Oldsmobile Delta 88

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Olds Delta 88

1965 - 1970
310 bhp @ 4400 rpm
3 spd. Turbo Hydramatic
Top Speed:
Number Built:
3 Star
Olds Delta 88
Olds Delta 88
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


1965 was a big year of change for GM’s Oldsmobile Division. As you would expect every full-sized GM product got new bodies and trim, but Oldsmobile received more than that. Inside, outside, under the hood - even the chassis – everything was redesigned. Thus, the Dynamic 88 Delta was an entirely new car. It fitted between the Dynamic 88 and the 98 series, replacing the Super 88.

The Delta's were a plushier version of the Dynamic 88, sharing the 123-inch wheelbase and the wide variety of available options. As with most other GM cars, Olds buyers could choose from an almost endless option list to equip their family transportation for economy, performance, towing, or any combination thereof. Early '65s were referred to as Dynamic 88 Deltas, but a few weeks after the start of the model year, Olds began marketing the line as a separate series known as the Delta 88.

Other full-sized Oldsmobile model lines included the low-priced Jetstar 88, the volume-selling Dynamic 88, sporty Jetstar I and the sporty and luxurious Starfire, all riding on a 123-inch (3,124 mm) wheelbase. All 1965 Olds models featured all new styling and engineering. The B-body cars featured more rounded styling than previous years with Coke-bottle profiles and semi-fastback rooflines on Holiday (two-door hardtop) coupes - Jetstar I and Starfire coupes got a more rounded variation of the squared-off 1963–1964 roofline with concave rear window shared by Pontiac's Grand Prix.

Also introduced in 1965 was the new 425 cubic-inch Super Rocket V8 with horsepower ratings ranging from 300 to 370 depending on carburetion and compression ratio. The new three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission with torque converter replaced the original Hydra-Matic transmission used by Olds since its 1940 introduction. Also new to the option list for 1965 on all B-body cars was a four-speed manual transmission with Hurst floor shifter, which was a seldom-ordered offering.

Few styling changes other than revised grilles and tail sections marked the 1966 full-sized Oldsmobiles. The sporty Jetstar I series was dropped with a lower-priced Starfire only offered as a hardtop coupe taking its place. All other series' 88 models were carried over from 1965 with a new convertible added to the Delta 88 line and the same bodystyle dropped from the Jetstar 88 line. A new option for all senior Oldsmobiles(88, Ninety-Eight and the new front-drive Toronado) was GM's automatic Comfortron air-conditioning system first introduced by Cadillac in 1964.

The big seller was the standard family version, well suited for daily traffic and long trips, easily carrying six people and their luggage. This Delta had a foam-padded bench front seat with a centre arm rest that was supposed to give a bucket effect when folded down. While it did fall short of actually becoming a true bucket seat, at least the seats were soft enough to be comfortable, yet firm enough to give good support to back and legs on long drives. Leg room was adequate front and rear, with lots of front-seat travel for tall or short drivers. Olds' Tilt-Away steering column made it possible for even the smallest driver to see over the steering wheel. The optional tilting wheel had a nice feel. It was smaller than most from the era, with a 16-inch diameter.

Many lamented that, in previous Olds models, the 394 V8 was hooked up to the Hydra-Matic transmission. For 1965 Olds had their own version, the Turbo Hydra-Matic, that claimed a 40% torque increase from a standing start. Using a variable vane that changed from a 32- to a 51-degree angle (depending on throttle setting), this transmission had three multiple disc clutches and two simple planetary gear-sets. It was a vast improvement in operation, with quicker, smoother, more positive shifting throughout the car's speed range. The column-mounted selector could be used to lock the transmission into intermediate or low for towing or descending long grades. No up-shift would occur until the lever was moved.

The Delta 88 was fitted with a then new 425-inch Super Rocket V8, which was a scaled-up version of the 330-incher used in the Jetstar series. The "425" was lighter than the old "394" by 30 pounds, and it came in 300, 310, 360, and 370-hp versions. The 300-hp engine used regular gasoline, while the 310-hp required premium. Both were fitted with a two-barrel carburettor. The higher-horsepower engines used a four-barrel carby. The 394-inch V8 was a direct descendant of the original Rocket-engined Olds that made its name in performance circles as far back as 1949 – and by 1965 it had garnered a stellar reputation for longevity and reliability.

The new V8 featured a beefier crankshaft, con-rod bearings, and its ports and valves. All were considerably bigger than in the 330-incher. All-new valve gear showed a significant change. It used stamped sheet-metal rocker arms retained by stamped fingers bolted over the top of the arms. Mounting the rockers on screwed-in studs let them pivot in only one direction. This meant they would not wear so much as ball-joint-pivoted rocker arms – further improving reliability. The new engine took its crankshaft thrust on the centre main bearing (rather than on the rear main) - one feature it shared with the 330-inch V8. More oil could be directed to the centre bearing, ensuring longer engine life without oil leaking out through the rear seals.

Behind the Wheel

Performance wise the Delta 88 was a reasonably quick performer in standard form, with strong 0-60-mph times and impressive quarter-mile runs – provided you could limit wheelspin. Underneath full-sized Oldsmobiles for 1965 was a new version of their Guard-Beam perimeter frame. It had a K-braced front cross-member and channel-section side rails and was lighter than 1963’s frame. But when mated to the new body shell, the unit was more rigid than before. Recalibrated shocks and shorter coil springs up front (with lower design loads) made the 1965 Olds ride a bit more soft than previously. Shorter, stiffer springs at the rear added to the car's handling.

Although to an observer it looked like the Delta 88 had considerable body lean in corners, there was a surprising amount of control from the driver's seat. The amount of body lean didn't bother passengers much. The ’65 88 was definitely better than the ‘64, showing a big improvement in rebound control on dips and wavy roads. No longer did Oldsmobiles have that roller-coaster feeling – instead they would bounce once and settle down to the straight and level immediately. But even with the improved suspension, the Delta 88 was certainly no race or sports car, nor was it intended as such. But it was easy to drive and control in traffic, on the highway, or on winding roads. Its tremendous power reserve responded instantly, and provided good control during fast cornering to keep things in line. With the new engine lighter than last year's, the car felt better to us and should please all but the racing set with its easy, predictable handling characteristics.

Bigger brakes on the 1965 Olds boasted an 18.5-square-inch increase in effective lining area. They gave straight, swerve-free stops from 60 mph, with shorter distances recorded than the Dynamic 88 hardtop. Both cars weighed exactly the same, incidentally (4220 pounds), so the shorter distances did prove their case. Wider front shoes on the Dynamic 88 and Delta were a definite improvement. The 98 had wider shoes on all four wheels. Olds still offered their metallic lining option in 1965. It was a good choice, especially for mountain or heavy-duty driving. In fact the only problem with the brakes was the unusual amount of front-end dive they would cause – but then this was more a problem with the suspension setup.

Comfortron Climate Control

Behind the wheel Oldsmobile opted for warning lamps over real gauges – which was a shame. And the brushed aluminium instrument panel did not look the goods. It reflected sunlight off the glove compartment door right into the driver's eyes. On the plus side, however, there was a big, round easy to read speedometer, and a huge 25-gallon tank offering a long cruising range. Driving conservatively it was possible to better 15.0 mpg; but you could halve that if you planted the foot.

Comfortron permitted the driver to automatically set a year-round temperature at a constant level. The basic Frigidaire air-conditioning unit offered in previous years continued as before and becoming an increasingly popular option on full-sized Oldsmobiles. Another new option for 1966 was a Tilt-and-Telescopic steering wheel that could be vertically adjusted to six different positions as well as telescoped outward from the instrument panel to improve driver comfort.

For 1967, all GM full-size cars received a mid cycle freshening that featured fuller body panels. More rounded styling cues marked all 1967 Olds 88 models which received longer hoods and shorter decks and more sweeping fastback rooflines on 88 Holiday coupes to emulate the styling of Olds' front-wheel-drive flagship, the Toronado. Olds 88's received a three part front grille made op of a center prow flanked on either side by headlight pods. For the first time since 1959, the dual headlights were split apart by parking lights. Tailights for 88's featured a waterfall design. Interiors made extensive use of woodtone panels, and bright metal finishes were kept to a minimum.

Model wise, there was more name juggling. The Delmont 88 was introduced for 1967 and produced for just two years, replacing both the Jetstar 88 and Dynamic 88 model lines. The Delmont featured the 330 V8 as standard and the 425 V8 as an option in 1967 and the new "Rocket 455" version of the same engine with a longer bore-stroke in 1968. The 425 was standard on the Delta 88. The Delta 88 gained a new subseries called the Delta Custom which had a plusher interior than the standard Delta 88 featuring a Strato bench seat in the Holiday (4-door hardtop) sedan or, in the Holiday (2-door hardtop) coupe, a choice of either Strato bucket seats with console or Strato bench seat with armrest.

The Delta Custom Holiday Coupe was essentially a successor to the former 88-based Starfire series offered in previous years (1961–66) but with a standard 88 semi-fastback roofline rather than the Starfire's squared off roof with concave rear window. Another styling cue for the Delta Custom was the addition of a second set of tail light reflectors set into the lower portion of the bumper. New options for 1967 included front disc brakes, stereo 8-track tape player and a Climate Combustion Control system for Rocket V8s designed to regulate carburetor air temperature, boost fuel economy, speed choke warm up and eliminate winter icing to permit easier starting and more efficient operation in cold weather. The same assortment of 330 and 425 cubic-inch V8 engines were carried over from 1966, as were most transmission offerings except the optional four-speed manual with Hurst shifter, which was discontinued due to low buyer interest.

For 1968, the overall design was a carry over. New front end with split grille design that would become an Olds trademark in coming years highlighted all 1968 full-sized Oldsmobiles with horizontal lines on 88's and egg-crate patterns on Ninety-Eights, along with concealed windshield wipers. The Delmont 88 got a larger 350 cubic-inch V8 as standard equipment and the optional V8 that was standard on Delta 88/Custom and Ninety-Eight was jacked up to 455 cubic inches with a 390 hp (291 kW) W-33 option primarily designed as part of the division's police package available as an RPO on all 88's. Horsepower ratings of other Olds engines included 250 for the 350 two-barrel standard in the Delmont 88, 310 for the four-barrel 350 optional in the Delmont 88. A 455 two-barrel rated at 310 horsepower (230 kW) was standard on the Delta 88/Custom and optional on the Delmont 88.

Optional on all 88s was a four-barrel 455 rated at 365 horsepower (272 kW) from the larger C-body Ninety-Eight. Both the 350 and 455 two-barrel Rocket V8 engines were designed to use regular gasoline while the optional 350 and 455 four-barrel carbureted "Ultra High Compression" Super Rocket V8s required premium fuel. The Delmont 88 got a larger 350 cubic-inch V8 as standard equipment and the optional V8 that was standard on Delta 88/Custom and Ninety-Eight was jacked up to 455 cubic inches with a 390 hp (291 kW) W-33 option primarily designed as part of the division's police package available as an RPO on all 88's. Horsepower ratings of other Olds engines included 250 for the 350 two-barrel standard in the Delmont 88, 310 for the four-barrel 350 optional in the Delmont 88.

A 455 two-barrel rated at 310 horsepower (230 kW) was standard on the Delta 88/Custom and optional on the Delmont 88. Optional on all 88s was a four-barrel 455 rated at 365 horsepower (272 kW) from the larger C-body Ninety-Eight. Both the 350 and 455 two-barrel Rocket V8 engines were designed to use regular gasoline while the optional 350 and 455 four-barrel carbureted "Ultra High Compression" Super Rocket V8s required premium fuel. The 1969 88 series dropped the Delmont name, leaving the Delta 88 as the base model of the series. The Royale trim appeared on a top-line Holiday coupe and came standard with a more luxurious interior featuring a notchback vinyl upholstered bench seat with armrest or Strato bucket seats with optional center console. For safety, a ceiling mounted shoulder belt was offered in the front seats for both the driver and right passenger.

This arrangement provided five belt buckles in the front bench seat. The standard engine in the base Delta 88 was a 350 cubic-inch 9.0 to 1 low compression ratio Rocket V8 with a Rochester two-barrel carburetor that was rated at 250 bhp (186 kW) @ 4600 rpm and 355 ft·lbf (481 N·m) of torque ran on leaded regular 94 RON gasoline. Standard on the Delta 88 Custom and Royale models and optional on the base series was a low compression two-barrel version of the 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 rated at 310 hp (231 kW) designed to use regular fuel. Optional on all Delta 88s was the four-barrel Ultra High Compression 455 cubic-inch Super Rocket V8 rated at 365 hp (272 kW). Top option was the 390 hp (291 kW) version of the four-barrel 455 V8 designed to run on 98 RON octane fuel available in all Delta 88 models as the W-33 option.

The two-speed Jetaway automatic that was previously offered as an option on the smaller engine 88 models was dropped completely in favor of the GM three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 transmission previously only offered with the larger engines. Also a new GM-designed Variable-Ratio Power Steering system was introduced as an option. All full-sized Oldsmobiles were completely restyled for 1969 with more squared off bodylines and rooflines for the Holiday coupes and sedans replacing the semi-fastback look of 1967–68, and ventless front windows on all models. Wheelbases were increased by one-inch to 124 inches (3.1 m). Though the 1969 models were extensively restyled, the basic 1965 chassis design and inner-body structure was retained along with the roofline on the pillared four-door Town sedans.

Inside, headrests were now standard equipment and a new instrument panel included square instruments replacing the round instruments of previous years along with a push-button operated ashtray and rotary glove compartment knob, as well as heating/air-conditioning controls relocated from the center of the dash to the left of the steering wheel near the lights and wiper switches. The high-beam lights indicator was a red rocket located on the dash. Also new was a steering column-mounted ignition switch that also locked the steering wheel when not in use – a feature found on all 1969-model General Motors passenger cars, a year before locking steering columns were required by federal mandate starting in 1970.

Only detail changes were made for the 1970 full-sized Oldsmobiles including a new split grille that no longer extended to surround the headlights and slightly revised rear section. Powertrain selections were carried over from 1969 with both 350 and 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8s now featuring "Positive Valve Rotators" for longer engine life and more efficient operation. A new antenna impregnated into the windshield was introduced this year that replaced the previous fender-mounted unit and was included as standard equipment on all cars equipped with a factory radio. New option this year was a wiper/washer switch mounted in the shift lever knob. Optional radio was a stereo AM-FM radio and a lower dash mounted eight track tape player. The 1965-70 GM B platform is the fourth best selling automobile platform in history after the Volkswagen Beetle, Ford Model T and the Lada Riva.

Oldsmobile Delta 88

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Vernon Vitelle
Posted Recently
I owned a 1969 Olds Delta 88 Royale that I orderd from the factory with the 455 cu/in 390 hp 510 lbs torque pollice package 2.56 to 1 rearend ratio . top speed was 140 mph. best 1/4 mile times I could get with street tires was 91 mph in 15.7 seconds. With a different rearend ratio it obviosly would have done well over 100 in the 1/4 mile. Everything in the car was heavy duty---radiator, battery, alternator,wheels,transmission was turbo 400 with factory shift kit. the more throtle you gave it, the harder it would shift,if you weren't ready for it, it would darn near snap your neck! One hell of a car.The MSRP was right around $6,000, I paid just over $5,000 with every available option.
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