Some fantasy shopping led me to this pristine ’73 Olds Ninety-Eight. ’71-’76 GM B and C bodies are usually in abundance on eBay and it begs the question: where do all these pristine full-sizers come from?
I also had the good fortune of finding a much less common ’77 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham, listed by the same seller, and got to wondering which of the two enormous sedans would be most popular among CC-ers. Given the choice of these two C bodies, would you make room in your garage for the big “Youngmobile” or the Impostor Imperial?
The ’71-’76 GM B & C bodies are not very popular around here, and have even been cited as a Deadly Sin, but even as a Mopar partisan, I can’t help but think they were the most attractive full-sizers of the period and the Oldsmobiles in particular were quite handsome.
The New Yorker Brougham’s neoclassical pastiche, on the other hand, shows a complete break with the previous Fuselage cars, which taught Chrysler that “modern” was no longer a draw in big cars. All decked out in white as this example is, however, there’s a definite fat-elvis-in-a-leisure-suit vibe. And you can’t deny the appeal; Elvis’s desire for isolation and comfort led him to fried chicken and sedatives, but for the rest of us, the top of the line Chrysler was on hand to help meet the same need.
Inside, the overstuffed living room theme is on full display. The ’74-’78 C-bodies have a rather industrial looking dashboard. I find it hard to overlook, and despite plenty of equipment to keep occupants happy, the front vent windows are manually operated. Tisk tisk!
I’ve always enjoy the flush-mounted door releases Chrysler put in its cars and those fitted to 69-78 C-bodies are especially subtle.
Despite being cited as an example of plasticky cost-cutting, the Olds has a much nicer cabin. The designers actually bothered to shape the dashboard to break up the expanse of material facing front passengers, and the three spoke steering wheel is much more appropriate to a car of this stature.
Color obviously has a lot to do with how these interior designs come across, and the Olds’s green color scheme is, well, wonderful. That said, I have to give the Chrysler to nod when it comes to the door trim, with its greater area of upholstered surface. But the Ninety-Eight still wins, with a superior dashboard and nicer seating surfaces.
Loose-pillow seating is a ghastly concept for automotive use, but without the velour upholstery which came soon after this car rolled down the assembly line, the look still manages to be clean.
The Chrysler, made four years later, has very clean velour, but imagine how filthy it would seem with the dirt that would accumulate in normal use. All those buttons and folds make that an unpleasant proposition.
The big 440 (that’s 7.2 liter) four-barrel in the New Yorker is saddled with the Lean Burn system, famously controlled by Chrysler’s electronic engine management. I’ve never heard a single good thing about the system, but maybe when functioning properly, there’s something redeeming about it. I’m interested to know readers’ experiences.
The former owner of the Olds, however, took a different approach, jettisoning the original exhaust and fitting a new air cleaner; likely among other mods. The engine displacement is unlisted, so I’ll just assume it’s the 455. One of the most fun things about the biggest of the landyachts is the wide possibility of engine mods and all the support available. If you want a hot cam, and super high compression, you can have it and, with roughly 7.5 liters of displacement and generous sound insulation, still enjoy reasonable comfort and tractability in daily use. What’s not to
The rear angle is the New Yorker Brougham’s best. The fender skirts work well here (too bad the cut-out is so obvious), and the bumper is a better fit than most others from the late ’70s.
As for the Olds, I always felt the 88 had a much smoother, more modern treatment than the Ninety-Eight, which looks–as a friend put it–like a soft-core Cadillac. The severe treatment doesn’t mesh well with all the tumblehome, but with that deep looking finish and dual exhaust, you can’t call it unattractive.
There are five days left to bid on these cars, both of which are hovering around $4200 at the moment I write this. The Chrysler has about 43,000 miles on it–20,000 more than the Olds–and after about four decades, that means that parts will need to be replaced soon after either car is put into regular use. But I don’t imagine anyone would want to use a big old sedan like this in such a manner. That, of course, is what’s ultimately so challenging: these are big, comfortable cruisers with modern conveniences and it’d be awfully tempting to waft alongside contemporary crossovers on a daily basis and show their drivers a thing or two about style.