Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Oldsmobile Cars Work

1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965 Oldsmobile Cars
This 1961 Oldsmobile Super 88 Starfire convertible coupe was part of Oldsmobile's 1960s lineup.

Despite the likes of Toronado and 4-4-2, big cars remained Oldsmobile's stock-in-trade in the '60s. The 1960 models were basically the expansive "Linear Look" '59s with simpler, more-dignified lines from a below-the-belt reskin.

Pointy "rocket" rear fenders and busier bodysides marked the '61s, followed by more-involved grilles and rear-end treatments for '62. Wheel­bases and series remained unchanged: 123 inches for price-leader Dynamic 88 and extra-performance Super 88, 126.3 for the luxury Ninety-Eight. A 1961 newcomer was the bucket-seat Starfire convertible on the Super 88 chassis. A companion hardtop coupe was added for '62.

Further full-size expansion occurred for 1964, when the Dynamic moved up a notch in price to make room for Jetstar 88s. Among them was the bucket-seat Jetstar I sports coupe with a concave backlight a la Pontiac's Grand Prix.

Super 88 was renamed Delta 88 for 1965; two years later, Dynamics and standard Jetstars were rolled into a single Delmont 88 series. But Delmont would be short-lived, giving way for 1969 to standard, Custom, and Royale Deltas, all on a 124-inch wheelbase. That year's Ninety-Eight moved up to a 127-inch platform.

Despite complete body changes for 1961, '65, and '69, big-Olds styling was remarkably consistent. The dumbbell grille shape persisted through '66, after which the first of Oldsmobile's split grilles appeared.

Lines were crisp and straight through 1964, then progressively curvier and bulkier. Body styles were the usual assortment through '64, after which big station wagons were dropped in deference to new F-85/Cutlass-based haulers, including a Vista Cruiser with a raised, glassed-in rear superstructure (shared by Buick's contemporary Skylark-based Sportwagons) and a 120-inch wheelbase. For 1968, the Vista Cruiser chassis grew to 121 inches, though lesser Cutlass wagons were five inches shorter.

After a carryover 1960, big-Olds power through 1964 was provided by 394 V-8s delivering from 250 bhp in base 88s to 345 bhp in the 1962-64 Starfire. The low-priced '64 Jetstar used the F-85's 330 V-8. The 394 was stroked to 425 cid for 1965, and power rose gradually, reaching 375 bhp by 1967.

A still longer stroke created 1968's massive 455, but it made only 365 bhp, with some power lost to the advent of emission controls and necessary detuning. The '67 Delmont offered both the 425- and 330-cid engines. The latter was boosted to 350 cid and 250 bhp for 1968.

Of Oldsmobile's two big bucket-seat performance cars, only the Starfire had any success. Production zoomed from 7600 for debut '61 to almost 42,000 for '62. But that would be the peak, output tapering fast through the end of the series in 1966. Jetstar I was the same idea at a more-popular price, but it didn't catch on; only about 22,600 were built for 1964-65. Though neither was anything like a true sports car (despite Oldsmobile's claims), they were distinctive and handled well for their size.

For more on defunct American cars, see: