A long history, but it is worth reading:
I was commuting to school everyday in a car that ate gasoline like it was going out of style. I didn't want to get rid of my baby, a 1987 Cutlass Salon, so I decided to purchase a fuel saving, yet large automobile. My dad was a Subaru technician at a dealership that sold Subaru, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and GMC trucks. Ever since I was a little kid, I loved the Oldsmobile 98 Regency model. Well, there I was at age 19, still thinking about how much I liked the 98, and was ready to purchase one or at least something similar.
There was always something coming into the dealership. The lot in the way back was always full of something interesting. That was known as the wholesale or "buy here, die here" lot. The dealership had a lot of core customers, who would trade in their old LeSabre or Park Avenue for a new Oldsmobile, however, I was being picky and was waiting for a red 98 Regency Brougham with all the goodies.
Finally I got a call from my dad, and he let me know a nice one was just traded in and was for sale. The price - $1,800. There was always good communication between the sales department and the mechanics. They sold the cars for what they had in them. The person who owned the 98, traded it for a new Delta 88 LSS. I bought the car right away, and then the nightmares started.
The day I bought it, a parts delivery truck backed into it, wrecking the rear bumper, tail light and reverse light. The body shop at the dealership fixed it right away, but the black strip on the rear bumper was all black and now did not match the front bumper.
I really enjoyed the large car feel. I think there were 22 lights inside of the car, but no dome light. The rear passengers had ashtrays and lighters, something that I had to take out when they found out about them, the front seats were more like a couch than a car seat. All of the seat controls were laid out just perfectly. The rear seats were just as nice, and many of my pals passed out in the back for long trips or long nights. The steering wheel had the controls for the stereo and HVAC. The dashboard had endless gauges and a computer information center that gave all kinds of information like fuel mileage, trip destination time, oil life monitor, date, and would even read out "Good Morning, Afternoon, Evening" - how thoughtful.
OK, so I know you are thinking what is so bad about this car. He mentions a lot of bad things in the "what has gone wrong" category.
After owning the car for about a month, I was noticing that every time I was driving up a hill and making a turn, the transmission would slip. I was a bit concerned because I didn't have a warranty, and one doesn't rebuild a 2004R transmission, you have to buy a refurbished or new one at the tune of at least $2K. Turns out my transmission fluid pump was bad and burning up fluid. Great. Fixed it for a bit over $100 and was on my way again. Flash forward a few hundred miles and my A/C dies. I buy a new compressor, valve, everything to do with the A/C system! Then I had cold air conditioning again.
Around the 100,000 mile mark, many things start going bad. I will admit that a 19 year old male will not treat a car with utmost respect. I did like to run it hard. The speedometer pegged out at 85 mph, but the electronic info center had a button that let you know what the speed was too. It wasn't uncommon for me to show off the 120 mph mark. The engine on that car was great, and it still is because GM refuses to let the 3800 die. I liked to make faces at other people with a much "hotter" car at intersections, i.e. Hondas with a big muffler, or any other import or domestic with another alpha-male behind the wheel. After smoking them at one intersection, the look of defeat in their faces would make me feel good about the Oldsmobile and its hidden qualities. I called it being under the radar. Not too many teens owned one, and mine was always clean and never had any stickers on it. Cops didn't see me. Even though I enjoyed those moments of fun, I did keep all the required maintenance checks in place. Valvoline every 3,000 miles, correct tire pressure, all fluids in check at all times.
One afternoon I was pulling out of a parking lot and all heck broke loose. Everything was working fine, but when I was about to turn into the street, the engine began to idle at about 500 RPM. The check engine light was on, and "required service" flashed on my electronic info center. The cam sensor fell off of its magnetic base. What a pain. The car was in "limp home" mode. Thankfully my dad was once an Oldsmobile mechanic, but it was for a different kind of simple Oldsmobiles without cam sensors and front wheel drive. He cursed it out and fixed it. What an ordeal.
Cam sensor fixed, AC working, transmission fluid pump pumping, everything seemed OK, for now. My good friend had started college down in Kentucky and I wasn't going to let a few hundred miles spoil a friendship. The 98 and I made many trips down to Kentucky from Eastern Pennsylvania. 1,366 miles round trip at least three times a month for one semester, when he decided to transfer to Penn State. The Oldsmobile transported me and other friends in total comfort. Quiet ride mixed with an excellent stereo system that I installed made for a rewarding trip. The Oldsmobile loved the open road and these trips proved it. I would fill up at home, Weston West Virginia, drive all the way through the mountains of WV, and fill up again in Paris, Kentucky. There were times that I would achieve 40+ MPG for miles at a time. I would usually encounter lousy weather, but the car handled extremely well and never missed a beat. While down in Kentucky, the 98 turned into the drunk bus. At one time I did have half of the men's rugby team singing songs in the car. Big trunk means lots of beer too. I suppose these were the days that I miss when I think about the good times in the car.
Time passes and the miles and age are racking up. I was driving home from college making my usual turns, and then had to power up to merge onto a busy interstate highway. I give her full gas and nothing. I get a few backfires and then all the idiot lights light up. I coast to the shoulder and sit. I fire it back up again, and let it idle. Everything seems fine, so I merge back onto the highway and it dies again. Fuel pump? Coils? Spark plug? Keep guessing. I limped it at about a 35mph clip with the four ways flashing to the dealership where my dad works. We worked on it until late at night testing everything. Turned out to be a bad catalytic converter. It fell apart and wouldn't let exhaust out. Lucky for me, at the time our county in Pennsylvania had no requirements on that part. Out it went and a nice straight pipe was installed. What a difference! I think I gained power after that.
That was a setback, but it was still a pain. There is more to come. KEEP READING!
OK. Now keep in mind if you own a 98, you know what it looks like on a nice day. You know how the interior feels and smells when it is clean. Imagine one that is deep burgundy with matching velour interior. That was mine at the time. Clean, shiny, and welcoming. The only parts that are not right on the exterior are the rocket emblem is missing the black plastic pieces, and the rear bumper trim doesn't have a white stripe in it. It looks pretty good, but look at the owner. He is 20 and has about had it with the maladies on his nice car!
(2000) I'm now working for a small company. My friends are all going to Penn State main campus. I still own the nicest Oldsmobile 98. I have fixed, for the second time, both front door arm rests. All of the hardware has proven too much weight for the doors. Having all the switches for the windows, seats, and mirrors on one weak spot proved too much. No. I didn't use duct tape, I removed both panels and riveted new steel to them and the door to keep the armrests from falling off even more. I have seen duct tape used for that - it doesn't work. When I was done, the doors looked like they left the factory. Nice and clean.
I started to have issues with the seatbelts too. I never liked the idea of having the seatbelt in the door. Especially the doors on my 98. There was already too much stuff in them. Wires, speaker, sound deadening material. The driver's side belt would like to unravel itself and not recoil, and the latch in the driver's seat would not release unless I pushed the button in and pulled at the belt at the same time. The passenger belt would refuse to uncoil unless the door was at an angle or opened. I thought that was pretty bad, and that was one of my last thoughts before I got rid of it. Anyway, back to the main troubles.
I noticed a miss while I was driving. The miss occurred when the car was in overdrive and traveling at a 50-70mph clip. Passengers didn't notice it. I did. It was a lot like an itch that you can't scratch. It would go away when I disconnected the overdrive switch under the hood. However this would make the check engine light come on and I lost 4th gear. Fuel mileage would go down and third gear was too high a gear for highway cruising. My dad discussed the problem with the GM boys at work, and they said it was probably a PROM chip. Replaced PROM. No fix. ECM they said. Replaced ECM. No fix. Coils, module? Heck, why not replace them too. I'll just grab some more money off of the tree in the back yard. I replaced all of those with no fix. It was a lot of money, but I still felt it was worth it because I liked the car, and I was paying my dad's prices and getting free labor. Besides, those parts were old anyway.
Now with a bunch of new electronics and a false sense of GM quality, I take off for another trip to visit friends in State College, PA. On this day I remember I was taking three friends with me. I made it up to State College and despite my chuggle, everything was fine. I had a great weekend, but it would be dusk soon and I had to get people home. We all piled in the 98 and I started it up. To my surprise, a plume of smoke flowed up through the steering column and out through the turn signal stalk, tilt stalk, and shifter. Hmmm. I figured this would be the end. I didn't want the Oldsmobile to burn to a crisp or be half burnt and waterlogged in a stupid parking lot three hours from home. We all stood around it for a few minutes. I got back in and started it up. I searched for more sparks or flame, but it was to no avail. Hmmmm again. Well, I decided it was OK to take home. I started out of the parking lot and found out that I had no turn signals. Well that rots, because I am a good driver and always use them, but OK, I'll fix it when I am back home. Dusk falls about halfway home. I'm driving down a lonely stretch of I-80 that is really a no-mans land of beautiful Pennsylvania landscape. My buddy and his girlfriend are asleep in the back and my friend, a girlfriend of a PSU pal is asleep in the passenger seat. The sun is setting behind me and I decide to turn the headlights on. Again. HMMMM. No headlights. I'm calculating my risks while everybody is asleep. I need to get home. I'm not getting home before dark. I can't stop anywhere because it is Sunday and it’s late. Gun it. I sped through Pennsylvania at a good clip to make it home in time to drop off my last passenger before total darkness. I made it home just as it would be really stupid to drive without lights on. What happened? Well about $240. A switch that controls everything in and on the column along with the headlights burned out. It was located deep within the steering column, which was another job done by swearing up and down at it by my dad. Once again, it was fixed. For now...
I'm on a date. A nice night of awkwardness, dinner, and a movie. Perhaps my Oldsmobile has a Christine effect on me and doesn't like my date, but I figure no way, the Olds hates me too. On the way back to my date's house I come to an intersection. Keep in mind that I am 20 miles from her house and 30 miles from my house. I'll be driving another 50 miles from this point no matter what. The car knew and was ready to spring something new on me. I pull out of the intersection and I hear it. GRUNT, CLUNK, CLUNK! "What is that she said" I reply with @%#*@%! I lost first and second gears, but I still had third and fourth. I can make it, I hope. It is a quiet ride home, except for the transmission throwing a fit. I drop her off and say goodnight. I get back in the car and ask it to PLEASE get me home. It made it home. I was ever so graceful in my acceleration. The next day I had my dad look at it and he said the trans is shot. The timing was perfect too. He had just changed jobs to an all Subaru dealership that didn't have any of the tools needed to fix my car. I drove it to the old dealership. It was quite the trip. The last 1,500 feet were accomplished by driving it in reverse as that was the only gear left. I had to do some deep thinking now. Is it worth keeping? Well, if I could go back in time, I'd slap myself in the head and say it isn't. But I was faithful to my car and didn't want to see such a gem end up in the bone yard because of a rotten transmission. $2800 later it had a new transmission from GM. Keep in mind that I spent more on the transmission than on the car itself a few years back. WHAT WAS I THINKING!
I'm taking another trip up to State College. This time I am taking one of my friend’s girlfriends. We have an uneventful trip on the way up until I get to State College. The transmission, which still had a chuggle, started to slip very bad. Keep in mind this is a week after a new one is installed. I manage to get it into a parking lot and check the fluid. I pull out a fuzzy stick with burnt fluid and fragments all over it. That is where I lost it. I lost it in a Pep Boys parking lot in State College Pennsylvania. The hood became dented with large fist marks. I kicked the grille and swore at it. The poor girl that was with me was freaked out, but understood how I felt. I walked into the store and bought ATF and a funnel. I swear it took six quarts of ATF. I was very angry with everything. Once it was filled I just beat the snot out of it. I no longer cared if it was shifting at all. I knew the new transmission was no good. I tried to have a good weekend, but I knew I'd be spending another three hours in the 98 too soon.
I drove us home on a Sunday. I told my dad what had happened and we took it to the dealership again, where they flushed the transmission and said everything was fine and didn't want to replace it. Fine. I wasn't keeping it for much longer. A few weeks went by. I was searching for a new car. I found a car that I wanted, a 1993 Eagle Talon, - you can read that review too "Thumbs Up DSM" and the Oldsmobile had just one more trick up its sleeve. I started it before I went to work one morning and the throttle ran itself up to about 6,500 RPM. It wouldn't come out of that setting no matter how many times I turned it off or tried to manually kick it down from that idle speed.
I traded it in. I did not care what I got for it. I didn't want to see it again. I traded it for it opposite. A small two door sports car with very limited options. No more automatic transmission, no power windows, no chuggle. The used car salesman gave my Oldsmobile a once over. I had replaced the hood with an exact color one from a junkyard that Olds probably had a bad trans too, and grille. He thought the car was beautiful. Under the hood looked great, the interior looked like new, all the buttons were clean, the wheels and tires were great, the electronic pull-down on the trunk worked, and the stereo sounded great. I signed the car over fast, got the keys for my new car and ran out smiling.
I miss the simple beauty of it. I was proud to own it. It was always kept neat and clean. A lot of stuff that should have broken on it never did. The electronic HVAC controls worked perfectly, the self leveling suspension worked flawlessly, the electric pull down and release for the trunk and fuel door were perfect. I put many miles on it and the interior never got old. The quality was excellent. It wasn't rusty and it floated down the highway while getting excellent fuel mileage. My friends all loved it. The bench seat up front was perfect for comfortably resting my arm around the passenger seat or around a date. Most of all, the car let you know you were driving something special. There were at least ten visible Oldsmobile logos or words written or embossed throughout the cabin. My Talon has an emblem on the horn. Then again, I don't miss all of the problems that I had with it.
I'm sure if anybody comments on this long review, they will note that I beat up the car and it was my fault. I would respect that if it was entirely true; however I managed to put 115,000 on it from 1999 to 2001.
Whatever happened to it? Well, oddly enough I knew that I'd probably see it again someday. I traded it at a small local car lot that sold a lot of GM sedans. Most of the business went to older people in the market for a car like the 98. There aren't too many nice 1990 98 Regency Broughams around, especially one like mine with the incorrect rear bumper guard and two scratches on the passenger side rear door. I spotted it a few times after I traded it. I walked up to it in a parking lot to make sure it was my old car and it was, although now it had a statue of Mary on the dashboard and a cane in the back seat. I don't think the used car lot even cleaned it because I had kept it so nice. I felt kind of strange looking at it. I almost wanted to say sorry, but I held back. I did tell it to be good. I assume now that the car is either sitting in a garage waiting for a Sunday ride to church, however I think it has been shredded into a few hundred pieces and melted down with a lot of other cars and formed into an ingot and sent back to GM to make another one.