Poor Oldsmobile. During the 1980s it went from volume champion to being essentially the Cutlass Division of GM, thus finishing the decade in a real bind. What went wrong? Was it the loss of divisional independence caused by the newly formed B-O-C Group? The omnipresence of front-wheel drive? Increased, and increasingly intense, competition? In any case, only one thing is certain: In the late summer of 1985, the last medium-priced, B-body Delta 88s came off the line. Perhaps taking with it the bulk of Oldsmobile’s upper-middle class clientele.
The first newly downsized full-size Oldsmobiles–including the last of the “big” Delta 88s and equally trimmer Ninety-Eights–debuted in 1977. The zaftig 1971-76 gunboats were now a thing of the past. Sales of their attractive, crisply styled ‘sheer look’ replacements took off. In 1977, Oldsmobile set a production record, albeit on the strength of Cutlasses. But the big cars did very well too.
Despite being much smaller than the ’76s, the ’77 Royales had more interior room and trunk space. One shocking development was that the standard engine was not a V8. A 231 cu in V6 came standard, but 260, 300 and 400 CID V8s were available. And popular. Also available was a 5.7-liter V8 Diesel.