Tony tracks down a rare and unusual Oldsmobile at a local show and reflects on the model’s history and a shadowy historical connection…
RARE DELMONT 88
Every now and then, a visit to a car show throws up something weird and wonderful. A recent Sunday on the south coast did just that − an unusual Oldsmobile. The Oldsmobile Delmont 88 is one of those mid-Sixties General Motors cars that you seem never to have heard of as it’s not a well-known model and was built only for two years: 1967 to 1968. The car could be had in four different body styles, four-door town sedan, a hard-top four-door holiday sedan, two-door holiday coupe and a convertible. The Delmont was the Oldsmobile entry-level model for a full-size, refined, middle-class American-built vehicle and aimed at buyers who wanted to make a move into more luxurious surroundings.
The Delmont 88 replaced the Jetstar/Dynamic 88 from 1966 on, and could be purchased economically for $3202 compared to a Delta 88 costing £3661. Engine-wise, the 330cu in V8 served as the standard mill, with the 425cu in V8 and the very powerful muscular Rocket 455cu in V8 as an option. For 1967, the California Highway Patrol purchased 1428 Delmont 88s, coded the ‘Apprehender Highway Patrol B07’. The cars were built at Kansas City’s Fairfax plant. As already stated, the car only lasted two years and these ’67 choices were for the first year, as 1968 saw the introduction of the new 350cu in V8 available in 2-bbl and 4-bbl versions, with a 455 now punching out 390 horses. Look out for the distinctive red valve covers which signify this potent beast. The Oldsmobile received minor styling changes for the ’68 models, most noticeably a rear bumper design that took nothing away from its good looks.
The two-door model is one of the finest mid- Sixties era car designs. Sitting on a 123-inch wheelbase and nearly 218 inches long, this is a big vehicle, yet the look of the rear quarter panel when it meets the sloping roofline is a thing of great beauty. With all the windows down, the space reflects a ‘teardrop’ shape, making for a beautiful, totally natural look, coupled with an aggressive front end and signalling one of the last of the fastback models. For me, the Delmont is a masterpiece. For 1967, 16,699 425cu in V8 Delmont two-door coupes were built; nearly 7000 more than came fitted with the 330cu in V8, indicating that Oldsmobile owners of the time liked to put their foot down. Only 3525 convertibles left the factory.
Everything about the Delmont raises questions, opinions and the scratching of heads as folk try to figure out its provenance; the car even gained an unwanted case of notoriety with an unfortunate incident. A 1967 Delmont 88 was the car driven by Senator Edward Kennedy in the infamous Chappaquiddick episode of July 1969. Kennedy claimed he accidently drove the car off a one-lane bridge into the tidal Poucha Pond, killing his passenger, the 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechene, who drowned in the car. Kennedy escaped and swam to the shore; however, he never reported the accident for some 10 hours thereafter. Needless to say, at his trial he was found guilty of leaving the scene of a crime and sentenced to two months imprisonment suspended. Not only did this harm his ambitions to be president, but it also cast a shadow on the rest of his life. He died in August 2009.
In Collector Car circles the ’67- ’68 Delmonts do not command high prices, mainly down to the public’s lack of awareness of the model and a market swamped with Sixties GM offerings – a shame as the Delmont demands a closer look. I caught up with this 1967 Delmont at the Victory Wheelers show on Hayling Island back in April, couldn’t find the owner, but on closer inspection I did discover the car had a big-block 425cu in V8 and was an auto version, making for an excellent example of the breed.