By on January 2, 2011


After my X-themed rant the other day, you’ve gotta figure I’ll be looking for more excuses to quote X songs.


That’s right, there’s an X song entitled “Delta 88.” Let’s just make this perfectly clear: when it comes to Los Angeles pote/musicians, Exene Cervenka is approximately 9,000 times the poet Jim Morrison ever was (though I hear Morrison had the better stage presence).

Right. So, I was roaming one of the self-service junkyards near my place in Denver and I ran across this 1970 Delta 88. It’s been picked over, but still has plenty of parts left. Check out this vinyl-and-simu-leather interior!

Some of the engine— which I presume is a 2-barrel 455— remains. Not only that, it’s got an 8-track!

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32 Comments on “End of the Line For This ’70 Olds Delta 88...”


  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    You can be certain the missing cylinder heads have gone to good use in someone’s hot rod road-burner.

  • avatar
    tced2

    One my favorite features of late 60′s and presumably early 70′s Olds dashboards was the high beam indicator.  On my parent’s ’65 Delta 88, that chrome rocket (shown in the dashboard pic) between the instruments glowed red at night as a high beam indicator – but during the day it just looked like chrome-plated plastic. Some elaborate GM technology?

    Anybody remember the “rim-blow” horn? Just squeeze the steering wheel and the horn blew. I think it didn’t have good reliability and was discontinued quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      tiredoldmechanic

      I don’t remember GM cars having rim blow horns, but my brother’s ’70 Cougar had one. It worked fine except that you ended up blowing the horn when turning corners sometimes. I had forgotten about the high beam “rocket”. Pontiac did the same thing with an arrowhead and I’m pretty sure my old ’66 chevy pickup had an illuminated bowtie for an indicator.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Some GM cars had rim-blow horns for a few years, as did some Fords and Chryslers too. Dad had a Mercury with that feature. It seemed like a good idea but as the car got older, the contacts in the wheel got crankier. The horn either sounded at the slightest touch or it didn’t work at all. This is one period auto fad that deserved its death.

  • avatar
    tiredoldmechanic

    In the late 70s my Dad drove a Delta 88. Seems like evryone’s Dad did. His was a ’68 with a 455 four barrel, 4 door hardtop and yes, it had a factory 8 track. He worked at the local Chev Olds emporium and it had come in on a trade. He got it for a song, polished it up and drove it for a year or so. The 455 would really move that thing along and the front end would plow into understeer at shockingly low speeds. I was 18 at the time and the above combination eventually resulted in my skidding through a T intersection, down a ditch and taking out a coupe of sections of chain link fence late one night. Once we got the car out I drove it home, polished out a few blemishes and Dad was none the wiser.  Try that with a 10 year old car today!
     Given all that, the song that comes to my mind is Kathy Mattea’s “455 Rocket”.  30 odd years later I still think of that old tank whenever that song comes on. I wish I had harvested the engine when the lack of premium leaded gas in our neck of the woods consigned the old girl to the classifieds.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    My best friend’s family had one of these brand new. They kept the car for 20 years, going from main family car to second car to work beater. In between second car to work beater status, my buddy would routinely take out the old crate and impress folks with the car’s ability to do smoky burnouts. Of course the 455 helped out with that. I was always impressed by the amount of torque one of those motors could crank out. It felt like God’s hand pushing that tank down the road.
     
    The trim pieces on the side of that particular Delta indicate that it was a top of the line model, but the exact name escapes me now. The neighbor kid down the street from me has the two door version of this car, it’s been a project car for about ten years. It’s street legal and an occasional sunny day driver now. I’d bet he’d love to have some of those trim pieces though, because he’s missing several of them…

  • avatar

    My dad had a ’66 Delta 88. I think it had the 425, not the 455, but it could still burn rubber as long as you kept your foot down. Great car. Comfortable, solid as a tank. Unfortunately my dad hit a deer at about 80mph on I-80 coming back from NY.  Hard to say which was a bigger mess, the deer or the front end of the 88. Everything from the grille to the water pump needed replacing.
    My dad drove Oldsmobiles for most of the 1960s. My mom’s father was an Olds man and my dad got his ’58 (I think) when my zayde bought his ’62 (in white, of which I got a dealer plastic model of the car – remember when dealers gave out or sold those plastic models?). Eventually the ’66 88 was replaced by a ’72 Mercury, which my dad liked so much he sold it to my brother and replaced it with a full loaded ’74 Grand Marquis Brougham. The Mercuries were very comfortable cars, but everyone in the family remembers that fire engine red Oldsmobile fondly.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Leave it to GM to stick a 2bbl on a 455 cubic inch engine. I had forgotten about that.

    • 0 avatar
      tiredoldmechanic

      At first glance it might look silly, but there was a method to Oldsmobile’s madness on this one. The base engine in full sized Olds of this vintage was the 455 2 barrel set up to run on regular fuel, and there were lots of them around. Massive torque coupled with a very high rearend gear, like 2.41 or so, provided acceptable acceleration and decent cruising mileage. 455s were undersquare so they were not RPM monsters even in performance versions, which meant you needed less carb.
       If you needed more power you could order a high compression 4 barrel engine, but it was a premium fuel only engine. Very powerful but also very thirsty.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

       455s were undersquare

      The ’68 and later 400s were de-bored 455s (or 455 were bored 400s) so the 400s were VERY undersquare.  Like the one we had on our ’69 442. 

      Yep, the 2 bbl seems a little odd, but it sold apparently.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Ford offered a two-barrel 429 around the same time (the 460 was still Lincoln-only). These engines were about big torque at low rpm rather than big power.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @tiredoldmechanic: Thanks for the explanation.  I was wondering how so many cubic inches could breathe through that tiny straw.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    4 barrel carbs were used on many low compression engines by other carmakers, even on later models with lower compression, like 8.1 smog 350′s.  Quadrajets were normally better on gas than 2 bbls due to the small primaries, as long as you kept your foot out of the secondaries.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      There was a reason those carbs were called Quadrajunks. Crappy linkages, floats would sink, throttle issues. Bad adjustment from the factory. The vacuum actuated secondaries were subject to malfunction depending upon the age of the dashpots and the tubing going to them.
       
      If you got them rebuilt by someone who was competent, they DID work well. When those secondaries do kick in, it was better than turbo boost! I had them both on my 4-4-2 and my wife’s Delta with 403. I also had them both rebuilt and got excellent performance out of them, too. IIRC, the Delta got 27 MPG on the freeway which was pretty good back in the malaise days…

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Murilee, you should enjoy this song then, Kathy Mattea (a highly underrated country musician) and her single “455 Rocket.”  Steve Lang, you should enjoy the beginning of the story.
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQZV6q00sUc
     
    Mr. Smith had an Oldsmobile
    Baby blue with wire wheels
    He took her home the day that she was advertised
    He said she leaked when it would rain
    Sounded like an aeroplane
    But I knew she was a jewel in disguise

    She had a 455 Rocket

    The biggest block alive
    I couldn’t hardly wait just to take my turn
    She was made for the straight aways
    She grew up hatin’ Chevrolets
    She’s a rocket, she was made to burn

  • avatar
    gozar

    I must not think bad thoughts.

  • avatar
    big_gms

    This makes me sad, seeing such a magnificent old beast being picked apart in a junkyard. That car looks mostly solid and it doesn’t look like there’s any major accident damage…I wonder why it wound up in the junkyard?

  • avatar
    Scottdb

    Some men were Baptist, others Catholic.  My father was an Oldsmobile man.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    @goezinger…….aint that the truth! lol  They were referred to as quadrajunk, quadrabog, and a few other things that I can’t recall offhand.
    They worked very well, when they worked right. They were famous for both low end torque and fuel economy due to the small primaries, and outstanding power on the top end due to the large secondaries.
    That was until they got around 40-50k. The floats were sensitive to dirt and would stick, as well as the needle valves. The body would warp, causing fuel and vacuum leaks, the throttle shaft bushings would wear causing vacuum leaks.
    They would often be in such bad shape that they couldn’t be rebuilt, and you would have to find another one to build. Another example of how gm had a great idea but the small details turned it into a disaster.
    @gslippy, the 455 more or less wheezed through that 2 barrel. @tonyola, yes ford offered the smog 429 with a 2V, which was also a joke.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      My Dad’s boss (John Deere franchisee) had an early 80s Caprice wagon with the good ole 4brl.  He put almost 300,000 miles on it before sending her to the boneyard.  Before it was put out to pasture the mechanics realized (from his fill up records) that the old boy was getting around 30mpg in largely state hwy driving.  They couldn’t figure it out cause the old man didn’t exactly drive gingerly.  They pulled the old b-body in the shop and got the air cleaner apart.  The back barrels were stuck shut!  The old guy had been driving on just the tiny little primaries, making it a very small two barrel.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Oldsmobiles were among the toughest cars on the road in the late 1960s and early 1970s…until GM began forcing all GM divisions to share more parts and drivetrains. They had better workmanship than the competition, and the Rocket V-8, hooked up to the TurboHydramatic transmission, was one tough drivetrain.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    4bbl carbs only ran on the primaries during normal driving. The secondaries stayed closed until 3/4 to full throttle, depending on the adjustment.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Yeah but you should have seen the way she would bark the tires once they soaked that old Quadrajet in carb cleaner and played with it a little bit.  ;)

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    In the early and mid 70s, this was (to me) the official World’s most Boring Car.  I grew up in a family of Oldsmobiles and lived in a midwestern city where Oldsmobiles were EVERYWHERE.  For a short while in 1969, even my Dad (a diehard Ford man) picked one of these out as a company car.  A gold 69 Delta 88.  I had Ford leanings in those years, and at age 10, considered my father a traitor until he left the company several months later and picked out a 69 LTD.  Then the world was back to normal.

    I always thought that both the 68s and 71s were better looking than these, and these were one of the few cars that I had trouble telling between the 69s and 70s.  I never thought the bodies on the 69-70s felt quite as good as in the 65-68s.  I suspect that there was some cost cutting going on, as the interiors were much plainer too.  But there was nothing else on earth that sounded like those big block Oldsmobiles.  In the mid 60s, Olds seemed to loosen up on their mufflers a bit and you could always tell an Oldsmobile from half a block away.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Some of my earliest automotive memories were of my dad’s brand-new, body-by-Fisher ’71 Delta 88, blasting down the rural dirt roads while brown dust billowed in from under the back seat.  The Rocket 350 was indestructible, and good enough for Granny to light up the tires while learning to drive in a parking lot.   The body was apparently made of 3/4 inch tank armour.   An unrepaired early-life crunch to the front fender never did rust in 13 salty Canadian winters, nor did any of the exposed metal where the metallic blue paint had long since flaked off.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Olds engines were the best GM designs, from a reliability standpoint. And most had the turbo 400 trans even with the 350 engine. Unlike chevy, which used the marginal turbo 350 behind their 350 and smaller engines. Starting in 77 chevy didn’t offer the turbo 400 at all. You could still get it in the bigger BOP cars though, as well as the caddies.


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