(first posted 8/12/2013) Do you remember the GM/Olds 5.7-liter Diesel? Even those of a certain age who haven’t directly experienced one undoubtedly have heard of them. My parents’ friends down at the marina had a Dark Jadestone 1982 Delta 88 Diesel coupe, and I can distinctly remember its lud-lud-lud-lud engine beat. The Werthmanns had good luck with that car, and kept it for 10 years. While theirs ran like a top, that wasn’t exactly the most common experience…
Oldsmobile was the pioneer in engineering GM’s Diesel V8. The engine was also available for the Cadillac Seville in 1978, and for the Eldorado, Fleetwood Brougham, Coupe deVille and Sedan deVille in 1979.
Many of the buyers of GM cars fitted with this engine were quite unfamiliar with its type and the attendant needs; as a result, most of them proved troublesome. The whole GM Diesel V8 episode turned Americans off to Diesel engines for years to follow and, indeed, even today they are more or less a niche in the U.S.
Ah, but what of the newly-downsized Eldo? Well, in a word, it just worked. Despite losing several hundred pounds of blubber (blubbery ’78 Eldo CC here), it lost none of the imposing presence of its larger predecessors. And if the “plain” Eldorado didn’t do it for you, you could always move up to the über-flashy Biarritz.
Yes, the Biarritz had every luxury feature your heart could possibly desire: button-tufted leather (White with red carpet? No problem!), a stainless-steel roof cap, a landau vinyl roof, coach lamps, and your choice of wire wheel covers or aluminum road wheels–and with whitewall tires, of course!
Among the very few changes made for 1980 were a restyled, vertically-oriented grille–and behind it, a new, Caddy-only 368 that succeeded Oldsmobile’s gasoline-fueled 350 V8. Here is the ’80 Eldo, from that year’s brochure, looking quite natty in Colonial Yellow. I have always had a thing for Cadillacs in this color, with the matching pale-yellow leather. It just looks right. You can read all about my love of these yellow Caddys in my ’83 Eldo CC.
Today’s CC is not quite so brilliantly hued, but still quite attractive in gunmetal gray with a red pinstripe. I really like the aluminum wheels on these cars, but can’t recall ever seeing them in person. This one rides on the much more common wire wheel covers.
The interior is also restrained–at least as much as is possible on a button-tufted Biarritz–with Light Antique Gray leather.
This car appeared to be largely original–including the paint. I shot this car nearly a year and a half ago, and I finally figured I’d better get it written up lest I forget about it for another six months!
And, believe it or not, this is not the only Diesel Cadillac I have found in my rust-prone region–in fact, I’ve spotted two more, but they are CCs for another day. When’s the last time you saw a Diesel Caddy?
1978 Olds 5.7 L Diesel: GM’s Deadly Sin #34 – Premature Injeculation PN
Always liked these, especially the slick top Touring Coupe. Maybe not with the Diesel though.
I wonder why the Eldorado has no license plates. Did somebody abandon because of the diesel engine? 🙂
Maybe they just bought it and temp tag fell off?
Or its a mafia drop car, check the trunk……….
This body style made at least two appearances in Martin Scorsese’s films- Good Fellas and Casino.
This was my Dad’s ride back in the late 1980s
The bigger question is whether it still has its diesel engine. Quite a few of the Olds diesels were replaced by the 5.7 gas engine.
Hey Paul, I had an 80 Toronado with a diesel when the heads blew out I had the top half of the motor replaced and added a 4 barrel carb. The block is very robust and once tuned properly it was smooth, quiet and quick. Oh and with all of the additional sound deadening it was great ride. I sold it when jacking it up to repair the exhaust system part of the body separated from the frame. (Michigan ya know). I had a newborn and couldn’t risk her getting hurt. If I found one with a solid body and under carrage I’d buy it and relive the past. Most of the diesel blocks are still being used in drag racers.
What about the camshaft? I assume that had to be changed too. But yes, these were tough blocks, for a gas engine.
It’s actually a violation of EPA rules to change the engine. To do it properly would require transmission and axle changes, (if ratio’s are different),complete fuel system, speedometer, all emissions equipment, and even more, then the car would have to be recertified by the EPA. All of that makes the conversion beyond common sense to do. What conversions have actually been done are all illegal. In states with no emissions testing, those conversions could probably get away with it, but still illegal.
The EPA rules apply only to the manufacturer of the original new car.. The EPA does not have jurisdiction over what happens to cars after they are sold. That’s up to the local state/regional jurisdictions, where they exist (CARB in CA, for instance)
I’m not an expert, but it’s my understanding that even in CA engine swaps are allowed as long as the new engine has all of the associated emission controls.
Agencies like CARB have no way of regulating the axle ratio.
As the previous commenter stated, he had the whole upper part of his engine redone to convert the block to a gasoline engine.
I can absolutely assure you that I saw/heard a considerable number of GM cars of that era wearing Diesel badges that certainly did not have diesel engines anymore, from the utter lack of the diesel’s loud clatter and tell-tale plume of black smoke. These were all in California.
The EPA does not “recertify” cars. In fact, the EPA doesn’t even test new manufacturer’s cars. Manufacturers conduct their own certification; it’s essentially an honor system. And we can see what happens when they cheat. Ford and others have repeatedly overstated EPA mpg numbers and had to pay fines. The EPA will sometimes test a few random samples of cars to encourage manufacturers to comply.
My information comes from actual experience. We had a wrecking yard in Colorado and were visited by EPA agents questioning the sale of a gasoline Olds 350 that was transplanted into a Olds diesel. The agents informed us of much of the illegality of that swap. As far as the Colorado AIR program, when any vehicle is tested for emissions, the engine label has to match perfectly with the engine and car. So unless the swapped car has a emissions label for the gasoline engine, the car would fail the test. Even if the car had the label for the gas engine, as soon as the emissions tech would see the incorrect fuel tank, or possibly the lack of evaporative equipment, even the diesel speedometer, the car would fail. When entering the VIN number, that clearly would show the diesel engine and since the car was certified when new as a diesel, the car would fail the test. Like the agents told us, the chance that the EPA would recertify an engine swapped car are virtually zero and that car is illegal. I don’t know about other states, but in the Air Quality regions of Colorado any car with a swapped engine different as from the factory installation, (from the era of 1968 up), is illegal and wouldn’t be given a emissions permit.
I’m not going to debate this with you further. As I already said, the EPA does not get involved in the actual implementation of its vehicle emission standards other than to set the limits for new vehicles and do some random tests on them (new cars only).
The states are required to implement the programs necessary to meet the limits of the Clean Air Act. There’s no way those agents were from the EPA. Period. They have no legal authority to directly interfere with a state’s approved air quality program.
At best, if this happened as you say, they were agents of Colorado’s Air Quality Commission (AQCC). You even said that this had to do with meeting requirements of the Colorado AIR program. That’s NOT the EPA.
No I don’t want a debate either, but the EPA enforces Title 2 of the Clean Air Act. The agents were after whoever tampered with the emissions on the diesel car. Look it up Paul, it’s on the EPA website.
Here are the rules for engine swaps in CA.
They just require that the engine swapped in be the same year or newer than the chassis, and have all its emission systems intact. And then it’s taken to the BAR (CA Bureau of Automotive Repair) to
The inspector will conduct a visual inspection to see if all of the required parts are present and all engine swap laws have been followed. If so, they place a BAR inspection label in the door jamb or engine compartment of the vehicle. Then they check the vehicle’s tailpipe emissions and perform a functional inspection.
Those that pass will be provided the smog check inspection certificate that allows the owner to register the vehicle. Note that the vehicle with the swapped engine will, in the future, be required to comply with all California smog inspection rules, just like other vehicles.
It’s fairly common in CA for owners of classic old cars/hot rods to swap in modern engines with their emission systems. It does not require the vehicle to “be certified by the EPA”. There’s no check on the axle ratio, etc. It just means the engine swapped in has its full emission systems as it was from the donor vehicle/year.
The EPA does not get involved in this process whatsoever. The state laws have to conform with federal EPA laws, or to a higher standard. That’s how the EPA works: it sets mandates, and the states have to create their own laws/rules to implement them.
Is it theoretically possible that a couple of EPA agents showed up? Sure. But it seems very unlikely to me.
If this vehicle failed a smog test, the normal thing would be to tell the owner to come back with the necessary smog devices intact for a re-test. Would they call the EPA? Sounds very unlikely to me.
I suppose if someone was doing these swaps regularly, and the new owners complained about getting vehicles that were missing their emission equipment, then I suppose it might be referred back to the EPA as part of a crackdown. But even then, this is normally done at the state level, which has its specific laws and regulatory functions.
In any case, there’s no “certification by the EPA” that’s required to do an engine swap. And transmissions and rear axles have nothing to do with it. Where would you take it to? Your local EPA office? Washington DC?
Here’s the key text from the EPA rules regarding swaps. It clearly says swaps are fine as long as the engine swapped in is the same year or newer than the chassis and has its emission controls intact.
And here’s the text from the EPA about swapping in a gas engine to replace a diesel. Essentially the same thing: the gas engine has to be from the same year or newer as the car it’s going into, and have all of its emission systems intact.
This is how the CA engine swap program works to meet these regulations. Nothing at all about having to be “certified by the EPA” or anything to do with axle ratios.
It’s commonly done, and not really all that difficult.
And I know numerous Olds diesels had their engines swapped for gas engines, and they had to meet CA’s quite strict rules for doing so.
I recall that until a decade or so ago, Diesel cars got an emissions pass in Colorado, no emission check needed, that’s now changed though. If you swapped a gasser in and told nobody, you’d keep driving the car and never emissions check it. The EPA was not and is not sending people around to inspect individual cars. Why would they hassle a wrecking yard, used engines are sold every day, the yard has no responsibility whether that engine ends up in a prior-Diesel car’s engine bay or gets used as a boat anchor or gets dropped in the left lane on I-25. I can buy any engine from dozens of wrecking yards today and nobody even keeps a record of which engine I bought or what car it came from, as long as I pay the $150-$250 I’m good and they’ll help me load it…
LOTS of people in Colorado swap engines. Like in California, to be legal, the engine needs to be the same model year or newer, other than that do what you want. In California it is then smogged as if it were the donor car. Drop a 1999 Audi 1.8T into an ’86 Quantum Syncro, you now get smogged conforming to the limits of an 1999 Audi A4 (in CA at least, in CO nobody even knows.)
You’re giving the Colorado emissions check people WAY too much credit. On a post-1995 car, they only look for the barcode, scan the barcode, make sure (by looking at the badge or often just asking the driver) the car is what the barcode VIN says it is, pressure check the gas cap, hook up OBDII to check for codes, then put the car on the dynamometer rollers, rev the engine per their protocol while the emissions test exhaust sniffer device is attached and then ask you for $25 for the certificate. On 1995 or older cars they skip the OBDII part as there isn’t any. AT NO POINT DO THEY ACTUALLY EVEN OPEN THE HOOD and even if they did, those guys and gals generally do not know what they are looking at. They will however fail you and send you on your way if you have bald tires as they consider it unsafe on their dyno, or in my case last fall, decide that they were just too lazy and passed me anyway without even running the sniffer…
In fact, Colorado has even pioneered a system of roadside sniffers, usually at the end of on-ramps, most years you end up with a waiver based on your car being “sniffed” as it drives by this device and if the emissions are within the limit, you don’t have to pay for an emissions check. Nobody is looking or listening for what engine or car went by. There are no vehicle inspections here and besides the counties on the Front Range, the rest of Colorado doesn’t even do emissions checks. If your car doesn’t pass, most people just re-register it at their friend’s cabin in the mountains…
I like the styling of late 70s early 80s Cadillac. Just make mine a 368 V8 please.
Yessir, 368, for the eventual 472/500 swap and having the 368 makes it a slam dunk being the littlest brother to the 425/472/500 family.
Then again, that much torque in a FWD car, would lead to shenanigans that are unseemly for a Cadillac….
Shenanigans? A 500 would rip the driveline to shreds before any shenanigans
could take place.
Love these, I’ll take a 1979 or 80, I’d be okay with the injected Olds 350 or the Caddy 368. Biarritz trim…..of course.
My feeling is the reason diesel autos are still not that popular in the US is that every article that mentions them starts off with a recounting of how “bad” they were in the ’80s. Thus the legend perpetuates itself and folks continue to stay away in droves.
A secondary reason might be that US regulations (certification costs) make it nigh-impossible for automakers with diesel offerings to make a business case for bringing them here.
A tertiary reason is because, on top of a higher initIal purchase price, in almost all cases diesel is more expensive than than regular unleaded. Then on top of that double-whammy, many (if not most or all…I’ve not kept up) require occasional urea fills to keep the emissions down. Unless you’re running a vehicle for many, many miles, or need the torque (as in the case of trucks), it’s difficult for many buyers to comprehend the financial benefit.
Still, owning a diesel is on my “bucket list.”
There are other reasons why diesels are not that popular in North America.
– There’s no price advantage for diesel fuel in NA. In many European countries, diesel is taxed at a significantly lower rate than gasoline. Combine this with much higher fuel prices in Europe, and the payback period/mileage is much shorter.
– Until fairly recently, diesel fuel in NA contained high levels of sulfur. Diesel engines designed for low-sulfur markets needed extensive mods to be used in NA.
– And in cold weather climates, diesels are still relatively hard to start on cold mornings as the fuel thickens.
> There’s no price advantage for diesel fuel in NA.
Specifically there’s no price advantage in the United States, because diesel is taxed at a HIGHER rate than gasoline. Currently, in southern Ontario, regular gas is about 1.30/L and diesel is about 1.23/L. Ignoring currency conversion between Can$ and US$, that’s about $6.35/gal and $6/gal respectively.
> And in cold weather climates, diesels are still relatively hard to start on cold mornings as the fuel thickens.
In the winter, the refiners switch to a different blend of diesel that doesn’t have a gelling problem. The bigger problem is that the cold engine saps the heat of compression away so quickly that the fuel doesn’t heat up enough to ignite. This problem is greatly reduced on new diesels.
I plug-in the block heater of my (19 year old) 12-valve Cummins if the forecast calls for daytime highs of below -15C (5F), same as I used to do with my 6.2L diesel Chevy van. I got my Cummins started with a dead-cold engine at -40 once, but sure wouldn’t want to do it regularly.
I have friends with newer VW and Chevy Duramax diesels. They never plug-in their block heaters and never have a hard time starting.
It will be interesting to see how the new Chevy Cruze diesel works out for GM. Their strategy is to offer it beginning at the LT2 trim level that includes almost all the features of the LTZ (so no base model available). I’m still waiting for diesel Cruze road tests to see if it is actually more of a “sport” model than the “RS” package Cruze – with the tremendous torque from the 2.0 turbo diesel it might be.
I agree, should be interesting to see how the Cruze Diesel works out.
From the tests that I have read it is a little slower than the Eco 5 speed. The engine is heavier, so it doesn’t handle as well. It does get the 4 wheels disks, leather, sunroof and fancier compound link rear suspension, all unavailable on the Eco 5 speed.
I’d still have a hard time justifying the purchase price over the cost of an Eco. The ones around here list for 27K pluss. I don’t think I’d make back the 7K difference in price that the Eco listed for (and I only payed 15K). $12000.00 is alot of fuel for the difference in price.
For the same money, I would buy a VW Golf TDi in a heartbeat.
However, I have also realised the folly of spending $30,000 to save money on gas.
When introduced as a Holden the Cruz diesel has a performance advantage over the gas engine,
How/when did the situation come about where diesel fuel became more expensive than gasoline? I can remember decades ago during the first run-ups in gasoline prices, diesel being quite a bit cheaper. I think that was the whole impetus behind GM coming out with their (poorly engineered) diesel engines. They might have cost more and were more maintenance intensive than gas engines, but those detriments were offset by the fuel price advantage.
But, at some point, diesel fuel in the US became as expensive (or more) than gasoline. Coupled with advances in gasoline-powered vehicles getting much better fuel economy, well, more expensive diesel cars that had little or no use for the torque advantages just don’t make much sense in the US.
Diesels are another example of an automotive feature that many complain they’d like to have more of in the US, but when it happens, not very many people actually buy them.
My suspicion is that the oil companies don’t want too great a demand for diesel fuel in the US because it would require too great a percentage of the refined product stream to be diesel fuel, and cause price and availability problems. Remember that diesel car and light truck owners are competing for fuel with all the heavy trucks, an increasing percentage of the medium trucks, and all the railroad locomotives.
It has been that way since diesel pickups have become popular. From a given barrel of oil there is a set ratio of products that can be obtained from simple distillation. In the past the demand for gas was relatively high making diesel a “waste” product, now that has shifted so they have to do more expensive refining to get the mix the market wants. However the tide is turning, CNG and gasoline are gaining traction for HD and MD trucks.
The single biggest reason is that diesel (and gasoline) is a global commodity, and demand for diesel has grown much faster than for gasoline. That’s because in developing nations, the first surge in demand comes from all the diesel-powered equipment, trucks, etc.
The biggest run up in diesel prices a few years back was during the fastest growth spurt in the BRIC countries and such.
And since refineries are set up to produce a fixed ration of gas and diesel, when diesel demand outstrips gas demand, it creates an imbalance. Europe has at times exported gasoline to the US in recent years for precisely this reason, as the demand was uneven for their refinery outputs.
From Miami with Love.
Waah! Try minus 45 C
BOC: How can you take the noise? I know my ears are somewhat damaged, but I wince every time I’m next to one of the older Cummins sixes (and the old Powerstroke). And the UPS trucks are ferociously noisy to o(Cummins four, right?). I can’t help but wonder if the noise level in those open UPS delivery trucks exceeds OSHA limits. I would die if I had to spend all day in one of those.
I drive much of the year with my windows open, and as much as the idea of a diesel truck appeals, those older Cummins would be out of the question. And I’m talking stock; never mind the chipped ones with open exhausts.
Paul, I worked for UPS for many years, and all of the diesels that were in my fleet (aside from Sprinters) were International T444E or 365 (Powerstroke) V8s. They were generally used in the P-70, P-100, and P-120 package cars. This was in Canada, however. The fleet mix may have been different in the US. You are correct with your observation of the noise levels of those trucks. The older T444E was a killer on your ears, especially if you drove a route that had long stretches of high-speed open road between stops. The 365s were slightly better, but a lot of drivers still wore ear plugs on the to-from drive to their delivery areas.
The direct-injected diesels are far quieter than the clattery IDI diesels of decades past. Haven’t you noticed that in traffic? I’ll admit that the Cummins engines are still louder than the rest, but you can be sitting right next to a Duramax at a stop light and not even notice it.
redmonjp: Yes, thankfully. And I did say “older Cummins sixes” in my comment, more than once.
The noise of truck diesels is unbearable. But just to mention, the GM diesels with the Oldsmobile engine are silent going down the road. It’s remarkable that Oldsmobile was able to design their diesel to run quietly for most of the driving experience. At idle the diesel noise is apparrent.
I do agree much! And I do wonder why some of these diesels are/were so badly noisy.
Some years of my working life I have spent in the seat of some mining equipment driven by a Deutz BF 12 L 413 FW. That V12 made a rather pleasant sound, and revving up both turbos sang their song happily from 800 to 2000 rpm. Above 2000 rpm mech noise from the Clark power shift trans prevailed, but I have some fond memories and for a while I whished that engine to have in a car!
Ed: I think the old history is becoming mostly just that; a distant historical relic. Most younger buyers don’t even know about these Olds issues.
The real reason is economics: if our fuel prices were 2-3 times as high, and diesel was subsidized by lower taxes, the diesel take here would be profoundly higher.
I think you hit the nail on the head with that statement. In the area in Maryland I live in, Diesel is sitting at $4.06 a gallon(as of 3pm today) at that same gas station the cost of reg unleaded is $3.68 a gallon. Younger buyers are not turned off of the old Olds diesel BUT of the fact that the diesel fuel cost more then gas and on top of that a Diesel car cost a bit more so there is no point to buying a diesel car. Today’s young driver is more interested in cheaper cost up front and not the long term picture. Never mind that while filling up a Diesel car may cost more to fill up in the short term, that you would need to fill the car less over the course of a month or a year then the gas car so that money is saved, most young(and older) drivers see that gas is 38 cents cheaper
As for me, I am aware of the Olds Diesel(I am an Oldsmoble fan) but when I think of a diesel car, I think of the Benz W123(aka the 240D and 300D/TD) which there is loads of them still on the road for daily use
At the time of Oldsmobile introducing diesel cars, diesel was 30 cents per gal as opposed to gas at 75 cents. There were many popular diesel cars with good reputations up till the early 80’s, but diesel fuel price jump and the coming EPA tougher standards ended most of the diesel cars. There were many Japanese and European diesel cars then. Only Mercede’s and VW continued making diesels. Most of these diesels had good reputations then, and by the early 80’s the Oldsmobile diesel was pretty much bullet proof. Most of the poor reputation of the Olds diesels were due to early models.
It is really interesting that diesels have carved out a substantial niche in American pickup trucks, but never in cars or SUVs. Everyone raves about the Cummins diesel in the Dodge Ram, and a BIL really liked his older Ford PowerStroke. But for some reason, there has never been a successful American car powered by a diesel. I also remember a short span when Lincoln offered a BMW-sourced diesel. Today, my sister drives a Jeep Liberty diesel that was offered for just a year or two in the mid 2000s.
These were nice cars, and good cars. For someone who could get to know the GM diesel to give it proper care and feeding, one of these would have been an excellent choice. A very nice find. I cannot say that I have found any in my area.
On the other hand, as the cost of compliance with new emissions regulations (diesel particulate filters, selective catalytic reduction, urea tanks, etc) increases, many manufacturers are heading back to gas engines for their medium-duty work trucks.
I wonder how diesel would look in the face of, say, compressed natural gas as a popular fuel for medium and heavy-duty applications.
I think part of the thing for pickup trucks is that the big rig sound of sizable turbodiesel fits the marketing image. By all appearances, pickup buyers like looking like they could all a 40-foot refrigerator trailer and if the engine rumbles and snorts like an 18-wheeler’s, it’s all to the good. In contrast, a lot of passenger-car buyers would rather not hear the engine at all and tend to assume that a diesel car will idle like a city bus.
Obviously, modern passenger car turbodiesels have made great strides in general refinement, but Americans so strongly associate diesel with big trucks and buses that some people just won’t go near a diesel model. I ran into this a number of years ago when I suggested seriously to someone I knew in Atlanta that they should test drive a then-current E-Class Mercedes turbodiesel. Given their driving style and habits, it would actually have made a lot of sense, but they wouldn’t even consider it; the associations didn’t fit their ideas of what a nice car should be.
Having worked in dealer service, I can state that 90% of diesel trucks are simple PRD’s. The ones I saw in for service did a lot of air hauling: they hauled around the air in the box. It’s all about bein’ a “Real 10-4 good-buddy-trucker,” bragging to your beer buddies that your truck can haul 19,001 lbs and his can only haul 18,999 lbs so your brand is better. The fact that neither will ever do it is immaterial.
It used to stun me how much these guys would spend on these masculinity affirmation objects. I mean, if you ain’t got no mojo, go get it. Truck payments ain’t gonna do it.
I’ve never understood why someone would want their rig to sound like the UPS truck….
Sorry to rain on your stereotype, but from my experience it wasn’t worth it to also have a small commuter vehicle and keep my truck parked versus “hauling air” most of the time.
When we bought my wife a CR-V, I crunched the numbers of keeping her 2001 Civic for me to drive or selling it. It was a wash either way, and since it would also entail the inconvenience of another vehicle taking up space in our driveway and more of my time to do maintenance and most repairs on it, it wasn’t worth it. We sold the Civic and put the money towards paying off our mortgage.
May be “simple PRD” to you, but to those of us that have no idea what “PRD” stands for, we are less than impressed.
I just assumed it was short-form for something derogatory.
I would guess that it finishes with “replacement device”…
Both the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 have an optional 3.0 ltr. V6 diesel engine from the Italian diesel specialist VM Motori.
That engine has enough performance and refinement to be in the new Maserati Ghibli too, although Maserati tuned it to 275 hp.
Personally I like the “intimidating” rumble of a 6 cylinder diesel engine in the 3.0 ltr. class. As a matter a fact, I even like the more industrial and agricultural sound of a big 4 cylinder diesel that’s in commercial vehicles and Japanese off-roaders and pick-up trucks.
On road tests the diesel Chrysler 300 performs as well as the V8 gas engine in the same car,
Chrysler 300C ? Rebadged as a Lancia Thema here, but it does have exactly the same 3.0 ltr. V6 diesel engine from VM Motori.
Sales numbers wise the Oldsmobile diesels were probably the most “successful “American diesel engined passenger cars, reputation wise is another story…..
On the topic of diesel engine noise, a friend of mine briefly owned an older Ford diesel pickup, built before they started calling their diesels “Powerstroke”. He commented to me one day, “My engine sounds like it’s saying ‘purple-purple-purple’ at idle”. I replied, “Well my truck sounds like ‘doom-doom-doom’ at idle. What’s cooler, a truck that says ‘purple-purple’ or one that says ‘doom-doom’?” 🙂
Either way, those older pickup diesel engines are way too noisy for my poor old ears.
+1 I have always thought the older Powerstrokes were incredibly noisy. Yet I took a trip recently in my neighbor’s 2002 F-350 Powerstroke dually and it was a serenely-quite ride on the road.
Looks like its been sitting awhile…no tags and the tires look low so maybe its rods made their last knock.
3 USMC decals too, thanks for his service!
Diesels have improved vastly from the bad old days,I get to drive a Mercedes CLC 320 which is quick and quiet.
well, it depends of how you compare: the old-school indirect injection Mercedes diesel engines (W115, W123 and W124, among others) were quiet, indestructible and powerful enough. They can last 500k miles w/o trouble. The addition of turbos, electronics, high-pressure indirect injection, timing belts and many other things to fulfill environmental regs, led to great power-to-weight ratios, even smoother ride, and other “advantages”, but also to a catastrophically short life expectance and expensive manteinance. All diesel advantages, with the exception of its inherently lower specific fuel consumption (185-240g/kWh diesel v/s 260-350g/kWh gasoline) were lost. I really fear of repair costs of new-generation diesels after the happy first 2 or 3 years (would only buy them new, with at least 3-year guarantee), but I completely trust old-school ones. Of course there are exceptions to the rules. It seems that the GM diesel engine of the 80’s was such an exception. Even then, I would love to drive one of those for a day!
I read a lot of claims about diesels having better torque here. That’s not necessarily true anymore. The brand-new Merc A 250 has the same torque of 350Nm than the diesel-powered A 220CDI. Impressive!
One of my grandfather’s Olds was a diesel. My mother has mentioned the distinctive noise and smell of it several times. I’m not exactly sure of the model, but this early-’80s Cutlass Supreme of his could have been the one. The LTD behind it was owned by my mom’s then-boyfriend.
The owner’s manual of my 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme sedan still contained a diagram of under-hood layout of the 350 diesel (which I’m pretty stinking sure was not offered by then) and I was always amazed that they fit two batteries under that hood along with the extra equipment required for the diesel. Room was at a premium even with the 307 V8 gas engine.
Interesting that it was still listed in the 1987 owners manual, from what I recall all Oldsmobile Diesel engine production ceased in 1985-1986, they were still making the diesel 350 and the 4.3 litre diesel V6. I know they list the diesel in the 1985 98 owners manual I have, but not in the 1987 one.
It was a very “generic” owners manual in that it showed the layout for the 3.8V6, 307V8, and 350 diesel. I’ve sometimes wondered if it was sheer laziness because they knew the car would be replaced soon with the W-body. This was the same car that had a 4-speed auto straight from the factory but the indicator on the dash said: PRND21. My father at first thought there was something wrong with the car and someone had slipped an overdrive transmission in it after the fact (the car had 65,000 miles on it when he bought it). However the mechanics at the local Olds dealership quickly confirmed that it had been delivered in that configuration.
Oh Lordy, an old school diesel engine from the seventies !
I’ll bet any senior citizen in a wheelchair will outrun this Rudolf Diesel on a hilly track.
Heck, even a Volkswagen T1-2-3-etc. van will do a faster 0-60 run.
I had read a Car and Driver article about diesel beater challenge, there were 3 cars, a diesel RWD Maxima, a early ’80s diesel Benz, and an 82 or 83 Olds Delta 88 diesel…
I think the Olds won the challenge, but none of those cars could outrun a Geo Metro.
I remember that article, the Oldsmobile was a very, very nice Delta 88 Royale Brougham coupe they bought for peanuts, it won the challenge, the Oldmobile diesels, due to their big displacement, were probably some of the quicker diesels from the 70’s
*Irony Mode OFF*
Times have changed. The typical German Autobahn -oil burner- Burner has a 250 km/h (156 mph) speed limiter these days.
Really refined state-of-the-art and high-performance car diesels come from Germany, France or Italy. The US and Japan make damn good diesels, for trucks, not for cars. Euro-Toyotas get BMW diesels next year, that about wraps it up.
Nice! A family friend was so impressed with our ’78 Olds Diesel that he found a used ’84 Cadillac DeVille with the 350 diesel for sale. He daily-drove that for about 5 years until it blew a head gasket. Prior to that, I believe my dad had warned him that there was something wrong with the timing, but he didn’t do anything about it, which would have been a contributing factor. My brother was going to help him fix it, but he sold it in the classifieds instead. Aside from ours, I believe that was the last 350 diesel powered car I’ve seen personally.
Neat vehicle though I wonder about rear seat leg room. Could not help but notice the passenger door and fender do not match the rest of the vehicle. Even if a vehicle comes in a rainbow of colors (2013 Dodge Dart) you hardly ever one painted in a bright color so good luck finding a yellow Caddy of this vintage. So, was this Cadillac photographed on a dealer’s lot?
Depends on the popularity of the color at the time, that yellow chamois type color was big in the late 70’s and into the early 80’s, it’s not that hard to find a Cadillac that color believe it or not
Perhaps because nobody under 70 bought the cars in that color combo, and that demographic creates more garage-kept creampuffs than any other. I have some photos in my stash of the ultimate yellow/yellow 80s Cadillac that I will have to get around to writing up some time.
My dad’s last car, a ’77 Coupe de Ville, was that colonial yellow, with a yellow vinyl cabriolet roof, and he special ordered it with a yellow plaid flannel-like upholstery. It seemed like acres of yellow, my brother and I always referred to it as “the banana boat.” After he passed away in 1980, my mother continued to drive it until 1994, still looked pretty good after all those years. And you are right, it was a relatively popular color, you would see a lot of these yellow submarines around L.A. back then.
I remember someone using the term “jew canoe” to refer to these big pastel colored sleds that used to cruise all over Miami Beach, with their tiny occupants barely visible inside.
For Carmine… (didn’t look factory, but I didn’t look too closely). I love these yellows also.
Nice, my cousins dad had a Celebrity company car in that color.
I just saw a Ciera in that color a couple weeks ago:
No, it was parked in a lot behind a restaurant. And I have found a triple yellow Eldo, there is a link to its CC in this post.
Nothing wrong with this car that can’t be fixed with an LS1 conversion.
Modified Duramax! with a smokestack, so you can “roll coal” while you pimp.
My brother-in-law was in the air force in Europe most of the ’80s and early ’90s. When he came back to the U.S. with his Spanish wife, they settled in Phoenix and picked up a very clean early ’80s Sedan DeVille diesel. I joked that he’d missed the memo while in Europe.
The car gave them endless trouble, beyond just the drive train. It was gone in probably under 24 months.
But, I was surprised to learn that his Madrid born wife absolutely loved the car itself when it was operating properly. Big, roomy, isolated, total opposite of her experience with typical European cars. Even appreciated the go-for-baroque styling.
Who’d a thunk?
I carried a lot of groceries to cars during the ’80s. I did see the occasional aluminum road wheels on these Eldo’s. The ware a nice break from the far to common wire covers.
Road wheels, that’s something I’d like to see make a comeback.
European Fords have been using PSA diesels for 10 years in a joint venture Ford chose the technology leaders in the field to invest in. Toyota for its passenger car diesels licensed Bosch injection tech in the 80s they will use BMW motors to reduce costs on meeting euro emissions no other reason.
ScaniaBryce, PSA diesels were all over the place, even in Toyotas.
Their current HDI diesels, both the 4 and 6 cylinders, are sublime.
The PSA-Ford joint venture resulted, among others, in some smooth V6 diesels. They are, of course, in PSA cars but also in Jaguars, Land Rovers and Range Rovers.
My next door “garage” neighbors (we lived on a corner) growing up had an ’80 Seville diesel, same color. The husband Ray taught me all about small engine mechanics and used to let me go in his garage whenever I wanted to borrow tools. In fact, I was still borrowing tools from him on visits home until my mom sold the house 4 years ago.
I remember him wrenching on that Seville constantly, but it lasted with them until the late 80s when they traded it for a white downsized SDV with the 4.5, so it couldn’t have been THAT bad. From then on it was only white caddies. The aforementioned first gen FWD SDV, a second gen SDV, a second gen SLS and a couple of CTS’s. Imagine my surprise when I drove past the house a couple months ago and saw a white Camry there instead. The heresy!
I remember test driving one of these with my father.
It was the end of the model year. The Eldo in question was white with a lime green vinyl roof & lime green interior. And it had the diesel. Shockingly, the dealer was ready to unload it at a rock-bottom price.
The Cadillac name still meant something in those days — or at the very least it still did to my father. So he seriously considered the purchase, weighing the pros & cons with me all afternoon.
I think Dad was more turned off by the color than the engine. So we didn’t take it home. No regrets about that decision later.
Thats what these sounded like when you started one of them…..
Though this vintage Eldorado was my Brougham gateway drug as a child since my old man had a triple brown 79 with the Oldsmobile gas V8, I remember the back seat seemed like a leather upholstered cave, you slid down into the big soft leather pillow top seats, some other friends of my parents had a 78-79 Coupe deVille that was triple silver with a Astroroof, I remember that mesmerized me as a kid, they let me stick my head out of it one time going down the road, ahhhh the good ol’ unsafe old days.
My aunt had a 1980 Eldorado diesel, Dark Mulberry with the matching top and leather interior. I drove that car on many occasions. It was always fun to smoke out the people behind you with just a little tap of the accelerator. It really didn’t have great acceleration at all, but it was a very nice car to drive. At the time my Mom had a 1979 Riviera with the 350 V-8, which felt so smooth and fast after driving my aunt’s diesel. Truthfully, I thought the diesel was so out of place in such a nice car. Carmine’s sound effects are right on the money!!! How strange was this – my uncle had a 1979 Sedan deVille with a power astroroof, my Mom’s Riviera had a power astroroof, and my aunt’s Eldorado had a power astroroof. Three siblings all owned GM cars at the same time and all were equipped with factory power astroroofs! I bet Carmine would probably know the odds and statistics of three siblings owning a GM car at the same time with a power moonroof!! It had to be pretty rare, as astroroofs weren’t all that popular because of the cost back then – I think they were at least a $1000 option – almost a 10% increase to the cost of the car.
Hope their astro roofs were trouble free, my grandmother’s ate electric motors every 30,000 miles like clockwork for the entire 100,000 miles that she owned her 1979 Oldsmobile 98 sedan.
My Mom never had an issue with the astroroof in her Riv; I know my aunt’s Eldo had a crack in hers and it would have been huge $$ to replace it so she left it like that (she didn’t take the best care of that car – she had so many problems with the diesel she often called that car “CHRISTINE” lol!!) The astroroof on my uncle’s deVille stopped working at around 80k so he just left it closed all the time.
The odds are in millions…….it couldn’t happen, it was a set up…….
I read somewhere that the real downfall with these were the head bolts. They would stretch, and dealer mechanics back in the day would reuse them after the first head gasket failure. This of course would lead to a short-lived repair. Put some good head bolts like ARPs in them, and they were fine.
Head bolts, no water separator, poor quality diesel fuel at the time(see: lack of water separator), lack of appropriate maintenance, i.e use of wrong oil and wrong quantity, there were several issues.
I had an ’81 Cutlass with the 350 diesel that I’ve mentioned in other posts served me well during an Air Force tour in upstate NY in early 80s – lots of trips down Interstate 87, over to 90, then down 71 to home (Ohio). It was a very good highway car – fairly stable, smooth ride, not a lot of passing grunt but it held 65-70 well. I did think the 3 speed auto was a little under-geared, as anything over 70 sent the revs a little too high.
First car I ever got a rebate on ($750)……. Surprisingly, never had an engine problem – I had heard they were pretty well sorted by ’81.
A couple assignments later I spent a year in Korea (’85) and drove quite a few M1008/9 Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicles (CUCV) – GM 3/4 ton 4 wheel drive pickups which had the 6.2 liter diesel – they drove and sounded almost exactly like the 350 diesel in my Cutlass.
“When’s the last time you saw a Diesel Caddy?”
When I drove off in the used Ford Taurus wagon I traded it on. It was a 1979 Cadillac Eldo, in the same silver metallic Firemist paint that is shown in one of the photos. But that paint was barely adhering to the primer by 1994, and the vinyl roof fabric was shrinking. It had actually pulled away from the moulding that ran over the roof, and I concealed that gap with aluminum roof flashing. Inside, the headliner sagged and was held up to the hardboard liner with staples. The engine would run roughly every few thousand miles when the $50 fuel filter would clog (and this one had a water separator from brand new). For some reason the day I went shopping and found the Taurus wagon, it ran smoothly.
Actually I saw that diesel 1979 Eldo once more. I was driving past the car dealer and saw it. I stopped to take a look. The thing had started to run rough again; the dealer was waiting for his parts guy to bring back a new fuel filter. And almost all the silver Firemist paint had flaked off to grey primer. I don’t know whether the Eldo wound up getting repainted, but if the dealer was willing to but $50 into a fuel filter, he wasn’t going to just junk the car.
I was one of the unfortunate souls who owned one of those GM diesel bombs. It was an ’81 Olds 98 Regency. Aside from a grossly anemic, mechanically horrific power plant, so many other bits broke on that Olds. There were the interior trim pieces that would fall off in warm temperatures, a sunroof that leaked and the rear footwells would get awfully soggy in rainy weather. The Olds’ diesel was replaced under warranty with a Goodwrench diesel. It really was no better than the one my 98 came with from the factory. When it did run it got good mileage and was pretty quiet. That diesel was a filthy burning motor, and with passengers in the car the poor Olds was barely capable of ascending moderate grades! The bean counters at GM pulled the giant flush handle and down went a corporation that was once capable of producing legendary automobiles. GM’s newly designed products beginning in the late ’70s and throughout the ’90s were JUNK, JUNK and MORE CUT RATE JUNK! It seems that only until recently that GM has made a bit of a positive turnaround with their products. I’ve been a Toyota and Lexus owner for the last 25 years and I’ve never suffered a bad product with any Toyota or Lexus.
I don’t see any telltale soot on the rear bumper, but the Marine owner may keep it squared away.
This post is nine years old and diesel cars are less popular than ever. VW had a lot to do with that. Diesels are really popular with the 3/4 ton and up truck crowd. Yes, a lot of them are bought primarily for bragging rights, (we all don’t want HellCats!) but some guys do use them for heavy towing. My poor V6 F150 was at it’s limit towing my new Mustang home from LA where I bought it.
I think car buyers looking for better fuel mileage have a lot more choices today. Small
ICE cars are more efficient then ever, and there are turbo fours in most line ups. Then there are the hybrids and electric vehicles. My last tankful of gas was used primarily for running errands around town without any long freeway trips. I’m retired so I haven’t had a commute for years. The trip computer showed me how poor the fuel economy was under those conditions.
Though I don’t usually shop for fuel economy first, I avoid the low mileage vehicles like my old V8 Explorer, and I decided not to buy the Expedition that I’d been eyeing. I’m thinking that I might even consider a hybrid in the near future.
Refinement has obviously always been a big part of Cadillac’s image. I assume that to use the diesel they must have been desperate to get their CAFE numbers up.
A large proportion (majority?) of growing Mercedes sales at the time were diesel, particularly after the ’79 gas crisis, so it was partly meeting the competition’s offerings.
Simply love these 1979 – 85 Cadillac Eldorado’s, particularly in Biarritz form. I have attached a photo of our ‘as brand new’ 1983 Cadillac Eldorado BIarritz which has a factory black exterior and a red interior. It has every available factory option including the Delco-BOSE radio and more.
Most interestingly, is that fact that our ‘83 Eldorado has a mirror image conversion to right hand drive (RHD). I will post a photo of the RHD dash.
Nice car. The taillight modification (break off a portion of the outer red lens to leave the inner lens exposed to provide for amber indicators) is cruder than the factory item—see image attached; and ping this Aussie who can probably make you a set—but not as crude as the bodged mess I carped about here (scroll up for the pic that made me squawk).
Here is a photo of ‘83 Eldorado Biarritz’s red leather interior and amazing mirror image right hand drive conversion
Wow, that is a much more craftsmanlike conversion than many I’ve seen. Chainbox under the dash to operate the original steering gear? Remote brake servo?
During a business trip in the early 80’s, there was an ad in the Houston Chronicle for GM Diesel engine swaps . For a flat fee, the garage would install a gasoline V8 with all the necessary revisions (brake booster, wiring, etc) within a certain number of days. Based on subsequent visits to Houston, I noticed the ad ran for 2 to 3 years. I would image the garage got a fair number of clients.
If I had a place to park it, I’d take any of the ’79 thru ’85 E-body (Olds, Buick, & Cadillac) if they had a gasoline V8. This is about the time GM was losing touch with the customer, but this batch represented GM at it best.
My folks had a 1981-ish Caprice wagon with the 5.7 Diesel. Bought used. Slow as molasses. As bought, the transmission was reluctant to upshift when it should have. Turned out to be a relatively simple & inexpensive repair. But the real problem was it left them stranded midway on a 400 mile road trip. Towed to the local dealer, waited in a motel for some days while fuel injection parts were shipped & installed. As I know now, they were lucky it wasn’t much worse.
Moved to a different neighborhood & one of the neighbors was a Pontiac dealer associate. Sold Dad a new 1989 Bonneville & said the neighborhood value went up with the absence of that clattering & smoking Diesel.
I was young enough to have ridden along on a few trips in it. They sure had a unique sound, not like modern diesels or any other diesel, seems to me. Thanks to Youtube, I can hear those sounds in the recordings of survivor cars that the owners have kindly posted.
Correction. They had a 1984 Caprice sedan in the meantime. The 1981 diesel wagon didn’t last to 1989. The ’84 Caprice was a great car, but developed an overheating problem that the dealer seemed unable (or unwilling..?) to solve. That’s when the ’89 Bonneville was acquired. That also developed issues… leaking intake manifold gasket, I think. To my parents who’d been GM buyers all their lives, I guess it was normal for cars to develop unsolvable and expensive problems within a few years of ownership. For me, I never bought a GM car… until I bought a 2017 Cruze (with Mom’s GM points she wasn’t going to use… she’d finally had enough). Guess what. Car went down hard with 20,000 miles. Fool me twice….
I think there might be still some Diesels around. I bought an Old Delta 88 Diesel in 2007 from the Salvation Army in Kansas City. I did experience a leaking head gasket in 2014 because 2 head bolts were broken. After I got the high tension ARP head bolts I had no more trouble and I’m still driving the car. So you can get the Diesel reliable and I think there are some people like me who keep them running.