1985 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency sedan

“It goes beyond the Ninety-Eight of your mind to the Ninety-Eight of your dreams.”

The 1985 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency sedan was substantially downsized from the previous year and switched to front wheel drive. Overall length dropped over two feet from 221.1 inches to 196.1 inches.

Standard power (if you could call it that) came from the LK9 110 bhp 3.0 liter/181 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor. Optional engines were the LG3 3.8 liter/231 ci multi-port fuel-injected V6 putting out 125 bhp and the LS2 4.3 liter/261 ci V6 diesel (don’t do it!) putting out all of 85 bhp (at least it had 165 lb-ft of torque). All engines were teamed with a four-speed automatic transmission. Both the 3.0 liter V6 and the diesel V6 would be gone by the time the 1986 model year rolled around.

Mileage for the standard engine was 18 city/25 highway by the 1985 measures (16/23 by today’s standards). Hilariously, the upmarket 3.8 liter engine was rated at 19 city/26 highway, the multi-port fuel-injection more than making up for the increased displacement. Buyers of the diesel could expect 22 city/32 highway. With an 18-gallon gas tank, a Ninety-Eight Regency owner could expect a range of about 315 to 350 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. The target market probably didn’t care about 0-60 times, which was a good thing; the best case was likely about 12 seconds.

Standard mechanical equipment on the $14,665 (approximately $35,100 in 2019 dollars) Ninety-Eight Regency included an automatic leveling system, power rack-and-pinion steering, power front disc brakes, and P205/75R14 steel-belted radial-ply white-stripe all season tires (a size still available thanks to Hankook and Kumho) on 14-inch wheels with bright deluxe wheel discs. Inside, four-season air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo radio, a six-way power driver’s seat, power door locks, power mirrors, and power windows were all standard.

Stepping up to the $15,864 (approximately $37,900 in today’s dollars) Ninety-Eight Regency Brougham made the 3.8 liter engine standard and added simulated wire wheels with locks, fancier seats, a deluxe steering wheel with tilt-away feature, and intermittent windshield wipers—along with over 300 pounds of weight.

Optional items included Astroroof ($1,230), cornering lamps ($60), electronic air conditioner ($125), and twilight sentinel ($60).

These C-bodies (there were also Buick and Cadillac versions) had a stately look about them. Big and (I think) handsome, they had a lot of interior room despite the downsizing—at 110 cubic feet, they had only two cubic feet less than the 1984.

Page from the 1985 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Sales of the 1985 Ninety-Eight Regency sedan were good—at almost 155,000, more than double the approximately 69,000 that had been sold in 1984. A little over 70% of Regency buyers chose to move up to the Brougham.

C-body Ninety-Eight Regency sedans sometimes come up for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I update this blog entry in February 2019, there’s a Brown Metallic 1985 Ninety-Eight Regency Brougham with medium beige cloth seats, a 3.8 liter V6, an automatic, and 131,000 miles advertised for $10,000.

Make mine Platinum Metallic, please.

Updated February 2019.

Some Long Distance Travel In An Eighties Car

Last month, my wife and I took a 6,281 mile “jaunt” in my eighties car – a 29 1/2 year old 1985 Light Blue Metallic Chevrolet Corvette coupe.

Last year, Lauren challenged me, causing me to me to write this … screed in May 2013:

“It’s Not The Same As It Was In 2004 …

… I took the 1985 out for some miles today and I noticed some things.

It’s a more tenuous feeling taking her out than it was in 2004. Of course, that was 33,000 miles ago, but the car seems more … fragile. I’m mindful of all that sweat equity (mine and many others) in it and the knowledge that it is now so … old. Less and less early C4s on the road for any reason and she’ll be thirty (!) years old in November 2014.

The car judges well and drives acceptably but the problems remain present and they are a litany: the “dumb as a bag of rocks” computer, the creaks and rattles in the interior, the passenger side power window near death, the console light that keeps slowly melting the console plastic, the seats and steering wheel not far from a recovery, the repaint that is who knows how many thousands of miles out, the characteristic droops on both front and rear bumpers that will need to be fixed with the repaint. They’re known problems and they can get fixed: but some of them (seats, repaint, bumpers) will require cubic dollars.

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1985 Buick Somerset Regal coupe

Welcome, Jalopnik and Autoblog readers! We have many meh cars at Eighties Cars—the unloved category covers most of them.

I saw a reasonably original Buick Somerset Regal with Dark Gray Metallic paint on a side road in Philadelphia about a week ago. It was the first one I’d seen in many years.

“There has never been a Buick quite like the Somerset Regal”

Buick’s Somerset Regal was a new model for 1985. Available initially in coupe form only, Buick’s version of the N-body (Oldsmobile had the Calais, and Pontiac had the Grand Am) was designed to at least partially replace the Skylark. It failed miserably, only surviving for three years before being subsumed back into the Skylark product line. Respectable first-year sales of 86,076 declined to 75,620 in 1986 and 46,501 in 1987.

1985 Buick Somerset Regal Limited, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The Somerset Regal was not a big car by today’s standards. With 180 inches of length and a 103.4-inch wheelbase, it is within shouting distance of a 2019 Honda Civic coupe, which is 177.3 inches long and has a 106.3-inch wheelbase. Of course, cars, in general, have gotten a lot bigger in these thirty years—the Somerset Regal was notably more substantial than the 1985 Honda Accord.

The standard powertrain was a Tech IV 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle body fuel injection (a slightly upgraded Iron Duke) paired with a five-speed manual transmission, but I believe most buyers went with the optional ($425) three-speed automatic instead. The hot set-up (if you could call it that) was the optional ($560) LN7 125 bhp 3.0 liter/181 ci multi-port fuel injected V6, only available with the automatic. 0-60 times ranged from 10.5 to 13 seconds.

Mileage for the inline four and five-speed manual combination was an impressive 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by 2018 standards). Choosing the more realistic three-speed automatic cost two mpg while upgrading to the V6 dropped you all the way down to 20 city/26 highway. With a 13.6-gallon gas tank, owners of the most profligate powertrain combination could expect a range of between 255 and 280 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

For the Somerset Regal’s $8,857 base price (about $21,300 in today’s dollars), standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, tungsten-halogen headlights, and body-colored bumpers. The interior included cloth or vinyl bucket seats, a center console, brushed metal accents, electronic digital instrumentation (somewhat upmarket at the time), and an AM radio. Moving up to the Limited trim added dual horns, chrome bumpers, and courtesy lamps, along with snazzier cloth seats and steering wheel.

1985 Buick Somerset Regal interior, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Standard features that date the Somerset Regal included the Delco Freedom II Plus battery, front and rear ashtrays in the console, and the P185/80R13 tires (now considered a trailer size).

Options included the $645 air conditioning (in the mid-1980s not yet standard on most cars), cruise control ($175), leather seats ($275 and only available with the Limited), power door locks ($130), power windows ($195), Vista-Vent sunroof, Delco GM/Bose Music System AM/FM stereo cassette ($995!), cast aluminum wheels ($229), and a Gran Touring suspension ($27).

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z hatchback coupe

“Make the earth move.”

In 1985, Chevrolet kicked the third-generation Camaro up a notch (or more) with the release of the IROC-Z, inspired by the International Race Of Champions race series. The IROC-Z was an option package (B4Z) for the Z28 and cost $695.

Suspension upgrades specific to the IROC-Z were Delco/Bilstein shock absorbers for the rear wheels and 16-inch wheels all around with Goodyear Eagle GT P245/50VR16 tires—large for the day and a size still readily available.

The IROC-Z also included louvered hood inserts and more aggressive ground effects and spoilers than the Z28. Finally, it was lowered half an inch compared to the Z28.

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z, courtesy of M62 from the Wikimedia Commons.

Three engines were available in 1985 for the IROC-Z, all sized at 5.0 liter/305 ci: standard was the LG4 carbureted motor at 155 bhp. The optional engines available depended on transmission—if you chose the five-speed manual, you could get the High Output carbureted L69 with 190 bhp (not available on the garden variety Z28) while if you went with the four-speed automatic, you could choose the Tuned Port Injection LB9 at 215 bhp.

If you cared (and I think most of the target market did not), mileage wasn’t great: the EPA ratings of the day were 16 city/22 highway for the LG4, 15/24 for the L69, and 16/22 for the LB9.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 IROC-Z in #1 condition is $19,400. IROC-Zs make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds. As I write this in November 2013, there’s a red 1986 with 89,000 miles for sale for $8,000. Please make mine Blaze Red, with the optional and expensive when new ($821) t-tops. I know they often leak, but I like the look.

Interestingly, Hemmings also has a white 1985 IROC-Z for sale. It has 765 miles, and the seller wants $50,000 for it. At first, this seems ridiculous, but then this particular IROC has special provenance: it is one of the two Live Aid cars from July 1985, with almost 100 signatures of folks such as Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, and Jimmy Page preserved in clear coat.

1985 Ferrari Testarossa coupe

When it debuted for the 1985 model, the Ferrari Testarossa had big shoes to fill—it replaced the undeniably beautiful Berlinetta Boxer which itself had replaced the undeniably beautiful Daytona.

Sergio Pininfarina’s styling for the Testarossa was not undeniably beautiful, but it definitely was striking. The defining feature was the side strakes covering the radiator intakes, often referred to as “cheese graters.”

Close up of the “cheese grater” side strakes on the Ferrari Testarossa.

The strakes were at least functional, feeding the two side radiators that cooled the Bosch K-Jetronic port fuel-injected 4.9 liter/302 ci 380 bhp flat 12 cylinder engine—crazy power for the mid-1980s. Mileage (not that the target market cared) was flat-out awful10 city/15 highway by the standards of the day (9/14 by today’s standards). At least the 30.4-gallon gas tank meant you could go around 315 to 340 miles before looking for more fuel.

The Testarossa was a Ferrari that reflected the times—it was big (almost six inches wider and 200 pounds heavier than the Berlinetta Boxer it replaced) and flashy. It was also pricey; at $90,000 and up (over $215,000 in 2018 dollars), four times as expensive as a 1985 Corvette (not that too many buyers were cross-shopping the two). You did get at least a little comfort for your money—air conditioning, power seats, and power windows were all standard.

There continues to be disagreement over how good a car—or, more importantly, how good a Ferrari—the Testarossa was. It was undoubtedly fast: 0-60 came in 5.2 seconds, and top speed was about 180 mph.

There is strong club support for the Testarossa, as there is for all Ferraris. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 Testarossa in #1/Concours condition is $132,000, with a more “normal” (if any Ferrari can be normal) #3/Good condition car going for $80,000. You see them advertised in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds, though often it’s a notice of an auction. There is a Rosso Corsa Testarossa with the tan interior and 21,000 miles advertised for $108,000.

Make mine that same Rosso Corsa, with the tan interior. My wife prefers the “Miami Vice” white, but I think Testarossas (along with many Ferraris) left our list forever when she found out that you or your very expensive mechanic have to remove the engine from the car to do a “major service” every five years or 30,000 miles.

Updated in December 2018.