There was a time in America when — on every street corner, in every driveway, and outside of every storefront — you would need both of your hands and feet, a pen and paper, and an abacus to count all of the Oldsmobiles you'd see in a given day. Your father owned one and your best friend's mother owned another. While today we revere the standard Olds Cutlass as an All-American Classic, previous generations of car enthusiasts growing up in the 1970s and 1980s probably reviled them in the same way we turn up our noses at the Toyota Camry today. An Oldsmobile was what every Grandpa Dick, Daddy Tom, and Momma Sally wanted and owned; they were the default choice for middle-of-the-road middle class Americans wanting comfortable point-to-point transportation.
However, during the late 1980s, trends began shifting. American automakers were firmly displaying a half-hearted unwillingness to commit to quality and reliability, and buyers were willing to give up some usable performance and actual styling just to get to work in the morning without a carburetor failing or some large piece of interior trim falling off. It's for this reason Toyota stands today in the space that Oldsmobile once occupied.
Incidentally, it was during this time Oldsmobile had finally begun its quick unraveling and the elderly brand began to show the first symptoms of dementia. In the early '80s, Oldsmobile was asking Americans if they could build yet another Cutlass or Toronado for them, with the answer being a resounding "yes." By 1985 sales soared to over one million cars per year. Just three short years later in 1988, with the introduction of the dreadful GM10-based Cutlass Supreme, Oldsmobile had begun telling blossoming Generation Xers that they didn't know what in the hell their father was driving, but it sure wasn't anything with their trademark rocket badge slapped in the middle of the grille.
We all know it only got worse from there. But this promo for the 1992 Olds 88 Royale LS clearly shows how bad it had gotten at Olds before the sun finally began to set.
If you popped this into your VHS player back in the day, you were probably under the impression it was something from parent company General Motors' public relations department. You probably thought that after you pressed play, you would immediately be made acquainted with some serene voiceover artist hired by GM. From there, Mr. Voiceover would dish out all of the highlights and specifications of the '92 88 Royale with absolute sterility as five minutes of rolling footage played on your television screen. But you would soon learn that you were wrong.
You're first treated to the standard introduction of so many other automotive promo films of the early '90s — the cheese ball synthesized "music" being played behind some footage of the car you were inquiring about driving down some anonymous canyon road is there. About thirty seconds in, you meet Mr. Voiceover in person for a change and he's going to be your host today. He gushes about the new Olds 88 as you'd expect a paid actor to do. Soon, though, he states that this new 88 "wasn't aimed directly at the hearts of people like Car and Driver editors" and that's where things begin to take a turn for the strange.
Mr. Voiceover, instead of making you feel warm and fuzzy about your potential new four-wheeled buddy, starts to review the car. He states that the seating treatment was something "we liked." Wait, who's we? General Motors? Well, I would hope you guys would like your own seats (even though everyone else usually hated them for years).
From there, doing his best John Davis impression, he goes over specs and gushes over the 3800 Series V6. We're back to normal ... right? Nope. We move on to the interior and he bashes the number of "small buttons" on the dash. Huh? I thought this was a promotional video, not five minutes of quiet self-loathing produced by someone drunk on Motorweek re-runs and hosted by some dime store Baldwin Brother wannabe. You owe me five minutes of my life back now, GM.
It's fairly hard to write more than three paragraphs glossing over old sales training videos and promotional films, but this trainwreck is just in a league of its own. If you ever needed a painful reminder of why one of America's oldest car brands went to the Big Junkyard in The Sky and what was wrong with GM in the early '90s in one stop, this is probably it.