Dieselgate I: 1980 Oldsmobile 98 Regency – Sold?

Nov 2020 | Classifinds, Malaise Monday

January 31, 2021 Update – We just confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found we’re assuming this ride “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call Rudy directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

Say the word “Dieselgate” these days and visions of the recent Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche emissions scandal comes to mind.  However, some of you may not be aware or remember General Motors had its own diesel scandal in the early 1980s. The Oldsmobile Division created a diesel engine family based on engine designs originally intended for gas power.  The lack of reliability of these engines proved so disastrous for GM the company ended up offering affected customers to have their cars converted to a gas-powered V8 at no charge.  Subsequently, many owners took advantage of the offer and so today original condition diesel-powered Oldsmobiles like this 1980 98 Regency Sedan currently originally listed in November 2020 on Craigslist Mansfield, Pennsylvania with only 55K original miles and an asking price of $7,500 are now a very rare sight.  Researching that price in the Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the private seller has 98 Regency priced between this guide’s #3 “Good” estimate of $4,600 and its #2 “Very Good” appraisal of $7,200.

Oldsmobile restyled both the 98 and Delta 88 for 1980 featuring new exterior sheet metal that did not drastically change the look of the car. To improve aerodynamics and fuel economy the hood was sloped downward, while the trunk area was higher. This also gave all models a heavier, more substantial appearance, while even slightly increasing interior and trunk space. A redesigned steering wheel and slightly revised instrument panel were also new that year.  Produced through 1984, this tenth-generation 98 turned out to be Oldsmobile’s last body-on-frame, rear-wheel-drive version.

Oldsmobile produced three versions of a diesel engine between 1978 and 1985: a 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 in 1978-85, a 261 cu in (4.3 L) V8 in 1979, and a 263 cu in (4.3 L) V6 from 1982 until 1985. The engines powered front and rear-wheel drive vehicles; the 4.3-liter V6 was adapted to both transverse and inline front-wheel-drive applications. Sales peaked in 1981 at approximately 310,000 units, which represented 60% of the total U.S. passenger vehicle diesel market. However, this success was short-lived as the V8 diesel engine suffered severe reliability issues. While Oldsmobile had appropriately strengthened the block, they left the head bolt design and pattern unchanged to enable them to use the same tooling as for the gasoline engines.  Catastrophic head bolt failures were thus legion, as diesel engines have compression ratios that are as much as three times higher than a gasoline engine. The sales and reliability woes were compounded by a decline in gas prices as well as fuel quality issues including large volumes of diesel fuel containing water or foreign particles.

Here’s a MotorWeek review of a similar 1982 98 Regency model equipped with the diesel engine:

With low original miles and what appears to be a very straight and rust-free Arizona car, there is a lot here to like.  As long as the engine doesn’t rip itself apart, you can enjoy six-passenger full-size luxury while achieving nearly 30MPG.  When the converted diesel engine finally let’s go, your Olds might then be a great candidate for an LS swap. Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“For sale a nice 1980 Olds 98 Regency with a 350 CI Diesel Engine. Rust free Arizona car, 55000 Original Miles.

Do you have an Oldsmobile diesel story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!

2 Comments
  1. Robert E Hays

    Buying an Olds Diesel could be real problematic, back in the day, when time came to trade. Someone asked me once, “Which of these does NOT fit: Herpes, syphilis, or an Oldsmobile Diesel?” Of course, I thought it was the car, but he said, “Nope. Syphilis. You can get rid of that!”

    Reply
  2. Michael Gorgia

    Nice car. I had a customer who would only let me work on his 81 Regency diesel. He just didn’t trust anyone else. LOL. BTW: The kid in the Olds diesel commercial is my cousin’s son.

    Reply

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