The Rolling Unicorn – 1982 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham Coupe Diesel With 44,000 Miles

This Malaise Era Oldsmobile luxury coupe represents the 1% of the 1%. Is it worth keeping with that diesel engine under the hood?

bySteven Lang|
The Rolling Unicorn – 1982 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham Coupe Diesel With 44,000 Miles

How terrible was 1982 when it came to cars?

Well it depends on your favorite brand of that time. Acuras and Yugos did not quite fill in the range of available brands, and the Korean automakers also hadn't quite come stateside.  But there was plenty of competition from Japan Inc., which was an apt term for describing how the Japanese automakers and government worked in tandem to create the emerging powers in the American automotive industry.  

Toyota enthusiasts in the USA got to see the debut of two cars that would become legends. 


The Toyota Celica Supra

And The Toyota Camry.

My brother Paul would buy one of those Celica Supras by the time 1984 came along. It was the first sports car I ever sat in and it left an impression that 33 years later hasn't quite left my mind. Even today it's hard for me to think of a better daily driver from the late Malaise Era that wasn't a Porsche with a price tag that doubled or tripled the near equal that Toyota offered.

The velour cloth interior. The slightly notchy five speed that I would snick-snick through when it was parked. As I gradually evolved from an 11-year-old who asked all the questions, to a 17-year-old who knew all the answers, that Toyota Celica Supra eventually became a bedrock foundation of what I believed a high quality sports car was all about.

What was the opposite? This!

Steven Lang

Now before I take that abrupt hard left hand turn and badmouth what may very well be one of the worst engines from the Roger Smith era of GM, and trust me, that's quite an achievement in vehicular lousiness, let me clue you in on a few things regarding the Oldsmobile Delta 88 without a diesel.

Steven Lang

These cars miniaturized the grandeur that once was the pre-1973 American luxury coupe.  Two-thirds the length. Half the horsepower, and a powertrain that was likely the same exact one that could be find in any other Chevy, Buick, Pontiac, or Cadillac. GM back in the early 1980s was a rolling lesson in how truly terrible an enterprise could become when it came to trying to please everybody by pleasing nobody. 

Steven Lang

The Oldsmobile diesel engine wasn't truly terrible. A little bit below average? Oh God! Without a doubt. Way below average? Sigh... yep! But the Oldsmobile Delta 88, despite being six model years old, was eons better than the other new cars from that era when you compared it to its competition.  

By 1982 GM wasn't just bad, they were heinous. This is what GM was selling to compete with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

and this would go on to fill-up the rental fleets that the Toyota Camry steadfastly ignored because it could command the premium prices that GM could not.

Notice this guy isn't smiling. Why would he?

Then there was the car that cemented the Chevy brand as a bottom dweller in the sports car world. Thanks in part to GM's 'Cost First!' decision to offer the same Iron Duke engine that was in these other two rolling dogs.

The plasticized POS known to early-90s junkyards as the 1982 Chevrolet Camaro was to the Toyota Celica Supra, what the ancient armies of Crete would be to modern day NATO. 

General Motors decided to let their own ancient armies of rear-wheel-drive cars march on way past their expiration date just in case the public decided that the new models weren't quite as good as the old ones. 

That turned out to be their one wise decision.

Steven Lang

The only reason why this 1982 Oldsmobile 88 diesel survived was because it was rarely driven. These engines were given filtration systems that simply couldn't handle the poor quality diesel gas that had become a common reality during the Carter-Reagan years and as a result, a massive number of these became crusher fodder at the local junkyards. 

Like a super-model with a severe meth addiction, these Oldsmobiles were best admired with rose tinted glasses that could show the before photos instead of the after. Nostalgia always has a way of making the wretched almost desirable. So in honor of the accounting driven organization that was General Motors in the 1980s, I offer to you a gallery that features one of the best 'before' cars from 1982.