Only 19,800 Miles: 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Convertible

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After one run through eBay’s auction process, this Oldsmobile missed the seller’s reserve by just a hair, ending on Nov 2 at $15,600. So this time, he has decided to conduct a no-reserve auction in hopes that the price will come as close to his number as the last time around, and he can let her go. Here on eBay is a very original 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale convertible, with current bidding at $15,800. The seller is the second owner and has driven the Olds just 3,000 of the odometer’s total of 19,800 miles in his fifteen years of ownership, mostly as a participant in parades. The car is located in Neshanic Station, New Jersey. We have Larry D. to thank for this tip!

The Oldsmobile 88 has a fifty-year production history beginning in 1949. The seventh-generation cars occupied the 1971 to 1976 time frame and were, unfortunately, victims of federal mandates for safety as well as the gas crisis that descended in 1973. Starting in 1971, compression ratios had to decline in order to allow the use of unleaded gasoline. In 1973, “five mph bumpers” – protecting the car’s occupants in a 5 mph crash – were mandated in front; by 1974, the same mandate applied to the rear. Horsepower continued to suffer as emissions controls were added to the growing pile of regulations. The 350 cu. in. V8, which was standard equipment in the Delta 88, produced 250 bhp in 1971, 155 bhp in 1972, and – a new low – 150 bhp in 1973. The Rocket 455 cu. in. V8 was available, but this car’s VIN indicates it came with the 350/ two-barrel carburetor set-up. It wouldn’t have mattered much anyway since by 1973, the 455 made 250 bhp, only as much as the 350 put out back in 1971.

The interior is pristine. A prime feature of the seventh-gen cars was the large square speedometer in the center of the dash. Controls were clustered closer to the driver by the 1970s, enhancing ergonomics. This example has power locks, power windows, and air conditioning. The column-shift automatic is a three-speed. The seller installed a modern am/fm radio that mimics a retro look; he also installed rear air shocks.

The trunk is as spiffy as the rest of the car. We see hardly any wear even on the warning labels affixed to the underside of the panel. No word on whether the set of hubcaps comes with the sale. But those won’t tip the scale much one way or the other, as this car should probably creep a bit higher. It’s not a performance car, but the convertible body style is a plus. Its low miles are an advantage and its condition appears spectacular. Another ’73 Olds Delta 88 Royale convertible is offered at $29,900, also with low miles and pristine, but with the 455 engine. Streetside Classics has a black version from 1971 also with a 455, but in this year that motor would generate 340 bhp, so this is practically a muscle car. Given these examples, what do you think this one should sell for?

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  1. NHDave

    As usual, a really good piece, Michelle. One clarification may be appropriate. While higher bumper standards—whether they be 5 mph or the more recent 2.5 mph—naturally increase nominal protection for occupants, their standard is aimed primarily at keeping the vehicle operational. That is, insuring the essential functions necessary to operate the vehicle such as lights, turn signals, radiator, etc. are not damaged enough in a given impact (5 mph, or 2.5 mph, etc.) that they no longer function. Thus, even after such an impact the vehicle can be driven with those functionally- and legally-necessary essentials still operating. Again, great write-up on this Delta 88!

    Like 0
    • Michelle RandAuthor

      Thank you! …. and thanks for the note on the 5 mph reg. Fortunately, cars are even better today – my old Escape got sandwiched on I84 some years ago by a guy who rear-ended me and pushed me into the F350 or 450 or 550 in front of me. No problems driving the car to work after that little misadventure. And it was a lot more than 5 mph!

      Like 0
  2. Stan

    Beautiful Delta 88 Oldsmobile.

    Like 2
  3. george mattar

    I live close by to this beauty. Too bad my garage is full of a Corvette, motorcycle, snow blower, etc.

    Like 0
  4. Clinton

    Purchased one of these back in 06/07 for about 700 dollars iirc. Bright red and was well cared for good running and driving car. Had plaques on the dash from parades/car shows. Unfortunately Ohio got the best of its quarter panels and lower fenders. Immediately sold it after I got it back to my lot. Before I even cleaned it or the writing off the windshield. The buyer was spending a bunch restoring it. I wonder where it is now.

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  5. Poppy

    HP ratings went from gross to net in 1972. 250hp for the 455 in 1973 probably equates to something close to the 340 rating you quoted for the 455 in 1971. Moot point in this case as it has the 350. I’ve rarely seen a 2bbl on a post-’72 350 Rocket, but they were decent carbs.

    Like 1
  6. Lance Platt

    In the 1972 model year, manufacturers stated their horsepower numbers in SAE net which is lower than the SAE gross that was advertised through 1971. So the drop in power was not as horrific as detuning made it appear. Still a lot of weight to push on a full sized automobile. The Oldsmobile presents well for its age and displays an attractive color combination of red with a contrasting white convertible top. Would make a great parade vehicle and car show entry. The Delta 88 would cruise comfortably to collector events but it’s sheer size to maneuver and park and lower mileage might limit its fun factor. If the miles are correct, it is a rare Barnfind.

    Like 0
  7. bikefixr

    I may go have a peek. It’s 15 mins away.

    Like 1
    • Michelle RandAuthor

      Let us know what you think!

      Like 0
  8. JoeNYWF64

    I always thought that wipers that don’t park correctly indicate high mileage/use.

    Like 0
  9. normadesmond

    I’ll begin by saying I’m jealous over the 19,000 miles.

    I’ve owned two of these. I bought one new in August of ’73. It was Honey Beige and very pretty. I bought my second one 18 years ago. It’s Crystal Green & gorgeous. Every spring when I unzip my Car Jacket it’s Xmas!

    Like 1
  10. Pnuts

    The 71 and 72 GM engines were identical in the vast majority of cases including this one. Same cams, heads compression ratios etc. The 350 4 barrel dual exhaust Chevy engine went from 300 HP in 70 to 270 in 71. This was a true downgrade as the compression dropped from 10.5:1 to 8.5:1. You can roughly figure a 15 HP drop for 1 point of compression. In 72 the exact same engine went to 175. Nothing changed mechanically. As others have already stated Detroit changed the way they calculated HP from net to gross. More specifically they used to be measured at the flywheel and changed to measuring at the drive wheel with all accessories on. One of the big reasons those of us who were around and driving/working on the cars daily noticed a huge drop in performance was gearing. This was before overdrive was common so to help meet the CAFE requirements they went to really tall rear gearing. The standard gearing went from something in the 3:20-3:30-1 range to 2:45-2:75.

    Like 0

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