Monday past marked 15 years since the end of the Oldsmobile brand. But while the name is gone, the cars certainly live on. So this week, our autoTRADER.ca Find of the Week is one of the classics. With apologies to the GM branding people, this is your father's Oldsmobile. It's a 1956 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight.
Oldsmobile was the child of Ransom Olds, who started the company that would bear his name in 1897. They weren't the first to build cars, but hitting 635 a year by 1902 made them one of the first gasoline-powered cars to sell in any volume. The Oldsmobile Curved Dash had one of the least inventive names to ever grace a car (though if it had been the Italian Curvo Cruscotto instead of English, we'd probably drool over it) but it was the first car built on an assembly line. Yes, it was. Ford's was the first moving assembly line.
Olds left the company in 1904 to form REO Motor Car, and in 1908 General Motors purchased Olds.
It was never easy to peg where exactly Oldsmobile fit into the GM stable. It seemed to sit outside of the rest of the brands. Not pitched as sporting like Pontiac, it was usually as premium as Buick, though not line-topping like Cadillac. Yet it seemed to resonate with buyers, and the Cutlass was North America's best-selling car throughout much of the 1970s.
The Ninety-Eight line debuted in 1941 when Olds decided that it wanted to change names from the F and L series to something more appealing. In came "Series" brands, with Series 60, Series 70, Series 80, and the Series 90. The 90s were the largest, the 60s the smallest. To differentiate which engine was under the hood, there was a 96 and a 98. With a six and an eight, respectively.
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In 1952, near the end of the third-generation of the 98, the names changed again. 98 became Ninety-Eight. Because that's much classier, right? Of course.
The fourth-generation car arrived in 1954 and was available in three body styles. There was the convertible, dubbed Starfire after a prior-year concept, the sedan, which meant a B-pillar and came in two and four-door versions, and the Holiday. The Holiday was a pillarless version, and it came in four-door sedan and two-door coupe forms.
It was a premium model. The Ninety-Eight shared a platform with the Buick Roadmaster and the Cadillac Series 62. That meant plenty of luxury features were available. Well, luxury for the time, that is.
Under that long hood and behind the big grille was a 324 cubic-inch (5.3 L) Olds Rocket V8 making 240 hp and 350 lb-ft in the Ninety-Eight. Up from the previous year thanks to higher compression. Though if you're interested in this car for collectability over driving, we'd recommend verifying the engine in this one. The seller has it listed as a 371 and a 305, neither available that year. The Rocket V8 was matched with a Jetaway four-speed automatic that added a second fluid coupling to the system for increased smoothness.
This Ninety-Eight is a stunner. Black on white two-tone outside, and matching upholstery on the inside. The car comes from California, so it's been spared from many Canadian winters.
It's also well-equipped, with air conditioning upgraded to modern refrigerant, power windows, power seats, and maybe even more importantly, power brakes and steering. It also has a shop manual and original brochure included.
The seller says it has a little over 161,000 km on the odometer, but that the engine has been rebuilt. If you want to cruise this summer in a vintage Olds, then there aren't many models that look better than the Ninety-Eight. Like this one, for sale in Toronto.