(This article marks the beginning of Retro Reviews from AutoTrader Classics. Retro Reviews are meant as a casual introduction to classic cars. You won't find 0-60 performance figures or nit-picking about details. What you will find is a real world, down to earth overview of a classic car.)
In 1969 Oldsmobile was in full swing with their automobile offerings. The Cutlass was the dashing muscle car aimed at the youth market, while the more mature buyers were offered the Toronado, the Delta 88, or the grand Ninety-Eight. The Delta 88 was the big brother of the Cutlass and the not much smaller little brother of the 98. At a full size 288" long by 80" wide the Delta 88 tipped the scales at almost two tons. Motivation was in ample supply though thanks to the engine options. Base model Delta 88s got the 250hp Rocket 350, but the more common engine choice for buyers were the trio of Rocket 455 V8 engines (310hp, 365hp, and 390hp respectively). A three-speed automatic was the only transmission choice.
This is a big car. The hood is long enough for an adult to lay out on comfortably. The trunk lid is large enough to play a ping-pong game. The proportions give a long and low look without actually being a lowrider. The headlights use separate high and low beam bulbs (actuated by a foot switch). As expected large chrome bumpers grace each end. Doors are thick and sturdy giving a solid feel to the car.
The interior of this car is gigantic. This particular car has a front bench seat. Seat belts accommodate six people comfortably. Most examples had lap belts only. Controls are laid out within easy reach and are simple to operate. One control that is slightly different than modern cars is the windshield wipers. These are controlled by a sliding switch located on the dash.
The trunk is downright enormous. A family of four can easily pack for a week vacation even with the full size spare in place. On convertible models the top compromises very little trunk room when down.
But enough of details, how does it drive? The best way to sum up the experience is to imagine driving your living room couch. Steering is heavily boosted and the car can easily be steered with one finger. The turning radius is rather large so don't plan on making U-turns easily. Another thing to consider are the generous overhangs at both ends of the car. A tight turn out of a parking space may throw the rear bumper into the side of an adjoining car.
One surprising point is the braking system. When equipped with power front disc brakes option stopping power is more than ample. Slowing from highway speeds is easily accomplished with little drama. Rear drum brakes are standard fare.
The rear axle is geared for highway cruising. Do not mistake this car for a drag racer. The big Oldsmobile engines were designed for tons of power at lower RPM. Where this car shines is on the highway. Long uphill climbs are taken in stride without need to drop down a gear. By contrast flooring the throttle and kicking into passing gear will move this behemoth with authority.
This is your classic big highway cruiser. It will eat up miles of road in relative comfort. This is a great car to take to the local cruise-in with a bunch of friends or the family. Mechanical parts are relative cheap & easy to obtain while body and interior parts are a different story. Expect to get creative when attempting a restoration. Your best bet is to find an example that is already in good condition.
V8 Engines - Rocket 350 (250-hp/355-lb/ft), Rocket 455 (310-hp/490-lb/ft), Rocket 455 L31 (365-hp/510-lb/ft), Rocket 455 L32 (390-hp/5000-lb/ft)
Transmission - TH400 three-speed automatic
Fuel Tank - 25 gallon capacity
Dimensions - 288" long x 80" wide x 55" high
Wheelbase - 124"
Turning Radius - 43'
Weight - Approximately 4,000 pounds
Front Disc Brakes
Power Front Seat
Stereo Tape Player
Custom Sport Seat
Strato Bucket Seats
Foam-Padded Front Seat
Divided Front Seat with Dual Controls
Deluxe Interior Trim
Deluxe Steering Wheel
Tilt Steering Wheel