(Found In) Lone Mountain (San Francisco, California): 1958 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Hardtop Coupe

IMG_3459Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or in the eye of the buyer, I guess. In the twilight zone of the late 50’s, many an automobile brings up the question of what exactly did “good taste” mean in terms of what American car shoppers wanted.

This is where the 1958 Oldsmobile enters into our consciousness. When all is said and done, can you believe that it was one of the most popular faces for ’58? Perhaps entranced by all the sparkling jewelry, we spend time with this glittery gem, figuring out if it was a ghoul or the genteel beast most middle class buyers wanted that year.

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(Found In) Bushrod Park (Oakland, California): 1972 Ford LTD Hardtop Coupe

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In the vehicles that are the zeitgeist of the time, the various Ford LTDs are vastly underrated as symbols for the time. Starting as yet another push by Ford upmarket, it calling into question the reason behind the Mercury brand yet again in 1965.

By the early 70’s it was a reputable status symbol for those that wanted style, comfort, and isolation along with size without the expense of traditional posh offerings. As luxury efforts moved down market, there was little reason to upgrade beyond the whisper silent LTD.

1972 proved to be a bridge year. The traits and ethos of what had been traditional spectrum offerings of Full Sized cars was rapidly coming to a close. In a number of ways, this was the swan song season to the variety once well known, and offered most resplendently at the top of the Ford line.

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(Found In) Northgate (Oakland, California): 1972 Buick LeSabre Hardtop Coupe

IMG_1155When did Buick become a car for the elderly? It’s really hard to say. For most of the early post-war era, Buick more or less espoused the belief in more subtle, less ostentatious luxury, in comparison to GM cousin brand Cadillac. During that same period, there were extensions downward to price categories just above Chevrolet, and attempts at re-cementing their reputation as Banker’s Hot Rods as well.

Another belief was offering a whole lotta car for a minimum of a premium. As the Special nameplate drifted out of sight to re-appear as a luxury compact in the fall of 1960, the least dear Buick for your pocketbook became the LeSabre. Perhaps being a perennial customer favorite with people starting in 1959 lead to something of a reputation.

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(Found In) Elmwood (Oakland, California): 1953 Oldsmobile Ninety – Eight Holiday Hardtop Coupe

IMG_9731Although still tied to the Futuramic Ninety Eights that pushed Oldsmobile into the stratosphere of the 1950’s a few years too early, the once again warmed over line topping Rocket Oldsmobiles had plenty of new before they were more fully redesigned for 1954.

Like a sneak preview of the potential return to the showroom in the years to follow, enough goodies went above and below the skin for 1953 the keep viewers glued to the screen for the latest flight into the Pre-Interstate highway space. Here’s why folks continued to make dates with rocket powered Oldsmobiles in 1953.

 

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(Found In) Chinatown (Fresno, California): 1965 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Holiday Hardtop Coupe

IMG_9568Where The Action Is declared ads for the newest Oldsmobile Eighty Eights in more than half a Decade. While there was more magic once you hitched yourself to these new rocket coupes, sedans and convertibles, they held a lot more common with relatives under the General Motors empire as well.

In the shift away from large and in charge chariots being the heart of the market place, where would the premium performance preference lead the super sonic Super 88 replacement series, the Delta 88 throughout its life as Oldsmobiles struggled with being the preferred pride of middle American patriarchy?

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(Found In) West End (Alameda, California): 1992 Oldsmobile (Toronado) Trofeo

IMG_8932The Oldsmobile Toronado tried time and time again to break the molds of what it meant to be the most premium offering in the middle of the General Motors Hierarchy. Where it initially channeled the elegant grand touring ethos of the Cord 810 upon introduction, it became an off the rack designer clone of the Cadillac Eldorado for its 2nd Generation. That tradition continued through its 3rd Generation as well.

As the automotive landscape changed and the definition of personal luxury shifted once again, it seemed the original thesis statement of the Toronado seemed relevant once again. Up against more budget constraints, the 4th Generation Toro found itself a compromised return to its roots.

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(Found In) Park Merced (San Francisco, California): 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Coupe

IMG_9002The 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.

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(Found In) Mission District (San Francisco, California): 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass “S” Hardtop Coupe

IMG_8691As Oldsmobile rose to their zenith in the 1970’s, it started to do so by playing musicial chairs with the various marketing images that made for being the toast of the town image that it had fostered since the 1950’s. The Olds-multiplicity of the brand had been a constant mix of practicality, performance and posh since the end of World War II. For the Elegant Ninety Eights there were the Superlative Super 88’s. For the practical F-85 there was the swashbuckling Cutlass. For the sword of intermediates, a crowned princess Supreme started an ascent to the top of the charts like Diana, Mary and Florence starting in 1966.

The “Little Limousine” sparkled the most when it focused on a formal roof’d coupe. Where did that leave it’s athletic, buxom and liberated sister ship the Cutlass S? In a curious place as Oldsmobile never wanted to commit to one specific identity.

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(Found In) Maxwell Park (Oakland, California): 1966 Chrysler 300 Convertible Coupe

IMG_8596By 1966, the performance brigade of big bruisers were rapidly losing ground to intermediate muscle machines and pony cars. Oldsmobile would send the Starfire into orbit one last time. The Impala SS started its rapid descent from its peak.

The Galaxie XL gained 7 Litres of might to fight for space as it was crowded out by the LTD, Thunderbird and Mustang over in Dearborn.
How was it for the grandfather of them all, the 300 Letter Cars?

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(Found In) San Gabriel Triangle (Albany, California): 1956 Chevrolet Bel-Air Sport Coupe

IMG_8460One thing that General Motors mastered to gain the meat of the US market share was planned obsolescence. GM tricked buyers better than any other corporate behemoth on the wonders of superficial change to convince them that the purchase they just made suddenly wasn’t Spring Fresh.

Underneath all of the dazzle, the majority of what American cars were stayed the same: Rear Wheel Drive, Drum Brakes, Solid Rear Axles and Body On Frame Construction had been mainstays under swoopy bodywork since the great depression.
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