Ah, the disastrous GM diesel V-8 cars of the 1978-85 model years, equipped with failure-prone engines that scared generations of Americans away from diesel cars. Nowadays, of course, diesels work just fine (except when they don’t), but it’s good to see the occasional reminder of these miserable GM cars in the junkyard as part of our American automotive heritage. Only problem is, just about all of these cars were crushed or had gasoline-engine swaps decades ago (I recall helping my uncle drop a Chevy 307 into a very clean Olds 88, around 1988 or so).
Here’s an extremely rare example that I found in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard last week.
With gas prices out of control thanks to events far away, the cheapness and fuel efficiency of the diesel engine seemed appealing to many Americans who might have dismissed it as a stinky, clattery, hard-to-start Freightliner powerplant just a few years earlier. A big 350-cubic-inch diesel V-8 making 205 lbs-ft of torque would make a B-body LeSabre get out of its own way reasonably well, too.
Sadly, The General made a sturdier version of the 350 engine block to deal with the higher compression ratios of a diesel engine, but then he thought he’d save a buck by using the same cylinder-head bolts and bolt pattern as the regular gas 350. This allowed the diesel engines to be built using much of the same machinery as their gasoline brethren … but also encouraged head gaskets to fail early and often. Many did.
There were other problems with the Olds diesels, but it was all the blown head gaskets on eight-month-old cars that really did the damage to GM’s already-battered image.
Could this be the actual mileage, or is it really 118,053 or 218,053? The car seems too nice for the latter figure.
There they go, Elmer!