Oldsmobile Delta 88 Review from UK and Ireland

1979 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale 350 diesel

Model year1979
Year of manufacture1979
First year of ownership1990
Most recent year of ownership1995
Engine and transmission 350 diesel Automatic
Performance marks 5 / 10
Reliability marks 2 / 10
Comfort marks 7 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 7 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
5.3 / 10
Distance when acquired97000 kilometres
Most recent distance114000 kilometres
Previous carHumber Sceptre

Summary:

A fine car, apart from the engine

Faults:

Rust, not good when I bought it, although it didn't get much worse.

Re-cored radiator.

Rebuilt brake caliper.

Engine rebuilt twice.

Batteries replaced (it has two).

Starter motor replaced.

General Comments:

My first American car, very comfortable. I was surprised at how few creature comforts I took for granted in European cars were absent. No reclining seats, no back seat armrest, hand cranked windows, the rears only went down halfway - I subsequently found this on a lot of American cars.

However it had comfortable seats and plenty of legroom front and rear, and the trunk was huge, despite the spare wheel taking up a lot of space.

Performance was smooth rather than swift, and the transmission was very smooth.

It was a very good tow car.

Handling was better than I expected, although not great, and it had a remarkable turning circle for such a large car - I could park in amazingly tight gaps.

I replaced the dim sealed beam headlights with Hella halogen lights (a straight swap).

The wiper switch wasn't on a stalk, but I soon got used to it.

American cars don't seem to have headlight flashers; this was disconcerting at first, and I liked the foot operated dip switch.

I wish I had known more about the diesel engine when I rebuilt it. It seems the early engines were a disaster, but later ones (and rebuilt units from Goodwrench) were much better. I didn't know enough about these engines when I rebuilt them; consequently I didn't do the job properly, and gave up on the car when the crankshaft snapped.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 28th October, 2011

28th Oct 2011, 13:46

Wow. A diesel Oldsmobile. It's hard to believe one of those somehow made it to Ireland, because those are some pretty rare cars. You hardly ever see them in the US. I only know one person that had one. He had an '84 Delta 88 with a diesel. It was OK. Pretty sluggish, decent fuel economy, nice interior. Back then diesel was extremely cheap, so it cost nothing to drive. So - how did that thing get over there?

28th Oct 2011, 18:08

The problem with the early 350 diesels were that the head bolts would stretch from the high compression, which caused blown head gaskets. Back then, even dealership mechanics would complete the repair, reinstalling the old head bolts, not knowing this was the problem in the first place, until it happened again 20,000 miles later.

When this problem was resolved by late 1984, the engines were proven reliable, but by then, the reputation was already tarnished, and they were discontinued after 1985. Even today, if you rebuild one using the new high strength head bolts, you will have a good, reliable, fuel efficient engine. Also a water separator (which was not available back then) and better quality diesel fuel help out a lot too.

3rd Nov 2011, 07:05

The car was in England, not Ireland.

It came from Belgium into this country, I don't know if it was sold new in Belgium though, I bought it from someone else in England.

Most older American cars were either imported by enthusiasts or sold by American servicemen stationed in England, returning to the USA.

I understand Uncle Sam would bring a car over for their servicemen, but not take them back.

Most of them were young men's cars, Camaros/Firebirds, Mustangs, Mopar muscle and similar.

However no doubt some senior servicemen ran family cars such as mine.

Average review marks: 5.3 / 10, based on 1 review