(first posted 3/6/2013) Incredibly, it’s already been 17 years since you could last buy a brand-new Oldsmobile Ninety Eight. But those years of absence are dwarfed by the staggering 55 years during which your friendly Oldsmobile dealer sold them. Ninety Eights were always the longest, most luxurious Oldsmobiles you could buy, and at 232.2 inches, the 1975 models were the longest ones ever.
Cosmetically speaking, this one is a mixed bag–a little rust, several dings and dents, and a few ill-executed body repairs. But this being Indiana, it’s remarkable this beast survived at all, especially with its owner driving it during the snowy months.
The interior appears to be in decent shape. Those pillowy seats look only a little ruffled after all the years of use they have certainly received.
Pillowy seats were exclusive to the Regency; the lesser LS (Luxury Sedan) made do with plainer upholstery. But all Ninety Eights shared opera windows (on sedans) or fixed rear-quarter windows (on coupes) and rectangular headlights, both of which were new for ’75.
This behemoth’s standard engine was the 455, but you could order the 400. Both engines were mated to a three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic.
GM introduced rectangular headlights on many of its top-trim luxury cars in ’75. That exclusivity was short lived, however, as most other GM cars got them the following year. But let’s give credit to Oldsmobile for trying to blend those squared-off sealed beams into the rounded Ninety Eight body. Most ’76 Oldsmobile front ends featured rectangular headlights set in flat, rectangular front ends; it looked completely tacked on and wrong against the rounded bodies. Nevertheless, those square faces did foreshadow the lines of the 1977 cars that waited in the wings.
When you make a car for as long as Oldsmobile made the Ninety Eight, you have to keep adapting it to the times. The Ninety Eight’s overall mission never changed, but the way it fulfilled that mission most certainly did.
In view of the march toward fuel efficiency, no subsequent Ninety Eight would be as big as the 1971-76 generation. The styling of the 1977 downsizing still looks good today, but even those cars were mammoths compared to the downsizing to come. The next generation shrunk to a size on par with mid-sized Oldses of a generation before! Thankfully, the shrinking trend reversed slightly for the Ninety Eight’s final generation, starting in 1991.
The industry-wide shrinking of automobiles since the 1970s gives this Ninety Eight a commanding presence today. Nothing parked around it, not even minivans and SUVs, can match it. Who cares if it’s a little rough? It owns this parking lot.