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Oldsmobile 88

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Oldsmobile 88

The Oldsmobile 88 (a.k.a. Eighty-Eight) was a full-size car sold by the Oldsmobile division of General Motors and produced from 1949 until 1999. From 1950 to 1974 the 88 was the division's top-selling line, particularly the entry-level models such as the 88 and Dynamic 88. The 88 series was also an image leader for Oldsmobile, particularly in the early years (1949–51) when it was one of the best performing automobiles thanks to its relatively small size, light weight and advanced overhead-valve high-compression V8 engine originally designed for the larger and more luxurious 98 series but dropped into the smaller six-cylinder Oldsmobile 76 body, creating what was considered the predecessor of musclecars of the 1960s.

A large number of variations in nomenclature were seen over this long model run—Delmont, Delta, Dynamic, Jetstar, Starfire, Super, Holiday, L/S, LSS, Celebrity, and Royale were used at various times with the 88 badge, and Fiesta appeared on some station wagons in the 1950s and 1960s. The name was more commonly shown as numbers in the earlier years ("Delta 88", for example) and was changed to spell-out "Eighty Eight" starting in 1989. The Oldsmobile Eighty Eight was produced in Wentzville, Missouri; Flint, Michigan; and Lake Orion, Michigan.

1949–1953

Oldsmobile introduced the 88 badge in 1949. It was named to complement the already-existing 76 and 98. The new car used the six-cylinder 76's new Futuramic B-body platform with a powerful new Rocket V8 engine. This combination of a relatively small light body and large, powerful engine made it a precursor to the muscle car. The Rocket 88 vaulted Oldsmobile from a somewhat staid, conservative car to a performer that became the one to beat on the NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) circuits. It won six of the nine NASCAR late-model division races in 1949, 10 of 19 in 1950, 20 of 41 in 1952, and was eventually eclipsed by the low-slung, powerful Hudson Hornet, but it was still the first real "King of NASCAR." This led to increased sales to the public. There was a pent up demand for new cars in the fast-expanding post World War II economy, and the 88 appealed to many ex-military personnel who were young and had operated powerful military equipment.

The 88 enjoyed a great success, inspiring a popular 1950s slogan, "Make a Date with a Rocket 88", and also a song, "Rocket 88", often considered the first rock and roll record. Starting with the trunk-lid emblem of the 1950 model, Oldsmobile would adopt the rocket as its logo, and the 88 name would remain in the Olds lineup until the late 1990s, almost until the end of Oldsmobile itself. Styling changes for the 1950 model include the replacement of a two-piece windshield with a one-piece unit and the addition of the Holiday hardtop coupe to the line. Also a three-speed manual transmission with column shift became available as a "delete for credit" option to the Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. The 88 now outsold the six-cylinder 76 lineup, which was dropped entirely after the 1950 model year. It had a 40ft. turning circle. For 1951, the 88 was now the entry-level Olds with the discontinuation of the six-cylinder 76 line, which meant that all Oldsmobiles were powered by Rocket V8s. New this year was the more upscale Super 88 line on the new GM B-body which included restyled rear body panels, a more luxurious interior, and a slightly longer 120-inch (3,000 mm) wheelbase as opposed to the 119.5-inch (3,040 mm) wheelbase which had been standard since the 88's introduction. The station wagon was discontinued and would not reappear until the 1957 model year. In 1952, the base 88 shared the Super 88s rear bodypanels and wheelbase, and got a 145 horsepower (108 kW) 303 cu in (5.0 L) Rocket V8 with two-barrel carburetor while Super 88s got a more powerful 160 hp (119 kW) 303 with a new four-barrel carburetor. Other mechanical features were unchanged with styling changes amounting to new grilles, taillights, and interior revisions. For 1953, the base 88 was renamed the DeLuxe 88 for only this one year while the Super 88 continued as a more upscale version. Engines and transmission offerings were the same as 1952. Late in the 1953 model year, a fire destroyed GM's Hydra-Matic plant in Livonia, Michigan, which was then the only source for Hydra-Matic transmissions. The temporary loss of Hydra-Matic production led Oldsmobile to build thousands of its 1953 models with Buick's two-speed Dynaflow automatic transmissions until GM pressed its Willow Run Transmission plant into service to resume Hydra-Matic production. New options this year included Frigidaire air conditioning, power steering, and power brakes.

1954–56

The 1954 Oldsmobiles were completely restyled with new longer and lower body shells and wrap-around windshields and rear windows. Wheelbases increased to 122 inches (3.1 m). Base models reverted to being simply called 88s after being designated as DeLuxe 88s for only one year and the Super 88 was once again the mid-line series. The Rocket V8 was enlarged from 303 to 324 cubic inches with 88s powered by a two-barrel, 170 horsepower (130 kW) unit while Super 88s came with a 185 horsepower (138 kW) version with four-barrel carburetor. Also, a safety padded dash became optional, at $17. The 1955 models were heavily face-lifted with new grillework, taillights and body-side chrome. Horsepower for the 324-cubic-inch Rocket V8 increased to 185 for 88s and 202 for Super 88s. At mid-year, Olds introduced the new pillarless four-door hardtop body, dubbed the Holiday sedan, in both the 88 and Super 88 series. Air conditioning became an option.

The 88 had full instrumentation. For 1956, styling highlights included a new split grille in front and revised taillights and deck along with revised side chroming. Horsepower for the 324 Rocket V8 increased to 230 for 88s and 240 for Super 88s. A new four-speed Jetaway Hydra-Matic was introduced this year to replace the original Hydra-Matic transmission that Olds used since 1940. The new Jetaway Hydra-Matic retained the four forward speeds and fluid coupling unit, but added a new "Park" position to the shift quadrant and no longer required band adjustment as a specified routine maintenance. Inside, an oval speedometer replaced the round unit and a new foot-operated parking brake replaced the previous T-handle unit.

1957-58

For 1957 only, the basic 88 was officially named Golden Rocket 88, taken from Olds' 1956 Motorama two-passenger show car. However, the only badging was an "88" underneath each taillight. Also for 1957 the "J2" option was offered, with three 2-barrel (0.32 m3) carburetors, similar to the Pontiac Tri-Power. The Super 88 continued as the upscale mid-line series. Under the hood, the Rocket V8 increased in displacement to 371 cubic inches and 277 horsepower (207 kW) for all models across the board. Styling highlights were more evolutional than radical overall with three-piece rear window styling utilized on some models. Oldsmobile revived station wagons for the first time since 1950 with the Super 88 Fiesta being a four-door hardtop design. In 1957, Oldsmobile added a safety deep-recessed steering wheel. The 1958 model is best known in Oldsmobile as the year of the "ChromeMobile" thanks to tremendous splatterings of chrome trim on the body, particularly on the higher-priced Super 88 and Ninety-Eight models. The styling was advertised by Olds as the "Mobile Look." The Dynamic 88 debuted in 1958 and lasted through 1966 positioned as the entry level model below the Super 88. This model featured a more economical Rocket V8 than its more expensive linemates – a detuned 265 hp (198 kW) version of the 371 cubic-inch Rocket V8 with two-barrel carburetion. Super 88 models were powered by a four-barrel 300 hp (220 kW) version of that engine as standard equipment with a J-2 option featuring three two-barrel carburetors and 310 hp (231 kW). A new option for 1958 was a "Trans-Portable" radio that could be removed from the instrument panel through the glove compartment and used as a portable radio for beaches, picnics, etc. thanks to portable batteries. A revised instrument panel was highlighted by a new deep-dish steering wheel with "horn bars" replacing the long-standing horn ring still common during that period. Despite an economic recession that cut into new car sales industrywide, and especially affected the medium-priced car market that Olds competed in, Oldsmobile saw only a slight decline in sales for 1958 and even rose in industry standings to fourth-place behind the "Low-Priced Three" of Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth, while surpassing a now-floundering sister division Buick on the sales charts for the first time in many years. Oldsmobile was also way ahead of other middle-priced competitors such as sister division Pontiac, Mercury, Dodge and Chrysler, along with Ford Motor Company's all-new and ill-fated Edsel, and Chrysler Corporation's DeSoto - the latter two nameplates of which would fade into oblivion within the next three years.

1959–1960

All Oldsmobiles were completely restyled for 1959 with a longer, lower and wider body on the basic GM B-body, which for the first time was used on all of General Motors' standard-sized cars from the lowest-priced Chevrolet to the most-expensive Cadillac. Styling highlights for the new models, promoted as the "Linear Look," included six-window styling on four-door pillared sedans, glassy semi-fastback rooflines on Holiday coupes and flat-blade rooflines with thin windshield and C-pillars on Holiday sedans which created a "fishbowl"-like effect. While many 1959 model cars featured bigger and sharper fins, Olds featured more subdued "oval" fins and far less chrome than the '58 model for a much cleaner look. Wheelbases on 88 models increased by one inch to 123 inches (3,124 mm). A larger 394 cubic-inch Rocket V8 with four-barrel carburetion and rated at 315 hp (235 kW) was standard equipment on the Super 88. The lower-priced Dynamic 88 series was powered by 371 cubic-inch Rocket V8 carried over from 1957–58 rated at 265 hp (198 kW) with two-barrel carburetion, or optional four-barrel version rated at 300 hp (220 kW). A major facelift with new grille and taillights and revised rear design highlighted the 1960 Oldsmobiles. The larger 315 hp (235 kW) 394 cubic-inch Rocket V8 continued as standard power for Super 88 models. Dynamic 88s continued with the 371 cubic-inch Rocket V8 that was detuned to 240 hp (179 kW) thanks to a lower compression ratio that permitted the use of lower-priced regular gasoline. Other changes included a revised instrument panel and a slimmer transmission tunnel for improved interior space.

1961–64

An all-new body and chassis with perimeter "Guard Beam" frame and all-coil suspension replacing the previous leaf springs highlighted the 1961 full-sized Oldsmobiles, which were joined by the new compact F-85. Wheelbases remained the same as in 1960, but overall length and width were reduced slightly. All full-sized Oldsmobiles were now powered by the 394 cubic-inch Rocket V8 with the Dynamic 88 getting a two-barrel, 250 hp (186 kW) version that used regular gas, while the Super 88 was powered by a four-barrel "Ultra High Compression" 394 Skyrocket V8 rated at 325 hp (242 kW). The Skyrocket engine was available as an extra-cost option on the Dynamic 88. A new three-speed "Roto" Hydra-matic transmission that was smaller and lighter than the previous four-speed unit was introduced as an option. At mid-year, a sporty and luxurious convertible called the Starfire was introduced. It was based on the Super 88 ragtop and featured leather bucket seats, center console with floor shifter for the Hydra-matic transmission (incidentally the first U.S. full-sized production car to feature an automatic transmission with a console-mounted floor shifter) and loads of other standard items such as power steering, brakes, windows and driver's seat. The Starfire was also powered by an even higher-performance version of the "Ultra High Compression" 394-cubic-inch Starfire V8 rated at 335 hp (250 kW).

The 1962 88 received a minor facelift that included a revised grille and taillights, along with a new convertible-like roofline on Holiday hardtop coupes. Length was increased somewhat to give the '62 Olds a longer look. Engines were uprated to 280 hp (209 kW) for the standard engine in the Dynamic 88 thanks to a higher compression ratio that demanded the use of premium fuel (a regular-fuel 260 hp (194 kW) version was offered as a no-cost option), 330 horses for the "Skyrocket" V8 standard on Super 88 and Ninety-Eight and 345 horses for the top Starfire Rocket V8. Heaters became standard equipment on all models. New, squared-off styling highlighted the 1963 full-sized Oldsmobiles. Models and drivetrains in both the Dynamic 88 and Super 88 series were unchanged from 1962. New options this year included a "Tilt-Away" steering wheel that could be adjusted to six positions, AM/FM radio and cruise control.

For 1964, Oldsmobile's full-sized cars received a minor facelift that included new grilles and taillights. New this year was the introduction of new price leader full-sized Olds series, the Jetstar 88, which used the same basic bodyshell as other 88 models, but shared the many of the mid-size car components with the F-85. The Jetstar 88 used the smaller 330 V8 and Jetaway (Super Turbine 300) two-speed automatic transmission in place of the 394-cubic-inch V8 and Hydra-Matic found in other Oldsmobiles, and 9.5-inch (241.3 mm) drum brakes which were less effective than the 11-inch (279 mm) drums found on other full-sized Olds models including the top-selling Dynamic 88, the plusher and more powerful Super 88 and the larger and more luxurious Ninety-Eight. 1964 also saw the introduction of the Jetstar I. This model was produced for just two years and was a direct competitor to the Pontiac Grand Prix in the same $3,500 price range. The Jetstar I shared the notchback body style with the Starfire along with its more powerful 345 hp (257 kW) 394-cubic-inch Rocket V8 engine but with less standard equipment and a lower price tag. The Jetstar I is distinguishable from the Starfire and Jetstar 88 in that the rear window on the Jetstar I is concave, rather than convex. The year 1964 was the last for the Super 88 series, which was replaced by the new Delta 88 for 1965. It was also the last year for Olds to offer full-sized station wagons for several years as the division introduced a new Vista Cruiser wagon in mid-1964 that featured skylights and a raised roofline over the rear seat and cargo area and offered six- or nine-passenger seating with all seats facing forward. The Vista Cruiser was basically a stretched-out version of the intermediate F-85/Cutlass wagons with a six-inch (152 mm) longer wheelbase, making it comparable in overall size to the full-sized Chevrolet Impala and Pontiac Catalina wagons.

1965–70

he Delta name appeared for the first time in 1965 as an upscale trim line of the Dynamic 88, the Dynamic 88 Delta, replacing the previous top-series B-body Olds, the Super 88. Early '65s were referred to as Dynamic 88 Deltas, but within a few weeks after the start of the model year, Olds began marketing the line as a separate series known as the Delta 88. Other full-sized Oldsmobile model lines included the low-priced Jetstar 88, the volume-selling Dynamic 88, sporty Jetstar I and the sporty and luxurious Starfire, all riding on a 123-inch (3,124 mm) wheelbase.

All 1965 Olds models featured all new styling and engineering. The B-body cars featured more rounded styling than previous years with Coke-bottle profiles and semi-fastback rooflines on Holiday (two-door hardtop) coupes - Jetstar I and Starfire coupes got a more rounded variation of the squared-off 1963–64 roofline with concave rear window shared by Pontiac's Grand Prix. Also introduced this year was a new 425 cubic-inch Super Rocket V8 with horsepower ratings ranging from 300 to 370 depending on carburetion and compression ratio. The new three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission with torque converter replaced the original Hydra-Matic transmission used by Olds since its 1940 introduction. Also new to the option list for 1965 on all B-body cars was a four-speed manual transmission with Hurst floor shifter, which was a seldom-ordered offering.

Few styling changes other than revised grilles and tail sections marked the 1966 full-sized Oldsmobiles. The sporty Jetstar I series was dropped with a lower-priced Starfire only offered as a hardtop coupe taking its place. All other series' 88 models were carried over from 1965 with a new convertible added to the Delta 88 line and the same bodystyle dropped from the Jetstar 88 line. A new option for all Olds 88 (as well as Ninety-Eight and the new front-drive Toronado) models was GM's automatic Comfortron Air Conditioning system first introduced by Cadillac in 1964 that permitted the driver to automatically set a year-round temperature at a constant level. The basic Frigidaire air conditioning unit offered in previous years continued as before and becoming an increasingly popular option on full-sized Oldsmobiles. Another new option for 1966 was a Tilt-and-Telescopic steering wheel that could be vertically adjusted to six different positions as well as telescoped outward from the instrument panel to improve driver comfort. The Delmont 88 was introduced for 1967 and produced for just two years. It replaced both the Jetstar 88 and Dynamic 88, featuring the 330 V8 as standard and the 425 V8 as an option in 1967 and the new "Rocket 455" version of the same engine with a longer bore-stroke in 1968. The 425 was standard on the Delta 88. The Delta 88 gained a new subseries called the Delta Custom which had a plusher interior than the standard Delta 88 featuring a Strato bench seat in the Holiday (4-door hardtop) sedan or, in the Holiday (2-door hardtop) coupe, a choice of either Strato bucket seats with console or Strato bench seat with armrest. The Delta Custom Holiday Coupe was essentially a successor to the former 88-based Starfire series offered in previous years (1961–66) but with a standard 88 semi-fastback roofline rather than the Starfire's squared off roof with concave rear window.

New options for 1967 included front disc brakes, stereo 8-track tape player and a Climate Combustion Control system for Rocket V8s designed to regulate carburetor air temperature, boost fuel economy, speed choke warm up and eliminate winter icing to permit easier starting and more efficient operation in cold weather. More rounded styling cues marked all 1967 Olds 88 models which received longer hoods and shorter decks and more sweeping fastback rooflines on 88 Holiday coupes to emulate the styling of Olds' front-wheel-drive flagship, the Toronado. The same assortment of 330 and 425 cubic-inch V8 engines were carried over from 1966, as were most transmission offerings except the optional four-speed manual with Hurst shifter, which was discontinued due to low buyer interest.

New front end with split grille design that would become an Olds trademark in coming years highlighted all 1968 full-sized Oldsmobiles with horizontal lines on 88's and egg-crate patterns on Ninety-Eights, along with concealed windshield wipers. The Delmont 88 got a larger 350 cubic-inch V8 as standard equipment and the optional V8 that was standard on Delta 88/Custom and Ninety-Eight was jacked up to 455 cubic inches with a 390 hp (291 kW) W-33 option primarily designed as part of the division's police package available as an RPO on all 88's. Horsepower ratings of other Olds engines included 250 for the 350 two-barrel standard in the Delmont 88, 310 for the four-barrel 350 optional in the Delmont 88. A 455 two-barrel rated at 310 horsepower (230 kW) was standard on the Delta 88/Custom and optional on the Delmont 88. Optional on all 88s was a four-barrel 455 rated at 365 horsepower (272 kW) from the larger C-body Ninety-Eight. Both the 350 and 455 two-barrel Rocket V8 engines were designed to use regular gasoline while the optional 350 and 455 four-barrel carbureted "Ultra High Compression" Super Rocket V8s required premium fuel. The 1969 88 series dropped the Delmont name, leaving the Delta 88 as the base model of the series. The Royale trim appeared on a top-line Holiday coupe and came standard with a more luxurious interior featuring a notchback vinyl upholstered bench seat with armrest or Strato bucket seats with optional center console. For safety, a ceiling mounted shoulder belt was offered in the front seats for both the driver and right passenger. This arrangement provided five belt buckles in the front bench seat. The standard engine in the base Delta 88 was a 350 cubic-inch 9.0 to 1 low compression ratio Rocket V8 with a Rochester two-barrel carburetor that was rated at 250 bhp (186 kW) @ 4600 rpm and 355 ft·lbf (481 N·m) of torque ran on leaded regular 94 RON gasoline. Standard on the Delta 88 Custom and Royale models and optional on the base series was a low compression two-barrel version of the 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 rated at 310 hp (231 kW) designed to use regular fuel. Optional on all Delta 88s was the four-barrel Ultra High Compression 455 cubic-inch Super Rocket V8 rated at 365 hp (272 kW). Top option was the 390 hp (291 kW) version of the four-barrel 455 V8 designed to run on 98 RON octane fuel available in all Delta 88 models as the W-33 option.

The two-speed Jetaway automatic that was previously offered as an option on the smaller engine 88 models was dropped completely in favor of the GM three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 transmission previously only offered with the larger engines. Also a new GM-designed Variable-Ratio Power Steering system was introduced as an option.

All full-sized Oldsmobiles were completely restyled for 1969 with more squared off bodylines and rooflines for the Holiday coupes and sedans replacing the semi-fastback look of 1967–68, and ventless front windows on all models. Wheelbases were increased by one-inch to 124 inches (3.1 m). Though the 1969 models were extensively restyled, the basic 1965 chassis design and inner-body structure was retained along with the roofline on the pillared four-door Town sedans. Inside, headrests were now standard equipment and a new instrument panel included square instruments replacing the round instruments of previous years along with a push-button operated ashtray and rotary glove compartment knob, as well as heating/air conditioning controls relocated from the center of the dash to the left of the steering wheel near the lights and wiper switches. The high-beam lights indicator was a red rocket located on the dash. Also new was a steering column-mounted ignition switch that also locked the steering wheel when not in use – a feature found on all 1969-model General Motors passenger cars, a year before locking steering columns were required by federal mandate starting in 1970.

Only detail changes were made for the 1970 full-sized Oldsmobiles including a new split grille that no longer extended to surround the headlights and slightly revised rear section. Powertrain selections were carried over from 1969 with both 350 and 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8s now featuring "Positive Valve Rotators" for longer engine life and more efficient operation. A new antenna impregnated into the windshield was introduced this year that replaced the previous fender-mounted unit and was included as standard equipment on all cars equipped with a factory radio. New option this year was a wiper/washer switch mounted in the shift lever knob. Optional radio was a stereo AM-FM radio and a lower dash mounted eight track tape player.

1971–76

All GM B-body full-size cars were completely restyled and enlarged for 1971, but continued to ride on a 124-inch (3,150 mm) wheelbase. It was available as a pillared four-door Town Sedan, two-door and four-door Holiday hardtops and a convertible. Series models for 1971 included the base Delta 88, Delta 88 Custom and Delta 88 Royale, the latter inheriting the convertible body style previously offered on the base Delta 88. All models received fuselage styling somewhat similar to what Chrysler Corporation introduced on its 1969 models, and new rooflines with a more squared off greenhouse for Town sedans and more rounded lines for Holiday sedans and coupes – the latter receiving reverting to a semi-fastback format.

Also new for 1971 was the Custom Cruiser station wagon, the first full-sized Olds wagon since 1964. It used the 88's B-body platform with a longer 127-inch (3,200 mm) wheelbase (matching the larger C-body Ninety-Eight) with multi-leaf spring suspensions that differed entirely from the all-coil suspensions used in sedans and coupes. The Custom Cruiser came standard with the larger 455 Rocket V8 and utilized the disappearing clamshell tailgate of other full-size GM wagons. Engine offerings again included 350 and 455-cubic-inch Rocket V8s ranging from 250 to 340 gross horsepower, all of which featured lowered compression ratios beginning in 1971 to enable use of lower octane regular leaded 91 RON octane, low-lead or unleaded gasoline. Vented power front disc brakes and variable-ratio power steering were now standard equipment on all 88 models. During the 1971 model year the Turbo Hydra-matic 400 transmission was added to the standard equipment list.

Other highlights for 1971 included a wrap-around instrument panel shared with Ninety-Eight and Toronado models (Toronados had a slightly smoother upper leading edge design) that was highlighted by a large square speedometer and all controls within easy reach of the driver, and a one-year only Flo-Through ventilation system that utilized vents in the trunklid. The system used on all GM B-, C- and E-body cars and the Chevrolet Vega, used the heater fan to draw air into the car from the cowl intake, and force it out through vents in the trunk lid or tailgate. In theory, passengers could enjoy fresh air even when the car was moving slowly or stopped, as in heavy traffic. In practice, however, it didn't work.

Within weeks of the 1971 models' debut, however, Oldsmobile—and all other GM dealers—received multiple complaints from drivers who complained the ventilation system pulled cold air into the car before the heater could warm up—and could not be shut off. The ventilation system was extensively revised for 1972. For 1972, the Delta Custom series was dropped and the Royale series was expanded to include four-door Town and Holiday sedans. Advertised brake horsepower figures dropped to 155 for the base 350 two-barrel and 250 for the optional 455 four-barrel Rocket V8s thanks to an industry-wide switch in power measurements from the previous gross method (as measured by a dynamometer with no accessories attached) to the net method in which the power measurements were based upon an engine "as installed" in a vehicle with all emission controls and accessories hooked up. Only minor trim changes were made this year that included revised "waterfall" grilles in front and four-segment taillights in the rear. Inside a revised "Flo-Through" ventilation system utilizing vents in the door jambs replaced the 1971 version which utilized vents in the trunklid.


1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Convertible For 1973, wider and lower split waterfall grilles flanked a new federally mandated 5 mph (8.0 km/h) front bumper on all Delta 88 models and larger one-piece rounded rectangular taillights replaced the four-segmented lights of 1972. Engine offerings included a standard 350 Rocket V8 with two-barrel carburetor (150 net horsepower) or optional 455 Rocket V8 with four-barrel carburetion and 215 hp (160 kW) with single exhaust or 250 hp (186 kW) with dual exhausts. Model offerings were the same as 1972 with the Delta 88 Royale series now including the sole Olds convertible offering following the demise of the intermediate Cutlass Supreme convertible after 1972.

In 1974, a 5 mph (8.0 km/h) rear bumper was added and taillights reverted to a four-segment design similar to 1972 and the front grilles were narrowed and raised to hood level similar to 1971–72 models. Also, new rooflines were featured on Holiday hardtop coupes with fixed triangular side windows replacing roll-down windows of previous years. As Oldsmobile completely discontinued two-barrel carbureted engines this year, a new 350 four-barrel Rocket V8 (175 horsepower) became standard equipment with the 455 available as an option. Other highlights this year included an all-new flat instrument panel shared with Ninety-Eight and Toronado models with horizontal sweep speedometer and "Message Center" system of warning lights replacing the wrap-around dash of previous years. A new and seldom-ordered option available on all full-sized Olds models and Toronados was a driver's-side airbag – among the first to be offered in a production automobile. The Delta 88 Royale ragtop was again the only convertible offered by Olds. Detail changes for 1975 included revised grilles and taillights along with new rear quarter windows for pillared and Holiday sedans – the latter's design similar to an opera window. The same assortment of 350 and 455-cubic-inch Rocket V8s were still offered along with a one-year-only (and seldom-ordered) option of a Pontiac-built 400-cubic-inch V8 with two-barrel carburetor and 170 horsepower (130 kW) rating. All engines were hooked up to a catalytic converter that not only mandated the use of unleaded gasoline but also spelled the end of dual exhaust systems. 1975 was the final year for the Delta 88 Royale convertible, the last of which was built on June 11, 1975. Just under 7200 Delta 88 Royale convertibles were built in 1975 as Oldsmobile made a concerted effort to target the convertible buyer market at the time. The headline on a print ad for a 1975 Olds Delta 88 Royale convertible stated, "Today a beautiful Olds convertible. Tomorrow, a collector's item". The featured car in the ad was a red Delta 88 Royale rag top.

For 1976, the final year of this generation, all Olds 88s received revised grille work, rectangular headlamps and parking lamps directly below instead of in the bumper, with Delta 88 Royale models also getting spring-loaded stand-up hood ornaments. It was also the final year for the Holiday hardtop coupes and sedans, along with the 455 Rocket V8 and the optional airbag system that would generally become universal on production cars and trucks some 15 years later. A one-year only option on Delta 88 Royale Holiday coupes was the Royale Crown Landau package that included a stainless steel roof bar, padded rear quarter vinyl roof, special hood ornament and color-keyed wheelcovers.

1977–1985

The 1977 Delta 88s and other GM B-body cars were considerably downsized from their predecessors in length and wheelbase (116 inches – the same as the four-door 1973–77 A-body Cutlass Sedan models) and nearly 900 lb (410 kg) lighter in weight, with curb weights dropping to between 3,500 and 3,600 pounds depending on model. Other than a reduction in shoulder room, however, interior room was not adversely affected; in fact, headroom and rear seat legroom increased. Both base Delta 88 and Royale models were now only offered in two pillared body styles; a two-door coupe and a four-door Town Sedan. The 1977–1979 Custom Cruiser was now based on the Delta 88's B-body rather than the Ninety-Eight's C-body, and came with a two-way tailgate replacing the previous clamshell tailgate of 1971–76 models, and had the same all-coil suspension as the B-body 88 sedans and coupes rather than the multi-leaf springs of previous models. An economy gauge(which monitored fuel economy) was optional.

The standard engine was now a 231 cid Buick V6 with a Turbo-Hydramatic 200 transmission. An Olds 260 was the base V8, followed by either a Chevrolet 350 (LM1) or Olds 350 (L34). Initially, the Oldsmobile engine came in California and high-altitude cars, the Chevrolet engine came in cars with Federal emissions equipment. The Olds engine returned later in the model year. Oldsmobile's new 403 was the top engine option and came with a THM350 transmission. This situation was well publicized as the "Chevymobile Affair" and GM ultimately settled with affected Oldsmobile owners by offering "extended" warranties for the "Chevy-powered" Oldsmobiles, or the option of returning those cars in exchange for a "real" Olds with a Rocket V8 – however, the latter option was not often exercised due to the fact the owner had to pay GM back money based on the number of miles his or her "Chevymobile" was driven, which could become a very expensive proposition. This began the era of "corporate" engines, and for many years GM advertisements would include a disclaimer stating '"Oldsmobiles (or other divisions') are equipped with engines manufactured by various GM divisions, subsidiaries and affiliates worldwide."'

As in previous years, base Delta 88 and Royale models differed mainly in exterior and interior trim. Base Deltas had a full bench seat available in cloth-and-vinyl or all-vinyl upholstery, while Royales had a notchback bench seat with armrest or optional 60/40 notchback bench, also available in cloth-and-vinyl or all-vinyl trim. All 88s featured an all-new instrument panel with a horizontal sweep speedometer and heater/air conditioning controls moved to the center of the dash above the radio from the left side of the dash, and continued with the "Message Center" bank of warning lights. The new dash was highlighted with woodgrain trim. The dimmer switch moved from the floor to the turn-signal lever. For 1978, a Holiday 88 coupe was added to the lineup, featuring Strato bucket seats along with console and floor shifter, Super Stock wheels and two-tone paint schemes. All 88 models received new grilles and revised taillights with drivetrains the same as 1977 except for the addition of the 350 Diesel V8 to the option list.

The year 1979 saw the addition of a new Delta 88 Royale Brougham series added to the line, which included plush "pillowed" seat trim similar to the Ninety-Eight. All models again received revised grilles and other minor changes. It was the last year for the 403 V8 as federal fuel-economy mandates spelled the end of larger engines in order to meet those requirements. For 1980, all 88s got new and more aerodynamic sheetmetal for improved fuel economy highlighted by rounded square taillights similar to mid-70s 88s, but overall dimensions stayed the same and coupes received a revised roofline. New to the engine lineup was the 307 cubic-inch Rocket V8 with four-barrel carburetor and 150 horsepower (110 kW). All other engines except the now-discontinued 403 were carried over from 1979.

Only minor grille and taillight lens revisions highlighted the 1981 Delta 88s. The gasoline 350 Rocket V8 was dropped from the option list, leaving only the diesel version available. All other engines including the Buick 231 V6 and Olds 260 and 307 Rocket V8s were continued. All gasoline engines received GM's new Computer Command Control engine management system. This system was the forerunner, and surprisingly similar to today's OBDII which is standard on all cars sold in the United States. The system read various parameters such as vehicle speed, throttle position, engine RPM's, coolant temperature, and the oxygen content of the exhaust to provide the correct air/fuel mixture for any given driving condition. Also new for 1981 was GM's Turbo-Hydramatic 200-4R transmission, which added an overdrive gear and torque converter clutch (TCC) to contribute to fuel economy and engine longevity. The sporty Holiday 88 coupe was offered for the last time this year.

The year 1982 saw only minor trim changes for Delta 88, Royale and Royale Brougham models. The same assortment of engines/transmissions were carried over from previous years though the small 260 V8 was offered for the last time. For 1983, all Olds 88s received new grilles, hood ornaments and minor trim revisions including new steering wheels. This would be the last year for the base Delta 88 line, leaving only the Royale and Royale Brougham after this year. Engine offerings were down to three, a standard Buick 231 cubic-inch V6, or optional Oldsmobile V8s including the 307 Rocket and 350 Diesel. For 1984, all Delta 88s were now Royale or Royale Brougham models. Styling highlights included new grille inserts and red and amber taillights replacing the red lenses. At mid-year, a new Royale Brougham LS was added to the 88 line almost simultaneous to the introduction of a new and downsized 1985 front-wheel drive Ninety-Eight. With the Ninety-Eight being downsized and converted to front-drive, the Royale Brougham LS model of the 88 was now the largest and most luxurious rear-wheel drive car offered by Olds. Custom Cruiser wagons continued with the same styling changes found on other 88 models.

Only minor changes marked the 1985 model, which was in its last year before a major downsizing and conversion to front-wheel-drive. The same assortment of models in the Royale, Brougham and Brougham LS continued as before. The '85 88s would be the last full-sized Oldsmobile sedans and coupes to feature rear-wheel-drive, Rocket V8 power, and body-on-frame construction. Though the 88 sedans and coupes were downsized and switched to front-drive for 1986, the Custom Cruiser station wagons would continue virtually unchanged through the 1990 model year and eventually become the only Oldsmobile models powered by an Olds Rocket V8 engine, for which production ended in 1990 after 42 years.

1986-1991

For 1986, the Delta 88 switched platforms from the GM B platform to the smaller front-wheel drive H platform, with a wheelbase of only 110.8 inches (2,814 mm). The headlights changed from square sealed beam quads to integrated regular/high beam composite lamps in 1987. A few NASCAR teams built racecars with 1986 Delta 88 sheeetmetal and ran them on the circuit in the 86-88 seasons, however only one victory (Terry LaBonte) was scored.

For 1989, the "Delta" name was dropped, as was the hood ornament, leaving the model to simply become the "Eighty Eight," now spelled out instead of using the "88" in numerical form, and deleted the amber color from the taillights.

The Eighty Eight was given a mild facelift in 1990, eschewing the former chromed grille for a body-colored fascia with four slots and the Oldsmobile Rocket logo. In the rear, new taillights and backup lights extended across the body; once again, chrome trim was deleted.

The model range during this time was the standard Eighty Eight, the Eighty Eight Royale, and the Eighty Eight Royale Brougham, in ascending order.

Engines:

  • 1986–1988.5 – 3.8 L (231 in³) LG3 V6
  • 1988.5–1991 – 3.8 L (231 in³) 3800 LN3 V6

Transmission:

  • 1986–1988.5 – 440-T4 4-speed automatic overdrive
  • 1988.5–1991 – 4T60 4-speed automatic overdrive

Voice diagnostic system

This generation of Delta 88s had an optional voice diagnostic system that alerted the driver of problems. The voice was male and computer synthesized.

In the event of a warning, the door chime played three times rapidly and then played the voice alert. This happened twice in case the driver missed the warning the first time. Every alert also had corresponding light on the instrument cluster.

Warnings included:

  • "The engine coolant level is low!"
  • "The engine is overheating! Please stop the engine and consult the owner's manual!"
  • "The park brake is not fully released!"
  • "The key is in the ignition!" (Upon opening the door with the key inserted into the ignition.)
  • "The headlights are on!" (Upon turning off the car with the headlights on.)

Gallery

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