The cars we loved.
Personal expression in the luxury segment had become a popular theme as the 70s ended. The move to slightly smaller cars continued, but big cars were still big. In the luxury segments shedding two doors often resulted in instant membership to the personal luxury club. While every major auto maker had some version of this type of car on the market, Oldsmobile was a major player in intermediate segment with its Cutlass Supreme. As for its larger coupes, the Holiday line of Delta 88 based two doors were not as common but no less popular. These were classic modern interpretations of GM’s big, softly sprung rear wheel drive cars on the B-body platform in the time just before they switched to front wheel drive.
Oldsmobile had used the term Holiday to market big coupes on and off in the past. The name was used more regularly with the 1978 model year. That year the near-sporty Holiday Coupe option was available for the popular Delta 88. The new boxy styling used a B pillar design and downsized somewhat from before. Externally, the Holiday Coupe had subtle performance oriented features like raised white letter 15 inch tires. Inside the dramatic T-bar console shifter harken back to the days of Hurst 442s.
Other cars on the B-platform like the Chevy Impala Sport Coupe were similar, but lacked the near luxury edge. Although the Holiday Coupe was only available as an 3 speed automatic, it had a muscle car like feel to the interior, thanks to Strato bucket seats that were separated by the chrome edged sport console. As novel as it seemed, the shifter, dual sport mirrors, sport steering wheel and custom hub caps resulted in one of Oldsmobile’s better looking big cars. The Holiday had just the right blend of substantial luxury with perceptual sport embellishments to create something not as wild as a 442, but more like a Delta 88 that was not quite ready to submit to the easy life of cruising to golf courses or church on Sunday.
How sport would your Olds could be depended on which of the four or so engine choices you made. A 231 CID two barrel Buick V6 with 105 hp was standard, but after that there were a host of Chevrolet and Pontiac V8s to choose from. There were even diesel options for the fuel conscious. Even without being a oil burner, gas mileage could reach an EPA estimate of 25 mpg with the popular 260 V8.
Some of what made these engines so efficient was GM’s early use of electronic engine management systems. This clearly was a transitional time with the best of the evolved old world meeting the new technologies of the 80s. The engine management system was not without its distractors, but in the Oldsmobile it hampered performance less noticeably than similar applications in cars like the Camaro.
For those who might have grown up with a muscle car and had settled down to a more mature lifestyle, the Holiday coupe fit a small niche. The performance engine, the 403 V8 was a shadow of 60s era Oldsmobile muscle, but offered acceptable performance in the brave new world of federal emissions controls. The Oldsmobile sourced engine made 185 hp. It would not be offered after 1979.
At 3,576 lb. weight was fairly low for a full sized car. The aggressive use of plastics and alloys lightened the load considerably in 1978. Power steering, brakes and windows were some of the many standard features. Power hydraulic disc brakes up front and drums in back were typical of other big non Cadillac GM cars.
The Holiday coupe was promoted for its highway cruising abilities and the driver involvement it offered. The FE3 suspension offered stiffer spring rates and larger anti-roll bars, while still being comfortable. Like other big Oldsmobile, the Holiday 88 coupe offered generous rear passenger room and plenty of trunk space.
There were not many substantial changes in the short time the Holiday 88 coupe was available. Then in 1980, a extensive shuffling resulted in a subtle restyling. Besides becoming lighter with the increased use of plastics and alloys, the grille was re-worked for a more modern appearance. Although the basic body style was the same, the Holiday coupe had a gained a more formal appearance. The raised white letter tires had given way to more standardized tires and wheel treatments.
1981 would be the last year for the Holiday coupe in a rear wheel drive configuration. From the early 80s on, Oldsmobile would focus more on smaller coupes when marketing performance. The era of the low cost big sporty coupe seemed to be on its way out. The muscle car had grown up to middle age, become fat and mellow. In the process, the market had shifted to smaller personal luxury cars. Increasingly that came to mean Thunderbird or Monte Carlo for most domestic car buyers.