Pulp Fiction has to be one my favorite movies of all-time. It’s not for everybody, and I certainly don’t recommend it for family viewing, as it has an MPAA rating of “R” (for violence, drug use, and a few other things). I had rented the VHS tape from Blockbuster Video maybe only a couple of years after its initial release, and was watching on the family VCR in the living room with a friend. Continuing a trend that had started some years before, my parents, and particularly my dad, had an eerie, uncanny ability to walk into the living room to see what we kids were watching during the most uncomfortable scenes while this could happen. In the case of Pulp Fiction, it was the pawn shop scene, and that’s all I’ll say about that. I may still be traumatized by the sound of the rattan chair in the living room creaking with the sound of my dad settling down into it immediately before the start of one of this movie’s most nightmarish sequences. (Why, Dad, why couldn’t you just stay in your study with your books and nice thoughts and let us have our movie?)
Other than that one scene, this film, which I consider one of Quentin Tarantino’s finest, is usually a nonstop riot fest, especially when I’m able to watch it with others who can quote all of its lines right along with me as we view. I can’t wait to get back to doing things like this, especially after last year. There’s one scene where the main characters, Jules Winnfield (played by Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) are going somewhere in a ’74 Chevy Nova, as they discuss some of the little, nuanced differences between life in Europe and in the United States. The topic of McDonald’s fast food restaurant comes up, and Vega informs Winnfield that in Paris, a Quarter Pounder With Cheese is called a “Royale With Cheese” due in part to that country’s use of the metric system. It is an unexpected moment of truth that makes total and complete sense the first time you hear it.
It was these two minutes of sight and sound that have probably forever changed the context with which I experience the word “royale”. Enter our subject car. I grew up in an era when an extra “e” was added to the end of otherwise familiar words to give them an extra aura of luxury or higher status. I’ll cite “olde” and “grande” (though grandé is a legit Spanish word that means “big”, which early Ford Mustang product planners didn’t seem to care about) as the only two examples I can think of right now. Even the great Dionne Warwick went through a period in the ’70s where she added an “e” to the end of her surname. (I’m a fan of Ms. Warwick and her enduring musical legacy, but I still do not understand why she did this.)
The upscale Royale trim level of the Delta 88 had arrived for model year ’69, so by the time our featured ’81 was new, “88 Royale” was a familiar sounding combination of letters and numbers to many with even only a passing level of interest in North American cars. When I saw this dark red beauty parked by a gas station while I was returning from the beach, I had the thought that it was ironic that a car like this was parked across the street from a gas station, rather than actually at one of its pumps. The ’81 Delta 88 Royale coupe had a starting weight of around 3,500 pounds, and only the top-shelf Olds 307 with 140-hp which was optional that year for all but the Delta wagons really seemed up to the task of getting it around. Seriously, did anyone order one new with the standard, 110-horse 3.8L V6? Or the 260-cubic inch V8 with only 105 horsepower? So help you if you ended up with the loud, stanky Diesel 350 with the same 105-hp rating.
There was also a Delta 88 Royale Brougham also offered for ’81, but I couldn’t find a production breakout among the two-doors between those and the regular Royales that year. About 41,700 Delta 88 Royale coupes found buyers that year. The four-door Deltas were the most popular body style, selling about 115,000 units. By contrast, there were roughly 45,000 total coupes of all kinds and 19,000 Custom Cruiser wagons. I would have thought there were fewer two-doors of this vintage sold, as I honestly can’t remember the last time I would have seen one prior to this spotting last month. I will point out that the placement of the “Royale” badge on the C-pillar is highly suspect and a little too high up, but I’m giving this car the benefit of the doubt.
The other thing that struck me about this Delta 88 coupe was its size, especially in comparison to many of the cars around it. It is big and juicy (like a Royale With Cheese) and also like that sandwich, loaded with lots of stuff inside. I offer the above shot as Exhibit A of why interiors of puffy, pillowy velour definitely had and have their appeal, both then and now. Look at how the sunlight is hitting the driver’s seat, and what a comfortable place that lounger must be from which to pilot this big Oldsmobile. This is the kind of car in which you crank up the air conditioning in the summer months and waft and wallow around the streets in luxury as if in a giant, chrome-plated icebox – one powered by an actual Olds 307 Rocket V8, if you’re lucky. If you’re going to get something like only 16 mph combined (thank you, fueleconomy.gov) on a good day, spend a few extra miles-per-gallon to put on the air. Doing otherwise would be like eating a 1,050-calorie
Quarter Pounder Royale With Cheese without the bun. Why even bother? To paraphrase Jules Winnfield, that is a tasty burger. You might as well enjoy the whole thing.
Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, May 22, 2021.
I am one of the guys who ended up with the Diesel. The car is a 1978 but the Diesel is post 1980 as the engine must have been changed. But it’s still running.
Nice one, Joseph. Those typical conversations made that film for a big part. Talking about things at a high level, completely unrelated to what you are doing at the time.
What strikes me immediately when I saw your story is that these cars really need whitewalls. They must have been designed with them because without them, as the red car shows, the wheels are way too small. However the blue car in the ad has a nice balanced look (with the WWs, making the wheels look much bigger).
This car is so typical American that it hurts to think that this feature does not exist now anymore. As in: impossible to have been manufactured in another country. I always liked American cars to be recognized as American cars. No chance of that with current cars. Buick SUV? Could be made from all over the world.
Some of them are! The Envision is made in China.
Encore is made in S.Korea.
Dion, I agree with you that this car would look better with whitewalls. Unquestionably. One thing I did notice, though, about this car was its generic steel wheels. This brought even more attention to the wheel areas for not the best look. I’d like to think there are some wheel covers somewhere in the garage, perhaps even some nice, Olds Super Stock wheels waiting to be installed at a later date.
My parents’ best friends had one of these, brown, brown vinyl top, and american racing holey wheels, and it was one of the most bad ass cars of that era, other than maybe the Grand National/GSX. It got stolen in like 1988 or 89, never to be seen again.
I literally had film people drop off 8 classics to my curbside on Sunday, but of course Joseph has to be the best in Chicago. 🙂 Nice to see another great catch in Edgewater.
Chris, I hope you write some of them up! This car was actually north of Edgewater, in Rogers Park, but it has been great to see all kinds of classics out and about on Sheridan Road. I could have dropped a bag a groceries a couple of weeks ago to snap a yellow, ’71 or so Ford Mustang in motion / traffic, but decided against it. I probably made the correct decision.
I wasn’t gonna comment on this one, but I got to the part where you mentioned Oldsmobile 307 and it triggered memories…
One of my earliest automotive purchases was a 1981 Pontiac Catalina 4 door, equipped with the Olds 307 and new-for-1981 THM200-4R overdrive automatic. The story of its acquisition is too long to tell here, but my car had clearly lived a difficult life, and was painted a tasteful but faded metallic plum color over its original metallic poop brown. It was freedom, and I loved it! The exhaust emitted a baritone “LUD-LUD-LUD-LUD” against the pavement, probably more suggestive of performance than actual performance. It did move along pretty well, though I never achieved anything near the 16mpg quoted… quite likely due to the entertainment I got out pinning the accelerator to the mat and listening to the howl of the Quadrajet’s secondaries echoing off of buildings as I stormed by at breakneck err.. breakpinkie? speeds.
And yes. The Pontiac’s famous “Radial Tuned Suspension” was pretty soft and squishy, absorbing bumps, chuckholes, railroad crossings, and most other pavement aberrations without knocking you about. I preferred it then, and I miss it now.
The phrase “breakpinkie speeds” has now been gifted to the world, courtesy of T.A. Cowan. I love it. It’s also interesting to think about exhaust sounds suggesting performance, instead of actually being backed up by it. I think many cars in various states of use are like that.
Hooray for freedom courtesy of an automobile, whatever that looked like!
Haha. Thank ya!
I’m probably being a little hard on the Purple Pontiac just for yuks. Sure, it would be dog slow by modern standards, but for its place in time, the car actually was capable of getting up to speed and even passing on two lane roads without worrying that you’d get in a head-on with the semi 3/4 mile off in the oncoming lane. I know that’s a fairly low bar, but there were a lot of cars in those years that couldn’t pull a greased kitten out of bed (a credit owed to Tom McCahill for that last one).
I rather liked the styling of the 1980-81 Bonneville and Catalina, especially the frontal aspect. I’m guessing that many buyers of GM B bodies in those years did not, as I never saw many of them on the road.
I’m not sure what’s up with the incorrect placement of the Royale badge you pointed out, but this car isn’t just a Royale but a Royale Brougham, as evidenced by the loose-cushion button-tufted seats visible through the window; the regular Brougham has the seat trim shown on the blue car in the brochure. I’m also curious about the different placement of the opera lamps on the red and blue cars – do they put it in a different place if it has a vinyl roof?
It’s a little-known fact, but French McDonalds also have an upgraded burger called the Royale Brougham with Cheese. Well actually they don’t, but then again despite what Pulp Fiction would have you believe, I don’t think they have a Royale with Cheese either. I’ve read it’s actually called the McRoyal or McRoyale or Le Royale Cheese, depending on the year (the actual French McD’s site is blocking foreign visitors so i can’t check it there). And “olde” irks me too, because old has never been spelt that way no matter how far back in time you go.
Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with musicians adding or deleting one letter of their name. It’s not just Dionne; Keith Richards added the “s” at some point, Iain Matthews (of Fairport Convention and Matthews Southern Comfort) added the extra i in his first name two decades into his career, and Michael Bolotin removed the second o. Legendary producer Curt Boettcher changed the spelling of his last name twice. And those are just the ones I thought of in the last minute.
It’s called Le Cheeseburger Royal (“the king of cheeseburgers”) on the Swiss-French website:
And music-wise, the movie introduced me to Dick Dale.
Of course, I had to listen to the soundtrack this morning. Almost uniformly great. Love the Dick Dale track.
Worth mentioning is that Dale’s track was based on this:
Another favorite of mine is Cartel Burwell’s Fargo track (from the 1996 movie), which is based on an old Norwegian folk tune:
I think there really needs to be a “Royale Brougham With Cheese”. I just looked up “Big Kahuna Burger” in the hope that this franchise actually exists, but alas.
Thanks for the pointer on the interior. I did notice the difference in the interior of the navy car in the brochure photo, but I’m never sure if interior seating is optional.
I meant the “regular Royale” in that last post not “regular Brougham” re: blue car. The non-brougham Royale didn’t have any option for loose-cushion seats. There was however a Royale Brougham LS in ’84-85 that had the seats from the discontinued RWD 98 Regency Elite, but it was sedan only. I’m still not clear on what (if anything) was modified to get the deeper (front to rear) rear seat cushion that was originally intended for the 3″ longer C body into the 88.
Often badges are removed for repainting the car, and then either not returned to their correct position or relocated due to the owner’s preference.
By this time, most badges were adhesive so there is no issue with leaving/filling holes. The car companies loved not having to punch holes in the bodies and have the extra operations to install and secure the badges from behind.
Back when holes for badges were common, my father would de-badge his cars and have the holes filled and repainted as he felt the badges usually ruined the lines of the car!
I also imagine not having extra holes drilled for the badges also helped when it came to corrosion. I can imagine some such holes being prone to rust.
I never liked how the rear side windows on these seem to be sinking into the belt line. I think this is the only one I’ve ever seen sans vinyl top. Thanks for an entertaining read.
Thanks, Robert. Like you, I really can’t remember having seen one of these Delta 88 coupes / two-door sedans without the vinyl roof. It must have been like a $5 option on the order form.
A guy I knew in college had one of these, with bucket seats and a console.
I liked the four-door B-body, but I always felt these ended up looking like a Cutlass Supreme with a glandular condition.
Oh, and supposedly Dionne Warwick temporarily added an “e” to her surname at the advice of a numerologist.
I think the bucket seats/console model was a “Holiday 88” made from 78-81. These are exceedingly rare today. There was a ’79 Holiday 88 in our local u-pull here in ABQ about 4 or so years ago. It was a shame. I think they also had a different steering wheel, like the ones they used on the 442’s of that vintage, but I’m not sure.
To find an 80 or 81 Holiday would be a real catch….
A recent “Big Iron” auction of a car collection in Nebraska had several diesels Olds and Cadillacs, some cream puff’s others just high miler survivor cars. They all went for top dollar. The car guys out there who know how good the Olds diesels are aren’t afraid to pay big bucks for them. I have several that are daily drivers, it’s so nice to get 20-25 mpg with a full size luxury car. It’s also nice to not have the problems with the gasoline engines such as vapor lock, fuel system deterioration because of the ethanol fuel mix of today.
I regret not buying a GM car with a 5.7 diesel when they were dirt cheap. As with most things from the General, they had it pretty well sorted out by the time it was canned.
I hate to say it, but this almost looks unfinished to me without the vinyl top. And yes, whitewalls are requisite on these.
As a kid in the early 80’s I spent a lot of time as a passenger in a 4-door version of this car with the diesel. It really was slow, but the matronly family friend who drove it wasn’t exactly in a hurry either. Despite the diesel rattle it was a very quiet, smooth ride.
I read somewhere years ago that Dionne Warwick(e) added the ‘e’ at some point in response to advice from a psychic. Not sure if it was numerology related, but I seem to recall that the extra character in her name meant something astrologically.
I suppose I had read that also about Dionne Warwick(e) and the numerologist, at some point. I follow the vintagelasvegas.com website from time to time, which is an excellent treasure trove of vintage photos from Las Vegas. In one of those pictures I came across last week, Ms. Warwick(e) was the headlining act, with “WARWICK” in all-caps, but with a small, lower-case “e” tacked onto the end. It struck me funny. No disrespect to her, though, because I love pretty much all of her output through any decade. She’s royalty. Had to listen to some of her stuff today, after this post ran.
So then why did the Oldsmobile Dealer I briefly worked at have dead 350 Diesels triple parked in the back lot and double parked everywhere else awaiting new crate engines ? .
Serious question as I became a Diesel enthusiast decades later .
Almost all of them had rod bearing knocks.
This topic has been discussed extensively in the previous articles here by Paul and others. Use Search in the upper right corner and type in Olds diesel. Then, start reading 1,270 results one by one…
I realize this topic has been hashed over plenty, but feel a responsibility to jump in and defend the Oldsmobile diesel whenever it comes up. I’ve had so much good luck and good service from these engines, I feel they were a remarkable product from Oldsmobile, and don’t deserve all the bad press.
There’s always that one guy who says he drove and enjoyed his Yugo for 20 years, that one guy who says his Vega never gave a moment’s trouble, that one guy who thinks the ’87 Hyundai Excel was a well-built car that gets an undeserved bad rap, that one guy who says his Ford with the VV carburetor or Chrysler with the Lean Burn always ran perfectly.
I don’t presume to call any of those guys liars; it’s just that if their experience really went as they describe, it was quite different to most other people’s experience.
No doubt there were some problems. My guess is uneducated owners. Any water that gets through causes big problems, owners needed to pay attention to the water in fuel light. Oldsmobile should have had a dedicated fuel -water separator, but thought that owners would drain the water out when warned. Another observer thought that there must have been much more contaminated diesel fuel in those days as opposed to today. I never find water in the fuel, but drain some out just in case to double check.
I do partially agree with you, and think that the Oldsmobile diesel became a fairly reliable engine in its later years. Therein lies the problem: many of the folks who bought 1978-80 models ended up being the beta testers, and by the time they got enough of the problems ironed out, most people were too scared of the engine to even consider one. This has often been GM’s business model… beancount as much as you can out of the product, then see what you have to put back in to make it reliable after a couple years worth of warranty claims feeds that data to you. And, this is coming from me, a General Motors fan.
Yep. An actual water separator didn’t get added until very late in the run, and there wasn’t even a Water In Fuel light until sometime in 1980, so there was no indication that you had taken on water… a fairly common issue at the time. Dealers retrofitted many early cars with the water sensor that was made available at this time. Add that in with some dealers who had never dealt with a diesel engine before… which left cars hard starting, clattering and smoking and with too high EGT’s after the timing chain stretched (as they all do initially), which also retarded the injection timing. It’s a simple procedure to adjust, but how many techs were out there who’d never guessed that there’s something to time on a car with no distributor? These were prolly the same guys who reused the torque-to-yield head bolts, too.
Knowing what I do, I don’t think I’d hesitate to try on a later DX block Olds diesel and count on it for reliable service, though I’m not super keen on naturally aspirated diesels. A guy who lived close to me back home actually had one of the unicorn 4.3 V6 Cutlass Ciera diesels; his job took him all over the state of Montana, so he was piling on a lot of miles. He absolutely loved that thing. Enough so that he purchased two more of them (wasn’t that about 10% of total production?), all in good nick. I rode in one of them once, and it honestly wasn’t bad. Had more scoot than the 85hp number would suggest, though my only ride was in town and on secondary roads.
Here’s a GM design flaw that wasn’t fixed until 25 years passed. The Buick V-6 and V-8 oil pump that was in the front housing. No oil pressure, rods and mains knocking, and broken crankshafts. Why was this not fixed, how did Buick even survive this fiasco? Oldsmobile went full speed and made constant improvements in their diesel within months, and of course the DX engine is bullet proof.
This mirrors the same problem the owners faced with Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles that were fitted with the early form of diesel particulate filter (trap oxidiser). When cued by the warning lamp, the owners were supposed to travel at the highway speed for a certain length of time at the regular interval. This manoeuvre was supposed to burn away the accumulated soot particles. They didn’t, and the diesel particulate filter failed so often, necessiating the visits to the service centres.
I remember these well, but I also remember the coupes being super-rare. Most coupe buyers in an early ’80s Oldsmobile showroom found the Cutlass sufficient unless they had Toronado money, most people wanting a Delta 88 or a 98 wanted four doors to access all that room.
And then there was my aunt the child psychologist who went to schools all over the state of Vermont with a *lot* of testing materials – a full-size station wagon full, in fact – always an Olds or Buick, sometimes with woodgrain and sometimes not.
This is an excellent point around the market placement of the Delta 88 coupes. The Cutlass Supreme probably was just enough coupe / car for most Olds buyers. Add to that the fact that the 1981+ Cutlass 2-doors had different sheetmetal than the sedans, and instant added exclusivity, a la the more expensive Toronado.
I remember reading years ago that Miss Warwick added the “e” to her name at the advice of her numerologist. Eight letters, it was predicted, would bring her good luck.
This action coincided with a career low point, during which she failed to land a hit record, so it seems the numerologist was wrong.
“As soon as I got rid of that damned ‘e’, ” she was quoted as saying, “my career started moving again”.
Right! Yes. As I had mentioned to someone else above, I did read something about her and the numerologist.
I have actually discovered some of her mid-’70s stuff that didn’t make the charts, and I love it – “Move Me No Mountain”, in particular. Her career resurgence of the late ’70s yielded some great stuff. My personal fave from her comeback album of ’79 was “Deja Vu”, written by Isaac Hayes and Adrienne Anderson. Dionne Warwick is / was all class.
Another great pairing of movie and car. In my case, neither one does it for me. I don’t begrudge those who love either one, but I’ll pass. In fact, I can deal with the movie, but it’s the car that gives me the most trouble. I recall saying to myself the first time I saw one of these that there is not one single angle that makes these attractive. I am still trying to find one.
The droopy nose, the up-jutting butt with the odd angle across the back, the oddly shaped taillights, the big round full wheel openings under the square greenhouse that looks like it belongs on another car. The Oldsmobile went from being one of the best looking of the 77-79 generation to the absolute worst. I never really liked the 80+ Chevrolet, but it looks better than this car. My 98 Coupe was no beauty queen, but it was so, so much better than the 88.
Those taillights were the cheapest ugliest set on a GM full size car. Not a lick of styling. The instant you saw the rear end of this car, you knew it was no 98.
The later versions with the amber rear signals were a big improvement, at least they could lay claim to being optimized for function.
“Not a lick of styling” still has me howling. LOL!!
I thought the 1980+ taillights were kind of an enlarged riff on the units on the 1975 and ’76 models. The 1980+ units have the same basic shape as the older ones, but since those newer units are larger, especially in relation to the reduced, overall dimensions of the 1980 cars, they have a slightly different effect.
I now prefer the 1977 – ’79 Deltas, but I don’t remember the ’80 models as seeming particularly objectionable-looking when they were new when I was a kid.
Ha! It’s like styling-wise, the downsized Olds went from being at the top of the class to failing its final exams. LOL I don’t know if it’s at the bottom of the pack – for me, anyway.
Let me think about the 1980 full-size, non-Cadillac two-doors for a second… Which one would be my pick? The formal rooflines were not my favorite look, but I guess I’d go with the… I can’t decide. I’ll just say the Buick wore that look the best, for now.
I remember the different name for Quarter Pounder when visiting Germany in the early 1980s. Quarter Pounder was one of my favourite hamburgers from McDonalds (Big Mac wasn’t for me). I recognised from the photos on the menu that Quarter Pounder was called Hamburger Royal and later Hamburger Royal TS (Tomate und Salat) in Germany.
That film: I saw it with a couple of friends, and we had to stop at the part where the Troubleshooter came in to help deal with the mess in the car. (I am not revealing more of this scene). It took us a while (actually, weeks) before we muster up the little of Dutch courage to finish the film.
Definitely not a movie to watch before you go somewhere to eat. 🙂
Someone in Hollywood had to craft one of the ugliest toupees ever for Travolta.
Excellent! Thanks for posting this. I opted out of embedding it into my essay only for formatting reasons.
Y’welcome. I’m half-tempted to post the other one (“Check out the big brain on Brett!”), but that wasn’t the subject of this essay. 🙂
It’s weird how ubiquitous these Oldsmobiles once were. Now they’ve disappeared off the road and the few survivors are starting to appreciate. There was a 79 98 Regency Brougham on my local craigslist back in 2019. If I had the cash, it certainly would’ve been interesting to snatch it up.
I like Pulp Fiction, but at the same time, I find it overrated. Maybe it’s the pop-culture ubiquity making it seem more special than I find it, maybe the disjointed nature of the narrative means some scenes I find languish compared to others (We all remember Jules and Vincent’s conversations and the Basement scene and even the Gold Watch, but I struggle to remember the opening Diner conversation or any of Uma Thurman’s scenes outside of the dance club), but something about it doesn’t resonate with me like some of Tarantino’s other films. I do find it better than some of his movies (Jackie Brown is redeemed by Samuel L Jackson’s Ordell alone, everything else about it I find painfully monotonous), but Reservoir Dogs will always be the gold standard for me.
I hear you about this movie’s omnipresence at some point. I remember having that thought when I saw it spoofed on “The Simpsons”, years ago. Part of the draw for me was how I felt when I had first seen it, and in that particular time of my life.
I did also really love “Jackie Brown”, and in fact, I may need to hunt that one down at the local thrift store. That movie was what got me started on Pam Grier, and “Coffy” was probably my favorite of her ’70s movies.
Pam Grier is generally underrated as an actress. Jackie Brown is a great movie on several levels. I’ve only seen clips of Coffy on youtube; it had a few good car chases if memory serves.
It also seems Grier was in a series of women’s prison films earlier in the 1970s. I’m wanting to say one of them was with Anitra Ford, one of the initial models from The Price Is Right. Never seen any of them but a few clips here and there.
Agreed ~ Pam Grier was one of my favorites for many years .
Last thing I heard she’d retired and gone back to Colorado where she hailed from .
Those early jailhouse films were trashy but fun =8-) .
My parents had a 1982 Royale Brougham four-door sedan in light jadestone metallic WITHOUT a vinyl roof. The lack of a vinyl roof improved the looks. It had the 307 V-8, which was smooth, but no powerhouse. But overall it was a very nice car – solid, quiet, comfortable, easy to drive and very reliable.
After 1979, the only full-size GM coupes that didn’t look awkward were the Chevrolet Impala/Caprice and Cadillac de Ville. I’m surprised the coupes outsold the wagons in the Delta 88 line-up. The latter seemed to be much more common at the time.
I had an 83 88 Royale Brougham with the 307. Reliable and ran great. Metallic brown with padded top, plush brown bench seat interior. Very comfortable. I loved it. I owned it from about 2002-2006. My Mother, for some reason, hated it so much she offered to gave me her 1988 Jeep Cherokee XJ if I would get rid of the Olds. It took her a year to wear me down. Some might call that a win. I had the Jeep until 250,000 miles and when I sold it was still running strong. I still miss the that Olds.
The side profile in the advert shows a handsome, formal car with nice proportions. Nice as the real car in the photos is, it´s not very obviously as nicely proportioned as the ad. Is that merely to do with the angle of the photography or because GM cheated in the advert? Leaving that aside, why does a luxury coupe not have a rear centre armrest?
I correct myself: this link shows a similar car from all angles and, yes, it is quite nicely proportioned. And there is no rear centre arm-rest (which is a real black mark).
In this period the Olds/Cadillac/Buick distinction was really hard to determine. In side view these cars are very much the same and I say that as a splitter not a lumper. They aren´t the same, for sure, but not different enough. If you like a baroque large car the full-size Olds are as baroque as the corresponding Caddy.
Richard, I agree that GM’s Sloanian, hierarchical ladder was completely busted by the time this car was new.. The Cadillacs were always going to be a bit more special, but the distinctions between, say, Buick and Olds were somewhat murky by the ’80s.
Joseph, you had my interest until you mentioned the engine lineup. No wonder we consider these the Malaise Era. Power sacrificed on the altar of CAFE,. Wonder how many would-be customers felt the same way, and decided their old banger would last another year or two?
This car really looks naked, unfinished, without the lower body chrome. Okay, so maybe Olds overdid things there, but a little of the shiny stuff down there wouldn’t hurt, especially to offset the effect of those solid chrome window frames. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just the drip molding and sill molding in chrome, but when it’s on the window frames and B-pillar as well, no. The car looks kinda top-heavy as it is, like it’s sinking into the ground.
And, as others have said, the wheels look too small for the bodywork, even painted silver. Either whitewalls or perhaps a tasteful 17″ alloy; the wrecking yards must be full of them.
Peter, I wonder if any lower-body chrome had been removed by the owner, kind of in keeping with the overall “big bruiser” vibe of this car.
Great write-up Joseph! I also really like Pulp fiction, definitely Tarantino’s best movie or at least my favourite. I am mixed on these 1980-85 Olds Delta 88s. The coupes were definitely the most homily of the bunch, but I don’t have quite the distaste that JPC does for them. I think as a 4-door sedan they were reasonably good looking of the era, but I still think the Chevrolet was by far the best looking of the B-bodies (sans gingerbread).
The early 80s had to be the nadir for performance in modern cars (if we can call 40 year old cars modern). While the hp/cubic inch was up from the low point in the mid 1970s, cars had even smaller and weaker engines and performance definitely did not improve. It’s pretty sad when the boat anchor 307 was the hi-po engine option!
As a former (recovering) owner of several 307 powered Oldsmobiles, I will say that despite being weak chested, they did have excellent NVH, probably the best of the 5.0L V8s and were also very good on fuel. Despite the EPA ratings, I could easily get well into the 20s (US MPG) on the highway even at fast speeds. The real world fuel economy is probably pretty comparable to say a modern F-150 with a 2.7L Ecoboost. That said, don’t compare the two for power/performance!
Interesting comments on the size of the cars too. I recently saw a ’85 Olds Delta 88 in the parking lot at the grocery store. To me, other than it’s really long length, it looked kind of unsubstantial in the sea of towering cross overs, SUVs and pickups.
Thank you, Vince. Among the great points you made, the one about this car’s size struck me. An earlier post at CC of a Dodge Omni parked next to a modern Ford Fiesta (or Focus?) that dwarfed it drove home the point that cars of any designated size class have grown substantially in some directions.
Joe, this was a very good write-up.
For whatever reason these two-door B-bodies just seem to be missing something. Perhaps it’s two doors to make them look better balanced. Although their missing something could stem from my not seeing them with any frequency in the area I grew up. Four doors were the order of the day.
That said, my opinion of their looks in the B-body lineup is rather fluid. The Buick has always been the winner to me with the Pontiac coming in last due to its being so derivative. The Olds and Chevrolet always duke it out for third place!
Thanks, Jason. In my memory, also, there were way more 4-door Delta 88s of this vintage than 2-doors.
The 4 doors are better proportioned. The long doors of the 2 doors are just too big. Removing the vinyl top and trim and emblems are standard hot rod and custom tropes. The idea is to reveal the underlying “pure”design beneath the clutter. The chromed wheels and blackwalls are also hot rod touches as is the red paint. The 88s did not have a red in their color selection. The 98s had one called “Autumn Firemist Red” which is a darker red than the featured car from what i can see.
The problem is that the minimalist hot rod and custom ideas don’t work on this body shape and style. In this case less is really less. Minimalism only reveals the boxy box on a box style. Not exciting in the least. They really do benefit from the external additions of padded vinyl top, lower body trim, white wall tires and either the Olds ralley wheels or the wire wheel covers. 57-58 Plymouth and Dodge are the same way. They look shitty without all those amazing stainless spears.
I don’t mean to judge this car so harshly. It is by no means shitty and I am very glad that someone loves it enough to invest in it and keep it alive. I would definitely own another Olds 88. Having owned several 400cid Olds 442s I really do appreciate all of the torque that they deliver. My impression of the 307 is that it is a good engine doing a very difficult job moving a very large and heavy car. But the pedigree is true, that little Olds had lots of grunt to get that car off the line. The improvement in transmissions since the old Turbo-400 helps. It almost made up for the sub 3.00 rear gears. Top speed was very good and the heavy duty suspension made for a nice stable and effortless freeway flyer.
Paolo, thanks for pointing out that about the factory red that was available. Maybe t did cross my mind when I saw this one that this color didn’t look “natural” to this make and model, though not at all bad. It also worked well with its burgundy interior.
I also agree with your hypothetical assessment of the owner’s intent with debadging and dechroming this example. Aside from the steel wheels, I like this car’s overall look for what it is.
I dunno Paolo ;
My old 1958 Plymouth Plaza stripper (not even a heater and rubber floor mats) looked pretty good to me .
The lack of those stainless steel trims saved it from being destroyed in the movie “Christine” .
What always amazed me was how well those big boats handled .
Nice write up, Joseph! I am a fan of Pulp Fiction, too (and count me as a fan of Jackie Brown). As enjoyable as the early Royale With Cheese conversation is, it’s equally valuable as a set up for the later scene where he quizzes the unfortunate Brad (IIRC the name) about why they don’t call the quarter pounder a quarter pounder in Europe. “Check out the big brain on Brad!” is another great quote from the movie!
This looks like a Royale Brougham, without cheese, since it’s missing the vinyl roof. I base that on the pillow-look seats, which were only found on the Brougham. My guess is that it was repainted at some point and the Royale badge put back in the wrong place on the C pillar.
Great to see one of these still chugging along!
I have a lot of affection for these cars, since my first car at 16 was a hand-me-down 83 Delta 88 Royale Brougham coupe, which frankly was a superb first car. Not too fast, ok on gas, comfortable for me and my friends, and learning to park it set me up well for being able to park anything. 18 feet of sandy silver with a matching plush interior. Heaven!
This one is interesting because you can clearly see the Brougham interior, so I suspect that it was repainted. The vinyl top, which I personally like, was probably removed at the time.
Contrary to others’ opinions above, I always found these better looking than the contemporary 98s, and the Buicks and Pontiacs of the early 80s didn’t really do anything for me either.
I remember seeing “Pulp Fiction” twice at the local second-run theater back in ’95. I don’t really like violence that much, but I’ll put up with it for most Tarantino movies. I watched “Jackie Brown” for the first time since it was new recently, and I liked it more now than I did back then. “Once upon a Time in Hollywood” was great, although the ending was almost too comically ridiculous to match the tone of the rest of the film.
Anyway, my parents’ LeSabre (their only GM product ever) had a 307 with a three-speed automatic. One day back in the ’80s, a kid in a 98 sedan squealed the tires at a stop sign near my parents’ house. Having ridden in our LeSabre and knowing it could barely break a tire loose on gravel, I wondered how he could have possibly done that. The only thing I could think of was that the 98 had overdrive with a shorter first gear. It’s still baffling. And no, he didn’t do a brake stand to get them going, either.
Ah, the mysteries of the universe.