Junkyard Gem: 1970 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Holiday Coupe
Even though Oldsmobile is the best Sales years have come from the mid to late 1970s, when the Cutlass dominated the US charts for several years, one could argue that the Oldsmobile brand reached its peak in the 1970 model year. Buyers of that year could buy a brutal look. 4-4-2 with a 7.5-liter (455 cubic-inch) V8 frying the tires with 370 horsepower and 500 pound-feet, while the Delta 88 made its sister Chevy Caprice look barely cheaper and the expensive Buick LeSabre looks like something grandpa would buy on impulse after spilling too much Rickeys gin at the golf club. The Vista Cruiser 70 wagon turned out to be one of Detroit’s finest family carriers ever, and the Toronado sailed with great devilish appeal. Atop the Oldsmobile pyramid stood the Ninety-Eight, built on the same platform as the Caddy DeVille and giving those snooty Cadillac salesmen a cold sweat with its opulence dollar appeal. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one such car, a sporty 90 Ninety-Eight Holiday Coupe, found in a Denver yard just miles from the dealership that sold it.
In fact, the competition the Oldsmobile division gave its corporate comrades around 1970 has proven to be an ever-growing problem, with the once-clear prestige lines drawn between these divisions by the brilliant Alfred Sloan fading from year to year. in year. In the 1930s and until the 1960s you bought your first Chevrolet, then you went through Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac – always in that order, although you can skip a division here and there – as you become more successful in your career. Ford and Chrysler have made efforts in this direction, but General Motors has become the king of American companies with this plan.
But in 1970, you could load up a full-size Chevrolet to cost more and have nicer features than a Pontiac (or even an Olds or Buick) sharing the same chassis, and the same fuzziness, both around up and down, has taken place. in all makes of GM cars. What was the point of winning out over your neighbor when your new Cadillac Calais cost less than its new Buick Electra 225 Custom? This Olds Ninety-Eight was a well-built, value-for-money machine, but why steal customers from your own business when you should steal them from Ford, Chrysler and American Motors?
It doesn’t matter. GM was so vast and powerful in 1970 – in fact, one of the biggest concerns the company faced throughout the 1960s was the threat that the federal government might attempt to dismantle it for antitrust reasons, such as it happened a little over a decade later with the Bell system – that such problems seemed minor annoyances. Soon after, the depreciation of Cadillac and Buick branding became a crisis, but the general reigned on the battlefield in 1970, and the Olds Ninety-Eight was one of his best war tanks.
This car appears to have been a single owner machine, purchased new in November 1969. The original owner’s manual, Protect-O-Plate, warranty documentation and everything else remained in the glove box when the cart elevator left this car in its last parking lot. place before its date with the crusher. Don’t worry, I caught all of this stuff. Interestingly, the owner’s address was listed as Denver, but in a part of the city that came to be incorporated as the Town of Lakewood (the Denver city borders made a lot of confusing changes and gerrymandering to the decades) around the time this ninety-eight was sitting in Ralph Schomp’s showroom near Englewood.
Ralph’s original dealers around these parts have now grown into a mighty car-slinging empire in the Rocky Mountains. This car rolled out of Schomp’s original showroom just above the Denver city limits on South Broadway (this place is now an office building across from one of my favorite ramen joints in Denver area).
I guess this car broke a few decades ago, or maybe its owner got too old to drive it, and then she sat down. Eventually, I guess, a family member realized the car wasn’t worth fixing and went for the hassle-free disposal method of calling U-Pull – & – Pay.
You may have noticed the Guide-Matic instruction sheet next to the owner’s manual. Yes, this car had the expensive and finicky system to automatically dim the headlights when an oncoming car was detected by the fender-mounted electric eye.
I thought about pulling the components out of the Guide-Matic, so I could set up the system and write about it, but the trunk was full of telltale vacuum tubes that indicate unsuccessful attempts to fix a broken Guide-Matic and, plus i still need to run my 1989 Buick touchscreen computer. Some of you will be screaming about the insane prices paid for Guide-Matic components on eBay and my foolishness for leaving that money in the breaks, but hit my limit with tough eBay buyers after 23 years selling auto parts there.
Likewise with that putatively valuable factory AM / FM radio. Another junkyard buyer is asked to try and make a few tens of dollars by selling it.
However, if I had had a GM A-Body project right now and it needed an engine, I would have bought this Rocket 455 right away – just imagine something like a LeMans Sport Coupe with that engine. , which is an almost bolted swap. This high-compression (10.25: 1) engine was rated at 365 horsepower and 510 lb-ft, and GM at times underthe power ratings of the engines of that time, to spare buyers high insurance premiums. The Olds 455 – unrelated to the Buicks and Pontiac 455s, just to confuse everyone – produced terrifying torque at revs you’d consider slightly fast idle with smaller engines, and you don’t need to. to turn it on the connecting rod. the oil pan levels to go fast (what you did have to do with the crazier Chevy 454s that year).
This Oldsmobile engine family is interesting for outlining all other GM V8 models from the 1940s-1960s (not Chevrolet), pre-corporate engine era we now live in. The 307 cubic inch (5.0 liter) version was rolled out in the 1990s. The later Buick and Pontiac V8s entered cars in 1981, while the final Cadillac V8 family version of 49 was rolled out in exhibition halls in 1984.
It’s not rusty and the big hardtop Detroit coupes from this period are worth decent money in good condition, but the sunburned interior and body would have been prohibitively expensive to restore; $ 20,000 to assemble a $ 9,000 car is not a good deal unless you plan to keep it forever.
Life as an architect got a lot better when you had a ’70 Olds Ninety-Eight hardtop like your Escape machine. It’s hard to believe that 34 years later the old Oldsmobile brand would be on the GM chopping block.