The Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight (or 98) is perhaps one of Oldsmobile’s longest running cars with eleven generations altogether. Overall it spanned from 1940 until 1996. The 98 is known as Oldsmobile’s full-size flagship and top of the line model. Because the Oldsmobile 98 was the top of the line model, it was also the most technologically advanced in terms of features and options- most notably the headlight dimmer. The body shared the GM C-body platform with Buick and Cadillac.
The first generation 98 was essentially a replacement for the Custom Cruiser 90. The new model was offered in four different body styles and had a straight eight engine.
The second generation maintained its luxury status on the market. However, after just 6,659 cars were made, production was shut down due to World War II. When production resumed in 1946, a total of 14,364 units were sold. 1947 proved to be the second gen’s biggest sales year, with a record 37,140 98’s sold.
Oldsmobile offered a completely new styling to kick off the third generation. Some standard features included:
- a solenoid starter
- fender skirts
- E-Z-l rearview mirror; and
- foam rubber seat cushions
Deluxe features included both rear and front mats, a deluxe steering wheel, and hydraulic window. The 98 would go on to top the Oldsmobile sales once again through the end of the third generation. The 4th generation would entail a re-design and 3 body styles for the 98.
The 98 underwent a slight name change for the 5th generation; the Starfire 98. Oldsmobile re-engineered the 98 with a three-piece window. The year 1958 also brought about major styling modifications with a new exclusive wheelbase and a speed warning device which would alert a driver to slow down when a speed limit was about to be reached. The 6th generation brought with it a complete redesign and the 98 mirrored the Oldsmobile 88. The 98 would remain at the top of the Oldsmobile models that year.
For one year only in 1961, the 98 was renamed to the “Classic 98” to begin the 7th generation of 98. It was offered with five different body styles and came in models such as Town Sedan and Sport Sedan. It was also the first time not all models included the prefix “Holiday”. When GM was forced to cut back on production costs, some customers were disappointed when models lost their dependability as a result of eliminating the Jetaway Hydramatic transmissions from 1961-1964. By 1964, the 98 was offered in 6 different models.
By 1965, the 8th generation rolled around with a complete overhaul from the ground up. The sports coupe was eliminated and the sedan was no longer a hardtop. By 1970, the 98’s were the largest Oldsmobile.
1971 brought both the 9th generation of 98’s and the largest full-size car Oldsmobile had ever manufactured. They also introduced the Regency and Luxury versions which by 1976 were available in both 2 and 4 door versions.
The 10th Generation of 98 brought the first downsize in the history of the car. Most notably, the Delta 88 was introduced, including a diesel version in 1978. By the 11th and final generation, Oldsmobile had downsized once again and made the switch from front wheel to rear wheel drive. In 1985 the 98 was still available in 2 and 4 door versions, along with new grille design and composite headlamps. By 1990, the 98 had reached it peak mechanical perfection – most appropriately for its last year of production.