The esteemed flagship of the Oldsmobile division of GM, the Oldsmobile 98 or Ninety-Eight was a full-size model that would hold its place as the top-of-the-line model well into the 90's before the arrival of the Oldsmobile Regency in 1997. The '98' name first arrived on the scene in 1941, and was revived following WWII. It shared its GM C-body platform with Cadillac and Buick, and occasionally added badges like 'L/S' and 'Holiday', especially near the later years of the model.
The first generation Oldsmobile 98 featured an overall length of 213 inches, had a curb weight around 3,600 pounds and a 124.0-inch wheelbase. The 98 showcased all of the bells and whistles Oldsmobile had to offer at the time, including the Autronic Eye, which automatically dimmed the headlights, Twilight Sentinel, which turned the headlights on and off through a timer, controlled by the driver, Hydramatic automatic transmission and the most updated interior and exterior trim.
During the late 1930s and 1940s naming standards at Oldsmobile were undergoing a huge transformation. Oldsmobile had two series from 1932 through 1938, 'F' and 'L'. Series F, which came with a straight-6 engine was renamed Series 60 in 1939. Series L came with a bigger body and a straight-8 engine was replaced with the Series 70 and 80. Series 70 was powered by the straight-6 while Series 80 was powered by the straight-8. While the Series 60 used the GM A-body, the Series 70 and 80 used the B-body. The even bigger C-body arrived on the scene in 1940 and was powered by the straight-8. The Series 80 was renamed the Series 90 to differentiate it from the previous year's Series 80. For the first time that year the series was also given names and the Series 60, 70 and 90 were now called the Special, Dynamic, and Custom Cruiser, respectively. Both engines were offered on each series in 1941 to differentiate between the two with the second digit denoting the number of cylinders. The Custom Cruiser 90 was replaced with the Custom Cruiser 96 and 98. The six cylinder 90 model was dropped by Oldsmobile in 1942 which left on the Custom Cruiser 98.
Sleek 'torpedo' styling was showcased on the new C-body 1940 Custom Cruiser 90. The body was shared with the Buick Roadmaster and Super, the Pontiac Torpedo and the Cadillac Series 62. Running boards were gone, the shoulder and hip room was widened by 5 inches, and the exterior was streamlined and 2-3 inches lower. There was plenty of room for 6 passengers in absolute comfort thanks to these updates influenced by the Cadillac Sixty Special and a column mounted shift lever. Sold in four body styles, a total of 43,658 Oldsmobile 90s were sold with the most rare of these being the 4-door convertible, which was exclusive to the 98.
The wheelbase was bumped up to 125.0 inches in 1941. New on the scene was a deluxe equipment package. The 96 model was offered in three different body styles, and four on the 98. In 1941 only 119 of the rare four-door convertible were sold, the only time this exclusive body style would ever be offered on the 98. Alongside the 4-door convertible was a convertible coupe, a club coupe and a 4-door sedan. 1941 was also the only year in Oldsmobile history that a 90 series car came with a six-cylinder engine (a 96). Quite popular this year was Hydramatic automatic transmission. For 1941 the Oldsmobile 98's sold tallied 24,726 models.
The Custom Cruiser was once again the lead Oldsmobile in the lineup for 1942. All of the models in this luxurious series was powered by the straight-eight engine. The 4-door convertible quietly disappeared from the scene while an exclusive 127.0 inch wheelbase was utilized in the series. Before the war shut down production a total of 6,659 98's were produced.
Once again the Custom Cruiser 98 was at the top-of-the-line for Oldsmobile in 1946. All eight-cylinder powered, Oldsmobile offered three-body styles; a 4-door sedan, a 2-door Club coupe and a 2-door convertible. 1946 features updates like a deluxe instrument cluster clock, foam rubber sheet cushions and a rear armrest. Other updates included full pressure lubrication and automatic choke with fast idle mode and electro hardened pistons. Standard for 1946 was vacuum booster pump, dual sun visors, front and rear bumper guards, cigarette lighter and plastic radiator ornament and wraparound bumpers. The customer could select from leather, broadcloth or Bedford cord upholstery. The tire size for 1946 was 7.00 by 15 inches. A total of 14,364 Oldsmobile 98's were sold in the year immediately following the war.
The following year the Custom Cruiser 98 continued on as it had as the top of the line model and once again in three body styles. This would be the final year for the 98 1942 prewar body. All of the 98s in the lineup featured the straight eight engine. Upholstery options included leather or custom broadcloth. Standard equipment for 1947 included spare wheel a tire, an electric clock, safety glass, dual horns, cigarette lighter, a solenoid starter system and a vacuum booster pump. The numbers sold peaked at a record high of 37,140 models sold in 1947.
Heavily influenced by the Futuramic styling concept that would be used on all 1949 Olds models, the top of the line '48 Oldsmobile 98 models were revamped for the second generation. Standard equipment included fender skirts, front and rear bumper guards, a solenoid starter, dual sun visors E-Z-1 rearview mirror and foam rubber seat cushions. Deluxe equipment included this year were front and rear floor mats, wheel trim rings, Deluxe steering wheel, rear seat armrests, and hydraulic window, seat and top controls on all convertibles. Once again the upholstery choices included leather or broadcloth. The standard tire size was now 6.50 x 16.
With the new radical styling came a new name, and the Custom Cruiser 98 was renamed the Futuramic 98. In 1971 the Custom Cruiser name would once again be used for full-size Oldsmobile station wagons. The postwar styling proved to be quite popular with an astonishingly large number sold with a record 65,235 98 models sold.
The newly famous Rocket V8 engine joined the newly styled lineup in 1949. A few months into the model year, in February 1949, GM introduced three highly styled 'hardtop convertible coupes'; the 98 Holiday, the Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville, and the Buick Roadmaster Riviera; the first hardtop coupes ever produced. Exclusive the 98 series for 1949, the Holiday was offered in four special colors, along with four two-tone combinations. Priced similarly to the convertible, the Holiday was similarly equipped with hydraulically operated windows and seat. In its premier year only 2,006 Holidays were sold, compared to 20,049 Club Coupes. Setting yet another Oldsmobile 98 record, a total of 93,478 models were sold in 1949.
For 1950 the 98 continued with it's '48 precedent of previewing some of the next years styling cues for the 88 and after only two years the 98 once again underwent a restyle. This would be the first Oldsmobile completely slab sided, and setting quite the fashion statement; the first sedan featuring wraparound rear windows. In 1950 Oldsmobile introduced the 4-door 98 fastback Town Sedan. It was produced for only one year and only sold 1,778 models.
For this year the standard equipment list was hefty and included bumper guards, parking lamps, dual horns, dome light, rubber floor mats, foam rubber seat cushions, aluminum sill plates, lined luggage compartment, chrome interior trim and counterbalanced trunk lid. The Deluxe 98 models featured Deluxe electric clock, Deluxe steering wheel and horn button, rear seat armrest, stainless steel wheel trim rings and special door trim. One the inside of the car, buyers had the choice of either striped broadcloth, leather or nylon fabric upholstery. The standard tire was 7.6 x15.
Oldsmobile stopped naming the 98 series in 1950 and until 1996 was known simply as the Oldsmobile 98. The only exceptions were 1957 when it was called the Starfire 98 and the Classic 98 in 1961. 98 Holiday sales soared to a record 8,263 units, fast on the heels of the Club coupe at 11,989 models sold. 1950 was the final year for the pillared Club coupe and the 2-door Holiday hardtop became the vehicle of choice for Oldsmobile fans. Total sales in 1950 peaked at 106,200 units.
1951 rolled around with the Oldsmobile 98 once again the top of the line model with three available body styles. The Holiday hardtop was offered with either Standard or Deluxe trim, while the 4-door sedan and convertible came only with Deluxe equipment. Standard equipment now included an illuminated ashtray, extra chrome moldings, dome light, and lined trunk. Deluxe equipment featured special rear door ornament, Deluxe electric clock, Deluxe steering wheel with horn ring and special chrome trim and rear center armrests. The upholstery options included leather, nylon cloth and nylon cord. Exiting the lineup in 1951 was the pillared Club coupe. The hardtop became the only choice in a closed 2-door 98. For 1951 Holiday sales nearly doubled to 17,929 models.
The 98 remained at the top once again for Oldsmobile in 1952. The 98 series shared the higher output 160 HP Rocket V8 engine with the Super 88s. The three body styles featured standard equipment that included gray rubber floor mats front and rear, electric clock, aluminum door sill plates, chrome gravel guards, windshield washer and much more. Upholstery options included six colors of leather or broadcloth. The standard tire size was 8.00 x 15. Power steering was an available option for the first time, along with Autronic Eye with was an industry first that automatically dimmed the headlights when an oncoming car approached. This option was shared only with Cadillac in its initial year.
1953 standard equipment remained basically the same with a few additions that included twin interior sun visors, chrome window ventiplanes and rear seat robe rails. New this year was a standard padded safety dash and air conditioning for the first time. Oldsmobile debuted the 98 Fiesta this year as one of the three specialty convertibles, alongside the Cadillac Series 62 Eldorado and the Buick Roadmaster Skylark. Starting a new trademark that would be seen on later Oldsmobile models and also popular in the Kustom aftermarket, the Fiesta featured special 'spinner' hubcaps. The convertible featured a wraparound windshield 76 inches lower than the standard 98's windshield and a cut-down belt line. The Fiesta featured all of the standard Oldsmobile standard options except air conditioning.
The Fiesta was powered by a special version of the standard 98 engine with an exclusive manifolding and a jump in compression of 8.3:1 compared to the standard 8.1:1. At 170 hp, the Fiesta had a 5 hp increase over the standard 98 engine. Weighing more than the standard 98 convertible, the Fiesta tipped the scales at 4,459, compared to its 4,123 pound sibling. To combat the extra weight and keep the convertible within the acceptable range of performance was a four-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission and a faster rear axle ratio. The Fiesta carried an astonishing $5,715 price tag, nearly twice the cost of a standard 98 convertible. Costing $700 more than the Skylark, only 458 Fiesta models were produced in comparison to 7,521 of the standard 98 convertibles. The Fiesta would only last one year, but in 1957 the name would be resuscitated to denote Oldsmobile station wagons.
Undergoing a lineup revamp, the third generation of the once again top-of-the-line Oldsmobile 98 was introduced in 1954. The three body style 98 series continued to grace American auto dealer lots. After the previous year's Starfire dream car Oldsmobile named the convertibles Starfires. The 5.3 L Rocket V8 featured slightly modified horsepower and was shared with the Super 88 series. The standard equipment for the 98 remained basically the same, featuring turn signals, courtesy light package, stainless steel wheel discs and parking brake light. The buyer could chose from nylon and leather upholstery in a variety of colors. The standard tire size was 8.00 x 15.
Once again the 98 featured a longer wheelbase than the 88 in 1955. The standard equipment featured all of the basics and included spun glass hood insulation, stainless steel rocker panel moldings, inside rearview mirror and custom cushion lounge seats front and rear. Upholstery choices included covert and pattern cloth, leather and nylon, leather and dimple leather and leather and pattern cloth. The standard tire size for 1955 was 7.70 x 15 and the turning diameter was 43 foot. The optional air conditioning unit was relocated to the engine bay instead of the trunk. For better performance traversing hills, the Hydramatic automatic transmission gear selector featured an S on it.
Halfway through the year Oldsmobile debuted the Holiday sedan, the new pillarless four-door hardtop body in the 98 series. The exclusive first 4-door hardtops to ever be produced were the 4-door Oldsmobile 98 Holiday, the 4-door 88 Holiday, the 4-door Buick Century Riviera and the 4-door Special Riviera. A record number of sales were reported for 1955, probably due to the popularity of the new 4-door hardtop body style. Sales peaked at 118,626.
For 1956 the top of the line Oldsmobile 98 series rode on a 126 in wheelbase, 4.0 inches longer than the 88. The 98 was powered by a 240 horsepower Rocket V8 that it shared with the Super 88. For 1956 the parking brake was now a foot pedal and the standard tire size was 8.00 x 15 inches made by Goodrich, Firestone or U.S. Royal. The Upholstery options were leather and pattern cloth in a variety of colors and combinations. The standard options list remained the same and included Jetaway Hydramatic Drive, front fender medallions, deck lid '98' script and back-up light moldings.
Debuting in 1957 was a retrograde three-piece rear window treatment that required a complete reengineering. The 98 Series stayed firmly in its place as top of the line, with this year being officially titled Starfire 98. Standard equipment included much of the same with the addition of special emblems, power brakes, power steering, exposed chrome roof bows and much more. Upholstery for 1957 included the option of a variety of cloth, Morocceen (vinyl), and leather. The standard tire size was 9.00 x 14 inches and the standard engine was currently the 371 cu in Rocket V8. Front leg room was increased to 43.8 inches and a safety recessed steering wheel was added.
In 1958 a big update was in store for the 98 series. Once again the lineup featured its own exclusive wheelbase of 126.5 inches while continuing to share the more robust Rocket V8 engine with the Super 88. For '58 four body styles were available to the public and new this year was a speed warning device and optional air suspension. Standard series equipment included oil filter, turn signals, four headlights, printed circuit instrument cluster, padded dash, courtesy lights, aluminum anodized grille, color accented wheel discs and much more. The interior of the 98 Series could be ordered in a number of differed colored leathers, Morocceen and cloth.
The fifth generation of the 98 Series was debuted in 1959 and went through a complete revamp. Rather than use the GM X-frame Oldsmobile continued to utilize a full perimeter frame. Once again the series was offered in four bodystyles and rode an an exclusive 126.3 inch wheelbase. From 1959 through 1964 the 98 Series used the 394 cu in (6.5 L), which was the largest first generation Rocket V8 engine. Standard tire size this year was 9.0 x 14 inches. Continuing to be top of the line for Oldsmobile, the 98 Series standard equipment included oil filter, air scoop brakes, rocker panel moldings, wheel trim moldings, power brakes and steering and Jetaway Hydramatic Drive. The interior options were from a selection that included Morocceen, leather, or different colored cloths.
Staying firmly in place as the top dog for Oldsmobile in 1960 was the 98 Series. Optional for 1960 was an anti-spin rear axle and tire size was 9.00 by 14 inches. Standard features included options like electric windshield wipers, air scoop brakes, Safety-vee steering wheel, safety-spectrum speedometer, carpets with rubber inserts, two-speed windshield wipers, windshield washers, electric clock, deep twist carpeting, chrome roof side moldings and much more for 1960. Upholstery options were Morocceen in a variety of colors, fabric and leather.
The 98 Series received a new name in 1961, the Classic 98. But this name wouldn't last long, only one year in fact, and most factory literature continued to refer to the line as the Ninety-Eight. The sixth generation of the 98 Series, for 1961 the lineup was enlarged to include five body styles. The sedan became the Town Sedan, and the 4-door 4-window hardtop body style was now dubbed the Sport Sedan rather than the Holiday Sedan. Previously exclusive only to Cadillac and the Buick Electra, for 1961 a new 4-door 6-window hardtop body style was now available, and the Holiday Sedan name was transferred to it. This would be the first time that Holidays wasn't the name used for all Oldsmobile hardtops.
Most likely because of the debut of the new Starfire series, but the sales for the 98 Series plunged from 59,364 to 43,010. The Rocket engine was made standard equipment on the Olds 88 a higher compression version was made standard on the 98 and Super 88 and horsepower rose to 325 in 1961, and 330 in 1962. From 1961 through 1963 it was dubbed the 'Skyrocket'. Upholstery options were leather, vinyl or cloth, and standard tire size was 8.50 x 14 inches. Standard options included floating propeller, air scoop brakes, parking brake lamp, courtesy lamps, oil filter, Roto Hydramatic transmission and much more.
The Jetaway Hydramatic transmissions were taken away through a cost savings attempt by GM management in the 1960s. Focusing on cost savings per vehicle, GM chose to replace the dependable (yet expensive) Jetaway Hydramatic transmission with a much cheaper to build three speed Roto Hydramatic. The three speed transmission had no front fluid coupling at all, and used a single 'fill-and-dump' coupling to work double duty as both a fluid coupling in third speed while having a third reaction member. This third member was called an 'Accel-O-Rotor' by Oldsmobile, and was actually a small stator, which gave some limited torque multiplication in first. The hope was that the 'Accel-O-Rotor' would produce the same multiplication range in first as both the first and second gears of the four-speed unit, but without the cost, or all the hardware. This was the first time that no fluid coupling was involved, and the second speed being pure mechanical connection from engine to rear end. Unfortunately the issue with this unit in the Oldsmobile's was that engine speed would at first race wildly before hitting a 'brick wall' of a vey steep RPM decline in second, which was equal to third gear in the four-speed Jetaway Hydramatic. Unfortunately this transmission was unreliable and prone to trouble and cost a great deal of performance that was readily attainable from the Rocket. This transmission would only be around for three year before the more reliable, yet less efficient; Turbo Hydramatic would replace it in 1965. Some dealers and independent transmissions shops replaced the Roto Hydramatic in some Olds models with older HM315 four speed Hydramatic when faced with customer complaints.
1962 rolled around with the 98 Series once again the largest Oldsmobile models on offer. Five body styles were in the lineup including three 4-doors plus and open and a closed 2-door. For this year all hardtops were called Holidays as the Sport Sedan was renamed the Holiday Sport Sedan and the Holiday Coupe became the Holiday Sport Coupe. As usual, the luxurious 98's featured plenty of available standard features including guard beam frame, coil springs, live rubber body cushions, special moldings, power windows and power seats. Interior options included vinyl, leather or cloth, and the standard tire size was 8.50 x 14 inches.
The exclusive Ninety-Eight kept its signature 126.0-inch wheelbase once again 1963. A 1963 4-door, Malcolm X famously owned hardtop Oldsmobile 98. New for this year was the Custom Sports Coupe hardtop, the only body style with the 345 horsepower Starfire engine. The Luxury Sedan or L/S became the new name for the 4-door 6-window hardtop. Until 1965 the naming convention of all hardtops designated Holidays wouldn't happen again. 98 models were only produced now in Linden, Lansing, Kansas City, Wilmington and Southgate. The standard tire size in '63 was 8.50 x 14 inches and interior options were vinyl, leather or cloth. Standard equipment for this year included deep pile carpeting, 21-gallon fuel tank, foam seat cushions, full-flow oil filter, two-speed windshield wipers, die-cast grille, map light, heavy duty air cleaner, special rocker panel moldings, self-regulating electric clock, special headliner and dual rear seat cigarette lighters.
The 98 Series was available in six body styles in 1964 and included 2-door, 4-door and convertible configurations. After this year 98's were only built in Lansing. Upholstery choices this year included vinyl, leather and a variety of colored cloth and standard tire size was 8.50 x 14 inches. Standard equipment included all of the regular features and included extras like power seats, special wheel discs and clock; courtesy and map lights.
Completely redesigned from the bottom up, the seventh generation of the 98 series was introduced in 1965. The lineup continued on the larger C-body shared with Buick Electra and Cadillac while the Oldsmobile 88 used the B-body. Though many of the same lines as the 88 were found on the 98, the latter featured more squared off styling. This year featured five body styles as the Custom Sport Coupe was eliminated from the lineup and the 4-door 6-window body styles were replaced with 4-door 4-window body styles. The elegant Luxury sedan wasn't a hardtop anymore, and featured a plush interior with many more standard features. For 1965 only, most 98 Luxury Sedans had vinyl roofs. All hardtops once again received the name Holidays for this year.
The 98 Series included standard gear like power steering and brakes, transmission, padded dash, power windows, foam padded seats, clock, parking brake light, courtesy and glove box lamps, front seat belts and much more. The standard tire size for 1965 was 8.55 x 14 inches. The unpopular three speed Roto Hydramatic was replaced with a new three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmission with torque converter. The engine was all-new for this year as well. A 425 cu in (7.0 L) Super Rocket V8 powered the 98 Series with a much more efficient design than its predecessor and was much lighter. The four-barrel 'Ultra High Compression' version of the 425 Super Rocket rated at 360 hp was the 98's standard and only engine offering for 1965.
Using the sizeable Ninety-Eight chassis, Oldsmobile commissioned Cotner-Bevington to build professional vehicles like hearses and ambulances from 1965 through 1975.
In 1966 the 98 Series had no fear of losing their coveted spot as top-of-the-line Oldsmobile's, even as many luxury market buyers bought either the Starfires or the new Toronadas. Five body styles were available this year and included a trio of 4-door models. Standard equipment included a variety of the same as previous years and included Turbo-Hydramatic transmission, front and rear seat belts, carpeting and special armrests on selected models. Upholstery options were vinyl, cloth and leather and the standard tire size was 8.55 x 14 inches.
The 98 and the Toronado became the only luxury model options from Oldsmobile in 1967 when the Starfire was deleted. Five different body styles were available from the 98 lineup this year and continued to be manufactured in Lansing. Upholstery options for this year were the same as the previous year with vinyl, cloth or leather and the tire size was updated slightly to 8.85 x 14 inches. Standard trim options for the 98 included power brakes, power seats, power steering, power windows, molding package, armrests, dual cigarette lighters, electric clock, carpeting, lamp package and Turbo-Hydramatic.
The following year Oldsmobile continued with the five popular body styles for the 98 Series. Upholstery options remained the same along with the tire size. Engine displacement was bumped up to the Rocket 455 cu inch V8 with 365 hp. Standard gear included four way flasher, energy-absorbing steering column, side marker lights, dual master cylinder, back-up lights, rear armrest ashtrays, shoulder belts, carpeted trunk and much more.
For 1968 the 98 Series remained top-of-the-line once again and was one of the largest Oldsmobile models offered with its new 127.0-inch wheelbase. A hardtop version of the Luxury sedan was added to the lineup for this year, which made six available body styles. All 98 models were manufactured in Lansing and had the code letter M. Standard equipment remained basically the same with the addition of anti-theft lock within the steering column, a recessed padded instrument panel, rear view mirror map light, deeply padded head restraints and mini-buckle seat belts. Upholstery options were cloth, leather or vinyl and the standard tire size was 8.85 x 14 inches. The standard engine continued to be the Rocket 455 which required premium leaded gas.
Some available extras for 1969 included an instant horn, four season air conditioning with comfortron, 6-way power seat, tilt-telescope steering wheel, tinted glass windshield, power trunk release, power door locks and front disc brakes, divided front seat with dual controls, rear seat speaker, AM-FM stereo radio, stereo tape player (8-track), door edge guards, power operated antenna, cruise control, cornering lamps, anti-spin rear axle, left outside remote control mirror, vinyl roof, safety sentinel and flo-thru ventilation.
This would be the only year for an attached hood extension. For 1970 the hood would be restyled after numerous customer complaints from dealership mechanics about bumping their heads on the extension. The new hood would delete the extension and leave a flat hood design.
Sharing the luxury side of Oldsmobile business with the Toronado, the 98 Series continued to be the largest Oldsmobile models in 1970 and they grew in length to 225.2 inches. All 98 models continued to be manufactured in Lansing and were designated with the code letter M in the Vehicle Identification Number. The interior upholstery was leather, vinyl or cloth, and the standard tire size was J78-15. Standard features included Deluxe steering wheel, electric clock, full wheel discs, Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission, power brakes with front discs, power windows and seats.
Though the wheelbase didn't change in 1971 for the 98 Series, this would be the biggest full-size Oldsmobile. The eighth generation of the 98 rolled out on the new GM full-size bodies which features 64.3' front shoulder room and 63.4' rear shoulder room, the largest interior width of the time. The Oldsmobile 88 was renamed the Delta 88 and was very similar to the '71-76 98 models except for the shorter passenger compartment. The 98 had a 3' longer wheelbase and rear Cadillac like tailfins, which further separated the model from its 88 sibling.
Thanks to a GM-mandate that engines be designated to run on lower octane regular lead, low-lead or unleaded gasoline in preparation for the catalytic converter equipped vehicles of 1975 and later years that required unleaded gasoline, the standard 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 was rated at 320 hp and designed to run on these gasolines. In Canada, a few '75 and '76 Ninety Eights were given certification along with an exemption from needing unleaded gas and released from this catalytic converter requirement. Tighter emission standards were in effect and as a result V8's were progressively detuned as production continued on. 1971 would be the only time trunk mounted louvers for the flow through ventilation system as they were relocated to the doorjambs for 1972 through 1976.
The full-size Custom Cruiser station wagon shared the 98's 127.0-inch wheelbase and the 455 cubic-inch V8 from 1971 through 1976. They two models also shared the interior and exterior styling, including the 98's specialized front fascia and rear quarter panels and fender skirts. This would be the first Olds station wagon to ever find itself on the Oldsmobile's largest chassis. The three-seat 1974 Custom Cruiser Wagon was the heaviest Oldsmobile ever built and weighed around 5,161 pounds.
Like other GM full-sized wagons during this time, the Custom Cruiser wagons utilized a special rear suspension with multi-leaf springs rather than coil springs found on other full-sized Olds, and other full-sized GM cars. The wagon sported a new 'Clamshell' tailgate system where the rear power-operated glass slid up into the roof while the tailgate slid into a recess beneath the cargo floor. This would be a first for the station wagon, a power tailgate that replaced the manual tailgate, which required a lot of effort to lift from storage. The heavy Clamshell system made it much easier to load and unload the long wagons in small spaces. Unfortunately no other manufacturer would adopt this system and GM would delete this option in 1977 when the wagons were reduced in length by about a foot.
In 1971 only four body styles were offered as the convertible was deleted from the lineup along with the 4-door sedan body styles. The Luxury coupe was a new body style and for the first time ever all of the 98's were hardtops. For the first time since 1964 not all of the hardtops were called Holidays. Interior upholstery was cloth, vinyl or leather and standard tire size was J78-15. The 98 lineup was manufactured in both Lansing and Linden. Standard features on the 98 Series included front and rear armrests, electric clock, carpeting, inside hood release, lamp package, power seat and steering, power brakes with front discs and Turbo-Hydramatic transmission.
In 1972 four body styles were once again offered for the luxury lineup, but halfway through the year a 4-door hardtop named the Regency would be introduced to commemorate the marques 75th year. The 98 would set a brand new sales record of 121,568 models sold for the first time in seventeen years. Standard equipment remained basically the same as previous years and included extras like windshield radio antenna, spare tire cover, molding package, interior light package and remote control outside mirror.
The following year the 98 Series remained at the top end of the Oldsmobile lineup, as it had been since the beginning in 1941. Following a successful debut, the 75th anniversary Regency 4-door hardtop continued in production. Upholstery options for 1973 were vinyl or cloth and standard tire size was L78-15. Once again the popular Oldsmobile 98 set a record with a total number sold of 138,462 units.
Still exceptionally popular, the Ninety-Eight became Oldsmobile's longest running series in 1974. The Regency Coupe took the place of the Luxury Coupe, and five models were now offered in the lineup. Upholstery options for this year were cloth, vinyl or leather and the standard tire size was J78-15. Standard equipment remained basically the same.
The 98 grew to a jaw-dropping record length of 232.4 inches with the addition of federally mandated 5 mph bumpers added to the front and rear from 1974 through 1975. The 98 Series was reduced in length just slightly in 1976 when it was reduced to 232.2 inches. The '74 Oldsmobile 98 4-door hardtop would be the longest body style that was for sale that year. Beginning in 1974 the full-size Oldsmobile's (including the Ninety-Eight), Buicks and Cadillac's would be among the first U.S. production vehicles to offer an air bag option called the 'Air Cushion Restraint System'. Only a select few were equipped with this expensive option priced around $700.
In 1975 the body styles in the 98 lineup were reduced down to four models as two-door models were no longer hardtops. The standard tire size for the year was J78-15 while the upholstery options were vinyl, cloth or leather. Standard features remained the same as previous years and included molding package, chrome wheel discs, bumper impact strips and 455 CID engine.
For 1976 both the Regency and Luxury editions of the full-size 98s were available in 2-door coupes or 4-door hardtop models with 4-doors featuring an extra window in the C-pillar. The coupe had a landau roof option that featured a huge-looking opera window. 98 models featured a dual section eggcrate-design grille like the Custom Cruiser and featured wraparound horizontal parking lamps, a new front end panel and front bumper. Wrapping around the fender sides were amber marker lenses aligned with the headlamps. A small emblem in each lens was found on the vertical tail lamps. Next to the license plate were tiny back-up lamps on a panel that also sported small red lenses next to tail lamps. Standard features included rear fender skirts, bumper impact strips, a 455 CID Rocket V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, Turbo-Hydramatic, power brakes, vari-ratio power steering, driver's door armrest control console, fold-down center armrests, front ashtray, electronic message center and JR78 x 15 blackwall steel-belted radials. To help improve fuel economy a new 2.41:1 axle ratio also became standard.
The Limited Edition Regency was introduced in 1972 to commemorate Oldsmobile's 75th anniversary. Each of these exclusive models were registered at Tiffany's and featured a special interior styled with a black or covert 'pillow effect' velour upholstery, A power split bench seat replaced the normal power bench seat with rear clock. A special Tiffany Gold paint, an exclusive custom metallic color was created specifically for this vehicle. Tiffany touches in the Limited Edition model included a specially styled clock by Tiffany's with a white Oldsmobile emblem above the Tiffany's name on a golden face. Every 1972 owner received a special sterling silver key ring as a gift that could be replaced by Tiffany's if ever lost. 2,650 75th Anniversary models were built, with all of them being 4-door hardtops. A non-anniversary Regency was introduced in 1973 and was placed just above the LS in the lineup. Throughout the 1996 model year the Regency package would be available on the 98 Series until it became its own separate model nameplate.
A complete revamp was done on the ninth generation of the 98 Series that debuted in 1977. At the same time the 88 also underwent major updates that included downsizing. The 98 and 88 were now more than 800 pounds lighter at around 4,000 pounds curb weight, but featured increased headroom and rear seat legroom compared to similar 1976 models. The smaller 403 in³ V8 powered the 98 Series and replaced the 455 in³ engine. Now standard was the Olds 350. Setting yet another sales record, in 1977 sales peaked at 139,423 for the 98.
In 1978 a diesel version of the 350 was introduced. Production of the 98 Series was exclusively manufactured at Lansing while Linden Assembly was retooled to build the E-body cars beginning in 1979. The lux Regency model was available as either a coupe or a sedan while base LS models were only available as sedans. Buick's 252 in³ V6 engine became standard in 1981 along with a new 4-speed THM200-4R automatic transmission. The following year the new ultra plush Regency Brougham model was debuted. This exclusive vehicle featured plush 'Prima' velour seats with embroidered emblems, electroluminescent opera lamps on the B-pillars and cut pile carpeting. The LS model was discontinued this year.
For 1983 the only change to the 98 Series was a new grille. Rolled back for 1984, the federal 5 mph impact standard prompted GM to make big changes to the bumpers to save weight, which unfortunately reduced effectiveness drastically. This year also heralded the end to the 8-track tape layer as an option.
In March of 1984 production ended and these cars were sold alongside the new front-wheel drive '85 model. The new GWD cars became C-bodies while the carryover RWD models were dubbed 'D' body style in GM Manufacturing.
The tenth generation of the 98 Series was introduced in 1985 as a downsized, shorter model. Switching to new front-wheel drive platform from rear-wheel drive, the new Ninety-Eight weighed more than 700 pounds over the previous model, and was nearly 25.0 inches shorter in length. Thankfully the passenger space remained nearly the same from the previous year and buyers seemed to prefer this more normal sized vehicle. Sales for 1985 nearly doubled over the previous year with a total of 169,432 units sold compared to 76,833 models in 1984.
The 98 lineup included a 4-door sedan and a 2-door coupe, in either Regency or Regency Brougham trim in 1985. Both of the models came with standard velour seating with the Sierra grain leather optional on both. Powering the 98 series was the Buick 181 in³ V6 engine as the standard powerplant. Never again would the V8 engines return to the 98 Series. Optional engines this year were the Oldsmobile 263 in³ Diesel V6 and Bick's 231. For 1986 the 3.0 gas V6 and 4.3 Diesel V6 were dropped.
During its six-year run Oldsmobile continued to improve this generation with yearly updates. For only one year a special 'Grande' package was offered with special composite headlights and specific front end panel. It also included 45/45 leather seats with pigskin inserts and console with combination lock.
New for 1987 was the performance-oriented Touring Sedan model and a brand new grille to the lineup with flush composite headlamps. The Touring Sedan came with standard equipment that included leather seats designed by Lear Siegler, an on-board computer from 1988 through 1990, anti-lock brakes, self-closing trunk from '88 through '90, FE3 sport suspension, burl walnut interior, 15 or 16 inch alloy wheels, console shifter and more. This would be the final year for the slow-selling 2-door coupe body style.
Brand new for 1988 was a power pull-down trunk lid and an on-board computer with oil life monitor added to the options list. The 98 received an updated grille also this year along with the addition of Twilight Sentinel headlights, an automatic dimming rearview mirror that could be switched on and off and optional remote keyless entry. A driver's side airbag was also optional, but rarely purchased. In 1990 the 98 Series featured a new harmonic balancer and increased horsepower.
The eleventh generation of the 98 Series was introduced in 98 at the same time as its 50th anniversary in 1991. The revise this generation included an added length, wide tail, low nose, rear fender skirts and split-grille with wraparound headlights that all added up to a much more distinctive look than previous models. The 98 designers wanted a distinctive luxury vehicle that buyers wouldn't be able to confuse with a similar Pontiac or Buick sedan. This would also be the shortest generation of the 98 since 1996 would be the final year for the luxury line.
The overall length was increased by over 9 inches though the wheelbase remained the same from the previous generation with the extra space added to the rear of the car, which resulted in a bigger trunk. Though the names of the trim levels would change throughout the model years, the last generation would be available in two main models; the traditional luxury-oriented Regency models and the performance-oriented Touring models. The 6-passenger Regency model was available in either velour or leather and featured the 170 hp 3.8 L Buick V6 and a column shifter. Standard 5-passenger Touring models came with the FE3 suspension package, leather seating designed by Lear Seating, 18 gallon fuel tank, 16-inch wheels, a 205 hp supercharged version of the standard 3.9 L Buick V6.
The 98 Series was discontinued on May 31, 1996 after the Aurora entered the scene. To fill the new void, two 88 siblings, the Regency and the LSS were introduced. The more traditional Regency 88 featured the carryover GTX-composite fenders from the 96 Ninety Eight while the sportier LSS sported steel front fenders. During the '97-'98 model years the LSS model was a much more popular option to buyers. Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldsmobile_98By Jessica Donaldson