General Motors absolutely dominated the American car industry in the middle 1960s, with Chevrolet alone selling well over 1.6 million full-sized cars just in 1965. Oldsmobile did well that year, too, moving better than a half-million cars out of showrooms. At the very top of the 1965 Oldsmobile pyramid stood the mighty Ninety-Eight, looking down on lesser Olds models plus all the proletariat-grade Pontiacs and Chevrolets. Here’s one of those cars, residing in a Denver-area self-service yard at age 56.
The most prestigious 1965 Chevrolets and Pontiacs (for example, the Impala and Bonneville) rode on GM’s pretty big B platform, but the more upscale Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac divisions each built cars on the really big C platform. This was in keeping with Alfred Sloan’s “Ladder of Success,” in which your first car was a Chevy, after which you moved up through the divisions 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 seems huge, but its curb weight (4,201 pounds) is dwarfed by the current crop of midsize SUVs. For example, the 2021 Buick Enclave scales in at around 4,500 pounds.
Under the hood, we see the 425-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) Rocket V8, rated at 360 horsepower (gross horsepower, that is; this would come to more like 290 net horses if measured using current methods). These engines made vast torque right from idle, whatever system you cared to measure it with, and the ’65 Ninety-Eight moved very well by the standards of the era.
Inside, there’s air conditioning (a $441 option— about $3,910 now— and, yes, A/C was an extra-cost item on all but the priciest cars in 1965), a clock, and an AM radio. I thought about buying the clock for my collection, but 1960s Detroit timepieces almost never 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 fixing up a Detroit non-hardtop sedan of this era. When the Littleton Police Department red-tagged it, the owner couldn’t or wouldn’t move it and nobody felt like rescuing it between the tow yard and the junkyard.
In the trunk, there’s a reasonably modern audio system on a homemade wooden shelf. It appears that the driver would insert a CD or turn on the radio, slam the trunk lid, and then listen to whatever had been set up for the subsequent drive.
There’s an aluminum tank of some sort in the trunk, too, though it’s not plumbed to anything. Was the factory fuel tank leaky and/or clogged with nasty stuff, with this as the in-progress solution?
The body tag shows that this car was built at the Lansing Car Assembly plant in Michigan. Eighty-Eights were built there as well.
It was formed in steel, and the promise was fulfilled. The sleek intensity of the Ninety-Eight says that all of the songs of the open road were written for it.
They don’t write car commercials like that any more!