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Low Mileage Couch: 1986 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

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This 1986 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency here on eBay is a low-mileage survivor, with fewer than 30,000 original miles on the clock. The seller purchased it out of sunny, dry Arizona last year and hasn’t put many miles on it. Based on his description, it sounds like this Olds has some minor running issues that are unbecoming for car that has been used so sparingly. There’s an opening bid of $3,500 with no reserve, and the car is currently located in Mississippi. 

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While I have never been keen on driving a car like this Ninety-Eight every day, it’s hard to deny how comfortable that interior looks. It makes me wonder if some folks simply keep driving these cars because they are so pleasant to ride in, regardless of how dull or poor the actual driving experience is. If you see your vehicle as simply a means of conveyance, you’ll likely drive it until the doors fall off it is’s got a front seat like this Oldsmobile has.

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Here’s the rub, however: despite that low mileage, the seller is extremely up front that the car does not drive as well as he believes it could/should. He’s gone through the usual suspects of maintenance items for rough running conditions, from replacing the mass air flow sensor to the electronic control module. Whatever the culprit of the engine’s tendency to stumble has yet to be resolved by the seller, and the entire listing feels like he is throwing his hands up over the irregularities of the 3.8L V6.

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Despite its issues, the Olds still sports an impressively straight body and remains in excellent cosmetic condition. It has some other finicky problems, from a stuck power antenna to an inop driver’s door window motor. However, the seller’s inability to diagnose the running issues and the long list of maintenance items that have failed to correct the problem should encourage potential buyers to either have a pre-purchase inspection performed or roll the dice on it being an obvious fix. What do you think is holding this clean Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight back from running properly?


  1. Rich

    These were great looking cars in their day and the ride was amazingly smooth. They insulated the heck out of these as well so they were super quiet inside.

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  2. Mr. TKD

    There’s nothing like this for interstate duty. Great find.

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  3. JW454

    Very nice car but I never cared for the “pillow back” seats. Made me feel like there was a pillow behind me. At 6’1″ and 260 I don’t need a booster pillow.
    I like the car though… Maybe I could change the seats. Hummm…

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    • Keith

      Did it, a few years ago. Made a regular 98 into a kinda-Touring Sedan, complete with buckets from a Trofeo.

      Of course, after doing the seats I wasn’t willing to leave the rest of the interior purple, so I ended up gathering all the correct parts for a leather car and turning them black

      The end result was nice – but looking back, I really should have stopped at seats and console. The rest really wasn’t worth the effort.

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    • Keith

      FYI: The car itself was a 70K mile cream puff, garage-kept with excellent paint and body, bought non-running (failed alternator)… for $350.

      I’d do it again for that price. But at $3500, I’d be voting CP, as they say.

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  4. Dairymen

    I bought my mother in law 1 like this with 50k miles and it looked just as good as this one when I took it to her. But it didn’t stay long that way :-/ . I paid $1200. I think the asking price is way to high.

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  5. Birdman

    I know how to fix that rough running problem…it’s super easy… But I’m not going to say on here what it is…. I know..” what a jerk”…. let’s just say I’m trying to keep things in harmony and balance…. if you get my drift….

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    • j.jackson

      I owned and 88 I know what u mean

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    • LG

      I understand exactly what you mean. My ’87 LeSabre had the same problem with harmony and balance.

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  6. DirtyHarry

    Do the obvious and put it on a scanner. By carefully checking the values of the sensors while the car is running, the problem will reveal itself. Since this is OBDI, you can buy an adapter for the ALDL and plug that into your laptop. The software can be obtained on the internet. It really isn’t difficult and there is no sense throwing away a bunch of good parts, yet still have no solution.

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  7. nessy

    I am an Oldsmobile guy with the big full size older 98’s my favorite. To me, the last great 98’s ended with the 84 model year. However, this is a nice looking car in a nice color. When makes this car special is the low miles of course but also the fact that it’s a Regency but not a Regency Brougham. Very few Regency’s were ordered and built in this body style. The plush pillow button interior is unique to the regular Regency. The Brougham’s interior, although plush, was missing that loose pillow look that this car has. I would take a Regency over a Brougham anytime.

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  8. David Montanbeau

    Here is the fix and I’m bidding on this car.
    From a good friend of mine that is an ACE Mech.

    Go to wall mart. Get 2 cans of sea foam fuel injection cleaner.. it is 6.74 a can there. Compare to O’Reilly etc 12.00 a can there. The hose going into the throttle body from air cleaner. Gonna get a funnel with a narrow end.Hold engine at 2,500 to 3,000 rpm. As soon as you pull the hose away it will want to stall because of the maa air flow sensor. Make sure when you put injection cleaner in your at the throttle body. Dump cleaner in its gonna smoke like the dickens out the tailpipe. It will rejuvenate the O2 sensors and not hurt the cat. As soon as your done go out and hot rod car blow out the carbon. Gasoline has so many additive that makes carbon. Carbon build up on back of intake valve. When the injector squirts it acts as a sponge absorbs the fuel. This cleaner will eat the carbon off the intake valve, injector is to give a nice spray pattern again. Alco the idle air control valve so it can easily move in its bore again. 100 % difference in how the engine will run. No dead or flat spots in the gas pedal. Engine has a lot more power and fuel mileage. Sea foam is the best. You will crap your pants to see the difference. Diesels are a different animal. You got to watch it cause the motor will run away. If there is no check engine light good fuel pressure this will fix your problem

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  9. Birdman

    Ok… I can’t stands no more….

    The solution to this problem is the harmonic balancer. The outer belt ring tends to slowly separate from the rubber mass under it. As the engine warms up, the rubber softens, causing the belt ring to move back and forth with the harmonics of the motor, in turn causing stumbling, rough running and eventually stalling. the engine runs perfect as long as there is some RPM put into it, but as soon as you take your foot off the gas, here comes trouble…. I’ve replaced several of these and every time it fixes the problem…. just need to make sure the tooth count is correct for the crank sensor on the back side of the balancer… for further backing that I know what I am talking about, I once did a complete presentation of the workings of the fuel injection and sensor system of this motor for school….. I know these motors inside and out…

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    • Tony S

      Ha! I thought you were gonna say “rip out that ‘Dauntless’ POS and drop in a 3800 Series III supercharged.” :) Should bolt right up ;)

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  10. Mike H. Mike H

    I agree on the harmonic balancer; I’ve replaced many on the 3800 Series I motors.

    Another thing about these cars is that – when running properly – they were surprisingly quick off the line, and they’d certainly offer enough power to pass on the interstate and provide “reasonable” fuel economy. I’d agree that the seats are too “squishy” for my tastes, but for daily driving (and especially a long commute) these were fine cars.

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  11. Yasha

    Never had a harmonic balancer issue, but plastic teeth on the chain would kill it altogether, but if it is a drivability issue only, it’s the water temp sensor, it makes this engine do crazy things and is the last thing anyone checks.

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  12. brad

    A friend had one of these, equipped like one I’ve never seen since. It was a fully loaded 2 door, with floor mounted shifter, leather, digital dash all the toys, It was a joy to drive in, but that couch-like cloth is more comfortable than the leather.

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