I spotted this survivor, battle scars intact, at the Pavilions Market here in Monrovia. This Olds 88 was built on the “C” body from GM, the “smaller” of the two full size automobiles GM offered up consumers.
1974 was a pivotal year for the American Auto manufacture. The 1973 Oil Embargo ended in March, barely 6 months after it started, fuel supplies were again stable but the prices didn’t drop. Gas had risen from barely 37 CENTS/gallon to 56 CENTS/gallon.
Make the jump for a bit more on this car and 1974’s impact on the history of the American auto.
1974 was the worst year ever for fuel economy. Engines were detuned and mechanical smog control equipment choked them further in an effort to lower the toxins coming out of tailpipe. They gained weight as the new for that year front and rear 5mph bumpers added nearly 500 lbs to the weight of the car. It was not uncommon for a full size car to average single digits in town and barely break the barrier into the teens on the highway. All this brought the first big shift from the traditional large car to smaller cars.
GM offered airbags on this car as a option that year. Few sold as it was a $700 option, which was steep when you look at a base price range of 4200-4500.
1974 was one of the landmark attempts at social engineering forced upon the citizens of this country. In an effort to reduce fatalities the “starter interlock” was introduced. Simply, a switch was put in that would not enable the car to start until the front seat passengers put their seat-belts on. That failed miserably as the disconnects and workarounds were done within days of getting the car home. The uproar among consumers lead to the cancellation of the interlock before the model year was over.
From its introduction in 1951 until 1974 the “88” was Oldsmobile’s sales leader. The Embargo shifted the title to the Cutlass in 1975 which it held for the brand until it was cancelled in the 1990s. The Oldsmobile brand died in 2004.
Pic by me with the trusty cell phone cam.