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The Oldsmobile 98 (originally Series 90; a.k.a. Ninety-Eight) was a full-size automobile and the flagship of the Oldsmobile division of General Motors. The name first appeared in 1941 and was used again after American consumer automobile production resumed post-World War II. It was, as it would remain, the top-of-the-line model, with lesser Oldsmobiles having lower numbers such as 66 and 76. These were replaced by the Oldsmobile 88 in 1949, and the two number-names would carry on into the 1990s as the bread and butter of the full-size Oldsmobile lineup until the Aurora would replace it for 1996.

General Motors developed a system of sharing body panels between models of its different makes, but the Ninety-Eight broke ranks several times with this system. Its second body makeover did not share body panels with the other senior makes, Buick and Cadillac. It did not even have its model-changeover synchronized with the same year as the Eighty-Eight in the mid-1950s.

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 98 shared its bodyshell with the Buick Electra.

As it was the top-line Oldsmobile, the series had the most technologically advanced items available, such as Twilight Sentinel (a feature that automatically turned the headlights on and off via a timer, as controlled by the driver), and the highest-grade interior and exterior trim.

1941

The first Series 90 was the 1941 96. According to Oldsmobile's naming standard, it used a straight-6 engine and lasted just one year. The 98 name also debuted with a straight-8 engine. The Series 90 replaced the Oldsmobile Series 80 as the top car in the company's lineup.

1949

Oldsmobile 98 Convertible 1953


The Rocket V8 engine appeared in the 1949 98.

Body styles:

1956

1957 Oldsmobile 98 rear


The 1956 98 had a wheelbase. It used a 324 cubic inch Rocket V8. That engine was replaced by a 371 in³ engine for 1957. The 394, the largest first-generation Rocket V8, was used from 1959 until 1964.

1965

1969 Ninety-Eight Holiday Coupe
The 1965 Ninety-Eight received an all-new bodyshell along with other full-sized Oldsmobiles but retained a larger C-body shared with Cadillac in contrast with the B-body used in the Oldsmobile 88. The Ninety-Eight featured many of the lines found on 88s but with more squared off styling. Also new for 1965 was the Ninety-Eight Luxury Sedan, which featured an even more luxurious interior along with more standard amenities than the regular Ninety-Eight models such as power windows and seats. Most 98 LS's also had vinyl roofs, which were offered only in black that year. A new three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission with torque converter replaced the original Hydra-Matic used by Olds since its 1940 introduction. Along with the transmission and bodyshell, the engine was also new for 1965. It was a 425 cubic-inch Super Rocket V8 that was more powerful and of a more efficient design than the older 394 cubic-inch V8 previously used, yet it was much lighter in weight. The Ninety-Eight's standard and only engine offering for 1965 was the four-barrel "Ultra High Compression" version of the 425 Super Rocket rated at .

1969

The Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight's were known for their luxury, style and comfort, and the 1969 models were no exception.

With a 127 inch (10.6 feet) wheelbase, length of 224.4 inches (18.7 feet), width of 80.0 inches (6.7 feet), and height of 54.8 inches (4.5 feet), the Ninety-Eight's continued to be the largest models produced by Oldsmobile.

New to the Ninety-Eight series this year were a recessed padded instrument panel, anti-theft lock on the steering column, rear view mirror map light, mini-buckles on the seat belts, and deeply padded head restraints.

Standard for the Ninety-Eight's in 1969 was the 365-HP 455 Rocket V-8 (7.5 liters) which required premium leaded gas; Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 transmission, power steering (vari-ratio), power brakes, power windows, power seat, custom sport seat, foam padded front seat, deluxe steering wheel, self regulating electric clock, and wheel discs (hub caps).

Some of the available options were a tilt-telescope steering wheel, instant horn, four season air conditioning with comfortron, tinted glass windshield, 6 way power seat, divided front seat with dual controls, power trunk release (vacuum), power control (power windows & power locks), power front disc brakes, am-fm stereo radio, rear seat speaker, stereo tape player , power operated antenna, door edge guards, cruise control, left outside remote control mirror, cornering lamps, anti-spin rear axle, vinyl roof, flo-thru ventilation, and safety sentinel.

Of the Ninety-Eight series, the 1969's were the only models to have an attached hood extension. After receiving numerous complaints from dealership mechanics about hurting their heads on the extension, Oldsmobile changed the style of the hood in 1970, removing the extension, resulting in a flatter hood design.

Between 1965 and 1975 Oldsmobile commissioned Cotner-Bevington to build professional cars, (ambulances and hearses), using the large Ninety-Eight chassis. Ironically, during the '60's (1968), the only Oldsmobile professionally made into a limousine was the smaller Toronado, known as the AQC Jetway 707.

1971

1976 Oldsmobile 98 Regency
Oldsmobile built its biggest full-size car in 1971 although wheelbase was unchanged from 1970. The 1971 through 1976 Ninety-Eight was very similar to the Oldsmobile 88 (which by now was called the "Delta 88") except the Ninety-Eight had rear Cadillac-esque tailfins to differentiate between the two full-size models. The standard 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 was rated at 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.

Despite this, a few 1975 and 1976 Ninety Eights were released from this catalytic converter requirement in Canada and were given certification along with exemption from requiring unleaded gasoline. V8's were progressively detuned as production wore on in line with tighter emission standards.

A new bodyshell was introduced this year that would last until the 1976 model year. They were the biggest and heaviest Oldsmobiles ever built, specifically the 1974 to 1976 models when federally mandated bumpers were added both front and rear that increased the overall length of the cars by several inches to 232.2 (5898 mm)

Trunk mounted louvers for the flow through ventilation system were only found on 1971 models (as in many other GM models of 1971). The louvers were moved to the door jambs for 1972-1976 models.

The 1974-76 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight (as well as the 74-76 Olds Delta 88, Olds Toronado, Buick LeSabre and Buick Electra Park Avenue) were among the first US production cars to offer an air bag option 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.

Ninety Eight Regency

For the 1972 model year, the Limited Edition Regency was offered to commemorate Oldsmobile's 75th anniversary. Each 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency was registered at Tiffany's and included the specially styled interior with a black or covert "pillow effect" velour upholstery, and power split bench seat, in place of the power bench seat with rear clock. Tiffany touches include the Tiffany Gold paint (an exclusive custom metallic color created especially for this car), the clock has also been specially styled by Tiffany's and bears a white Oldsmobile emblem above the Tiffany's name on a golden face. Each 1972 Regency owner received a distinctive sterling silver key ring as a gift, if ever lost the keys could be dropped in a mail box, and Tiffany's would return them to the owner. A total of 2650 75th anniversary Ninety-Eight Regencys were built, all of them 4 door hardtops. In 1973 the non-anniversary Regency stayed in the line up slotted just above the LS. The Regency package would remain available on the Ninety Eight throughout the 1996 model year when it would become a separate model nameplate.

1977

The 1977 model was extensively redone and downsized, at the same time as the Oldsmobile 88. The new models, at around 4000 pounds, were several hundred pounds lighter than a comparable 1976 model, but were just as roomy inside. The 455 in³ engine was replaced by the smaller 403 in³ V8. The Olds 350 was now standard. A diesel version of the 350 was added in 1978. Beginning in 1979, production of the 98 was exclusive to Lansing as Linden Assemblymarker was retooled to build the E-body cars.

1983 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight


The 98 was given a facelift in 1980; it now offered Oldsmobile's new 307 in³ V8 along with the diesel, but the 403 was discontinued. Fender skirts, which had disappeared in 1977, returned. The new model had a more-formal roofline to set it apart from the lower-line Delta 88. Gas models now had a 25-gallon fuel tank, diesels had a 27-gallon tank, replacing the 24.5-gallon one.

1980-84 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Coupe
Base LS models were available as sedans only, and the premium Regency model came as either a coupe or a sedan. 1981 saw the introduction of Buick's 252 in³ V6 as standard, as well as a new 4-speed THM200-4R automatic transmission. The new Regency Brougham model was introduced for 1982. This car featured plush "Prima" velour seats with embroidered emblems, cut pile carpeting, and electroluminescent opera lamps on the B-pillars. The LS model was discontinued. The 1983 models received a new grille, but were otherwise unchanged. The federal impact standard was rolled back for 1984, prompting GM to make major changes to the bumpers to save weight; predictably, this drastically reduced their effectiveness. An 8-track tape player was no longer an option.

Production ended in March 1984. These cars were actually sold concurrently with the new front-wheel drive 1985 model.

1985

Facelifted Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight sedan


The 98 moved from rear-wheel drive to a new front-wheel drive platform for the 1985 model year, with sales beginning in April 1984. For the first year, the Buick 181 in³ V6 was the standard powerplant. Optional engines were Buick's 231 and Oldsmobile's 263 in³ diesel V6. The 181 V6 was dropped for 1986. For 1987, the car received a new grille with flush headlamps, and the diesel engine was dropped. The performance-oriented Touring Sedan was introduced, but this was the final year for the Ninety-Eight coupe. 1989 saw another grille change and the addition of an optional driver's-side airbag. Keyless entry was available for 1990. Compared to most cars of a similar vintage, a relatively high number of Ninety Eights of the 1985-1990 generation are still seen on American roads.

Engines:
Year Engine Power Torque
1985 3.0 L Buick V6 at 4800 rpm at 2600 rpm
1985 3.8 L Buick MPFI V6 at 4400 rpm at 2000 rpm
1985–1986 4.3 L Oldsmobile Diesel V6
1986 3.8 L Buick SFI V6 at 4400 rpm at 2000 rpm
1987 at 4400 rpm at 2000 rpm
1988-1990 3.8 L Buick LN3 V6 at 5200 rpm at 2000 rpm



1991

This final redesigned generation of the Ninety-Eight would prove to be the shortest, seeing its last year in 1996. This generation was nine inches (229 mm) longer than the previous one; most of this extra space came in the trunk. A higher performance version, the 98 Touring Sedan was available that included the FE3 suspension package, supercharger, 18 gallon tank, and seats designed by Lear Seating.

With the introduction of the Aurora a year earlier, the Ninety-Eight was discontinued for 1996, ending production on May 31. To fill the void, two Eighty-Eight relatives - the Regency and the LSS - were introduced.

Engines:
  • 1991-1996 3.8 L (231 in³) V6
  • 1992-1995 3.8 L (231 in³) supercharged V6


Trim Levels:
  • Regency Elite - 1991-1996
  • Touring - 1991-1993
  • Regency - 1992-1994
  • Touring Supercharged - 1992-1993
  • Regency Special - 1993-1994
  • Regency Supercharged - 1994
  • Regency Elite Supercharged - 1995


Pop culture

  • The band Public Enemy had a minor hit in the 1980s with "You're Gonna Get Yours", a song about an Oldsmobile 98.
  • The 1996 movie Fargo features two Oldsmobile Ninety-Eights.
  • The movie Jackie Brown features a 1980 model driven by Samuel L. Jackson playing the role of Ordell Robbie.
  • The movie The Wizard features a 1988-1989 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Touring model driven by Putnam, which ends up getting wrecked throughout the course of the movie.
  • The 90's incarnation of the Green Hornet, as portrayed in the now-defunct NOW Comics series, drove a customized version of the Oldsmobile 98 touring sedan as the third Black Beauty.
  • In Clint Eastwood film, The Dead Pool, Harry's car is bombed and destroyed at the climax of the film.
  • In the 1980 Clint Eastwood film "Bronco Billy", Billy drives a dark red 1960 Oldsmobile 98 convertible with steer horns mounted to the front of the hood.
  • In the 1959 movie "The Fugitive Kind", starring Marlon Brando, Sheriff Jordan Talbot gives Marlon a ride in his 1959 Oldsmobile 98 Holiday SportSedan.


References



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