Home Car Stories One Owner 1973 OLDSMOBILE Delta 88 Royale convertible- Carl
1973 OLDSMOBILE Delta 88 Royale convertible- Carl PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Tuesday, 18 May 2021 13:12

1973 OLDSMOBILE Delta 88 Royale convertible- Carl, Vancouver, BC

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Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

The Oldsmobile 88 first appeared in 1949 as part of Oldsmobile's push to showcase their new powerful high compression overhead Valve V8 303 c.i. "Rocket" engine. The 303 V replaced the antiquated Olds straight 8 engine. The 303 was a responsive engine in the top of the line large luxury oriented heavy bodied 98, but pure dynamite when installed in the smaller, lighter Olds 76 body. The 76 was normally powered by a straight 6 cylinder engine.

Oldsmobile name codes worked like this: the first number indicated body size and prestige level. The higher the number, the bigger the car. Hence a 98 was Oldsmobile's biggest car. The second digit indicated  how many cylinders the engine had. In the case of the 98 it had an 8 cylinder engine. When Olds pulled the straight 6 cylinder engine out of the 76 and dropped in the 303 V8 it was technically now a "78", but Olds bumped the 7 body up to an 8 in this application. With the 88, Olds suddenly had one of the top performers on the market. Besides cleaning up at NASCAR, the 88 was also a hit on the streets to such an extent that it inspired a rock and roll song. The "Rocket 88" was a great image boost for Oldsmobile.

In 1950 Oldsmobile adopted a rocket logo as their signature identifier right across the product line to capitalize on the image of the Rocket engine. The 88 base model version was powered by a 2 barrel 303. The upscale "Super 88" was powered by a 4 barrel version of the 303. In 1956 the Olds V8 increased to 324 cubic inches. In 1957 the Olds V8 engine increased again to 371 cubes. The Super 88 remained the top model. The base 88 which had been known variously as just the 88, or the Deluxe 88 or the Golden Rocket 88 depending on model year settled into "Dynamic 88" starting in 1958. In 1959 the engine expanded to 394 cubic inches.

In 1964 Oldsmobile designed a really amazing thin wall casting lightweight, compact, but powerful small block 330 V8 for their new intermediate sized F-85 and Cutlass. When you have a really good engine, you spread it around. Hence Olds also put the 330 into big cars. The base 88s were marketed as bargain 88s named Jetstar 88 using the 330 engine and smaller 9 inch drum brakes. The Super 88 had the big engine and 11 inch drums. The Dynamic 88 was no longer the base model but sandwiched between the bargain Jetstar 88 and top of the line Super 88.

In 1965 the hierarchy of 88 models ran from low cost Jetstar 88, medium priced Dynamic 88 to top of the line Delta 88 which now replaced the Super 88 name. Olds released a new big block 425 which replaced the various versions of the 303 which had been expanded all the way up to 394. The 425 was standard fare for the Delta 88, and optional for the Jetstar 88 which got the 330 as standard.

As if all this wasn't confusing enough, Olds kept hammering away with name changes. In 1967 the base model was now called the Delmont 88. These full size cars were adequately powered by the 330 in base Delmont 88 form, and had more than enough power when equipped with the optional full size engine which was now 425 cubic inches. The Top of line Delta 88 came with the 425 standard.

In 1968 GM solved the tightening Federal Government emissions standards requirements by stroking their engines. A narrower bore relative to stroke runs cleaner. At Oldsmobile, the 330 became a 350 and the 425 became a 455. In 1969 the name game resumed. Now the Delmont 88 was gone and all 88s were called Delta 88s. In order to distinguish the top of line 88, it was now called Delta 88 Royale.

Carl's journey down the 88 road began back east with a 1966 model year 88 convertible. Carl's family members migrated from Winnipeg to British Columbia in the 1960s. Carl eventually made the cross country trek to join them driving an Olds 88. Carl had a particularly pleasant journey to Vancouver, B.C. driving a black 1966 Oldsmobile 88 convertible he inherited from his father. Carl liked the ride and feel of the 88 and became a fan of Oldsmobile and convertibles. Carl drove the black 1966 Olds 88 to and from work and on trips for the next few years.

Manufacturers started to scale down convertible production in the early 1970s. There were several reasons for this, foremost of which was the diminishing sales of convertibles. Many customers were ordering air conditioning in their new cars which negated the perceived need for a convertible. Sunroofs were also becoming popular. The steel roof on a sunroof car circumvented the security issues that come along with convertible soft tops that were easily cut open by thieves. Looming Federal Government roll-over standards threatened to doom convertibles to extinction. The expected restrictions didn't come to pass but the expectation had incentivized manufacturers to curtail production of convertibles. GM stopped producing convertible bodies for their mid line cars and low volume production lines. 1972 model year was the final year that the Oldsmobile Cutlass was available as a convertible. Full size Oldsmobiles were still available in convertible format in 1973.

Carl decided to buy a new convertible before it was too late. He went down to Dueck on Broadway which was located at 1300 West Broadway, Vancouver, B.C. Dueck on Broadway was just one of several locations Dueck's maintained. Dueck on Broadway was a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile-Cadillac dealership with plenty of stock available. Carl traded in his black 1966 Olds 88 for a brand new 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale convertible on Jan 18, 1973. Carl's new convertible showed 18 miles on the odometer. The cowl tag reveals that it was built in the first week of January, 1973 (cowl tag code 01A) in Lansing, Michigan. Paint code 64 refers to Silver Taupe paint. This color didn't last very long on the car, before Carl had it repainted dark Burgundy. Aside from the top of the heap "Royale" trim level it had optional 455- 4 barrel code T engine (single exhaust, not dual), heavy duty wheels with whitewalls, heavy duty suspension, radio and rear package tray mounted speaker, and tinted glass.



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