The Oldsmobile Ninety Eight once sat in a rarefied holy trinity at the temple of General Motors opulence. The eldest and the most modest of the trio between the most Senior Buick, the now Electra 225, and the myriad of Cadillac DeVilles and Fleetwoods, the Ninety Eight negotiated for the least of your finances for the most security and the most sensible set of luxury trappings for your dollar.
Often great enough for many a generation of buyers who felt like they had “made it” the Ninety Eight was ready, willing and able to celebrate Oldsmobile’s 75th year of manufacturing automobiles with a even more goodies for customers on deck after a full redesign for 1971.
After the major update the C-Body based Ninety Eight received in 1971 alongside the B-Body Delta 88, only minor modifications where made to these handsome brutes. While flow-thru ventilation remained, the troublesome vents in the decklid were removed. Meanwhile a slight shuffling of the face features kept it familiar, but different enough to remind buyers of the all-new Ninety Eight that it was worth going for an all new one rather than last year’s leftovers.
Under the hood though things really started to change. Where the SAE gross rated 455 Rocket V8 had been rated at a detuned 320 horsepower in 1971, the SAE net figure was reduced to 225 horsepower for the single exhaust version and 250 horsepower for the dual exhaust version.
Nevertheless, the Dual Exhaust version was still a relatively hot ticket for such a cruise ship, as 0-60 came in the 9 second range for the 250 horse version. This feat was the Ninety Eight had as a calling card since the late 50’s, with long enough legs to more realistically peg the speedo close to 120 mph.
Those numbers did come at a price at the pump however. Although not as an Leaded Alcoholic as a DeVille with their huge 472 V8s, it took a really delicate touch on the chrome trimmed accelerator pedal to convince any Ninety Eight to return you double digit fuel economy.
Few Ninety Eight buyers were focused on economics other than the price savings over a Electra 225 or Coupe DeVille however. Given that General Motors kept moving Cadillac products downmarket however, and Chevrolet products upmarket as well, there wasn’t as much of a gap as there once was. All large GM cars for 1971 were cast in a tailored version of the popular fuselage look that pushed them to improbable bulk that hadn’t been seen since the 1958 Lincoln line. And they would continue to grow throughout the middle of the decade before the decadence was paired back in 1977. Of note, many complained, while they were modernized in some ways, these biggest GM offerings lacked a certain grace and general goodness that their predecessors held.
Nevertheless, the way to option up a Olds Ninety Eight could put most of those niggling concerns at bay. Still outfitted with Oldsmobile’s well lauded V8, perhaps finest of the individual divisional engines on offer, the Ninety Eight, but surely all offerings in the Olds stable rode a crest of long established trust in the best premium products at a price point for many buyers.
In fact more buyers went home with the more premium Luxury Series Hardtop coupe (24,457) than the base Holiday Hardtop Coupe (9,624). Sitting on its throne, the Ninety Eight couldn’t necessarily see the tide changing against it. Not that there would have been an immediate solution being so far from the actual action against it and cars of its ilk in the first place.