Hooniverse Malaise-O-Rama Weekend – A 1976 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency Coupe

Continuing on with our Malaise-O-Rama Weekend. In 1976, General Motors had their divisions competing with each other. Of course Cadillac was at the top of the heap, but that didn’t stop Oldsmobile and Buick from trying to steal their customer base. This Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency was a perfect example, as it was the perfect alternative to either a Cadillac Coupe DeVille, or a Buick Electra 225 Limited Coupe. This was also the time in which GM really didn’t pay attention to the offerings from either Ford or Chrysler since they could never produce the numbers that General Motors could during this time period. So let’s take a look at a this Regency Coupe, and discover that it is a Cadillac from another planet.

The mid to late 70 was an era for excess, and this Ninety-Eight Regency is a classic example of that era. Starting with the front GM stopped bothering with hidden headlamps, unlike the competitor from Dearborn, because GM introduced Square Quad Lamps only the year before, and proudly displayed them on all of their “upmarket” cars by 1976. The “Egg Crate” grill treatment is actually a hallmark of Cadillac, so Oldsmobile stylists simply split the grill with a body colored insert. An Oldsmobile Rocket emblem would have fit nicely between the grills, but this is the era in which you have to have a stand-up hood ornament, and so this car has it.

Along the flanks, this car is somewhat reserved, with a slim body side molding, and the usual fender skirts at the rear. Since Cadillac had side illumination when you signaled your intent to turn, Oldsmobile had to have it as well, only it looked tacked on. But where would we be without the contrasting 1/2 Vinyl Roof surrounding the rear window? Unlike its Cadillac cousin, at least this roof isn’t padded.

Out the back, this Regency shares the hallmark of Cadillac, with a hint of a “Tail Fin”. The brake lamps are simplified here, giving the impression of a church steeple, with a “Rocket” emblem fixed on the lamp and with no other filigree. The Strip of Aluminum trim framing the base of the trunk lid is both tasteful, and hides the fact that it is shared with the Eighty-Eight line. Even the Wheel Covers are restrained, conveying Seventies Luxury, without going over the top.

No matter how restrained the exterior was (by 70s standards) the interior is right there as far as excess. The Red, pillow tufted velour upholstery is both eye-searing, and over the top. This is a split bench seat that can be controlled by each occupant with a multitude of electric adjustments. In an age of color-keyed interiors, the red may take a bit of getting used to. The enormous door is also decorated in tufted velour, and what looks like bedazzled beads along the fake wood trim.

This car comes equipped with the Oldsmobile 455 CID V-8, appropriately choked during this era, but providing enough torque to properly merge onto the freeway with authority. With its expansive dash, you would think that there would be instruments a-plenty, but only a speedometer, the fuel gauge, and a fuel economy minder (a vacuum pressure gauge) serving as the only instruments on board. There is a multitude of warning lights though.

The starting bid is $6,000. See the ad here. Is this rare Oldsmobile even worth considering as your dream car of the 70’s?

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  1. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

    And there's that Colonnade-style roofline I mentioned in the last post. Certainly cleaner than the LTD, but it's so undistinguished on a big premium car. And awkward…the proportions are just weird on a coupe this big.
    These are garish, stupid, offensively huge cars that make theSUV craze seem reasonable by comparison. Good riddance.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      There was much talk of Congress and the USDOT enacting roof-crush regulations in the early 1970s. While the legislation never actually came to pass, the automakers – already spooked over seat belt interlocks, safety bumpers, smog controls, and other government nanny-fying – took no chances and did away with their pilarless hardtop designs. It's also a factor in convertibles dying off.

      1. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

        Right. What was weird though was that the four door hardtops continued through '76. And Chrysler offered hardtop C-bodies through '78.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          Ford and Mercury killed off the hardtop sedans after 1974. GM kept them through 1976, mainly because they were already tooled up and all of the 1971+ four-door C-body cars were hardtops from the start. Working up a pillared C-body that was due for replacement in 1977 anyway would have been too costly. Chrysler probably kept hardtops because they were in deep trouble and they needed every single big car sale they could get.

  2. James Avatar

    My grandfather always drove big GM coupes and although he dabbled in Buicks and Caddies, Olds were his favorite.
    I remember (not so) fondly cramming 8 people (5 adults and 3 kids) into one about like this for a 300 mile day trip.
    I remember sitting on arm rest in front at age 6 or 7 and pretending the hood ornament was a site for my imaginary machine gun.

  3. tonyola Avatar

    This is a nice contrast to the red Ford LTD also featured today. The 98 has most of the malaise-cliche styling cues plus the big bumpers, but the car as a whole is much more stylish and interesting to look at. I'd personally take a '76 Electra over a 98, but for a baroque barge, this Olds isn't bad at all. It's also good to see intact rear fender filler-pieces ahead of the taillights – they tended to crack and fall apart over time and they're not easy to replace these days. If the mechanics are as good as the looks, $6,000 isn't a terrible price.

    1. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

      Definitely an Electra over the 98 anytime. Buick had the best styling on the full size platform of all five divisions from 1971-76, and the Buick 455 produced 15 HP more than the Olds 455 in '76.
      Also, the Olds has one of the most poorly designed instrument panels of all time. Notice how the blower switch for the climate control is perilously close to the very similar wiper switch. The horizontal cruise-control toggle switch lurks in the vicinity of the horizontal climate control master switch. And the headlight knob looks lost amid a forest of toggles and sliders. I had a '76 Custom Cruiser wagon and more than once turned the wipers off when I meant to turn down the defroster fan.

  4. west_coaster Avatar

    Ah yes, I was so hoping this had the velour "pillow" seats!
    There was a family on the next street from us when I was a teenager who had a four-door Olds 98 Regency, and the one thing that stands out in my mind was the interior. Theirs was dark blue outside, with medium-dark blue velour pillow seats, and the whole thing seemed like an elderly couple's living room.
    I occasionally got rides to school in it, and their dad smoked a pipe, so between the velour and the pipe tobacco aroma, I always imagined that was what the inside of the Playboy Mansion was like.

    1. Black Steelies Avatar

      Hell yes, that is awesome. I imagine those seats to be far superior than every piece of furniture in my apartment, bed included. A bench seat sofa is in order.

  5. raphaelinberlin Avatar

    Don't know why, absolutely love the looks of these mid-70s Olds. Don't know what i'd have to do, but I just want to make this car look like a Syd Mead sketch, which i don't think would take much modification. What a sweet ride, I couldn't say yes enough.

  6. Black Steelies Avatar

    Oldsmobile really had a thing for those saggy fenders, it isn't becoming given the car's predominant linear dimensions. It reminds me of some old lady upper-arm flab. And I apologize for the visual but damn I can't help it.
    Could also do without the fender skirts.

  7. RichardKopf Avatar

    When I was a kid, I wanted one of these so so badly! I still do, but I would prefer it with four doors.

  8. Joe Btfsplk Avatar
    Joe Btfsplk

    Not you Bro's bro-ham?

  9. red-sled Avatar

    This model 98 is bland in comparison to earlier Olds:
    <img src="http://www.scottlewisonline.com/images/72_98_green_1.jpg&quot; width="500">
    <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3194/3005406288_2ceb7518a4.jpg&quot; width="500">
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5f/1971_Ninety-Eight.jpg&quot; width="500">
    I actually really like the earlier 98. It has some very sharp lines and a hint of '60s Vegas shark suit in them.

    1. Tim Avatar

      Unfortunately the federal government required special impact bumpers and a bunch of other things that changed the "look" of the GM line up by the mid-70's. I think it was in 1974.

  10. alex thalen Avatar
    alex thalen

    is the 1976 olds regency 98 2 dr silver still for sale thanks Alex Thalen

  11. Weayman Avatar

    We're can I reach the oldsmobile 76 cupe owner , the shortcut wasn't there , can someone healp . Weayman@hotmail.com