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The Carchive: Oldsmobile in 1985

Chris Haining July 3, 2015 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 19 Comments

We’re enjoying a heatwave right now in the UK. After the excitement of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, followed closely by the sheer overwhelmingness of an encounter with a still-active Ford Granada Estate, what better than to sit back and relax in a shady spot with a long, cool, refreshing brochure?

The Carchive has been closed for maintenance for the last couple of weeks, but now the hard hats and reflective jackets have finally been packed away and I can gain access once again. First off the shelf this time was a Brochure for the Oldsmobile line-up of 1985.

“Here you can sample a medley of our greatest hits”

What a very strange document this August 1984 brochure is. Presented to look kinda-like a vinyl LP (which may have been intentionally ironic considering that the CD age was upon us) it success only in looking like the kind of hideous record that we might find in our grandparents collection.

“First we invite you to enjoy the most recent winner on out hit parade, the 1985 Ninety-Eight Regency. It’s a new dimension in Oldsmobile luxury”

“It’s quiet, it’s restful, it’s inviting and comfortable”. Trumpeted features were 6-way power control for the driver’s seat in either “rich velour” (particularly fetching in Whorehouse Red) or Genuine Leather. An electronic instrument panel, electronic auto calculator and trip computer and voice information system could all be had if you were technologically inclined.

3.0 V6 and 3.8V6 were the gas engine choices but there was also a 4.3 V6 diesel, which I imagine to have been amazingly good. Obviously.

“Next, music to your ears- Delta 88 Royale, the family car that didn’t forget the family”

This was, in my opinion, the best looking of the B-Body series which also included Chevy Caprice, Pontiac Parisienne and Buick LeSabre. “Top-of-the-line luxury and comfort for six.” They may have bragged about the wall-to-wall hness of cut-pile carpeting, power windows and door locks, power steering and brakes, but they still had one eye on the miser because the radio could be deleted for credit.

Naturally you could have them as a Brougham, with a vinyl roof.And why the hell wouldn’t you? 3.8 V6 standard in all models except Brougham LS, which got the 5.0V8 which would otherwise have been an option. Actually, what you really wanted was a 5.0 custom cruiser longroof. The 5.7 diesel could be had in either, if you really wanted…

“Oldsmobile Toronado, an exciting arrangement of style and performance in a personal luxury car”

This was available as a Brougham or an unimaginably glamourous Caliente, distinguished by beef-derived seating surfaces and standard electronic instrumentation, together with extra slabs of chrome jazzing up the exterior. V8s in 5.0 gas or that infamous 5.7 diesel flavour were available.

“If you consider yourself a one-of-a-kind person, this is definitely your kind of car”. Well, I do. Yet, somehow, I don’t think I could bring myself to do it.

(All images are of original manufacturers publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright belongs to GM. Do we need Landau roofs to come back? I’m pretty sure we do.)

  • hubba

    It’s weird to see the Ninety Eight dashboard copy the Rover SD1, not because it facilitates LHD/RHD conversion, but because they couldn’t bother thinking of a better idea.

  • nanoop

    There was a 5.7L diesel? I need to know more about this… I guess it was borrowed from a commercial vehicle, or a block heat and power plant. And I wonder how long preheating took.

    • tonyola

      This was GM’s infamous failure-prone diesel engine which started its ill-starred life as a 5.7 liter (350 CID) gasoline engine. It was in production from 1978 to the mid-’80s and was bad enough to nearly kill US interest in diesels until recently.

      • hubba

        The Olds diesel block is only related to the Olds 350 gas engine by its bore. It has big bearings and stronger bearing webs than an Olds 455 engine.

    • nanoop

      A very interesting engine, as the Internet told me. A popular hack was to use it as gas engine for drag racing, as it was designed for diesel compression ratios, and it somehow had also bad luck with fuel quality. An oily history gem!

      • hubba

        Early Olds diesels had head gasket problems. Aside from fuel problems, a big issue was that the fuel pump drive belt would slip, screwing up the timing of the injection. Easy to correct, but you had to know to check and adjust it.

        To be fair, lots of gas vehicles of them period had complex lashed up fuel systems that mechanics didn’t understand.

        • nanoop

          Sounds like a perfect engine for the Misery Era! I hope the block is Al and the head cast iron… Anyway, I’m a fan now (in a way one can be a fan of, say, LMP1 racing: I like it, but I don’t want to do/own it…).

  • hutchcraftcp .

    a family member had a 4.3 v6 diesel. It was replaced three times under warranty. I can’t speak for others but our time with the Oldsmobile diesel was not a good one. I will say when it was running it made a huge car get very good MPG.

  • Lokki

    ” They may have bragged about the wall-to-wall hness of cut-pile carpeting, power windows and door locks, power steering and brakes, but they still had one eye on the miser because the radio could be deleted for credit.

    • We had an 80 Citation with a vertical AM only radio. Grandpa bought it new and had an FM converter installed under the dash that would play FM radio through an AM station. Then he added an 8 track player next to it that played through an FM station. Then when he started getting cassettes, he bought a cassette adapter for the 8 track.

      So, a cassette playing in an 8 track player tuned to an FM station played through an am station on a lone GM quality dash mounted 4×10 speaker.

      After Dad bought the car, he found an aftermarket cassette stereo with a vertical faceplate and dial, replaced the lone dash speaker with a pair of 4s and added a couple of 4x10s by the rear quarter windows. It was much better.

    • I must admit the aftermarket thing occurred to me shortly after writing the piece. But a part of me really loved the idea of a skinflint saving $75 dollars for going without a radio.

    • Citric

      GM really went all out trying to irritate the aftermarket crowd. They did that, they made them in weird sizes and shapes so you couldn’t do a clean install. The pinnacle of this was probably the Buick Somerset with its weird radio pod thing.

      Though somewhere in the 2000s suddenly everyone was totally okay with stereos being impossible to replace.

      • dead_elvis

        The original music ‘pod? Looks more like a tumor.

    • Mr. Ollivander

      I don’t think there was any conspiracy with the Citation radios. I think GM was trying to make the nearly same cars within the same platform look different. The Phoenix and Skylark had conventional horizontal radios and I’m almost certain the Omega did too. They weren’t the only car company with a strange radio layout, Ford has had a few as well. There was at least a generation of Escorts with a strange oval pod requiring a new pod to add an aftermarket stereo.
      I think the radio delete option was just a carryover from a different era. It carried on for many years with GM, Ford, and Chrysler. I can remember my parents thinking I was going to kill the battery by playing the radio (or most other accessories) in the car.

  • We had a Ninety Eight that miraculously survived some sort of catastrophic engine failure early on. I was very small, but the story goes it was driven twenty miles with a broken cambelt, which left contemporary mechanics and present-day me scratching our heads. After that, no issues, just huge blue-over-blue seats that could hold about 20 of me. For a treat, we would stop at Burger King, then park at the end of the MSP runway and stand out the sunroof, watching planes take off and land, never leaving until we saw a 747. My mom loved that car; she wanted to follow it up with a Buick Roadmaster before caving to a series of minivans instead.

  • We had a 1980 Toronado with a 4 barrel 350. It felt quite fast at the time. It was the first car we had with power goodies besides locks. I remember thinking it was quite fancy for our family.

  • dead_elvis

    beef-derived seating surfaces is now the only acceptable way to refer to leather seats. I’ll definitely be using it in reference to any kind of seating.

    “The Corbin saddle I bought for my Kawi ZRX, with it’s waterproof, beef-derived seating surface, is an order of magnitude more comfortable & attractive than the vinyl-covered stock unit.”

  • Cameron Vanderhorst

    I’m surprised and hurt by the complete lack of G-body Cutlass in this brochure. The Cutlass Ciera was a false prophet, a heretic. RWD is the true way! *does weird salute at nothing in particular*

    • Age_of_Aerostar

      Oddly, there is no Ciera in the brochure, and neither is the Calais. (maybe those were on album #2?)

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