1965 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight City Sedan
General Motors absolutely dominated the American auto industry in the mid-1960s, with Chevrolet alone selling well over 1.6 million full-size cars in just 1965. Oldsmobile did well that year too, coming out better than half a million cars from showrooms. Atop the 1965 Oldsmobile pyramid stood the mighty Ninety-Eight, looking down on the inferior Olds models as well as all the proletarian quality Pontiacs and Chevrolets. Here’s one of those cars, residing in a Denver-area self-service yard at the age of 56.
The more prestigious 1965 Chevrolet and Pontiacs (e.g., Impala and Bonneville) drove on GM’s very large B-platform, but the higher-end divisions Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac each built cars on the really big platform C. It was in keeping with Alfred Sloan’s ‘ladder of success’, in which your first car was a Chevrolet, after which you worked your way up the ranks until you bought a Cadillac at the peak of your prosperity. The Ninety-Eight was Oldsmobile’s C-Body flagship, starting in 1941.
This car looks huge, but its curb weight (4,201 pounds) is eclipsed by the current crop of midsize SUVs. For example, the 2021 Buick Enclave weighs around 4,500 pounds.
Under the hood we see the Rocket V8 of 425 cubic inches (7.0 liters), rated at 360 horsepower (raw power, that is to say; this would amount to over 290 net horsepower if measured using current methods). These engines made vast torque right out of idle, whatever system you wanted to measure it with, and the ’65 Ninety-Eight was shifting just fine by the standards of the time.
Inside there’s air conditioning (an option for $ 441 – about $ 3,910 now – and, yes, air conditioning was an added cost item on all but the more expensive cars in 1965), a clock, and an AM radio. I thought about buying the clock for my collection, but 1960s Detroit timepieces hardly ever work and are difficult to repair.
The interior has been baked like overdone cookies by the Colorado sun, but it was very luxurious when new.
It’s not rusty, but few seem interested in repairing a Detroit-era sedan without a hardtop. When the Littleton Police Department marked it red, the owner was unable or unwilling to move it and no one wanted to save it between the tow yard and the scrapyard.
In the trunk there is a fairly modern sound system on a homemade wooden shelf. It looks like the driver inserts a CD or turns on the radio, slams the trunk lid, then listens to what’s been put in place for the next ride.
There is also an aluminum tank in the trunk, although it is not hooked up to anything. Was the factory fuel tank leaking and / or clogged with nasty stuff, with that as a working solution?
The body tag shows that this car was built at the Lansing Car Assembly plant in Michigan. Eighty-eight were also built there.
He was formed of steel, and the promise was fulfilled. The elegant intensity of the Ninety-Eight indicates that all the songs of the open road were written for him.
They don’t write auto ads like this more!