Oldsmobile was named after its founder, Ransom E. Olds. Mr. Olds left Oldsmobile to form REO (his initials). One the most famous vehicles to come out of REO was a "pickup truck" called a REO Speedwagon.
The 2014 model year marks the 10th anniversary of the end of General Motors' late, sometimes great but more often than not mediocre, Oldsmobile division.
In the the last ten years, we've also seen GM go bankrupt and Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Saab join Oldsmobile in the bone yard. Rumor has it that if GMC doesn't get it together and is shuttered, that Buick could go off the cliff too leaving once mighty GM with only Chevrolet and Cadillac.
The Oldsmobile "88", historically, was Oldsmobile's "middle" model slotted between the "78" and "98". This '98, "Eighty Eight" was Oldsmobile's least expensive full sized model behind the "Ninety Eight" and range topping, "Aurora".
Prior to Oldsmobile's demise ten years ago, a Wall Street analyst noted that GM's problems didn't stem from too many divisions but from a lack of imagination. Did anyone at General Motors with any artistic ability have anything to do with styling this car? With the dubious reputation that American cars had, would even the most pious of buyers, those who wanted nothing more than the most basic of transportation even look at this car? Some did, of course. But by and large they did not.
Legends has it that the Aurora brand was so strong, that the Oldsmobile nameplate would be replaced by "Aurora".
It's an oversimplification to say that GM's troubles didn't go beyond their pushing out too many bland, rental/lease fleet ready cars like this 1998 Oldsmobile "Eighty Eight". But, if the shoe fits the soulless appliance, well...
This Olds Eighty Eight was built on GM's front wheel drive H platform and shares much with the Pontiac Bonneville and Buick LeSabre.
GM sold more than 1.2 million Oldsmobiles in 1985 by having products that were perceived by buyers as great values. The value proposition has no credence if buyers aren't moved emotionally beyond dollars and cents. By 2000, the year GM announced that Oldsmobile was to be no more by 2004, that sales number had shrunk to around 300,000. Buyers had little interest regardless of price.
Oldsmobile stuck around another four years because it took that long for GM to sort things out with their Oldsmobile franchise owners.
1992-1999 H body Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs and Buicks were the last American cars to have vent windows on the front doors. Unlike vent windows of yore, though, they did not open.
The GM H bodies, like this Eighty Eight, while ample automobiles, were symptomatic of a larger problem; like the man said, GM lacked imagination. Rather than do something they played it safe.
And it cost them greatly.
The last Eighty Eight left GM's Orion, Michigan plant in 1999.
If you're in the market, these cars make for a most excellent used car purchase. You'll find them going for significantly less than a comparable Toyota Camry or Honda Accord of similar vintage. This may not have been your father's Oldsmobile but...it could become yours. Cheers.
Words And Pictures By Charles Connolly