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Oldsmobile Cars For Sale by
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History of Oldsmobile
Oldsmobile was a brand of American automobile
produced for most of its existence by General Motors.
It was founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897. In its 107-year
history, it produced 35.2 million cars, including
at least 14 million built at its Lansing, Michigan
factory. When it was phased out in 2004, Oldsmobile
was the oldest surviving American automobile marque,
and one of the oldest in the world, after Daimler
and Peugeot. Oldsmobile's discontinuation presaged
a larger consolidation of GM's brands during their
bankruptcy reorganization in 2009.
Oldsmobiles were first manufactured
by the Olds Motor Works in Lansing, Michigan, a company
founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897. In 1901, the company
produced 425 cars, making it the first high-volume
gasoline-powered automobile manufacturer. Oldsmobile
became the top selling car company in the United States
for a few years. Ransom Olds left the company in financial
difficulties and formed the REO Motor Car Company.
The last Curved Dash Oldsmobile was made in 1907.
General Motors purchased the company in 1908.
The 1901 to 1904 Oldsmobile Curved Dash was the first
mass-produced car, made from the first automotive
assembly line, an invention that is often miscredited
to Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. (Ford was
the first to manufacture cars on a moving assembly
line.) After Olds sold the company in 1899, it was
renamed Olds Motor Works and moved to a new plant
in Detroit. By March 1901, the company had a whole
line of models ready for mass production. Unfortunately,
a mistake by a worker caused the factory to catch
fire, and it burned to the ground, with all of the
prototypes destroyed. The only car that survived the
fire was a Curved Dash prototype, which was wheeled
out of the factory by two workers while escaping the
fire. A new factory was built, and production of the
Curved Dash commenced.
Officially, the cars were called "Oldsmobile
automobiles," colloquially referred to as "Oldsmobiles."
It was this moniker, as applied especially to the
Oldsmobile Curved Dash, that was popularized in the
lyrics and title of the 1905 hit song "In My
The 1910 Limited Touring was a high point for the
company. Riding atop 42-inch wheels, and equipped
with factory "white" tires, the Limited
was the prestige model in Oldsmobile's two model lineup.
The Limited retailed for US$4,600, an amount greater
than the purchase of a new, no-frills three bedroom
house. Buyers received goatskin upholstery, a 60 hp
(45 kW) 707 CID (11.6 L) straight-6 engine, Bosch
Magneto starter, running boards and room for five.
Options included a speedometer, clock, and a full
glass windshield. A limousine version was priced at
$5,800. While Oldsmobile only sold 725 Limiteds in
its three years of production, the car is best remembered
for winning a race against the famed 20th Century
Limited train, an event immortalized in the painting
"Setting the Pace" by William Hardner Foster.
In 1929, as part of General Motors' companion make
program, Oldsmobile introduced the higher standard
Viking brand, marketed through the Oldmobile dealers
network. Viking was discontinued already at the end
of the 1930 model year although an additional 353
car were marketed as 1931 models.
In 1937, Oldsmobile was a pioneer in introducing
a four-speed semi-automatic transmission called the
"Automatic Safety Transmission", although
this accessory was actually built by Buick, which
would offer it in its own cars in 1938. This transmission
featured a conventional clutch pedal, which the driver
pressed before selecting either "low" or
"high" range. In "low," the car
shifted between first and second gears. In "high,"
the car shifted between first, third and fourth gears.
For the 1940 model, Oldsmobile was the first auto
manufacturer to offer a fully automatic transmission,
called the Hydramatic, which featured four forward
Starting in 1941 and continuing through 1996, Oldsmobile
used a two digit model designation. As originally
implemented, the first digit signified the body size
while the second represents the number of cylinders.
Body sizes were 6, 7, 8, and 9, and 6- and 8-cylinder
engines were offered. Thus, Oldsmobiles were named
66 through 98.
The last pre-war Oldsmobile rolled off the assembly
line on February 5, 1942. During World War II, Oldsmobile
produced numerous kinds of material for the war effort,
including large-caliber guns and shells.
Production resumed on October 15, 1945 with a warmed-over
1942 model serving as the offering for 1946.
Oldsmobile once again was a pioneer when, for the
1949 model, they introduced their Rocket engine, which
used an overhead valve V8 design rather than the flathead
"straight-8" design which prevailed at the
time. This engine produced far more power than the
engines that were popular during that era, and found
favor with hot-rodders and stock car racers. The basic
design, with few minor changes, endured until Oldsmobile
redesigned their V8 engines in the mid-1960s.
Oldsmobile entered the 1950s following a divisional
image campaign centered on its 'Rocket' engines and
its cars' appearance followed suit. Oldsmobile's Rocket
V8 engine was the leader in performance, generally
considered the fastest cars on the market and by the
mid 1950s their styling was among the first to offer
a wide, "open maw" grille, suggestive of
jet propulsion. Oldsmobile adopted a ringed-globe
emblem to stress what marketers felt was its universal
appeal. Throughout the 1950s, the make used twin jet
pod-styled taillights as a nod to its "Rocket"
theme. Oldsmobile was among the first of General Motors'
divisions to receive a true hardtop in 1949, and it
was also among the first divisions (along with Buick
and Cadillac) to receive a wraparound windshield,
a trend that eventually all American makes would share
at sometime between 1953 and 1964.
In the 1950s the nomenclature changed again, and
trim levels also received names that were then mated
with the model numbers. This resulted in the Oldsmobile
88 emerging as base Dynamic 88 and the highline Super
88. Other full-size model names included the "Holiday"
used on hardtops, and "Fiesta" used on its
station wagons. When the 88 was retired in 1999 (with
a Fiftieth Anniversary Edition), its length of service
was the longest model name used on American cars after
the Chrysler New Yorker.
GM styling as a whole lost its frontrunner status
in 1957 when Chrysler introduced Virgil Exner's "Forward
Look" designs. When compared side to side, Oldsmobile
looked dated next to its price-point competitor DeSoto.
Compounding the problem for Oldsmobile and Buick was
a styling mistake which GM called the "Strato
Roof." Both makes had models which contained
the heavily framed rear window, but Detroit had been
working with large curved backlights for almost a
decade. Consumers disliked the roof and its blind
spots, forcing GM to rush a redesign into production
on some of its models.
Oldsmobile's only off year in the 1950s was 1958.
The nation was beginning to feel the results of its
first significant post war recession, and US automobile
sales were down for the model year. Oldsmobile, Buick
and Cadillac received a heavy handed makeover of the
1957 GM designs. The Oldsmobile that emerged in 1958
bore little resemblance to the design of its forerunners;
instead the car emerged as a large, over-decorated
Up front, all 1958 Oldsmobiles received one of General
Motors' heavily styled front fascias and quad-headlights.
Streaking back from the edge of the headlights was
a broad belt consisting of two strips of chrome on
regular 88s, three strips on Super 88s, and three
strips (top and bottom thin, inside thick) on 98s
that ended in a point at mid-body. The bottom of the
rear fender featured a thick stamping of a half tube
that pointed forward, atop which was a chrome assembly
of four horizontal chrome speed-lines that terminated
into a vertical bar. The tail of the car featured
massive vertical chrome taillight housings. Two chrome
stars were fitted to the trunklid.
1958 Oldsmobile Super 88
Ford styling consultant Alex Tremulis (designer of
the 1948 Tucker Sedan) mocked the 1958 Oldsmobile
by drawing cartoons of the car, and placing musical
notes in the rear trim assembly. Another Detroit stylist
employed by Ford bought a used 1958 Oldsmobile in
the early 1960s, driving it daily to work. He detached
and rearranged the OLDSMOBILE lettering above the
grille to spell out SLOBMODEL as a reminder to himself
and co-workers of what "bad" auto design
meant to their business.
In 1959, Oldsmobile models were completely redesigned
with a rocket motif from front to rear, as the top
of the front fenders had a chrome rocket, while the
body-length fins were shaped as rocket exhausts which
culminated in a fin-top taillight (concave on the
98 models while convex on the 88 models). The 1959
models also offered several roof treatments, such
as the pillared sedan with a fastback rear window
and the Holiday SportSedan, which was a flat-roofed
pillarless hardtop with wraparound front and rear
glass. The 1959 models were marketed as "the
Linear Look", and also featured a bar-graph speedometer
which showed a green indicator through 35 miles per
hour (56 km/h), then changed to orange until 65 miles
per hour (105 km/h), then was red above that until
the highest speed read by the speedometer, 120 miles
per hour (190 km/h). Power windows were available
on the 98 models, as was two-speed electric windshield
wipers with electrically-powered windshield washers.
The 88 still relied on vacuum-operated windshield
wipers without a washer feature. 1959 Oldsmobiles
were offered with "Autronic Eye" (a dashboard-mounted
automatic headlight dimmer) as well as factory-installed
air conditioning and power-operated front bench seat
as available options.
The 1959 body style was continued through the 1960
model year, but the fins were toned down for 1960
and the taillights were moved to the bottom of the
In the 1960s Oldsmobile's position between Pontiac
and Buick in GM's hierarchy began to dissolve. Notable
achievements included the introduction of the first
turbocharged engine in 1962 (the Turbo Jetfire), the
first modern front-wheel drive car produced in the
United States (the 1966 Toronado), the Vista Cruiser
station wagon (noted for its roof glass), and the
upscale 442 muscle car. Olds briefly used the names
Jetstar 88 (1964–1966) and Delmont 88 (1967–1968)
on its least expensive full size models in the 1960s.
Notable models for the 1960s:
* Oldsmobile 442 - began as a 1964
muscle car option package (4-barrel carburetor, 4-speed
manual transmission, 2 exhausts) on the F-85/Cutlass.
In 1965, to better compete with the Pontiac GTO, the
original 330 CID V8 rated at 310 hp (231 kW) was replaced
by a new 400 CID V8 rated at 345 hp (257 kW). The
442 definition was changed to "4" hundred
CID V8 engine, "4"-barrel carburetor, and
"2" exhaust pipes, and was named by "Car
Craft Nationals" as the "Top Car of 1965."
In 1968 the 442 became its own model and got a larger
455 CID (7.5 L) V8 engine in 1970.
* Oldsmobile Cutlass (1961–1999)
- mid-size car. Oldsmobile's best seller in the 1970s
and 1980s, and in some of those years America's best
selling car. In 1966 a top-line Cutlass Supreme was
introduced as a four-door hardtop sedan with a more
powerful 320 hp (239 kW) 330 CID Jetfire Rocket V8
than the regular F-85/Cutlass models, a more luxurious
interior and other trimmings. In 1967 the Cutlass
Supreme was expanded to a full series also including
two-door hardtop and pillared coupes, a convertible
and a four-door pillared sedan. Also came with a 7.0L
425 CID engine as an option in 1966-1967
* Oldsmobile F-85 (1961–1972)
- compact sedan, coupe and station wagon powered by
a 215 CID aluminum block V8 engine from 1961 to 1963.
In 1964 the F-85 was upgraded to an intermediate sized
car and the aluminum V8 was replaced by conventional
cast iron six-cylinder and V8 engines. The Cutlass
was initially the top model of the F-85 line but became
a separate model by 1964 with the F-85 nameplate continued
only on the lowest priced models through the 1972
model year, after which all Oldsmobile intermediates
* Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser (1964–1977)
- a stretched wheelbase Cutlass station wagon, which
was stretched to 120" from 115" in the 1964-67
models and to 121" from 116" in the 1968-72
models, the stretched area being in the second-row
seating area. This car featured an elevated roof over
the rear seat and cargo area and glass skylights over
the rear seating area, which consisted of a transverse
skylight over the second seat (two-piece from 1964–67,
one-piece from 1968–72) and small longitudinal
skylights directly over the rear cargo-area windows,
and also featured standard second-row sunvisors. The
three-seat models featured forward-facing seating,
at a time when most three-seat station wagons had
the third row of seats facing the rear. From 1965
- 1970, it would be Oldsmobile's flagship station
wagon, as no full-sized wagons were produced. The
third-generation 1973-77 models no longer had skylights
other than an optional front-row pop-up sunroof. This
car was merely an up-line trim package on the Cutlass
Supreme wagon and carried the Vista Cruiser nameplate
rather than the Cutlass nameplate. The optional third
seat was rear-facing in the third-generation Vista
* Oldsmobile Starfire (1961–1966)
- a sporty and luxurious hardtop coupe and convertible
based on the 88. The Starfire featured interiors with
leather bucket seats and a center console with floor
shifter, along with a standard Hydra-Matic transmission,
power steering and brakes (and power windows and seats
on convertibles). It was powered by Oldsmobile's most
powerful Rocket V8 engine, a 394 CID engine from 1961
to 1964 rated from 330 to 345 hp (257 kW), and a larger
425 CID Super Rocket V8 from 1965 to 1966, rated at
375 hp (280 kW).
* Oldsmobile Jetstar I (1964–1966)
- Life for the somewhat obscure Jetstar I started
in 1964. It was designed to be a low cost option to
the successful full size Starfire series - more of
a direct competitor to the Pontiac Grand Prix. Standard
equipment included the 345 hp (257 kW) 394ci Starfire
engine, vinyl bucket seats and console. Keeping the
“sport” part of the Starfire, it possessed
less of the luxury and glitz. It weighed in at 4028
pounds, and 16,084 were produced for 1964. It was
a Starfire without the frills and was informally dubbed
“the poor man’s Starfire”. Proving
to be an ill-fated model, 1965 concluded the 2 year
run for the Jetstar I. Only 6,552 were sold. The introduction
of the Pontiac GTO and Oldsmobile 4-4-2 in 1964 insured
the future of the musclecars were the intermediates,
and the front-drive Toronado loomed big in Oldsmobile's
future taking over the flagship status from the Starfire.
Further confused with its lesser brethren with the
Jetstar 88 nameplate, there was no way but out for
the Jetstar I. And close examination of prices revealed
that unless one bought a sparsely optioned JS1, there
was little financial incentive to buy a JS1 over the
Starfire. Take the $3602 base price and add the $107.50
power steering, the $43.00 power brakes, and the $242.10
automatic transmission (all standard on the Starfire),
and you had a $4,000 Jetstar I. And less than $150
more would buy you the $4148 based priced Starfire,
which not only included those standard features but
a more luxurious leather interior. But lost in the
mix was a jewel of a high performance car in the ’65
Jetstar I. Trimmed down to 3963#, the ’65 model
was an overlooked performance car. The new 370 hp
(276 kW) 425ci Starfire engine delivered 470 lb·ft
(637 N·m) of torque, was durable, and was quite
an improvement over the ’64 394. How serious
was that horsepower and torque in ’65? If you
wanted this much power in a Pontiac, it was only available
in the top-of-the-line 421 HO Tri-Power engine that
was not standard in any Pontiac model, but an extra-cost
option. The new Oldsmobile Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission
was a vast performance improvement over the previous
“slim-jim” Hydra-Matic transmission. But
best of all, Oldsmobile offered the Muncie 4-speed
with Hurst shifter in ’65. Oldsmobile boasted
in a 1965 press release that “a Jetstar I proved
to be the top accelerator of the entire event”
at the 1965 Pure Oil Performance Trials in Daytona
beach. Those trials were sanctioned and supervised
Note: between 1964 and 1966, Oldsmobile named its
least expensive full size model the Oldsmobile Jetstar
88 which the Jetstar I was not related to, and priced
$500–$600 below the Jetstar I.
* Oldsmobile Toronado (1966–1992)
- a front-wheel drive coupe in the personal luxury
car category, introduced in 1966. At the time, the
largest and most powerful front wheel drive car ever
produced, and one of the first modern front wheel
drive cars equipped with an automatic transmission.
The original Toronado was powered by a 425 CID Super
Rocket V8 engine rated at 385 hp (287 kW), mated to
a three speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. The
Toronado was Motor Trend magazine's 1966 "Car
of the Year."
Oldsmobile sales soared in the 1970s and 1980s (for
an all-time high of 1,066,122 in 1985) based on popular
designs, positive reviews from critics and the perceived
quality and reliability of the Rocket V8 engine, with
the Cutlass series becoming North America's top selling
car by 1976. By this time, Olds had displaced Pontiac
and Plymouth as the #3 best selling brand in the U.S.
behind Chevrolet and Ford. In the early 1980s, model-year
production topped one million units on several occasions,
something only Chevrolet and Ford had achieved.
The soaring popularity of Oldsmobile vehicles resulted
in a major issue in the late 1970s. At that time,
each General Motors division produced its own V8 engines,
and in 1977, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick
each produced a unique 350 cubic inch displacement
It was during the 1977 model year that demand exceeded
production capacity for the Oldsmobile V8, and as
a result Oldsmobile began equipping most full size
Delta 88 models (those with Federal emissions specifications)
with the Chevrolet 350 engine instead. Although it
was widely debated whether there was a difference
in quality or performance between the two engines,
there was no question that the engines were different
from one another. Many customers were loyal Oldsmobile
buyers who specifically wanted the Rocket V8, and
did not discover that their vehicle had the Chevrolet
engine until they performed maintenance and discovered
that purchased parts did not fit. This became a public
relations nightmare for GM.
Following this debacle, disclaimers stating that
"Oldsmobiles are equipped with engines produced
by various GM divisions" were tacked on to advertisements
and sales literature; all other GM divisions followed
suit. In addition, GM quickly stopped associating
engines with particular divisions, and to this day
all GM engines are produced by "GM Powertrain"
(GMPT) and are called GM "Corporate" engines
instead of GM "Division" engines. Although
it was the popularity of the Oldsmobile division vehicles
that prompted this change, declining sales of V8 engines
would have made this change inevitable as all but
the Chevrolet version of the 350 cubic inch engine
were eventually dropped.
Oldsmobile also introduced a 5.7L (350cu-in, V-8)
diesel engine option on its' delta 88 & 98 models
in 1978 and a smaller 4.3L (260 cu-in) displacement
diesel on the '79 Cutlass Supreme. These were largely
based on their gasoline engines but with heavier duty
cast blocks, re-designed heads, fast glow plugs, and
on the 5.7L, oversized cranks, main bearings, and
wrist pins. There were several problems with these
engines including water and corrosion in the injectors
(no water separator in the fuel line), parafin clogging
of fuel lines and filters in cold weather, reduced
lubrication in the heads due to undersized oil galleys,
head bolt failures, and the use of aluminum rockers
and stanchions in the 4.3L engines. While the 5.7L
was also offered on the 1980 Caddilac, Buick, Pontiac,
and Chevy Impala, they were soon discontinued by all
divisions by the mid 80s.
1987 Oldsmobile 88.
- Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (1967–1997)
- more performance and luxury than the lower priced
Cutlass and Cutlass S models, fitting in at the
lower end of the personal luxury car market. Models
were similar to the Pontiac Grand Prix, Chevrolet
Monte Carlo, and Buick Regal.
- Oldsmobile 98 - Oldsmobile full-sized
luxury sedan that was downsized in 1977 and 1985,
became front wheel drive in 1985
- Oldsmobile Toronado (1966–1992)
- personal luxury coupe, major redesign downsized
the car in 1986, Motor Trend Car of the Year in
- Oldsmobile Omega (1973–1984)
- compact car based on the Chevrolet Nova and later
the Chevrolet Citation.
- Oldsmobile Calais (or Cutlass
Calais) (1985–1991) - popular compact coupe
or sedan on GM's "N-body" platform, similar
to the Pontiac Grand Am. The series' name was taken
from what was formerly the high-end option package
for Cutlass Supreme models.
- Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera (1982–1996)
- popular selling upscale mid-sized car based on
GM's A platform. During its run, the Cutlass Ciera
was Oldsmobile's best-selling model. It consistently
ranked among the highest rated vehicles by J.D.
Power and Associates; it was ranked the "Best
in Price Class" on July 30, 1992 and the "Top-Ranked
American-Made Car" on May 28, 1992. It was
also named "Safe Car of the Year" by Prevention
Magazine on March 6, 1992.
- Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser (1971–1992)
- full-size station wagon.
- Oldsmobile Starfire (1975–1980)
- Sporty subcompact, hatchback coupe similar to
the Chevrolet Monza, which was itself, based on
the Chevrolet Vega.
- Oldsmobile Firenza (1982–1988)
- compact sedan, hatchback, coupe, and station wagon
based on GM's J-body, sharing the same bodyshell
with the Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac Sunbird, Buick
Skyhawk, and Cadillac Cimarron.
(from Wikipedia.org, Creative