The 1986-1991 H-bodies tend to get a lot of hate (although not quite as much as their 1985-1990 C-body cousins). Even as someone with a soft spot for these cars, I totally see where these negative feelings come from. Where their B-body predecessors were big, rear-wheel drive, and had available V8 power, these H-body successors were externally smaller, front-wheel drive, V6-only, and generally less distinctive in appearance. Of course, they were more fuel and space efficient, and more technologically advanced cars in general. Still, to some, these cars could never be viewed as acceptable replacements.
Too bad for them I guess, as the H-bodies, like this 109,000-mile 1990 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight were very solid cars, that sold even better than their B-body predecessors, breaking the 200,000 mark in their inaugural year, and selling above the 150,000 mark for most of their run. 1990 and 1991 would see a significant dip in sales, as all car sales were down due to the 1990-1991 recession, and Oldsmobile was especially struggling with identity issues.
In light of these figures, the overwhelming majority of Eighty-Eights (officially renamed from “Delta 88” in 1989) sold during this period were sedans. Unlike the more premium Ninety-Eight, whose 2-door coupe models were dropped after 1987, the Eighty-Eight continued to offer this body style until its next redesign. In fact, by 1990, the Eighty-Eight was the last of only four full-size American cars to offer both coupe and sedan bodystyles (the others being its H-body Buick LeSabre sibling, and the related C-body Cadillac DeVille and Fleetwood).
By that point, Eighty-Eight coupe sales were basically nonexistent, as the late-’80s saw the market shift towards sedans. In 1986, coupe production comprised just over 26% of overall Delta 88 output. By 1991, coupe models, at only 692 units, accounted for only 1.23% of overall Eighty-Eight production.
This particular 1990 Eighty-Eight Royale coupe was one of 1,127 produced. An additional 1,585 Eighty-Eight Royale Brougham coupes were produced for 2,712 in total. Given their low collector interest and often many years of loyal service, it’s safe to say that there are not many of this already extremely low number left on the road today.
As this is a 1990, I’m surprised to find manual-crank windows in a full-sizer from a near-luxuryish marque like Oldsmobile. Upon checking the brochure, it appears that power windows were standard in all but one of the eight package specification codes. Needless to say, this is a “bare bones” Eighty-Eight Royale.
Although Eighty-Eights could be fully loaded with options like 55/45 divided bench seats, velour or leather, six-speaker sound system with CD player, anti-lock brakes, and digital instrument cluster with a full complement of gauges, this car was kept simple, staying true to base specification. The extra-cost only option I can detect is the 14-inch simulated wire wheel discs.
A base Eighty-Eight model was hardly a stripper, in the sense that a base Chevrolet would be, however. Cut-pile carpeting, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with seek/scan, and full-foam custom bench seat with center armrest. Additionally, all Eighty-Eights received rather attractive “Dark Sheffield Gray” interior trim on the dash and door panels. A nice alternative to cheap-looking plastiwood or worse, unadorned monotone plastic.
I’m not a huge fan of the tweed upholstery, as it doesn’t look very comfortable, especially if you were wearing shorts. It reminds me of the uncomfortable ’70s-era chairs in my elementary school library. But, I guess you had to make sacrifices if you wanted to get into a full-size Olds on a budget.
Power was the same on all Eighty-Eights, no matter how generously or sparsely equipped. By 1990, Eighty-Eights were powered by the Buick 3800 “Pre-Series I” LN3 V6. Making 165 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque, this engine was a sufficient power plant to haul around the 3,200 lbs. Eighty-Eight. A four-speed automatic was the only transmission available.
Although the Eighty-Eight’s crisp lines were beginning to look dated next to the wave of “aero” cars, it was by all means still a handsome car in 1990. Eighty-Eight sedans lacked the “formal” extreme vertical roofline of the Ninety-Eight, and Eighty-Eight coupes sported an even more rakish roofline for more distinctive and dare I say, sportier looks. For 1990, all Eighty-Eights were treated to a body-color grille, updated taillight clusters, and less chrome trim for a modernized appearance.
Looks aside, there was no denying that the coupe market, especially the large coupe market was virtually dead by the Nineties. 1.23% just wasn’t enough to keep the Eighty-Eight coupe around. An new “aero” Eighty-Eight was waiting in the wings, and I’m sure it was no surprise that there were no coupes when it debuted for 1992.
H-bodies currently aren’t high on collectors’ radar, and I don’t know if they’ll ever be. Given its extremely low production figures though, the Eighty-Eight Royale Coupe is destined to become a future collectible of some sorts, if for nothing else, its rarity. It would be nice to see this one preserved for future generations.