When Bill Mitchell took over GM Design in the late ’50s, his presence was felt almost immediately in the new GM cars, particularly in the 1961 models. Simple, clean elegant lines were his forte, when compared to the brash, wild and bechromed chariots favored by his predecessor, the unforgettable Harley Earl.
There is a certain website out there that is trying, desperately, incessantly, to bash successful GM cars. Why is anyone’s guess. But despite popularity, despite corresponding sales figures, it doesn’t matter for these guys. Bitter, angry people make for bitter, angry car posts. So in my own way, I’ve been trying to counterpoint these surly rants. Today’s subject is the redesigned 1985 front wheel drive C-body GM cars: De Ville/Fleetwood, Electra, and of course the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight.
“Oh ho, aha!” some folks may rant: “They were shrunken, stupid, unreliable maaaan! No one bought them!” Big talk from persons who only got brand new cars when they conned them out of their employer. But I digress. The simple, plain truth is despite a completely new look, smaller dimensions in nearly every area, and a major change from V8 and rear wheel drive to V6 and front wheel drive, these newly minted GM lux cars sold well.
From 1971 to 1976, General Motors had the market covered when it came to the finest in upper-crust land yachts: Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, Buick Electra, and the Cadillac Sedan de Ville and Fleetwood. It was the last stand for true full-size luxury. No diets, no exercising, full steam ahead with room, space and wheelbase! And velour. Lots of velour. But times were changing. Fuel economy was slowly but surely becoming more important to buyers, especially after the 1973-74 gas crisis. Could one still get all the Broughamage they wanted, yet with better economy? Have plenty of stretch-out room despite dimensions being trimmed? Indeed, they could!
GM proved it with the downsized 1977 B- and C-body full-sizers. Easier to drive, easier to park, yet with power everything, room, space and the ever so important gadgets, gizmos and nameplate prestige! And if you didn’t want to spring for the high-priced Cadillac version, you could still get nine-tenths of its luxury in an Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency. Continue Reading →
Remember Oldsmobile? Sure you do. Well, most people born before 1990 do at any rate. As a kid in 1980s Illinois, my neighborhood was full of them. There was the next door neighbor’s daughter’s beige Cutlass Cruiser station wagon, with wire wheel covers. Her husband had a metallic root-beer brown Custom Cruiser. Across the street and two doors down lived a cedar metallic 1982 Cutlass Ciera Brougham. About a block away, a friend’s mom had a white FWD Firenza hatchback. Expanding further outward, one of my classmate’s parents had a triple burgundy Cutlass Supreme coupe, and both my aunt and a cousin had a 1976 Cutlass Supreme Brougham and ’77 Cutlass Supreme coupe, respectively. So yes, I am familiar with the make, even now, over a dozen years after the marque’s demise. But what I remember best are not the Aleros, Auroras and Bravadas seen in the make’s final years, but the plush, velour- and leather-lined gunboats of the ’70s. Like the Ninety-Eight Regency. Continue Reading →