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Junkyard Gem: 1968 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Custom Holiday Sedan

Junkyard Gem 1968 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Custom Holiday Sedan

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The 1965-1970 version of GM’s full-size B Platform was one of The General’s greatest successes, underpinning nearly 13 million cars. Each of the U.S.-market GM car divisions (except Cadillac) had their own B-Bodies during those model years, from the proletarian Chevrolet Biscayne on up to the opulent Buick Wildcat. Doing business just one small rung below Buick on the GM “Ladder of Success” in 1968 was the Oldsmobile Division, and the king of Olds B-Bodies that year was the Delta 88 Custom Holiday Sedan four-door hardtop. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those cars, found in a Denver self-service yard last winter.

The prestige lines between the GM divisions were starting to get a bit blurry by the late 1960s, when car shoppers could get a Chevy Caprice with a list price higher than that of an Olds Delmont 88 and then option it up to cost more than a Buick LeSabre. At the end of the day, though, your neighbors in 1968 would still have known that an Oldsmobile carried more swank than its Chevy or Pontiac siblings, and that the owner of a Buick could look down his nose at an Olds driver.

However, most GM cars in 1968 were still powered by engines made by their own divisions, in those pleasant days before the “Chevymobile” lawsuits (if they had V8s, at least). That meant that when you bought an Olds 88 that year, it came with a genuine Rocket V8 engine under its hood. In this case, the engine is a monstrous Quadrajet-fed 455-cubic-inch (7.5-liter) Rocket rated at 365 horsepower and an awe-inspiring 510 pound-feet. The ’68 Olds Toronado came with an even hairier 455 that made 400 horses, by the way.

Yes, those are gross power numbers and not the more realistic net numbers we’ve been using since the early 1970s, but this was one respectably quick 4,155-pound car for its era. A buyer of a 1968 full-size Chevrolet could get a wild 427-cube big-block V8 with 425 horses as a (very expensive) option, but even Buick’s 430 couldn’t beat the Delta 88’s torque (that changed two years later with the introduction of the 510-pound-foot Buick 455).

Naturally, this car required premium gasoline and probably never saw double-digit fuel economy at any time, but few Oldsmobile shoppers cared about that until certain geopolitical events took place in 1973. If you bought the 1968 Delta 88 with the base three-on-the-tree manual transmission — that’s right, you had to pay extra for an automatic even on a snazzy machine like this — you could get a 310hp 455 that would run on regular gas.

Speaking of options, this car has a bunch that would have pushed its out-the-door cost well above its MSRP of $3,721 (about $34,214 in 2024 dollars). The four-barrel 455 cost $57 ($524 today), the three-speed automatic transmission cost $158 ($1,453), the power steering was $98 ($901), the air conditioning was a heroic $411 ($3,779) and … you get the idea.

The original buyer of this car wanted it loaded, so it even has the optional power windows.

Oldsmobile became very enthusiastic about borrowing names from American fighter jets during the 1950s and 1960s, and the Delta series was inspired by the moniker of the F-102 Delta Dagger. The Cutlass borrowed its name from the F7U Cutlass naval fighter as well, with the Starfire paying homage to the F-94 Starfire. Apparently, Convair, Vought and Lockheed chose not to make a legal stink about their product names being appropriated by a car company for its products, perhaps because that car company was one of the most powerful corporations in the country at that time. In any case, the F-102 suffered from huge cost overruns during its development, the F-94 was obsolete soon after entering service and the F7U was a dangerous, overcomplicated lemon known as “the Gutless Cutlass.” There’s a lot of history in the junkyard, if you know where to look!

Speaking of aviation history, the build tag tells us that this car was built at GM’s original Fairfax Assembly in Kansas City. That’s where North American Aviation built B-25 Mitchell bombers during World War II, selling it to The General in 1945. F-84F Thunderstreaks were assembled alongside cars there by GM during the early 1950s.

Worth restoring? It’s not rusty, but the interior is bad and even hardtop four-doors of this era don’t get the enthusiast love given to two-doors and convertibles.

Oldsmobile for 1968 has something for old and young! 38 years later, the Oldsmobile Division got the axe.

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