The cars we loved.
1977 was the first year of the ninth generation for GM’s full-sized B-body cars. The basis for the rear wheel drive Caprice, Bonneville, LeSabre and Oldsmobile’s Delta 88. Now resized and restyled with the angular styling that was becoming the hallmark of the emerging 80’s. The 88 was Oldsmobile’s near luxury sedan. Slotted just below the Buick LeSabre, but above the Caprice and Bonneville, the Delta 88 came in sedan, coupe and for a short time a station wagon called the Custom Cruiser. Its funny now hearing the term near luxury applied to so big a car with Cadillac like baroque styling, Despite the chrome and wired wheels with white walls, the 88 was not quite a Cadillac by GMs own standards. Eventhough names like 98 and Royale were used, they all were variations of the Delta 88 (with more luxury options).
The Delta 88 was mechanically simple, with the standard GM luxury car suspension consisting of a all coil spring suspension. Engines ranged from a base V6 supplied from Buick (about 120hp) and a choice of two V8s one the Chevrolet 350 and the other a Olds 350. At around 150-160 hp, Both V8’s could only muster about half the power they managed during the Sixties. Many cars shipped to high altitude locations received the Olds built 350 initially. Such diversity in engine sources would haunt Oldsmobile shortly after the first new 77 model year cars arrived.
1977 was also the year the Delta 88 was chosen to pace the 61st Indy 500. A specially prepared coupe with a targa top was driven by actor James Garner of Rockford Files fame. The targa top did not make to production, but the color scheme, wheels and 403 Rocket V8 engine made it in the form of a Royale Coupe. This might have been the sportiest Delta 88 ever, but anyone who bought a 88 was interested more in luxury or near luxury as the GM hierarchy would have it. Its funny now hearing the term near luxury applied to a car that aspires to Cadillac like baroque styling. Despite the chrome and wired wheels with white walls, the 88 was not quite a Cadillac by GMs own standards.
You could be forgiven for confusing the 88 for a Cadillac, especially the early 80’s Royale Brougham, the ultimate Delta 88 derivative. Once inside, the cloth or vinyl seats would give it away, but leather later became an option. Most large GM cars shared a similar interior design during this time, especially the dashboard controls. One central feature was the horizontal speedometer, the last generation of GM cars to feature this 30+ year old design staple. Sound options in this generation went from 8 tracks in the 1977, to the cassette based GM-Delco/Bose systems of the 1985 model.
Sales of this generation Delta 88 were very good, especially during the early Eighties, so it’s still possible to find a few of them for sale. Like many full-sized cars from this era, 88’s have become popular in hip hop culture. Its not unusual to see Delta 88s or Royales restored to pristine condition (or just beat up) with tasteless oversized chrome rims. Not the best image that comes to mind in remembering what amounts to your father’s Oldsmobile.