It was, as it would remain, the top-of-the-line model, with lesser Oldsmobiles having lower numbers such as the A-body 66 and 68, and the B-body 76 and 78. The Series 60 was retired in 1949, the same year the Oldsmobile 78 was replaced by the 88. The Oldsmobile 76 was retired after 1950.
This left the two remaining number-names to carry on into the 1990s as the bread and butter of the full-size Oldsmobile lineup until the Oldsmobile Regency replaced the 98 in 1997. Occasionally additional nomenclature was used with the name, such as L/S and Holiday, and the 98 Regency badge would become increasingly common in the later years of the model.
The Oldsmobile 98 eighth generation (1971–1976)
Oldsmobile built its biggest full-size car in 1971 although wheelbase was unchanged from 1970. The 98s were the roomiest Oldsmobiles ever built thanks to the new GM full-size bodies which, at 64.3" front shoulder room and 63.4" rear shoulder room, set a record for interior width that would not be matched by any car until the full-size GM rear-wheel drive models of the early to mid-1990s.
Oldsmobile 88 (which by now was called the "Delta 88") except the Ninety-Eight had a longer passenger compartment owing to its 3" longer wheelbase, and had rear Cadillac-esque tailfins to better differentiate between the two full-size models. The standard 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 was rated at 320 hp (239 kW) and designed to run on lower octane regular lead, low-lead or unleaded gasoline for the first time this year thanks to a General Motors-mandate that all engines be designed to run on such fuels in preparation for the catalytic converter equipped cars of 1975 and later years that absolutely required unleaded gasoline.
From 1971 to 1976, Oldsmobile's full-sized Custom Cruiser station wagon shared the 127.0-inch (3,230 mm) wheelbase and 455 cubic-inch V8 with the Oldsmobile 98, and shared its interior and exterior styling, in particular the 98's distinctive front fascia and rear quarter panels complete with fender skirts. These were the first Oldsmobile station wagons ever to be built on Oldsmobile's largest chassis. The Custom Cruiser wagons, as did other GM full-sized wagons during these years, used a unique rear suspension with multi-leaf springs instead of the coil springs used on other full-sized Oldsmobiles, and other full-sized GM cars.
The Custom Cruiser wagons also featured a new 'Clamshell' tailgate design where the rear power-operated glass slid up into the roof as the tailgate (manually or with power assist), slid into a recess under the cargo floor. The power tailgate, the first in station wagon history, ultimately supplanted the manual tailgate, which required marked effort to lift from storage. It was operated by switches on the instrument panel or a key switch on the rear quarter panel. The Clamshell system, heavy and complex, made it easier to load and unload the extremely long wagons in tight spaces. But it remained un-adopted by any other manufacturer, and would be eliminated when GM reduced the length of their wagons by about a foot in 1977, and the overriding concern became increased fuel economy.
At 5,161 lb (2,341 kg) shipping weight (5,186 lb (2,352 kg) with woodgrain), or about 5,400 lb (2,400 kg) curb weight, the three-seat 1974 Custom Cruiser wagons are easily the heaviest Oldsmobiles ever built.
The number of body styles was reduced to four for 1971. The convertible was gone as were the 4-door sedan body styles. A new body style was the Luxury Coupe. For the first time ever all Oldsmobile 98s were now hardtops, and for the first time since 1964 not all hardtops were called Holidays (in fact the Prestige Brochure fails to use the term at all). Standard equipment included: armrests, front and rear, power brakes with front discs, electric clock, carpeting, inside hood release, lamp package, power seat, power steering and Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. Standard tire size was J78-15. Interiors were vinyl, cloth and leather. Ninety-Eights were built in both Linden and Lansing.
Four body styles were offered in the 98 series for 1972. Standard equipment included: Deluxe armrests, dual ashtrays, power brakes with front discs, electric clock, carpeting, interior hood release, remote control outside mirror, molding package, interior light package, windshield radio antenna, power seat, power steering, spare tire cover and Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. A midyear version of the 4-door hardtop named the Regency was produced to commemorate Oldsmobile's 75th year as an automaker. For the first time in 17 years the 98 set a new sales record of 121,568.
In 1973 a five body style 98 series was at the top end of the Oldsmobile line. The 75th anniversary Regency 4-door hardtop continued, following its successful mid-1972 introduction. Standard equipment included: Deluxe armrests, dual ashtrays, power brakes with front discs, cigarette lighter, carpeting, inside hood release, dome light, molding package, windshield radio antenna, foam sheet cushions, power steering, Deluxe steering wheel, Turbo-Hydramatic transmission and wheel opening covers. Standard tire size was L78-15. Upholstery was vinyl or cloth. The Oldsmobile 98 set another record of 138,462 sold.
The 1974 Ninety-Eight was now Oldsmobile's longest running series dating back to 1941, and was still popular. Five models were offered with the Regency Coupe taking the place of the Luxury Coupe. Standard equipment included: power brakes with front discs, cigarette lighter, electric clock, interior hood release, lamp package, molding package, remote control outside mirror, windshield radio antenna, power steering, Deluxe steering wheel, spare tire cover, power windows, power seat and Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. Standard tire size was J78-15. Upholstery was vinyl, cloth or leather.
From 1974 to 1975 the 98 reached a record length of 232.4 in (5903 mm), when federally mandated 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumpers were added both front and rear increasing the overall length of the cars by several inches, while 1976 model year saw minimal length reduction to 232.2 in (5898 mm). It is also worth to note that 1974 Oldsmobile 98 4-door hardtop was longest car with that body style sold that year, since longer Lincoln Continental, Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and Fleetwood 75 were basically sedans (and 1974 Lincoln Continental came only with one hardtop body style: the 2-door). The 1974-76 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight (as well as all full-size Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Cadillacs) also were among the first US production cars to offer an air bag option ("Air Cushion Restraint System") beginning in 1974. Very few cars were so equipped. The high cost ($700) plus public uncertainty about the yet-to-be proven safety systems that are now universal in today's automobiles saw quite handily to that.
The number of 98 body styles was reduced in 1975. Four were available consisting of coupes or 4-door hardtops in Luxury or Regency trim. Two door models were no longer hardtops. Standard equipment included: power brakes with front discs, cigarette lighter, electric clock, electronic ignition, hood release, bumper impact strips, lamp package, 455 CID engine, molding package, remote-controlled outside mirror, power seat, power windows, power steering, Deluxe steering wheel, chrome wheel discs and Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. Standard tire size was J78-15. Upholstery was vinyl, cloth or leather.
In 1976 the Luxury and Regency editions of the full-size 98s were offered, in 2-door coupes or 4-door hardtops. 4-doors had an extra window (like an opera window) in the C-pillar. A landau roof option for the coupe gave it a huge-looking opera window. Like the Custom Cruiser, 98s had a dual section eggcrate-design grille, with new front end panel, front bumper, and wraparound horizontal parking lamps. Amber marker lenses aligned with the headlamps wrapped around the fender sides. Separate clear cornering lamps had horizontal ribs. Vertical tailamps were decorated with a small emblem in each lens. Tiny back-up lamps stood alongside the license plate, on a panel that also contained small red lenses next to the tailamps. Standard 98 equipment included a 455 CID Rocket V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, Turbo-Hydramatic, vari-ratio power steering, power brakes, power driver's seat, driver's door armrest control console, electronic message center, electric clock, fold-down center armrests, front ashtray, and JR78 x 15 blackwall steel-belted radials. Rear fender skirts and bumper impact strips were also standard. A new 2.41:1 axle ratio became standard to improve fuel economy.
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