Ah, Oldsmobile, how we miss you. In its golden years it gave us legendary motors such as the Golden Rocket 88, Jetstar and the 442. But when it started offering rubbish in the Eighties and Nineties (looking at you Omega and Cutlass Calais...) and then in its final years disasters in the shape of the Bravada and Aurora, it wasn’t a surprise General Motors pulled the plug on the 106 year old brand in 2004. Today, those terrible vehicles have largely been forgotten and when you think of Olds now, it’s either the rip-roaring muscle cars or the plush, velour- and leather-lined land yachts that spring to mind — and nothing typifies the latter better than the 1976 98 Regency.
During the Seventies, when extra-large cars were in, Cadillac was the go-to brand for those wanting luxury and power, however, most buyers couldn’t afford one and that is where Olds stepped in. It carved out a nice niche by offering Caddie levels of class in models such as the ‘76 98 Regency, which was the top spec, and for a reasonable price too. Sales were very impressive indeed considering the ‘73 oil crisis was crippling vehicles with massive engines — but in spite of its big-block 455 cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 with a four barrel carb soldiering on to produce an all-time low of 190bhp (it made 320bhp in ‘71), thousands of customers put their deposits down due to the model’s upscale appeal. This was the year that Olds became the third best-selling automaker in the US, behind Chevy and Ford, with almost a million units sold. A massive amount of those were the 98 which came mated to GM’s rock solid TH400 three-speed automatic, and with bags of torque and when optioned with the 3.23 gear ratio it could hustle down the road in a real hurry — as long as that road was as straight as an arrow; it didn’t handle at all well but really wasn’t even designed to. The tyres would screech the moment you approached a hairpin turn — but the ‘76 98 Regency was designed to eat up the black top in absolute comfort, and that it did with aplomb. Nobody could resist the button-tufted uber plush electric seats (they resembled living room sofas!) — they were the definition of luxury. In terms of room, you could get lost in there; the split bench seat could accommodate two adults and with a further room for three in the back it could fit six in total with plenty of baggage space in the large boot. This was the final year of the ultra-large 98 (the entire line-up would downsize from 1977) and it sure went down swinging.
A total of 104,481 98’s were built in ‘76 with 55,339 of them Regency saloons and there are still plenty of them about today. You can find very clean and well maintained examples for around Dh70,000.
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