NEW! Award 115: 1981 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency 13K Survivor – Sold?

by | Sep 2023 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Malaise Monday, NEW Award

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October 30, Update – While this “ClassiFIND” expired recently, given the seller’s history, we suspect it may not actually be sold yet.  For now, we’re labeling this ride “Sold?” However, we will keep an eye out for an updated listing. In the interim, please reach out either by email or call Rudy directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

September 22, 2023 Update – After sitting out the summer following no sale at the original asking price of $21,500 this past spring, the seller of this diesel-powered ’81 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight relisted the car.  This time around, they note the mileage is now at 14,000, and the asking price is now $3,600 less at a still-optimistic $17,900.

May 4, 2023, Update – We confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found, we’re assuming this ride is “Sold?” until we come across a replacement listing.

Say the word “Dieselgate” these days, and visions of the recent Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche emissions scandal come 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 that 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, like-new condition diesel-powered Oldsmobiles are a very rare site.

We spotted this White 1981 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency Sedan for sale, first listed in March 2023 on Craigslist in Shaker Heights, Ohio. With only 13K original miles, this oil-burning Olds appears highly detailed, like new condition. The combination of six-passenger, full-size luxury with 30 miles per gallon highway is a very tempting, albeit slow one. With only 13K original miles, this may be one of the lowest mileage diesel-powered Oldsmobiles left intact.

Last offered for $17,900 (the original ask was $21,500), the downloadable 2023 Old Cars Price Guide confirms the seller’s ask is well above this guide’s #1 “Excellent” appraisal of only $13,000. We note that the estimate is before making a ten percent adjustment for the diesel powertrain.

As a second data point, the  Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask falls well above this guide’s #1 “Excellent” appraisal of only $13,400.  With an asking price over sixty percent higher than the #1 “Excellent” condition on two syndicated pricing guides, we’re awarding the seller our lastest “NEW!” (short for “No Effin Way!”) Award for what could be a very optimistic price.  However, with extremely low mileage, all original classic cars attracting record money these days, the seller could have us eating crow very soon.

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 a diesel engine:

With such low original miles and complete documentation from new, there is a lot about this diesel-powered 1981 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency for sale.  As long as the engine doesn’t rip itself apart, you can enjoy six-passenger full-size luxury while achieving nearly 30MPG.  If the diesel engine finally lets go, your Olds might then be a great candidate for an LS swap and arguably even more valuable at that point.

If you are serious about buying this Ninety-Eight Regency sedan you can start the conversation by contacting the seller using the information found in their Craigslist ad.  When you connect, please remember to mention you saw their restored pickup featured here on Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“13,000 ORIGINAL MILES … Unrestored showroom condition … 5.7 liter V-8 diesel … Limited slip differential … Ready to show and enjoy …

Yea, or Nay? What say you about our pricing assessment of this diesel-powered 1981 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency for sale?  Please comment below and let us know!


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