10 Forgotten Classic Oldsmobile Models That Probably Deserved Better
These Classic Oldsmobile cars deserved more credit
Updated September 20, 2017
At the time of its discontinuation in 2004, Oldsmobile was the oldest surviving American automaker. It really had a fitting name, didn’t it?! Moreover, Olds was the fourth oldest surviving car maker in the world at the time. Just behind Czech Tatra, French Peugeot and German Deimler. But history is obviously something GM never learnt to appreciate. How else to get a grasp of their decision to simply discontinue the oldest truly American automaker established in 1897 by Ransom Eli Olds? And with that, all of classic Oldsmobile models that made us proud over the years.
During more than a century of production, Oldsmobile produced over 35 million vehicles. Most of them as GM’s division after General Motors acquired the brand in 1908. Some were among the best and most beloved American cars ever, like 442, Cutlass, and Toronado. Others were neither as good nor well received by the Olds aficionados, yet they still represented the company in their own way. This time, we’re reflecting on forgotten part of the Oldsmobile history. On forgotten Oldsmobile models that somehow never fulfilled their true potential. Oldsmobile cars that could have achieved more had they’ve been given the chance. So, embark with us upon this nostalgic journey through Oldsmobile’s affluent history.
1967-1968 Delmont 88
The Eighty Eight sat atop the Oldsmobile lineup in 1949 and remained there until 1999. For fifty years, full-size lineup of models changed and adapted in order to satisfy customer’s needs. Yet, Oldsmobile 88 remained immensely popular throughout most of its lengthy run. In fact, it was Olds’ best-selling line until 1974. Especially the entry-level models.
And that’s exactly what Delmont was. An entry-level full-size Oldsmobile for the masses restricted by tight budget. In the sea of 88’s, Delmont remains obscured, though. Probably because Olds only offered it for two model years before discontinuing it for ’69, leaving Delta 88 a base model of the series. During its short tenure in the market, Delmont 88 offered a standard 330 cu in Jetfire Rocket V8, together with optional 425 cu in Super Rocket V8 and 455 cu in Rocket 455 V8. For 1968, standard engine was replaced by a new 350 cu in Rocket 350 V8 in two different set of tunes. 2-barrel version delivered 250 horsepower, while 4-barrel option raised 310 ponies. Most powerful offering was the 455 W-33 police package raising as much as 390 horsepower. 425 cu in V8 was discontinued by then.
Being an entry-level vehicle, Delmont only offered advanced equipment via option packages. However, it could have been ordered with no less than four different body styles. There were 4-door Town and Holiday Sedans, and 2-door Holiday Coupe and Convertible. With Holiday standing for hardtop styling.
1964-1965 Jetstar I
Jetstar I is another Oldsmobile 88-bodied full-sizer, albeit with even more complicated story than Delmont. Jetstar I was actually a low-priced, 2-door hardtop version of the luxurious Starfire, itself based on Olds 88. To make things even more complex, Oldsmobile launched Jetstar 88 that very same year. Although related, Jetstar 88 represented entry-level Olds 88 while Jetstar I, as already mentioned, served as Starfire’s entry-level model.
To increase the gap between Starfire and Jetstar I prices, Oldsmobile decided to withdraw features like power steering, power brakes and leather upholstery from the latter. They were offered as options instead, while seats were covered in vinyl. Jetstar I still received Starfire’s potent 394 cu in V8 mill, however. That gave it 345 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. Enough to pit it against, at the time very successful Pontiac Grand Prix. Judging by the sales figures, Jetstar I was a success. Total of 16,084 units were sold for that 1964.
Encouraged by strong sales (roughly the same as 1963 Starfire hardtop and coupe together), Oldsmobile brass pushed for even more radical 1965 Jetstar I. Apart from all new coke-bottle styling, ’65 Jetstar I received a new 425 cu in V8 tuned to special Starfire/Jetstar I 370 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Sadly, sales were stuck at 6,552 and both the Starfire and the Jetstar I were gone by 1966. At least Oldsmobile brought in Toronado to replace the Starfire.
1991 Cutlass Calais 442 W41
What is it? It’s extremely limited homologation high-performance version of the compact Oldsmobile Calais. Some would say it was a travesty to stamp the 442 moniker on a compact 4-cylinder car, but then again, late Oldsmobile 442’s weren’t much more powerful anyway.
Being SCCA homologation specials, Olds only produced 204 of them in total. W41 option package gave Cutlass Calais 10 extra horsepower over conventional 442 models. 2.3L quad 4 four-cylinder mill generated 190 horsepower in W41 tune. It also sported modified gear ratios and an oil cooler, while its redline screamed 7,400 rpm. One simply can’t talk about more recent American sports compacts like the Cobalt SS or the Neon SRT-4 without mentioning the Cutlass Calais 442. Especially in described W41 tune.
W41 Cutlass Calais 442’s problems were mostly related to the very engine that’s given it birth. Due to previously mentioned upgrades, usually robust 4-cylinder often cracked down at around 50,000 miles interval. Not exactly the numbers people expected from economical 4-cylinder mill. But Cutlass Calais 442 W41 wasn’t your run of the mill 4-cylinder compact. It was more of a muscle car in compressed body capable of doing quarter mile in mid 14’s. Not many cars back then were able to replicate that number on a quarter mile drag strip.
1957-1958 Fiesta Wagon
Part of the Oldsmobile 88 lineup, Super Fiesta actually revived the wagon body style after it disappeared in 1951. Yet, Fiesta Wagon only stuck for two model years. That’s what makes it extremely rare and basically forgotten by now. Of 8,981 4-door hardtop wagons produced during ’57 and 5,175 of them made for ’58, precious few remain alive and serviceable today.
Both model years benefited from the same 371 cu in Rocket V8 engine in various set of tunes. For 1957, it developed either 277 hp or 300 hp depending on number of carburetors atop the mill. Manual 3-speed gearbox and more common Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 were responsible for transferring all that power to the rear. Following year saw the 4-barrel version’s ratings increased to 305 horsepower, while J2 option with three 2-barrel carbs now developed 312 ponies. Transmission options remained intact.
Differences, however, were seen in overall design. Apart from sharper styling cues, new dual bubble headlamps, and revised bumpers, 1958 models sported abundance of chrome details across the body. Hence the moniker “ChromeMobile.” They even got the optional glove compartment-installed transportable radio which could have been removed and worked outside of the car thanks to portable batteries.
1977-1978 Toronado XS
Upon its introduction in 1966, Toronado instantly became one of Oldsmobile’s most radical cars. Not only that. Personal luxury carrier quickly became one of the most successful vehicles in the segment. Second generation arrived in 1971, and by the time eighties crept up, it was already outdated. Oldsmobile needed a way to make it more exciting and they went sliding sunroof way in order to do so.
Enter limited Toronado XS with astroroof sliding sunroof. Only 5,166 of them were made, and they cost $2,550 over conventional Toronado’s sticker. Unlike most second generation Toronados, ’77 and ’78 year models packed smaller 403 cu in V8 engine instead of 455 cu in V8 mill. Smaller engine was good enough for 185 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, and was introduced mainly to counter the upcoming 1978 government Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. Sadly, Oldsmobile never gave Toronado XS the chance it deserved since they discontinued it as soon as third generation models made their debut.
There was another interesting sliding sunroof Toronado planned for production – Toronado XSR. Only one T-top prototype was built by the American Sunroof Corporation before they figured out they didn’t have means of channeling water away from retractable bits. Their T-top sides were supposed to slide inwards and stack over one another. Toronado XSR was supposed to cost $450 atop the XS ($3,000), but was eventually scrapped leaving XS fighting the losing battle alone.
1980 442 W30
442 was, without any doubt, the most famous classic Oldsmobile moniker in division’s history. Especially during the peak of the muscle car scene during which it was a model of its own. But as soon as muscle scene started to wane down, 442 reverted to being an option package on various Oldsmobile models. At least the name survived.
Not only did the name survive, but 442 spawned a few more performance-oriented models over the years. One such model is rare 1980 exclusive 442 W30 based on the Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais notchback sedan. Unlike Ford and Pontiac who downsized their V8’s that year, Oldsmobile actually upped the ante with their W30 350 cu in V8. Setup generated 170 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque thanks to mandatory Turbo-Hydramatic 350 auto transmission. Cutlass Calais 442 W30 also came with FE2 rallye suspension, black/gold or white/gold color setup, and optional 6-way driver’s power bucket seat. Hurst shifter from previous year wasn’t offered.
W30 appearance and handling package came at a price, though. It added $1,425 to the original sticker of $6,715. Maybe that’s the reason only 886 units were ordered by the end of 1980. 442 was discontinued the following year, only to make a comeback in 1985. This time on the G-body Cutlass Supreme.
1970 Rallye 350
By the time 1970 had arrived, big-block muscle car performance was threatened to become extinct. Yet, Oldsmobile wisely recognized people will need time to get used to regulation-choked V8’s and anemic performance that loomed over then available offerings. So they introduced the Rallye 350. Small-block-powered muscle car that simply gave the masses what they needed and were used to.
“Junior” muscle car consisted of numerous packages including, arguably, the most important of them all – L74 350 cu in V8 engine with 10.25:1 compression ratio, and as much as 310 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. Other options included FE2 Rallye suspension, W25 fiberglass hood, W35 rear spoiler and W45 blackwall tires, N10 dual exhaust, N34 Custom Sport steering wheel, and D35 sport mirrors. All 3,547 original Rallye 350’s were painted Sebring Yellow, and came with yellow urethane-coated bumpers. Some dealers probably found them hard to sell due to uninspiring body-colored bumpers, so they installed chrome replacements instead.
The only secure way to identify an original Rallye 350 today is through paperwork. VIN will do you no good as all of them were built in Lansing. Earliest models from mid-January. With 0 to 60 in 7 seconds flat and quarter mile time of 15.27 seconds, Olds Rallye 350 represented one of the more affordable ways of getting into the late muscle car scene. It’s also one of the most obscured muscle cars of its era.
1992-1993 Achieva SCX W41
Replacement for the aforementioned Cutlass Calais, the Oldsmobile Achieva wouldn’t have been at all inspiring hadn’t there been for the SCX W41 model. It was the strongest performer then offered by Oldsmobile, and also the last “W-machine” they ever marketed.
Power came from the same Quad 4 engine that motivated Cutlass Calais 442 W41. It made the same 190 horsepower, 160 lb-ft of torque, and had almost the same 7,200 rpm redline. Being its successor, Achieva was basically the same car as well. In fact, I feel like I’m cheating here by listing the same vehicle twice. Only I’m not. People deserve to know about both of these performance-oriented Oldsmobile compacts. So many contradictions in a single sentence.
Total of 1,646 Achieva SCX W41’s were produced over two model years. Eight times more than their predecessor. Apart from unique decals and performance, Achieva SCX W41 also sported special Muncie built Getrag 282 5-speed manual transmission, 14-inch cast aluminum wheels, V-rated 215 BF Goodrich tires, and a rear deck lid spoiler. Enough for it to be considered one of the quickest cars in its segment? Barely, but yes.
1968-1970 Toronado W34
“W-machine” was such an important part of Oldsmobile history that it simply couldn’t have afforded to miss one of the most important cars division had ever created. Oldsmobile Toronado W34 came at additional $210.64 cost for 1968 and added a high lift camshaft, cold air induction system, heat-treated valve springs, and a low restriction dual exhaust system. Furthermore, W34 option was tied to specially calibrated Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission which allowed quick and firm up-shifts. Needless to say, then new 455 cu in V8 delivered more than 375 horsepower which it did in conventional lineup. W34 Toronado developed 400 ponies flat.
For 1969 and 1970, price of the W34 package dropped to $47.39. This is probably the main reason 2,844 and 5,341 of them were ordered that way respectively. Quite a bump in sales considering only 124 W34 Toronados were ordered in 1968. 1970 model year cars even received special GT badges on the exterior. Considering the car weighted well north of 4,000 pounds, 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds was commendable. And so was 15.7 second standing quarter mile run.
But despite the increase in sales and popularity, Toronado W34 didn’t survive the generation shift. It would seem there simply was no room for large displacement performance in 1971. So W34 was cut despite becoming extremely popular with Toronado buyers. It definitely deserved more than that.
F-88 is one of the rarest and most forgotten Oldsmobile cars ever produced. This 1954 Motorama Dream Car didn’t get past the concept phase, but despite GM’s policy of destroying their concepts, it actually survived. Harley J. Earl openly opposed this corporate rule and simply gave the F-88 away instead of sending it to a scrapyard.
Oldsmobile F-88 was intended as a 2-seat sports car Corvette counterpart. Much like Pontiac Bonneville Special concept. Both concept cars featured a fiberglass body. While Pontiac’s Corvette companion packed 268 cu in Pontiac Special straight-eight, Oldsmobile concept draw power from 324 cu in V8 capable of making 250 horsepower. This brings us to the very reason why they never made it. Early Corvette only developed 150 ponies via 235 cu in Blue Flame straight-six. Not only would have Oldsmobile F-88 and Pontiac Bonneville Special cannibalize on Corvette sales, but they would have probably destroy it altogether. Of course, bean counters from Chevrolet didn’t really like that idea, so both projects were scrapped.
There were initially two F-88 cars produced. One burned down in between auto shows, while the other simply disappeared. It’s been unearthed a decade ago and sold at Barrett-Jackson auction for $3.24 million. It currently resides at the Gateway Colorado Automobile Museum after changing hands countless times prior to the aforementioned auction sale. One of those hands belonged to none other than E.L. Cord. The story of Corvette’s long lost twin brother is obviously not yet complete. But the big question remains. What If? What if GM had allowed competition between divisions in that sweet 2-seat sports car segment? We can only guess. One thing’s for certain, though. Oldsmobile F-88 certainly deserved better. As far as classic Oldsmobile models go, this is one of the finest.
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