The 1971 Delta 88 was bigger than ever

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Delta 88 overhead Richard Bennett

As the 1960s turned into the 1970s, Oldsmobile was firmly established as what we might call an “aspirational brand” nowadays. The rich history of the famed Rocket V-8, and the modern-as-tomorrow appeal of the revolutionary Toronado, caused many upper middle class folks to look at Oldsmobile as a genuine cut above — not a Buick, perhaps, but certainly the mark of someone on the move.

Oldsmobile’s president during this time, John Beltz, was a car guy in the truest sense of the term. He played an instrumental role in the creation of the Toronado, and was known for finding excuses to go down to the engineering garage and check out new models in development. Beltz had a knack for knowing what the public would crave from the “Rocket Division,” and that knack continued into the early 1970s. Sadly, cancer claimed Mr. Beltz at a fairly young age, but not until after the all-new 1971 model full-size cars were introduced.

The 1971 General Motors B and C cars were the largest sedans and coupes that the company would ever produce. Legendary GM designer Bill Mitchell saw to it that some of his favorite design elements were incorporated into the new designs, most notably the slim A pillars and flow-through ventilation system. Unfortunately the ventilation system, which prominently featured louvers on the trunk lid, had troubles with water leakage. Worse yet, customers complained that they weren’t able to shut it off, making it hard for the interior to warm up in cold weather. The system was extensively reworked for the following year, and the louvers disappeared. Because of this, identifying a 1971 GM large car is very easy.

Delta 88 Royale badge
Richard Bennett
Delta 88 tail light
Richard Bennett

Delta 88 profile
Richard Bennett

Oldsmobile’s Delta 88 line this year featured a base, Custom, and more luxurious Royale model. Our feature car here is the Royale Coupe. The Royale came with the 455 cubic inch Rocket V-8, nicer seating upholstery, and a vinyl top. The big V-8 packed 340 gross hp and had a four-barrel carburetor. It had no problem propelling the big Oldsmobile along at high speeds.

This generation of B body would see several revisions of its sheet metal until its final year in 1976, after which the downsized 1977 models would appear.

Today’s feature car is owned by Brad Ross. His father bought this car from the original owner in 1990 to use as a daily driver. After several years of seeing harsh Flint, Michigan winters, the Eighty-Eight was retired from daily use and kept for special occasions. Amazingly, there is only one rust spot on the entire car, and you have to look to find it.

Inside, the seating still looks new and everything works as intended. The doors still open and close with a nice, solid feel, as the hinges have yet to sag.

Delta 88 steering wheel
Richard Bennett
Delta 88 seat detail
Richard Bennett

Delta 88 door
Richard Bennett
Delta 88 back seat
Richard Bennett

As a kid, Brad knew the Delta was a nice car, but it wasn’t until people stopped to admire it and talk to him about it that he knew he had something truly special.

Every June, you can count on seeing this car at the Oldsmobile Homecoming, an event hosted in Lansing, Michigan.

At one time, Oldsmobile had a tagline that read, “There’s a feeling of pride when you step inside.” Nearly 50 years later, Brad can attest that this is still the case.

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