EXCLUSIVE: 1982 Oldsmobile 98 Regency

When fuel prices skyrocketed in the 1970s, fuel efficient became a major concern for many drivers. Between all the new emission requirements and competition from small foreign cars, American manufacturers had to work hard to come up with ways of selling cars. Today, we have direct port injection all kinds of tech wizardry to make cars more efficient and cleaner while still being powerful. Even into the ’80s, it was tricky to get decent mileage out of a big car. Oldsmobile had an interesting idea, they decided to throw a diesel in their luxurious 98. It didn’t turn out as great as they had hoped, but it did save owners a little money on fuel! After being in his barn for the past 8 years, reader Gary K has decided to part ways with his diesel 98 Regency and is asking just $1,000 for it. It is currently located in Grants Fresno, California.

The diesel first became available in ’79 and was also offered in Cadillacs the same year. While they built and sold a large number of LF9 diesel engines to be used in passenger cars, they weren’t particularly popular. With horsepower topping out at 120 and torque at 220 pounds, most owners found them to be a bit sluggish. They also proved to be less reliable than most owners had come to expect from an Oldsmobile. That being said, if they are well maintained, they can accumulate quite a few miles.

Here is what Gary has to say about his Olds. From Gary – This 1982 Olds 98 Regency 2 door diesel is loaded with options. It could be restored, turned into a driver or used as a great parts car. The body is straight, with slight surface rust. The paint is shot. The glass is fair, but driver side window doesn’t work.

The diesel engine runs well and no modifications have been made to the car. It drives nice, stops nice, the air conditioner puts out cold air, transmission is good, tires are good but old. The car does need a battery (not included). I have a loaner installed for test drives, but does not go with the car! Also, there is a new spare in the trunk.

The driver’s side seat cover is shot, others are fine. The headliner is snagged and dash cover is shot. However, the radio, lights and air conditioning all work well! The car would need all checked out before truly being road worthy! It is currently on California non-op, as it has been in my barn/shop for the past 8 years. Has some fluid leaks, not sure where & what. Go through it and you’d be ready to put it back on the road.

I know this isn’t a terribly desirable car nor is it in perfect shape, but for the money, this seems like a killer buy if you want something different to drive. There aren’t a ton of options for improving the performance of the 350 cui V8 diesel, although turbocharging might be a possibility. Personally, I’d just clean this Olds up and drive the heck out of it, especially if the A/C really is blowing cold! Special thanks to Gary for listing with us. If you have a barn find that needs to go quick, please consider listing it with us!

Contact The Seller

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  1. RoselandPete

    So he’s paying somebody $1k to take the car off his hands? That’s not enough money.

    Like 1
  2. Blyndgesser

    Transplanting a later 6.2 or 6.5 GM diesel might be the way to go here. Turbocharging the 5.7 will only give you an excuse to give your wife–“but honey, it blew up!”

  3. geebee

    A grand is just a starting point on one of these. You’ll be into it for several more, before you know it. And, at that point, that money could have bought many more desirable cars.

  4. Sam

    We had a “77 Delta 88 sedan. My dads brother one-up’d us with a “79 diesel Delta 88 Royale sedan. He was a truck driver for Jewell in Chicago. He got 2 or 3 replacement engines from GM. Pick your poison….Diesel or V8-6-4.

  5. BarnfindyCollins

    Holy cow !! I just remembered that old car sales trick of wetting the car down to photograph. At least I don’t think it’s the violent explosion of coolant on the ground. We bought one of these new in ’79 it got traded in a week later on a ’79 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham with the 425 carb engine. 16 years of reliable motoring.

  6. duaney

    where is the link to contact the seller?

    • Gary Merly

      They didn’t think it was needed. :)

  7. geomechs geomechs Member

    As I’ve said numerous times before, the 350 diesel was the most misunderstood engine that GM ever developed. The majority of the problems could be traced directly to the operators themselves. I remember telling a customer that the stickers on top of the batteries that read: ‘Maintenance Free,’ did NOT apply to the whole vehicle. Those who ran them like a diesel should be run, and maintained them accordingly had few problems. This one would have the roller tappets and the newer poppet injectors. Overall this was a much improved engine over what GM began with. I’d like to have a diesel myself (interesting that I worked on them but never owned one) but I’m holding out for a particular ’80 Cadillac Eldorado with one.

  8. Mr. TKD

    I have always had a soft spot for this era 98 — and l love fender skirts. Not sure what I would do with the engine, but SBCs are plentiful if a change needs to be made.

  9. 68 custom

    a girl friends father had one of these same colors but with four doors, it was no powerhouse but made for a very comfortable highway car. and it was the first car I had driven with a four speed auto. worth a grand? no way!

    • karu

      You think it should be less?

      • 68 custom

        less yes maybe scrap value…

    • karu

      Too fuelish for today.

  10. jwinters

    he wont include the battery with the car.. what a cheapskate!

    • Miguel

      He had to have meant batteries because we all know it takes two of them to start this car.

  11. DG

    I can’t believe I’m the first to say this… LS swap!

  12. PaulbZ3

    Back in the day I worked for a company that shared a shop with the “Diesel Connection” in Mt. Clemens. The bulk of their business was simply changing these GM diesels back to carb running motors. I don’t think you’d have to change the whole engine. Just pull off the diesel stuff, put on a gasoline manifold and carb and clean out or change the tank and fuel lines. It already has the SBC in there…

    • Blyndgesser

      You’d have trouble running this engine (based on an Olds block, not an SBC) that way. For starters, the compression ratio is 22:1.

    • Ralph

      Yeah, ok…..a nice 22.1 compression gas motor…..uh huh….

      • Gary Merly

        High Test!

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I heard the stories about the diesel being a converted gas motor from the day it was first introduced. I reality very few parts interchanged between the gas and diesel. Motor mounts on the outside, and rocker arms and supports were the only internal parts that I knew. The fuel injection pump was driven by an angle drive in the block that was turned by a pair of gears off the rear of the camshaft sprocket. The oil pump was driven off the vacuum pump gear and there might be a possibility that an ignition distributor would fit in the hole for the vacuum pump, but it was never tried in our shop. We serviced hundreds of 350 diesel motors over the years and still see the odd one. The motors look similar but looks are all you have….

  13. M/K

    the gass conversion is easy but not just changing the intake. only the diesel block can be made to work, maybe the crank but not the heads or intake. IT IS NOT JUST A CONVERTED GAS ENGINE LIKE MANY BELIEVE. am i right Geomechs?

    • Ralph

      Yes, you are correct, I remember an older GM regional tech guy shutting up someone about that, it was designed around the Oldsmobile 350, so it could be made in the same plant, but its not “a 350 with glow plugs”…..there are tons of differences, down to the nickel content of the block.

      • Tim Rusling

        Didn’t a handful of Checkers have this Olds diesel too?

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I never tried to change one over. If you could actually get a distributor to fit in the vacuum pump hole and blocked off the lube passage for angle drive for the injection pump you might be able to solve that problem. Heads and pistons completely different. The diesel has a much larger starter and I don’t think the bolt pattern is the same. Myself if I was that serious about changing over from a diesel to a gas motor, I’d simply get a 350 or 455 gas, complete from the salvage yard and drop that in. It’ll bolt right up…

  14. Ross Peterson

    Had one of the Olds Cutlass 4 door Diesel versions in 83, with very low miles, it cracked 4 cylinder heads…all cracks came from a factory hand stamp mark in head and 5 transmissions later, it was dumped for a gas Cutlass. I would not trust it as far as I could push it.

  15. Brian Joseph

    Back around 1980 l changed out a few olds diesels for gas olds 350s.for some of our neighbors did Cutlass 260 diesels too. Easy job, took about 8 hours to do

  16. Bryan

    If this car is equipped with the weak and problematic THM200 (metric) 3-speed transmission then the diesel is the least of your worries (produced 1976-1987).

    Were these offered with the THM700-R4 4-speed automatic? I know it was introduced in 1982 but I thought it went into Chevy/GMC pickups initially.

    These Ninety Eight’s are nice looking cars!

  17. MRE2ME

    I’ll loan you a battery for a test drive. excuuuuuuus

  18. Sam

    My parents had an ’80 Buick Park Avenue with the Diesel engine. The problem was never the engine, but the transmission was plagued with problems again and again. The mileage was great though as 6 of us drove it to Florida on vacation and got 30 mpg on the highway: cool for a huge car in the 80’s. I took my drivers test in it and remember the parallel parking test: Phew!

  19. gregwnc

    Wow, this takes me wayyyy back. Girlfriend wrecked my 1977 Grand Prix SJ with the 400. Found a 1981 Grand Prix diesel that was a giveaway almost. In my bright young mind Pontiac’a a Pontiac! Stuffed (literally) the drive train in the ’81. That was an interesting ride! Lost it in a curve one day playing around. Wound up in somebody’s yard. Luckily I drove slowly away. To be young and stupid!

  20. Robbie

    Look at the dirt stains on the tires. This car sat for a long time on dirt. Look how far the tires sank in the dirt. Total scam. The seller should have leaned over and cleaned the tires instead of watering the driveway. Seller will make more money at the scrap yard.

  21. Jubjub

    Isn’t there a company that specializes in Olds engines that sells the parts to build one of these diesels into a gas engine. Supposed to be a really stout block for a gas set up.

  22. Jay

    There are so many haters of this car. Several of my friends’ families owned these cars. If the head of the family knew how to maintain the car, it ran fine. For the others that didn’t they encountered problems. My sister’s 81 Cutlass diesel wracked up 127k miles in 3 years and rarely had issues.

  23. Smittydog

    Would you really waste one minute of your life under the hood of this.

  24. Miguel

    I had a 1981 Buick Riviera with the Diesel. As I have always had a lot of cars the car sometimes sat around for a long time. Every time I wanted to get it out again, it cost me $1500.00 to get it running again at a diesel shop.

    I did love driving it on the highway though. You go up a hill and everybody behind you clear out.

  25. George mattar

    Another error. The Olds diesel debuted in 1978 model year. I worked in these cars brand new at Rider Oldsmobile in 1978. We had many problems with them. One had a crankshaft break the first week the owner had his new 98.

  26. Tim Rusling

    Re: my earlier question – Checker Motors Corp., late of Kalamazoo, MI, did use this breakaway engine as an option.

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