Would You Drive It? 1985 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Brougham Diesel

We here at Barn Finds appreciate the out-of-the-ordinary classics – vehicles that were once commonplace but now occupy a small niche of the broad vintage-vehicle spectrum. This car is one of those machines, and it just so happens that it’s up for sale here on eBay, out of Cleveland, Ohio, with a Buy-It-Now of $6500. Let’s take a look!

The Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight dates all the way back to just before the Second World War, having been introduced to the world as the flagship of Ransom Olds’ namesake marque. The last one rolled off the line in 1996, after 55 years and eleven generations, each generation different from the others.

 

With this particular car, we can see that it has been rather well-kept, as compared to its contemporaries. This one is an example of that eleventh generation, featuring many of the standard-fare GM downsized-car options from the day: Front-wheel-drive, automatic gearbox with overdrive, power accessories and cruise control, pillowy Velour interior with plush carpet, full analog gauges, AM/FM stereo cassette deck, digital clock and trip computer, with plenty of fake-wood and plastic. Much less common is the 4.3-liter diesel powerplant under the hood.

Screen grab from the seller’s YouTube video

The seller tells us that everything works, and that it has only seen about 93,000 miles of road. We’re given multiple photos, except for the engine compartment. We are also directed to view a video on YouTube of it, which includes a test drive, a peek under the hood, and a narrated walkaround. The only flaws noted are a small dent on the leading edge of the passenger fender, and the rear bumper fillers have been removed due to disintegration.

I know what some of you are thinking: “But it’s just a malaise-era Oldsmobile” – and that may be true, however please allow me to direct you to this article on Curbside Classics and ask you to consider for a moment how many are actually still on the road today, let alone how many of them are in this nice of condition. Couple all of that with a guess of how many Diesel-powered smaller cars from that era are still on the road – it’s a safe bet that there aren’t many, and there are fewer and fewer by the day. Vehicles that, like others before, were not especially interesting THEN but they are sought-after NOW. That’s what this car is – a well-kept example of a now-scarce car, at which we wouldn’t have looked twice 20 years ago, but is now a unique classic vehicle. I ask you then, good people of the Automotive world, would you drive it?

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Comments

  1. Tyler

    Drive it until the head cracks!

    Like 1
    • Duaney

      These V-6 diesels are bullet proof!

      Like 5
  2. normadesmond

    I put 180,000 on my ’79 88 diesel. Amazingly, it got stolen(!) I got it back, but it was superficially wrecked though running. I sold it.
    I’d love to have another.

    Like 5
  3. b-rad jeepster

    I worked at an Oldsmobile dealer in 1986 and I didn’t know they made one of these.

    Like 3
    • Tom

      Me too – 82-92-ish. I don’t remember seeing one and the owner loved the GM diesels.
      The 5.7 Olds and the 6.2 trucks came from miles around as he wasn’t scared of them and everyone else was.

      Like 3
      • Mark F Woolam

        i owned 2 1985 98’s both v6 diesel best car i ever owned 42 miles to gal

        Like 1
    • jim

      Looks like on year only .. 1985 and it was named the LS2..blasphemy..lol

  4. Oregon_Guy78

    I want one of these, a gas version. Grandparents on both sides drove versions of these, Buick and Oldsmobile. Tons of fond memories of one grandpa driving with the dog on his lap and the other one drove like a bat out of hell. I remember the AC was always ice cold on hot summer days. I can still here the whine of the power window motors and the clack of the power door locks.

    Like 11
  5. LARRY

    I remember these for one outstanding reason..after a few thousand miles the interiors smelled like diesel fuel and you couldn’t get it out but they were very good cars

    Like 4
  6. Speedo

    We had a 1980 Cutlass Diesel and it was a great trip car. Although my wife hated it as we could go over 600 miles on a tank of fuel. We never had any trouble with the diesel engine, even in extreme cold. If I had room I would buy this just to see the expression on my wife’s face. :)

    Like 15
  7. Classic Steel

    Kind of plane Jane but functionally good.

    So back in the day one started with a Chevy then got a Buick and success continues with going to an olds then a caddy.

    I also remember seeing the prescilla and daughter do the not your fathers olds commercials in 86 with out your foot down etc

    https://youtu.be/0HIJDVx-2-c

    • Cooter914 Cooter914 Member

      No no no.
      Chevy then Pontiac then Olds then Buick and finally Caddy.
      Saturn was a confusing pimple on Chevy’s but.
      Geo was just confusing.
      Best not to think about the depression era which added a half dozen more to fit in somewhere.

      Like 4
    • Paul Reilly

      I think Buick was a step up from an Oldsmobile.

      Like 3
  8. RobM

    Knock a zero off the price and I’d drive it. I had one in high school that I enjoyed owning. The tranny started to slip so I sold it at a profit for $600. I loved my gray paint with red interior. It was just tacky enough for a high school hooptie.

    Like 2
  9. geomechs geomechs Member

    They’re still out there. Back in the day there were lots of them. Some owners were happy and some didn’t like them at all. We sold lots of diesel cars and trucks, and serviced lots more. A lot of undeserved negative publicity on the 4.3/5.7.
    As for this car, it’s not my style. I want an ‘80 Cadillac Eldorado diesel like the one I looked after back in the day.

    Like 5
  10. Lance

    I had one as a company car. That was the WORST POS I have ever driven. It broke down everywhere you went. The last straw was when it snapped a crankshaft doing 60MPH on an interstate. NO THANKS. CRUSH THAT THING

    Like 1
  11. Fiete T.

    I’m sure it’ll be fun to find parts for in the near future and have all the value of a stick. Somebody might want this, but it’ll be a teeny-tiny group

    Like 3
    • Big_Fun Member

      …”all the value of a stick.” Love that. Going to use that quote in the future. If I could, I would give you more than one thumbs up.
      I see the license plate says historical vehicle. Is that because it is the only one left?

  12. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Sure to be a hit at the next Radwood gathering.

    Like 2
  13. Chebby Staff

    The gasoline models were popular when new but not particularly reliable cars, they had lots of quality control problems. I can’t even imagine the diesel. Although with 93k on it and looking this good, it’s safe to assume this one was a “Wednesday” car.

    Like 7
  14. Stevieg

    I had the gasoline version of this car. Silver with red leather interior.
    I was working @ a tow company at the time. My boss got a call from an older suburban gentleman who had the car & wanted to scrap it. Someone attempted to steal it & destroyed the steering column. My boss told me to buy it for myself. So I did.
    It was only 7 years old at the time, so it was very “stylin” at the time. I put a salvage yard column in it & drove it.
    A month or so later, my Uncle wanted me to drive him to his courthouse wedding in it.
    That night I drove them to a local tavern where they rented the hall for the reception. I went with a cousin to run an errand & some chick ran a stop sign & I t-boned her. Totaled the car, although it still drove with a new radiator.
    Her insurance company gave me $4,000 for the car, with me keeping the car. I sold the car to a friend on payments for $2600. That is what he offered me, $100 a week on payments. I would have just given him the car lol.
    I paid $500 + the cost of the column.
    I would drive this car. I really liked my gas one from years back. I loved odd-ball things (cars, people, whatever). This is such a freak that I like it.

    Like 6
  15. JOHN Member

    The Olds diesel blocks were also used quite a bit in drag racing back in the day.

    Like 2
    • Ed P

      Not as diesels. The diesel block was stronger than the gas block. The diesel block was used to build a gas racing engine.

      • JOHN Member

        Exactly, that’s why I said diesel blocks! They were actually sought after more than the venerable 455.

        Like 1
  16. ACZ

    The V6 diesel was a great combination for the FWD “C” car. The car, itself, was lighter than it’s predecessor and the torque of this engine made it perform well. The engine was stronger than the 5.7 as it had 5 head bolts per cylinder instead of the 4 as the V8 did.

    Like 5
  17. Bhowe Member

    I absolutely love oddball cars like this, meaning once were common and have simply vanished. The GM c platform cars were an excellent design and millions of the variously branded c cars were made. The vast majority had the 3.8L 3800 series I and later series II V6 of Buick origins.

    Much more rare, as mentioned, were the diesel variants. My personal collection consists of a decent number of formerly common, now nearly extinct 80s era cars. I guess im that small niche of person that likes the unusual. No mustangs or camaros for me.

    Wish i had more room as i would very seriously consider this awesome find!

    Like 3
  18. Del

    I am going to buy it and put a RAM DIESEL in it.

    Better than an LS Swap 😂🤣

  19. Pete in PA

    I owned and drove several of the 85 Olds Ninety-Eights. One was black with a red interior, another white with a blue interior, and finally a dark charcoal one with a red leather interior. Eventually I bought a silver over gray diesel similar to this one as a parts car, mostly because it was loaded with options like the auto dimming inside rearview mirror and the voice synthesis module. The diesel started and ran great but always overheated and puked coolant. Some investigation revealed that the PO had removed the thermostat. I assumed that the heads were cracked and parked it. A shame, actually, because it did drive so nicely.
    The 85s were weird. Rushed into production, Hydramatic had not really finished the 440-T4 transaxle and friends at GM said that many, many early units were assembled without transmissions and stockpiled, waiting for that component. Also, there was and early/late breakpoint at which a LOT of stuff changed making getting the right parts a challenge. This was a one year only multiple v-belt setup and HEI distributor for the 3.8. For 86 the engine underwent major changes to accommodate the serpentine drive belt and distributorless ignition.
    I really like these cars and put many miles on them. Oh, one other thing — they had more interior lights than any other car I’ve ever seen. Can’t remember if it was 12 or 15 bulbs and it’s too late to think about it now.

    Like 3
    • ACZ

      The part about being assembled without transaxles is not true. There were some that experienced early failures and they could not be loaded on the transports until replacements were obtained.
      There were also some early models built with a 3.0L V6. Same as used in the A car. That option was pulled early on. It was pretty gutless. We had one out at Milford that was a pool car. No one wanted to drive it.
      They were not rushed into production. They were delayed. The FWD C car was meant to be introduced as a 1984 model but was held to be an early 85 intro. Wentzville was a new plant at the time and it was a slow start-up.

      Like 3
  20. Jim Z

    I owned several full size Olds and Caddy V-8 Diesels in the 80’s and 90’s, as well I had a couple of Olds Cutless Cierra V-6 Diesels.
    Bash them all you want, but these cars were built stronger, quieter and with better suspension than gas model equivalents.
    I get tickled when people talk about the diesels being ‘converted gas engines’. Yeah, right. WRONG! To be sure, the early GM Diesels in the late 70’s were under-engineered in the lower end which was remedied by the early 80’s, but by then the damage to their reputation was done.
    All a diesel engine asks is to have good batteries, frequent oil changes, and be run long and hard enough to burn off condensation. You’re welcome!

    Like 5
    • ACZ

      Amen, Jim Z. You know what you’re talking about. I might add one thing to what you said…..clean fuel. My Coupe deVille diesel (1981) got to 270K miles. No problems. Just tires and brakes. The only reason I sold it was I just got plain tired of driving the same car that many miles. It was a sweet ride, though.

      Like 3
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Well here’s someone else who thinks like I do. I worked on Diesel engines throughout my career and was there from the time the 350 came out till it finally got phased out. The problems that they had could easily be blamed several directions. People flocked to them because of fuel economy but didn’t realize that start-stop driving was the worst thing they could do. Service departments were scared to death of them; an ailing diesel showed up and they were the deer in the headlights. Engine not running, or running right? Just change the injection pump and injectors. Out the door it goes still popping back out the intake. Sticker on the battery says ‘Maintenance Free;’ that must apply to the entire vehicle—right? Right from the beginning the 350’s problems were more bad judgement than bad product.

      Like 4
      • Ed P

        GM advertised that the diesel could be treated just like a gas engine. Boy, was that wrong. The original D block required diesel grade motor oil or failure would follow. Many ignored this and the engine was blamed for the problems. The later DX block allowed for gas grade oil but the die was cast. There were other problems like a water separator. GM just did not present the differences for this engine.

        Like 1
      • normadesmond

        A few months after I received my new ’79 88 and reading the manual that came with the car, I phoned the service dept. at the dealership and asked them what kind of oil they used. Thankfully, the moron I talked to told the truth. I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like, “Duh, there’s a pipe connected to something that holds the oil we use. I dunno.” There were explicit specifications in the manual. I ended up using a then new oil, ARCO Graphite. Had the usual issues with the fuel, pump, etc. but the engine ran like a top, almost 200,000 miles.

        Like 2
      • ACZ

        This idea of “diesel oil” and “gas engine oil” is somewhat nonsense. The truth of this is going by the API (American Petroleum Institute) Index. That is what is shown in the owners manual for all vehicles. That is what matters. Most oils have both diesel and gas usage but it’s defined by that index.

        Like 2
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Yes, the API was responsible for the coding of the oil. Back in the late 70s and early 80s there were a number of camshaft/lifter failures but they weren’t confined to the 350 diesels; we replaced more camshafts in gas pots than diesels. Mercedes Benz had an epidemic rate of camshaft failures in its Diesel engines as well. No one will ever admit it but it was strangely coincidental that the API changed its code from SE/CC to SE/CD about the same time. Then suddenly the code was changed again to SF and camshaft failures stopped. A lot of farmers had Olds diesels and I had a few customers who ran Mercedes as well. The majority of those ran ‘Diesel Severe’ rated oil and had very few problems. One of my customers had a Mercedes 300D which he took to his local dealer for a ‘Campaign Camshaft Inspection.’ MB was astounded to see the camshaft look like new at 80K miles when all the others were they checked badly damaged at less than 50K. They asked him what oil he was using and he told them that he was using John Deere ‘Torque Guard Supreme,’ which was essentially Shell ‘Rotella T.’ This customer ran the same oil in everything on his farm, right down to the lawnmower with no failures. At that time oil rated for ‘Diesel Severe’ or turbocharged engines had more than double the zinc. A short time later, Exxon came out with XD-3 which was good for all internal combustion engines except propane and CNG. I had a lot of customers who ran it in those as well with no problems…

        Like 2
      • Ed P

        ACZ, the API Service Grade defines what oil is to be used for gas or Diesel engines.

      • ACZ

        That was what I said.

  21. Jim Z

    I used Kendall Super-D3 in my diesels back then. Rotella nowadays

    Like 1
  22. William

    SUPER RARE!!! Was told years ago by OLDSMOBILE themselves that 88 of these 85’s existed with the diesel powertrain, not really sure, but this is the 2nd one in my entire life I have ever seen, so many couldn’t have been produced, not alone left!

    Like 3

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