Thursday, November 13, 2014

Last of the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eights

For 53 model years, 1941-1996 (less the wartime 1943-45 models that never happened), the top of the Oldsmobile line was the Ninety-Eight series that usually shared bodies with Cadillac and the larger Buick models.  A Wikipedia entry summarizing the various versions of the Ninety-Eight is here.

This post deals with the last of the breed, produced for the 1991-96 model years.  For 1997, Oldsmobile dropped the Ninety-Eight name from its restyled large sedan line, retaining the "Regency" subtype as the monicker.  At this time, Oldsmobile sales had fallen considerably from the heyday of decades past so marketers and product planners were desperately trying to turn that tide.

Since the 1970s, Oldsmobile stylists placed an "eggcrate" theme on Ninety-Eight grilles to help distinguish the line from lesser Oldsmobiles.  This theme continued when the restyled 1991 model appeared, though by 1996 it was weakened when the horizontal bars were placed slightly in front of the vertical bars, thereby gaining prominence and creating a more horizontal feeling.

When the 1991s were introduced, I rather liked the way the eggcrate theme was handled.  Because the profile of the grille was curved to match that of the headlamp covers, the upper part of the curved grille area faced upward, reflecting the sky, street lights, and such.  In other words, the curvature made for a stronger, more obvious statement thanks to the resulting highlighting.

The remainder of the car was largely devoid of ornamentation (aside from grooves on low cladding panels), this in keeping with Oldsmobile theme of "clean" styling that began in 1946.  The body was also rather squared-off, so the rectangular grille holes in a way reinforced the overall styling theme.

Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight styling for 1991-96 was not great.  Rather it was pretty good, unobjectionable.  Unfortunately, that kind of styling rarely excites potential buyers to crave having such a car.  So sales of Oldsmobiles and other GM brands sporting similarly dull designs continued to falter.

1991 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

1992 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

1993 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

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