Curbside Classic: 1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham – A Lesson In Aesthetics


(first posted 12/2/2013)    After last week’s rather busily-styled 1991 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, here’s something refreshing: An ’83 Delta 88 Royale Brougham. I spotted this on my usual route through Downtown Crossing, proudly guarded by orange cones.


This generation of 88 happens to be one of my favorites. It’s a B-body that looks large and in charge, just as a full-size Oldsmobile should look. Looking a little more civilian than a Caprice, but neither as baroque as a Parisienne, nor as chrome-laden as a LeSabre, the Delta 88 is stately without pretension. This is probably the reason why these cars appealed so so many Americans in the early ’80s. I’ve always found this 88 a perfect complement to the concurrent Ninety-Eight sedan. While similar from the B-pillar forward, the Ninety-Eight featured a near-vertical roofline, upright trunk, and fender skirts (that actually looked good on it!) .


This one of course is all Broughamed-out with required wire wheels, padded vinyl roof, color keyed tape stripes, and lower chrome trim. Despite this, those styling features are tastefully incorporated into the design, in a minimalist sort of way. It’s more restrained then other Broughams, with their landau bars, opera windows, coach lamps, fender skirts, and busier trim work. Additionally, this one wears an attractive color combination. Obviously not the official color names, I’d call it a cappuccino with espresso vinyl roof – appropriate as my habitual Starbucks is across the street.

Delta 88 83

I’m sure you all know by now my disdain for skirted rear wheels. I’m thankful stylists never added that touch to these cars. It’s just so perfect and proportionate, with equal front and rear overhangs, equivalently pitched front and rear windshields, bookended by gently-sloping, balanced hood and trunk. Not to mention all of its crisp straight lines. In case you haven’t guessed by now, desire for visual balance and evenness is one of the mild obsessive compulsions that I suffer from. This has probably never been said about a Brougham, but looking at it puts me in a state of zen. I’ll admit I stopped and stared at this car for a few extra minutes because of how calm I feel from looking at it.


This design was in production for a lengthy 9 model years (1977-1985), making it the longest generation of the 88. It was hardly neglected though. Besides its annual grille tweaks (which is the reason I knew this was an ’83), the car was given a considerable facelift in 1980. And that restyling was definitely for the better.

79 88

I’ve never really cared for the ’77-’79 88s. Their headlights were too tall, and lacked substantial wraparound turn signals. I think the quad headlamps on either side may have inspired the front of the “Family Truckster“. Comparing one to an ’80-’85 88 makes the car look like it smacked into a wall. The rear also left more to be desired, with its generic horizontal rectangular taillights, and trunk lid that sloped off just a little too much. The 1980 restyle seemed to benefit more from the Sheer Look, which contributed to an overall leaner appearance.


These headlights and grille are the first things that come to mind when I think ’80s Oldsmobile. Despite our featured car’s end in 1985, they continued on the Custom Cruiser wagon all the way through 1990, thus appearing on an Olds every year of the 1980s.

Olds 1983 interior

I felt uncomfortable taking interior shots with all the cops and the owner (a construction worker, hence the cones) standing nearby, but I can attest it was covered in wall-to-wall, rich chocolatey velour Broughaminess. I’m always amazed by the height of the dash. No wonder these are the cars we usually see little old ladies trying to peer over.

1983 Olds outside

I think I’ve gushed over this car enough. When you’re having a stressful day, it’s nice to see a car that’s so aesthetically pleasing. And to my joy, it’s an Oldsmobile!