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1978 Oldsmobile 98 Regency is drive down memory lane

- - Thursday, September 29, 2011

With the singular exception of a Chevrolet purchased in a moment of weakness, Marvin Jackson has remained true to the Oldsmobile brand. The Chevrolet didn't let him down; it just wasn't up to the standard that he had come to expect from Oldsmobile.

"Oldsmobiles always served me well," Mr. Jackson says.

With no particular target, but with anything labeled "Oldsmobile" in mind, in the autumn of 2005 he was roaming around the Internet when he saw a low-mileage 1978 Oldsmobile 98 Regency offered for sale. The Camel Tan Iridescent paint on the big car was highlighted by the Camel Beige padded vinyl top and the Camel Beige pin striping.

Mr. Jackson saw several pictures of the Oldsmobile and had a lengthy telephone conversation with the seller before purchasing the car with the agreement that the seller would hold the car until December.

In mid-December Mr. Jackson and his wife, Hilda, traveled to Atlanta to visit his extended family. After a few days of catching up on family matters, Mr. Jackson and his wife, accompanied by his sister, Gloria, set off in a rented car to Cleveland, Tenn.

Mr. Jackson had purchased the car from the nephew of the original owner, sight unseen, with the agreement that when Mr. Jackson's check cleared, the seller would send him the title to the car. With the title in hand, Mr. Jackson visited the Department of Motor Vehicles and purchased a set of license plates.

He had those plates with him when he drove up the driveway in Cleveland, Tenn., and first saw the shiny 18-foot, 4-inch-long Oldsmobile. He immediately knew that he had made a good deal. The odometer had yet to record 38,000 miles.

Lifting the expansive engine hood, Mr. Jackson saw a clean engine compartment around an air cleaner with an "Oldsmobile 403" decal, indicating that this was the biggest engine Oldsmobile offered in 1978.

Even with 403 cubic inches, the output was only 185 horsepower.

In 1978 Oldsmobile built the Starfire, Omega, Cutlass, Delta 88 and the front-wheel-drive Toronado. Additionally, 78,100 of the 98 models were manufactured, each one of the 3,836-pound cars with a base price of $7,726.

With all the accessories included, the original owner paid $8,625 for the car that had a window sticker price of $10,202.55.

What drove the price up were the optional extras including:

Y Air conditioning...$638.

Y AM/Fm, eight-track..345.

Y Padded vinyl top....187

Y Six-way power seat...127

Y Power door locks....118

Y HR78x15-inch tires..100.

Y Cruise control.....100.

Y Rear defogger......97

Y Soft-Ray glass......79

Y Tilt steering wheel....73

Y Lower side molding...66

Y 403 cid V-8 .......65

Y Automatic antenna...45

Y Upper side molding...42

Y Accent stripe......33

Y Right mirror......32.

Y Trunk release......21

Y Door guard.......20

Y Convenience group...14

Y Front floor mats....13

Y Rear floor mats.....12.

On Dec. 8, after topping off the 24.5-gallon gasoline tank, Mr. Jackson and his wife settled into the luxurious Oldsmobile that is almost 6 1/2 feet wide and set off for home in the District, cushioned by the 119-inch wheelbase.

The enormous 20-plus cubic-foot trunk easily swallowed their luggage and Christmas presents although Mr. Jackson wasconvincedd that he was driving his Christmas present.

He notes that the interior was like new and featured the loose cushion look in crushed velour that was popular three decades ago.

The weather cooperated all the way home and the Oldsmobile accumulated only the usual amount of road grime, which Mr. Jackson was quick to remove. After that trip, Mr. Jackson declared that in the future, "if it snows, the car doesn't go."

He swears that he will never drive more than 85 mph because that's as far as his speedometer goes.

At one of the inevitable gasoline stops some bystander is sure to inquire about the gas mileage his Oldsmobile achieves.

Mr. Jackson's standard reply is, "It doesn't burn any more gas than it did when it was new. I'm just paying more for it."