Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Seventy-One Ninety-Eight

Out somewhere between the Canarsie and Flatlands neighborhoods of Brooklyn where street parking is plentiful I passed by this gargantuan slab:
Keep in mind that this rolling building is a 2 door coupe! What we have here is a 1971 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight in Cameo White. In years before and after it was the 98, but this beast was so commanding that they spelled it out in script; Ninety-Eight
This car seems to be butting into your conversation with its mere size. Behind those double grills lies a 7.5 liter 455 Rocket V8 rated at 340 horsepower. It's gonna need every one of those ponies too, as this beast weighs in at a cool 4,500lbs.
*Interestingly the weight of the full-size station wagon was 5,161lbs, or 5,186 with woodgrain!
Viva la '70s!
This year looks almost identical to the year following it with one important detail shown above; in '71 the turn signals were located in the bumper, while in '72 they were above the bumper and below the headlights. Gotta love the fender flares suggesting sportiness in a 2 ton car!
The 1971 Ninety-Eight was the largest full-size car Oldsmobile ever built at about 20 feet long, only to be surpassed (barely) by the Custom Cruiser station wagons a few years later. This example seems to have picked up a set of Cragar SS wheels at some point, with the rears painted white. Blasphemy!
If you squint just so you could be fooled into believing this was a Cadillac from this angle. Those mini fins and vertical taillight placements echo the Caddys of this year, and rightfully so as this is essentially the same car with a different skin and motor.
North Carolina? I'm not buying it for a second! It is an undisputed fact that if you slap an out of state plate on the back of any vehicle you can leave it parked in Brooklyn and never get towed or a ticket. Two examples: I bought a car that hadn't been registered in years but was parked for over a year in the center of Williamsburg with 1 Virginia plate on it. In addition there are work trucks with Brooklyn business names and numbers painted on the doors all around my shop that all have 1 Maryland, Texas, Georgia, or Pennsylvania plate on the back.
So thoughtful for Oldsmobile to add those air vents for all the people trapped in your trunk being driven out to wherever you go to deal with that sort of thing.
As to be expected with a full size American car of this vintage the gas cap is located behind the license plate. 1971 was the first year Oldsmobiles could run on unleaded in addition to the now-defunct "regular" gas of the day.
The fins starting sharply behind the rear quarter window and heading straight back helps to carry the design of such a large car. Likewise the pronounced wheel opening creases help break up what would be a solid block otherwise. The rear skirts are huge! Without them the look is aggressive. 
Well there you have it; a very big ride from a bygone era. This car literally drove out of the factory and into a briars patch of looming safety and emissions standards that were being phased in over the next few years. Cars were going to get slower, smaller, and heavier in tandem while the coming gas crisis and OPEC embargo made customers consider gas mileage for the first time. The fact that this beast lived through several gas price hikes into its 4th decade is nothing short of remarkable. I'll close out this post with a shot of my favorite part of this baroque styling:

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