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Lot 40
1958 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Convertible


CHASSIS NO: 589M18465J

• The epitome of Harley Earl style and design
• An impressive, unmistakable car in excellent condition
• The premier Oldsmobile model available in 1958
• Lovely leather interior with room for six

371 cid V-8 engine, 305 HP, four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, front independent coil-spring suspension, rear semi-elliptic leaf springs, front and rear drum brakes; wheelbase: 126.5”

The story of Harley Earl has become a part of Motor City lore. Through his use of clay models, he showed General Motors just what he could do and, eventually, he was essentially given carte blanche to set up the first in-house styling department at any major American automaker. He is given credit for everything from big tailfins to the Corvette and, to this day, over four decades after his death, his shoes are those that American designers still try to fill. Oldsmobile produced the Ninety-Eight for over 50 years and, for 1958, Mr. Earl certainly created a legendary design.

Americans wanted models tailored to their new prosperous lives, so that meant extra comfort, which meant extra size. Gasoline was 23 cents a gallon, so the more power for cruising those new interstate highways the better. Most importantly, the cars had to reflect the American persona, which meant that they had to look the part of a leader. That meant lots of steel, lots of glass, and, especially, lots of chrome, and Oldsmobile was able to produce fine driving luxury cars. Their 371 V-8 engine is considered bulletproof, and many feel the build quality coming out of Lansing, Michigan was some of General Motors’ best work.

The Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Convertible offered here represents the top-of-the-line offering from Lansing in 1958, as it incorporates open-air style with such standard luxuries as a Jetaway Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, full red and white leather “lounge seat” interior, power steering, power brakes, power top, dual exhaust, and an electric clock. Check out the carpeted trunk, courtesy lights, logoed sill plates, and deluxe steering wheel for evidence that Oldsmobile meant business with the Ninety-Eight. Even the automatic dimming headlamps and Speed Sentinel are in place and work great, and a ride in this luxury convertible is certainly a step back in time that all your friends will want to check out.

The fine example offered today comes from decades of care in a very well-respected collection. Our consignor was thrilled to find it a solid, highly original example back in 2001 that had recently received a no-expense-spared restoration, and he bought the car exactly in the superb, show-quality condition you see today. He’s enjoyed it with his family, given it regular exercise, and states it’s been a favorite parade car in his hometown. Starting with a low-mileage, rust-free example allowed the restorers to create the amazing straight panels and outstanding body gaps you see displayed here, all on a car with gloss black paint surfaces that would show any flaws. The trim, the chrome, and the top are all like new with clean clear glass and a lovely dash. There are loads of power for modern highway cruising with the desirable 305-horsepower V-8, mated to a Hydra-Matic transmission, and of course plenty of room for six adults.

These Oldsmobile 98 convertibles were produced at a staggering cost of $4,200 each. Looking back at the 1958 models, particularly the Ninety-Eight, one might say that it took Harley Earl 31 years to “go all the way” with his designs, but aren’t we glad he held the reins in ’58. When he retired shortly thereafter, GM backed away from the big chrome and “bigger is better” era, making this outstanding Ninety-Eight convertible all the more significant and desirable.

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