By on September 17, 2012

The very last generation of Olds 98 was the most distinctive-looking of any of the 98s built since the early 1970s. Though it was related to a number of Buicks and Cadillacs of the era, the 1991-96 Ninety-Eight had the kind of Oldsmobility that traditional (i.e., those who remembered the Lindbergh Kidnapping) Olds buyers weren’t going to find in those weird-looking Auroras.
The Ninety-Eight Touring got the supercharged engine, while the Ninety-Eight Regency got seating for six passengers and extra-cushy Detroit luxury. The Regency Elite was, well, elite.
One glance tells you that this car would be an excellent machine for a 2,500-mile road trip.
I suspect that these door-mounted seat controls suffered from more than their share of electrical glitches, but they look cool.
Yes, rear drum brakes just six years before the dawn of the 21st century.
Front-wheel drive was actually a good idea for this sort of luxury machine, due to all the extra interior space you get, but it’s too bad GM didn’t see fit to make a version of this car with the Aurora-ized Northstar engine instead of the not-so-smooth Buick V6.

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91 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1994 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency Elite...”


  • avatar
    W.

    In my younger days, I spent a lot of time puzzling over why the ’91 Custom Cruiser looked somewhat similar to the ’91 98, but not quite. It wasn’t until I understood platform sharing that it all made sense. It’s a shame, and while this might be one of the last gasps of the traditional Oldsmobile, I’d say that the Custom Cruiser, (RWD, V8) was really the last ‘real’ Oldsmobile.

    And I’m 35.

    • 0 avatar
      011001100110

      Yup, I believe you are correct. My 92 olds custom cruiser wagon was the last year for a olds wagon, and for rear wheel drive. Which of only about 4300 were made that last year. A small batch for the last year.
      Here is my 92 Gussied up!
      http://bit.ly/QhBLXg

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I once had a lowly Olds 88 Royale (not much different) of 1994 vintage in the same color and interior combo. I put almost 40k miles on it (got it at 150k) in just over a year that I had it with nothing more than oil changes and a set of front brake pads. Then I sold it for more than I bought it for.

    One of the best cars I ever had. I’m definitely glad it had the 3800 over the Aurorastar longevity is key!

    • 0 avatar
      paxman356

      Agreed. This engine is good for 300k+ with little trouble as witnessed by my father running two Park Avenues to 250k before getting something newer. I sold both pretty easily for him, they are in demand.

      I had two 88s, one totaled by me by following someone too close, the other by a trash truck running into a truck, which it pushed into my car, and then pushed us both another 6-10 feet. I was asleep at the time, and the trash truck driver fled the scene. I’d be driving either one to this day had that not happened.

      Right now I’m probing the longevity of a ’97 Saturn SL1 5 speed. Currently 210k, with only the muffler the major repair since 150k (when I bought it). I expect a clutch or master/slave cylinder in my near future though.

  • avatar
    mbaruth

    I just bought a 1995 version with 121k on the clock for my airport car. Electrical gremlins galore, but your assessment of the “cruisability” of the car is spot on. The supercharged 3800 is still incredibly strong, and the seats are really comfortable. Plus, I don’t have to worry about door dings or hail damage in the airport parking lot. A great buy for $1200!

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    Ah, the H-Body Ver. 2.0… These cars had quite a bit of stuff for their day. Self-closing trunk, traction control, dual power seats with memory on the driver’s, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, dual zone auto climate. I grew up in my mom’s gray 1994 Eighty Eight Royale. The lock buttons and interior door handles were shared with the Cadillac Deville. I still remember the sound of the hydraulic pressure bleeding off of those power locks. It had some problems (poorly fitting carpet, body flexed enough to cause cracks in the rear door jambs at the top, power antenna that was replaced about every three months, speakers that blew quickly, a/c vent switcher motor that went a couple of times sticking the a/c on defrost, a transmission that lost gears 1 and 2, the notorious paint flake from these years), but overall I would say it was somewhat reliable.

    If you really want a trip, check out the interior on the ’91-93 versions, before they got this new dash/steering wheel with dual airbags. It’s like a rolling ’80s coke den. The locks are touch-sensitive, there are lights and buttons everywhere, and a vacuum-fluorescent display for everything imaginable. Plus, the Touring Sedan got some might special seating options geared toward 4 adults.

    Aside from the Lumina-grade engine and humble H-Body underpinnings, the Ninety Eight buyer in the early ’90s got a showboat of GM technology.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      And, for what it’s worth, the power seat controls on the doors are not noted for causing problems. There are plenty of problems, but those aren’t included on the list. Surprisingly.

      I remember in a ’96 LSS review somewhere (Motor Trend, perhaps?), a noteworthy publication comparing the interior of this generation of Olds H-Body favorably to Lexus, as far as design. The materials weren’t the best, but in reality it was quite good for the time. It looked especially good in two-tone light beige, where the upper dash was darker than the lower.

      The wood trim in these has a low-gloss finish. Up close, it’s obviously not wood, but it’s used sparingly and encircles the interior in that narrow band at about chest height on the dash and doors. It’s a sticker adhered to a piece of metal! If you hit it hard enough, you can dent it.

      The interior door handles and power mirror control are actual chromed metal in these, btw.

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        John Phillips reviewed an LSS for C/D. Rode better than a Rolls. Cup holders reminded him of Madame Ilsa’s handcuffs.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Were they licensed from Daimler? IIRC they sued another manufacturer for using door-mounted seat controls that looked like a seat.. Those look a lot like the ones I had in my 300SDL..

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        IIRC, it was the Lincoln MKVII LSC that inspired the lawsuit.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yes Ford started using the seat controls that looked like a seat as early as the Mark VII and they spread from there to other models though in early versions it was in the conventional side of seat bottom posistion.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if those were made by the same supplier, I know the old school 6 way power seat switch that looked like this -o- are interchangable between all of the big 3 back in the 70′s until the early 90′s.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I believe Infiniti was sued by Mercedes over the seat switches. Ford was not considered a competitor so M-B did not care, as I seem to remember.

        Regarding the LSS, it performed quite well. Compared to the Buick with the same platform, the handling was night and day. With one exception: The brakes on the LSS sucked big time. The Buick binders outclassed them big time.

      • 0 avatar
        MadHungarian

        My 2005 Town Car has almost identical looking seat controls, right down to the two memory buttons. Common supplier maybe?

    • 0 avatar
      DDayJ

      I think it’s actually a C Body. Its Eighty Eight brother rode on the H body platform. Buick was similar with the Park Ave and LeSabre.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I liked the Olds 88 better – much nicer looking roofline and not as boxy in appearance.

    1st gen Auroras “weird-looking”? I think not – they were cool, futuristic. Hey, with a rear end treatment right out of “Forbidden Plant” and the “Robbie the robot” tail lights, nothing could be cooler. I also like those for how the sideglass was shaped and curved into the roof moreso than many other cars of that era.

    Of the 88, 98 and their cousins, what bothered me was the lack of open space – not much open window area in the front doors due to the fixed vent-like glass following the A pillar and the halfway-opening back glass. Claustrophobic to me, so the A/C has to be cranked up pretty far to be comfortable.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      I hear ya, Zackman. Broke my heart when they ditched those full width tail lamps on the second generation Aurora. What a dumb move that was.

      PS – Lincoln did that as well with that era’s four door Continental.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    At an Olds location I worked at back in 1992, the dealership owner’s mother drove a charcoal gray Touring Sedan version of this. I loved that car, much better than the Elite. Rarer than hen’s teeth back then, I’d imagine they’d be quite the find nowadays.

    EDIT: Unbelievable. I called the 1-800-442-6537 Oldsmobile Roadside Assistance listed on the window sticker pictured above, and it still works. Oldsmobile lives! :-P

  • avatar
    snakebit

    For what it’s worth, the year code (10th digit)on the VIN is an ‘S’,
    making it legally a 1995, even though the pro date is 6/94.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Wow, this thing was built until 1996?????

    So you’re telling me that this pushrodded, old-school contraption was priced against cars like the Lexus ES300, BMW E36, and the Acura Legend? I can’t imagine that anyone (except GM employees) would have bought this car.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Yeah, well, there’s probably more of these pushrodded, old-school contraptions still on the road than ES300′s, E36′s and Legends of that era, exactly because they were, pushrodded old-school contraptions.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        That might depend geographically – I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen an 88 or 98 on the road here, but the Legend, E36, and ES are all fairly common. Frankly, they’re all reliable in their own right (depending on owner care in a few cases), but in Toronto, all the low-budget status symbols are imported, and get just enough care (barely) to escape the crusher’s wrath for now.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      There is NOTHING wrong with push-rod engines. Ask any Chevy small block (or 3.4 & 3.8L) owner!

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        FWIW: Pushrod motors are lighter, less complex therefore cheaper to assemble & maintain, can be built smaller (or shorter), they can be variably timed, can use multiple valves per cylinder (Oldsmobile experimental motors and the Honda CX850) and are a newer technology than OHC motors.

        Granted, there are limitations to the OHV motor in general, but for the vast majority of folks, ask them OHC vs. OHV and they’ll ask you what you’ve been smoking.

        I’m patiently waiting for electronically controlled valves so we can finally put this ridiculous argument to rest.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        FWIW: Pushrod motors are lighter, less complex therefore cheaper to assemble & maintain, can be built smaller (or shorter), not as sensitive to low oil conditions, they can be variably timed, can use multiple valves per cylinder (Oldsmobile experimental motors and the Honda CX850) and are a newer technology than OHC motors.

        Granted, there are limitations to the OHV motor in general, but for the vast majority of folks, ask them OHC vs. OHV and they’ll ask you what you’ve been smoking.

        I’m patiently waiting for electronically controlled valves so we can finally put this ridiculous argument to rest.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Trouble is Geozinger, the General has been drinking too much of that OHC kool aide as of late, at least with the car engines.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        It would have been really cool if GM built a brand new 3.8L 3v OHV 90-degree V6 with VVT and 2 plugs/cylinder around 2006 for use in the Lambdas, Commodore/Statesman, and Buick cars.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @ajla

        Agreed the bitter irony is until maybe last year I was never in a secure financial position to purchase a new ‘real’ automobile (read: not a Cruze) and used wise I have for the most part bought GM… but I never will buy new GM [cars] until the 3800 comes back, there’s just no point.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @28 Cars Later: In order to seem less hidebound, out-of-touch or antiquated I think GM has switched all passenger car motors over to OHC.

        The “money” motors, the LSx series, is still pushrod. Many of those same traits mentioned above show off nicely in the small block V8.

        I don’t really worry about it one way or the other. As long as the thing starts and runs for 10 to 15 years reliably, I too, could care less what is actuating the valves.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “In order to seem less hidebound, out-of-touch or antiquated I think GM has switched all passenger car motors over to OHC.”

        Until last year I worked for a healthcare company who pioneered robotics use in hospital pharmacies. Corporate milked every cent of profit without ever updating it (it still runs MS-DOS), but it ran and ran well… there are about 270 of them in North America and combined they pick something like 1.3 billion doses a year (avg pharmacy does 8,000-10,000 doses a day out of them).

        So I attend a big dept. wide meeting in May 2011 where the marketing gurus explain to us new robots are no longer selling as we have saturated the market, and the trend was something called decentralized dispensing, which involves overworked nurses pulling your meds from medication cabinets for your daily doses (this is the type of filling which OD’d Dennis Quaid’s infant son in 2009 btw).

        The inherent danger and inefficiency of this filling process aside, I stood up at the end and questioned this direction, to the ire of my then boss. I said what happens when the trend changes and the pendulum swings back toward central pharmacy sales, shouldn’t we be trend setters and not mindless followers… shouldn’t we innovate and lead rather than follow the competition into a market we are weak in? I left that company two months later after four years.

        The point of this diatribe is, you can’t lead from behind, and you’ll never be successful by just following a trend. GM did OHV well, it is foolish to abandon this when you competition already does OHC better, and OHC is not the better choice for the avg passenger car. /rant

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      New is not always better. I would love to find a clean last gen Ninety Eight, such unique styling and 3800 goodness.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      They got rid of the awkward trunk and added a model to the Eighty Eight line called “Regency” for 1997. It was a one-model-year special, with every available feature. And the base Eighty Eight was built until 1999. Sadly, the 50th anniversary edition, an option package for ’99, was the last year. Both the Eighty Eight and Ninety Eight were succeeded by the 2001 Aurora 3.5 (V6) while the first-gen Aurora was more or less followed up by the Aurora 4.0 (V8) model.

      A comprehensive discussion of the Aurora’s line of succession can be found in the Junkyard Find article on the ’95 Aurora from a couple of months back.

      • 0 avatar
        chicagoland

        They simply dropped the C body, not ‘got rid of the trunk’. Then added the 98′s front fascia to an 88 and voila! A “new” Olds Regengy! It was on sale for 2 years, there was a 1998 Regency, too. The 1999 was a short model run only LSS and 88 on H body.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoTone Loser

      Yes. As a young man of 28 speaking to a 39 year old builder of engines, he said “There is no reason at all for any passenger car to have overhead cams.” To which I replied “How so? They are better, right?” And he said “In a passenger car, No. In a race car? Well, even Nascar has showed us you can build a pushrod motor over five liters in size that can turn over seven grand all day long. So, still no. Above 8000 rpm, I might suggest it. But in a passenger car, all it adds is weight, size, and headaches.”

      It was enough to realize that some automakers do what they want to do for various reasons, but sometimes those reasons don’t always translate to the buyer.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        “There is no reason at all for any passenger car to have overhead cams.”

        Unless you live in a world that cares about fuel economy and emissions.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        @bumpy ii

        Except the 3800 delivered excellent fuel economy and never had any issues staying in emissions compliance.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        @bumpy:

        Screw draconian (and i’d argue communistic) ‘Emissions’ testing. As far as that goes, tell the guy who has the mid-80′s F-150 at his farm and uses it 1-2 months a year that he needs to get it ‘tested’. He’d laugh (if you’re lucky) in your face.

        And as far as fuel economy: I had an ’03 Monte Carlo SS with 3800 Series II, all I ever had to do to it was intake manifold gaskets. When I got rid of it, the car averaged 32mpg with mixed city and rural county road driving.

        Then there was the (thankfully gone) ’08 Malibu with 2.4 Ecotec and 4spd Saturn trans…well. When I got rid of THAT, it averaged 22mpg with the same driving habits/route. And that was on 89 octane.

        Moral: GM OHC=SHIT. OHV (at least for GM)=good.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Not true, my Series III 3800 GP gets 20 MPG in the city and between 30 and 35 on the hwy… if I set it in cruse @ 55 it does a hair over 37 on avg… 17/26ish if I stomp it in.

        My DOHC Saturn SL auto does about 24/32ish, it may have done better in the past but it doesn’t run well on the highway in third gear anymore, you have to gun it and keep it above 60 if smooth riding and power is desired.

        Depending on how its configured, OHC robs you of grunty low end torque and sets your ponies at higher RPMs. Look at the high feature 3.6 DOHC which more or less replaced 3800…

        2012–2013 Chevrolet Impala
        300 hp (220 kW) @ 6500 rpm
        262 lb·ft (355 N·m) @ 5300 rpm

        Who the heck is driving @ 6500 RPM? Stomping my GP I don’t usually go much past 5K, and if I want to open her up I have to drive to almost 7K? What does the mileage drop too at 6+ grand?

        Also f*** emissions, those have gotten way out of hand.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Having some experience with those seats, they are about the LAST thing I would want for a 2500 mile road trip. Backache inside of an hour. I have always figured that people in Detroit must be some sort of mutants if they find older American car seats comfortable. Or most newer for that matter.

    • 0 avatar
      wagonsonly

      Inside an hour, yes. Inside a 20-minute test drive, no. The folks who bought these things were likely impressed by the pillowed, tufted, seat-shaped marshmallows that went into these car and everything Olds offered previously. Saab/Volvo/BMW buyers knew better though, from my own personal experience, Volvo seats don’t fit me too well either.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      yep. Mom’s 92 LeSabre was fine for knocking around town in, but a miserable experience on a long trip.

      The back seat was the place to be for comfort. Front seat needed a ton of lumbar to make it not feel horrible.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      I own a 1991 buick lesabre, before the lesabre, I owned a 1997 olds 88. Yeah, the seats in both are atrocious–these are NOT cars you want for road tripping as I’ve had the unfortunate torture of doing in both

      Interestingly enough, having had to rent a kia sedona, I would gladly take the kia on a road trip rather than any late model GM car. Seats/steering wheel/peddle placement are pretty much the most important part of a vehicle, you would think manufacturers such as GM would work to get it right.

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        My very trucky 95 Explorer has seats that are all-day comfort. I can put 12 hours in the saddle of that thing and not be hurting, same with the big ole bench seat in my Chevelle.

        I did like that the 92-01 H-bodies had plenty of leg room front and rear, and the larger car that replaced it, seemed to be less well packaged.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        I don’t know it it made a difference, but I owned a very used up 1994 LeSabre Limited and loved its seats. Was your LeSabre a Custom, perhaps?

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        Yes, it’s a custom. Now that you mention it, my parents owned a 1991 lesabre limited in the same shade of light blue, and the seats were of a much higher quality.

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        My parents had a Custom as well with manual cloth seats.

        My 86 Pontiac 6000-STE had the fancy 6 or 8 way cloth power seats which were very comfortable.

        I think their LeSabres biggest problem was the soft spring on the accelerator pedal. More than once when not using the cruise control, I’d bump it against the 108mph speed limiter on long road trips and not really notice it. You almost had to use the CC to keep from cramping your ankle.

        Their 04 base Rendezvous is more comfortable than the LeSabre was though the 3400 lacks the refinement of the 3800 and effortless torque.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “but it’s too bad GM didn’t see fit to make a version of this car with the Aurora-ized Northstar engine instead of the not-so-smooth Buick V6″

    Yeah, too bad for your mechanic…

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    The self-immolation of Oldsmobile should be a case study for all future GM managers. The rising rocket should be kept as an eternal warning: don’t do this again.

    My Olds 88 of similar vintage hauled many times its rated maximum across the Mississippi and continental divide and back again for summer jobs. You could do 600 or 700 miles a day and still be comfortable in those seats. Once you got it highway cruising, you could achieve a real 30-33 mpg. The interiors were so nice — you can get your LuTZ edition Chevrolet, and it’s nice, but not in the same way — the leather was softer and the visibility was better and there seemed to be a more American luxury feel to it than we get now from Opels or Daewoos.

    Of course, I had the star-crossed fate of having both a cracked transmission and the manifold problem — everyone else in the family who owned them (and they owned several) had no issues with the 90s-built 88s and 98s. Still, 150,000 miles on mine when I traded it, and 195,000 on my brother’s last when he sold his — they were reliable cars. The Aurora, now that was another story of woe and failure with the wretched Northstar that would fail every year.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “The interiors were so nice — you can get your LuTZ edition Chevrolet, and it’s nice, but not in the same way — the leather was softer and the visibility was better and there seemed to be a more American luxury feel to it than we get now from Opels or Daewoos.”

      Oh I hear you brother, Oldsmobile was affordable near luxury and a great value to pass through the family. Sure the 80s were not kind to them, but for how many years were Hyundai and Kias complete junk before they turned it around? The current crop of Opel-Daewoos can’t hold a candle to Olds.

      I learned as I got older to always buy the ‘good GM’ used, good being Buick/Olds/Pontiac. Cadillacs were usually out of my price range (and disasters in most years) and Chevrolets were usually torture in comparison. My brother for months was talking about a used Impala (pre 12) because he’s ‘used’ to them from driving the police car all day. I have since convinced him the 3800 powered Grand Prix is the superior buy even if it was two years or more older, and later on today were going to look at one.

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    “I suspect that these door-mounted seat controls suffered from more than their share of electrical glitches, but they look cool” Yes, they do in a cheap, GM sort of way

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    The old pushrod 3800 may not have been much on paper, but as I recall it got better fuel economy than the twin-cam engine that replaced it.

    During this era I used to travel a lot for business and the Intrigue was a vehicle of choice fir me off of the Emerald Isle. The earlier ones with the 3800 used to easily top 30 mpg in mixed L.A. freeway driving and the later twin cam models would seemingly get mid 20′s. It sounded smoother and more refined but in all honestly other than a bit of throbbing through the gas pedal the 3800 was fairly imperceptible under the kind of driving most Oldsmobile owners would have put the car through.

    My father had an earlier Park Avenue with the 3800 and true enough, the engine was nearly bulletproof. That car was stolen and recovered twice (Detroit burbs and once in Cleveland) so it had the dash torn to shreds and rebuilt, the doors broken, an accident with body damage, but it kept running to 150k miles with nary a mechanical concern.

    The pushrod argument was mostly on paper, it was a reliable and efficient power plant. Not in terms of high-horsepower per liter or anything, but in terms of torque and fuel economy in this application it was a great powerplant. I had no experience with the supercharged version, however.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I read a quote somewhere from a GM engineer that said ” If you left a lump of clay in the design studio long enough, it would have a 3800 in it”

    This car certainly has more of a presence, although very old school, than a modern Lucerne and certainly an Impala.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    That looks like a 1995 98 because it has the series II 3800 which was introduced that year, was good for 205 HP and was very smooth in these cars. The 1994 would have had the series I engine with 170 HP that was a bit gruffer but equally reliable intake manifolds not withstanding. And I have never driven an Olds 88/98 over a trip that ever gave me a back problem. Can’t say that about many of today’s park bench hard rocks.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Wow – first Sajeev the other day and now Murilee making these “3800s are not smooth” comments. Having driven a 3800-powered car since 1993 up to today as a daily driver (1988 Electra T-Type, 2001 Lesabre), I don’t even know where this is coming from. Maybe if you have a dead coil pack, or clogged injectors . . .

    And if your goal is reliable, long-term ownership with a minimal cash outlay, a 3800-powered car is the way to go. You can easily get 300K miles without a single $1000+ timing belt change. It’s one of GM’s best engines (only marred by the idiotic plastic intake manifold fiasco).

    I say this as one who has owned nine Hondas with two still left in the stable: the 2001 Odyssey has 162K and an engine knock (still driving it), and the 1997 Civic has a completely dead engine (D16Y7) at 169K. My 1988 Buick has 221K on it when I sold it and it was still running perfectly with no major repairs.

    If I could easily take the Series III 3800 engine (not to mention the much-better 4T65E transaxle) and stuff it into my Odyssey van, I’d do it in a heartbeat, since I’d like to keep the van going another 10 years and I doubt the existing engine/tranny will last that long (it’s on the 3rd transmission already).

    Sorry for the rant, but get over the 3800-bashing please.

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      @redmondjp:

      Two reasons I stopped buying GM: 1) The bailouts. 2) Discontinuing the only car engine they ever built worth a shit, the 3800. :)

      And FWIW, the only difference between the Honda 3.2L and the GM 3.8L was a timing belt, they were generally both bulletproof. The transmissions, however, well, like most early 2000s V6/4 speed auto of any manufacture, were complete trash.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “And if your goal is reliable, long-term ownership with a minimal cash outlay, a 3800-powered car is the way to go. You can easily get 300K miles without a single $1000+ timing belt change.”

      Couldn’t agree more.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Compare a 90 degree 3800 at idol to a later model 60 degree 3900. The difference is night and day in smoothness. I did this recently when I killed my battery in my 3800 leSabre and got a jump from a 3900 impala.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I thought that the supercharger was available on the Regency Elite.

    I’m personally a bigger fan of the generation before this (’85-’90), but I know a lot of people aren’t into the original H and C bodies. My garage currently contains the FE3 suspension off a ’90 Olds 98 Touring sedan that I’m planning to put into my ’89 Electra.

    Some guy in my junkyards pull off ALL the ignition coils from the S1 and S2 3800s, and that’s annoying for an LN3 onwer that wants those coils.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    ‘but it’s too bad GM didn’t see fit to make a version of this car with the Aurora-ized Northstar engine’

    Um, you sure about that? Three words, LIQUID COOLED ALTERNATOR. The 3800 was hands down a far more reliable choice.

    That said, the ol’ General would’ve been better served to axe Pontiac and Buick back in the early 2000′s instead of Oldsmobile. This is of course assuming Gen Why not associating ‘Old’ with anything new, maybe the brand could have been saved…ok, that’s a bit of a pipe dream, but i’m sure ya’ll get my point.

    RIP Ransom Eli Olds

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      By the early 2000s, Oldsmobile was effectively dead. They were building some of the best cars they ever made (common with near death GM divisions), but nobody was buying them. I believe they actually ranked below Saturn in annual sales most years, as amazing as that sounds. No, Pontiac and Buick were far healthier brands back then, heck, Pontiac was selling more cars in 2008/2009 than Olds was in the mid 90s, nearly a decade before the plug was pulled.

      The second round of downsized in the mid 1980s, the blurring of divisional differences, and the total inability to effectively market to Baby Boomers and younger, were what did Olds in. The writing was already on the wall by the early ’90s.

      • 0 avatar
        chicagoland

        “They were building some of the best cars they ever made…”

        The actual cars were same as the Chevys/Buicks/Saturns/Pontiacs. And “they” who were building was the UAW, was no more “Olds only factory”. Same cars on the same assembly lines. Alero/Grand Am, etc. So what was the real difference othe than emotional attachment to old times? GM had to cut back or else nothing.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        @chicagoland

        You know what I meant. Everyone is well aware that no GM division had their own factories and that all the cars had the same drivetrains and platforms under the skin, but the fact remains that the Aurora and Intrigue were some of the finest Oldsmobiles marketed in decades – the Aurora, in particular, was one of the best sedans GM sold in the 1990s under any brand. The product renaissance was just too little too late to save the division, and the R&D money probably would have been better spent elsewhere.

        Nonetheless, GM seems to have a habit of killing moribund brands just when they start showing signs of getting the product right – Pontiac and Saturn were in the same boat when the plug was pulled.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    I wouldn’t take it on a 2.5 mile trip, much less 2500. It wouldn’t make it one mile before something broke.

  • avatar
    friedclams

    I had a ’96 88 (essentially the same car) for years, I gave it to my dad who still drives it. The 3800 was amazingly smooth after I replaced the spark plug wires. It is a great car, amazing in snow, and the interior is far more appealing, in my opinion, than newer GM highway cruisers (Lacrosse, Impala). The front seats do lack lumbar support (they are overly puffy) but a cushion solves that issue. Leather seats are the way to go with these cars. Never had a problem with the seat switches.

    I wish I could find another one but the ones on CL are often really high miles and used up.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I see that too. What happened to these cars? They did depreciate hard and quick, but they used to be so thick on the roads. There aren’t even any grandma-owned creampuffs available these days. I’m surprised at that, because they didn’t stop building them until ’99.

      Then again, decent Park Avenues are getting hard to find, too.

      Perhaps they were all junked when a minor electrical problem surfaced. The electrics weren’t great – not bad for the period, but not great – but mechanically, these were almost bulletproof vehicles, especially the 3800 Series I powered ones.

      GM really poo’d the bed on the Series II.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        +1 and where did all the bazillions of Cutlasses go?

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Around here, there are still a lot on the road. They blend in so well, you probably just don’t even notice them.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        Check the inner city, these are popular as low budget ghetto cruisers. Seriously, North Philadelphia is packed with ’90s GM luxury iron – LeSabres, Park Avenues, 98s, 88s, Auroras, etc. All there, generally in terrible condition with shattered grilles and peeling paint. I think that when these cars got traded in to GM dealers in the suburbs, they were immediately sent off to auction and resold to buy here/pay here places in the city, over time, the entire roadgoing population wound up migrating there.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        Cash for Clunkers killed a lot of these off.

        What a stupid idea that was…

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    I’d like to take it on a 3800 mile roadtrip.

  • avatar
    northshorerealtr

    I had a ’91 Ninety Eight….among the best cars I’ve ever owned, with a couple of niggling issues.
    Roomy, quiet, fast–not in the sense of speed, but in the sense of efficiency and comfortably eating miles at a rapid pace–this was, for it’s day, a contemporary American grand tourer. I’d reguarly cruise from Dallas to my mom’s in northeast Louisiana on I-20 with cruise at 75, cd whispering melodies in the background while the climate control made sure my enviroment was a dehumidified 70 degrees…and all the while getting 31+ mpg.
    The issues? Two design issues: 1) no baffles in gas tank, so if you parked on a side-to-side slope, anything less than half a tank of gas would crowd the gas tank sidewall, and car couldn’t be started; and, 2) the power trunk release/pulldown was a fun feature, but, if you lost power to the car via dead battery, and trunk was opened, it couldn’t be closed until power was restored.) The execution flaw was an alternator that, after owning the car from new for 3 years required annual replacement. (I paid for the 1st alternator, and never paid for any of the 6 replacements.)
    After 160k of mostly trouble free miles, and body/interior in great shape, I managed to throw a rod (clueless how that happens on a well-maintained vehicle!).
    I still miss that distinctive, comfortable car.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      “The issues? Two design issues: 1) no baffles in gas tank, so if you parked on a side-to-side slope, anything less than half a tank of gas would crowd the gas tank sidewall, and the car couldn’t be started.”

      Oh, wow, I had that same exact issue with the 1987 Olds Ninety Eight I owned around 1992, and no one at the time could figure out what the problem was. Interesting…

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      The 3800 timing chains need replaced at about 100k or so or they tend to snap, being an interference motor, do you think that could have been what threw the rod?

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        But! But! I thought only timing belts needed replacing and that only Hondas had interference motors!?!

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        A stock Buick V6 is not an “interference engine” in the traditional sense. If the timing chain snaps, the pistons will not hit the valves. I’d also say it is fairly rare for a timing chain to just straight up break prematurely on these.

        What can be a problem, and what I think you might be referring to, is the breaking of the tensioner, cam magnet, or timing gear teeth. When any of these parts fail, debris can get where it doesn’t belong and cause engine failure. This was a bigger issue in pre-1988 Buick engines and I lost a 3.0L V6 from this.

        A 100k change interval is extremely conservative IMHO. If you have good oil pressure, no CEL, no odd noises, and you’re oil pan is clean I wouldn’t change the chain unless you really want to.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    By the ’90s, there weren’t many who remembered the Lindbergh kidnapping. Better make it the death of Franklin Roosevelt.

  • avatar
    burnbomber

    Who asked about the whereabouts of the last Cutlass?

    I think I have it. Working on 216k on my last generation, last year Cutlass, a 99 model year clone of the Malibu.

    I still see a few on the road, but I see many more of the 1st generation front driver Malibu.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    You know, for a few years in the 90′s, this actually was the car the Green Hornet had. Coincidence, or is Public Enemy a big influence in the comic world?

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    I always really liked this generation of H/C cars. The Ninety Eight with its overly formal roof and skirted rear wheels was probably my least favorite; The Park Avenue was much more striking.

    The bodies and interiors on these did not hold up at all. Worse than any other GM product and maybe any other 1990s product, period. Amazing, considering most of these were bought by old folks that never drove them anywhere. The ’85-’91 cars seem much more durable.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Cars like this are reminders that, after the low point of the Roger Smith era, GM’s designers really started showing the first signs of getting their creative mojo back in the 1990s. It would take another decade or so for materials and build quality to catch up, or for the design prowess to start being applied to the entry level lines.

    The Clinton-era Ninety Eight, 88, Aurora, Riviera, LeSabre, Park Avenue, Fleetwood, Seville, Deville, and Eldorado were all genuinely good-looking cars, and of course, the sportier ones like the Camaro/Firebird and Corvette never went through an ugly phase to begin with.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “Cash for Clunkers killed a lot of these off.”

    Mostly old SUV’s, dealers here had them lined up and a local bone yard had them with “CFC” spray painted. Not a lot of actual cars.

    These are disappearing from Chicago low income areas, as the sands pass through the hourglass and younger generations looks at them as old fartmobiles. Chrysler LX cars and old Altimas, Galants, and Camrys at BHPH and Currancy Exchanges getting temps.

  • avatar
    mynameisjonas

    I remember this car clearly. My grandma had one; a ’91 Regency Elite in brown that she bought new. That thing was the most comfortable machine I’d ever ridden in. And bulletproof, the only time she took it to a repair shop was when some dickhead in a Contour smashed it up. I recall she made it to 210k before selling it last year for a DTS. Wish I could have taken it, it was running brilliantly. Still see it floating around occasionly. They seem to hold up really well where I live.


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