsible steering column’ does. I get that it ‘collapses’ . . . somehow. But I cannot visualize it.
Guess I’ll be the dissenting view here. I thought the three dimensional molded lower panels were somewhat of an improvement over what I considered to be cardboard panels covered with thinly padded low grade vinyl and fake heat sealed seams on many previous versions and low priced models. Certainly, the hard plastic could be taken too far such as in the Mopar E-bodies. The big and intermediate GMs from that era that I have ridden in and driven had relatively thickly padded upper panels so that most of what elbows and arms touch is soft and comfortable and most had carpeted inserts at the bottom to further dress them up. Some even had a stainless band of trim close to the outer edge. And it was real metal, not Mylar like some earlier GMs Fords I was used to. When new most of the colored plastics had a fairly rich hue that matched the upholstery and other interior bits. As far as quivering doors on the hardtops go, Fords did that too. (Not sure about Chrysler’s as I never owned one of those.) Perhaps that’s why Ford started phasing those out in favor of the ‘hardtop sedans’ in ’71 and ’72 to completely eliminate them in ’73.
The rubber bumper strips with the white lines brought back a lot of memories for me, standing over a 2 piece compression mold heated to 400 degrees rolling that white stripe into the cavity in the mold. Hot work, especially on a summer day of about 90 degrees in good old hot humid Ohio. I do not miss the automotive rubber business. Worked in it from ’80 until ’88.
Me and my ’75 Century appreciate you. The cheap hollow plastic impact strips they started using in the mid ’70s would break off at the slightest impact and were not suited for their duty. I’ve had to replace the white strips in mine only because the originals yellowed over time.
I want to buy the car from this article. Can anyone help me out? Looks to be in Oregon.. which I am too.. So it wouldn’t be that far from me.
This was photographed in 2011. I have no idea if someone bought it or what happened to it. Good luck.
Wow, a ’73 delta 88 that Sam Raimi hasn’t smashed up!
Is that rectangular piece of rubber an armrest?
I thought the 1973 Delta 88’s were the worst looking of the 1971-76 Delta 88’s, especially the taillights
My most to least favorite years of the 1971-76 Delta 88’s are
I don’t know if this is relevant but Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 302 which prescribed interior materials flammability requirements came into effect in the early seventies. Manufacturers started experimenting with different plastic resins and flame retardant fillers, and I believe crash impact safety standards also influenced the designs, as softer isn’t always safer. FMVSS 302 also covered the vinyls, padding etc; even seat belts. Not to give GM a pass, and I remember the hard plastic in my Vega as pretty awful, but similar era Japanese cars also had horrible discoloration and deterioration of their hard plastics. Even my 1997 Toyota T100 plastic lower dash and console looked pretty awful after 15 years, and the worn “mouse fur” door cards were even worse.
Looks horrible now. It wouldn’t have been so bad when the plastic and vinyl parts were the same colour. But then you’d still have the different feel.
Either they didn’t know how the plastic would hold up in the long term, or they figured the buyer would have traded for something else before it looked this bad. And yet how common molded plastic door panels have become.
I recall reading somewhere that in 1960 GM’s return on investment was about 50% but by 1970 it had fallen to about 10%. Obviously the corporate bean counters took over and began cutting costs wherever they could and the interiors of GM cars got hit hard, the hard plastic interior door panels were everywhere on GM vehicles. In 1975 one of my uncles visited us with his new 1975 Pontiac Catalina; my family had a couple of Catalinas in the 1960s-a ’66 and a ’69 and the quality of the interiors were vastly better than what was offered in 1975. Of course the plastic door panels and the rest of the interior-fabric, vinyl, carpeting looked cheap and was cheap. How the mighty had fallen.
For me, the plastic nadir of this generation of GM B/C/D bodies was the awful, ‘dimensional’ fake wood on the 1974-6 Cadillacs. Making bad fake wood deeper doesn’t make it look better.
Funnily enough, when I was working in Amsterdam in the mid-nineties, we did an ad for Dow Automotive about the one-piece door panel they’d just help engineer for the Lancia Delta. 25 years later, they were still working out how to do this. At least that one was covered with fabric.
About the doors being hard to close — usually, that is attributable to a small problem that is not hard to fix. The striker post on the jamb should have a plastic bushing on it. If the bushing is gone (happens with age), for some reason the door gets harder to close without slamming it and following through with your hand/arm. Replacing the bushing usually makes it easier to close the doors.
Neighbors got a “72” , post sdn version Delta, in 1974. An accident, sadly took their “70 Sattelite” coupe , out a the picture.
The “Plymouth” was actually, a nice, still pretty, reliable, lower miles ride.
Anyway, the “Olds” was brown out, brown brocade in, parchment color top.
It rode quite nice, had a throaty rumble, motor, and really got to “rusting away” by 1977.
Particularly , behind the rear wheel wells, below the passenger side, doors.I remember they , eventually, got an “80 Pontiac GP”. Not thinking the “Olds lasted till the Pontiac. What filled that void, I do not remember.
Was plastic considered déclassé back when it really started to become common (and not just in cars) in the late ’60s and early ’70s? I ask because I’ve seen advertising from that era where manufacturers bragged about their chairs, lamps, radios, etc being made of “space-age plastics”. There was a Pepsi TV advert from about 1975 that showed how great their new 2-liter plastic bottles were – you could accidently drop them and they wouldn’t shatter like the old glass bottles. I think I recall either the ’66 Toronado or ’67 Eldorado brochures noting the futuristic one-piece molded plastic door panels or armrests as well.
I sense “The Graduate” did for plastics what “A Charlie Brown Christmas” did for aluminum Christmas trees – turned them into a symbol for all that is fake.
Once again, Paul and I agree on cars.
I also have considered the 1970 Chevy the best full sized Chevy ever produced. More than once I have fantasized about the options that I would had ordered on “my” 1970 Impala.
Paul and I also agree on this Olds Delta 88.
When it came time to reluctantly replace Mom’s 1966 Ford Country Sedan station wagon; we (Mom, Dad and their car crazy eldest son) all agreed on the 1972 Olds Delta 88 as the top choice.
Until we actually walked into Royal Oldsmobile, the local Olds dealer. Dad sat in the front and back seat of the wagon on the showroom floor. He gently ran his hands over the front and rear door panels, the dashboard top and front and gave a jaundiced gaze at the rear luggage area. He gave Mom and me his best “Death ray eyebrows” dirty look and slightly shook his head.
The (in)famous GM “disappearing tailgate & window” took three times to operate properly as the salesman raved on and on about it.
Dad reluctantly agreed to a test drive. As we tried to pull out into the heavy, congested traffic on Veterans Highway in front of the dealership, the 455 V8 gasped, coughed and died, half a car length into traffic. “Those darn pollution controls” the salesman lamented.
And then their was the sticker shock. The fully loaded Olds wagon was stickered at twice what Dad paid for the Ford 6 years earlier.
As we quickly strode out of the dealership, Dad growled out “Ta Hale with that tupperware trash-mobile!”.
My folks ordered a new 1973 Custom Cruiser 3 seat wagon and took delivery in April if that year. Light blue over dark blue. They added the DiNoc side paneling, whitewall tires, A/C and an AM radio with a rear seat speaker. No other options. It had the interior like this Olds 88 had. You could pay more for cloth seats and door panels like the Olds 98 LS (I think you had to get power windows for that interior)
Vinyl was the choice for our family. (melted ice cream cones, spilling beverages etc). It was all this plastic plus in the cargo area too. With a flexible body and all that plastic it creaked and groaned like crazy in cold Wisconsin winters. It served our family for about 13 years but it did get about 12 mpg. 1 driver or our family of six with a popup camper and all the gear.
We also had a ’66 Olds F85 Deluxe wagon that became our 2nd car. The ’66 with the 250 hp 330 cu in V8 and the Jetaway automatic (Buick ST300) could smoke the Custom Cruiser in acceleration.
I’ve mentioned this before as well. All these full size and the Colonnade mid sized GM cars were horrible rusters in the midwest US. With the severe lower body tuck under and the wide track (all GM divisions had it by then) the bottom 1/3 of the body rusted. Our Custom Cruiser went to get refinished at least once when we had it. Mud flaps never worked. Almost like it needed running boards to help.
Crap I got the colors wrong and couldn’t edit this. It had a light blue interior over a dark blue exterior.