Oldsmobile Diesel, the engine that almost buries forever the diesel in the united States

Let us place ourselves in context. Detroit, end of the years 70. The oil crisis affected durísimamente to Detroit, whose profit margins were grounded in huge sedans and family with a gigantic V8 gasoline under the hood. When the price of oil tripled, people began to value the low fuel consumption of a car as a factor of purchase important. In Detroit they were nervous, and in 1978 they released their solution to the problem. A diesel engine that almost buries forever the diesel in the U.S.

On paper, the idea was excellent

the idea behind The Oldmobile Diesel was to offer an alternative american low consumption to huge V8 petrol.

Was Oldsmobile the company in charge of launching the world’s first sedans and family with a diesel engine. Until then, the presence of diesel in the united States was limited to heavy commercial vehicles, ships and locomotives. The launch of a diesel engine in a passenger car was an approximation of a radical. On paper, all were advantages: they were engines capable of providing fuel consumption of a compact car in the same package luxurious and spacious, always. The U.S. did not want to give up their huge sedans.

oldsmobile-diesel-3On paper, a gigantic Oldsmobile Delta 88 with a diesel engine was able to consume at least 8 liters per 100 km on the highway, compared to the consumption of more than 12 liters per 100 km V8 gasoline equivalent. Detroit thought they had found the magic formula that would allow them to continue selling cars as if there was no tomorrow. The diesel engine that Oldsmobile was launched in 1978 – then the mark of the highest volume General Motors, believe it or not – was called LF9, and was a 5.7-liter V8 atmospheric.

Oldsmobile even went on to manufacture a diesel 4.3 V6 based on the LF9 of 5.7 liters. An engine is equally problematic.

A giant V8 that was developed from the 5.7 V8 gas – called Oldsmobile Rocket 350 – common to the greater part of their vehicles. Oldsmobile was one of the more profitable brands of GM, and had a lot of autonomy of work. The problem is that his engineers were not experts in the development of diesel engines. Although they used a block reinforced based on the block of gasoline, used the same hardware. A design flaw serious in an engine whose compression ratio was much higher.


at The beginning, everyone was happy

Oldsmobile launched its diesel engine 5.7 V8 in 1978, with performance inferior to those of a six-cylinder access time: just developed 125 HP and 300 Nm of torque, insufficient to move the mass of two tonnes of weight. They were so poor that in fact, the ads announcing acceleration times from 0 to 50 mph (instead of the usual 0 to 60 mph) and focused his literature on consumption. Even though their features were really anemic, its consumption to actual were as low as advertised.

The confidence of the consumers in the Diesel Oldsmobile and General Motors was blind at the end of the years 70.

A very strong marketing campaign at the national level trying to convince all of the undecided that the diesel engines were the salvation of the sedan american. The families did not want to give up a sedan “the whole life”. If you could have a reasonable consumption, avoid get in a japanese car, so reviled by their size and origin. And purchased these vehicles in droves: in 1978, almost a million of cars manufactured by Oldsmobile, only 33.841 were equipped with a diesel engine.


In 1980, only Oldsmobile has already sold 126.885 vehicles with diesel engines. The other group brands joined the profitable fever diesel – the engine was sold more expensive than its gasoline counterpart. Even Cadillac’s top-line offering of optional form. Even Cadillac’s most luxurious to be rescued from their terrible performance – the 1981 Cadillac Seville Diesel took 21,0 seconds to reach 60 mph (96 km/h) – but all were amazed by its excellent fuel consumption, comparable to those advertised.

And the problems came

GM acknowledged that their engines were troublesome, and he came to repair, without cost to consumers.

The problem was that the hardware of the engine was identical to that of the gasoline engine. This caused failures of the cylinder head, requiring the reconstruction to be premature of the engine. The mechanic – used to gasoline engines – not used to replace the hardware. The second failure of the engine used to be definitive. Another one of the endemic evils of the engine was the the absence of a separator for the water that the diesel may contain. A piece which is made in any conventional diesel, but that Oldsmobile seemed to be dispensable.

oldsmobile-diesel-1In an era in which the quality of the diesel fuel was not good, the absence of a separator would accelerate the wear of the engine. The result of this poor planning of engineering were thousands and thousands of engines with severe damage, to the two or three years have been acquired, even before. The problems were solved in the last Model Year – the motor was sold until 1985 – but his reputation was already completely sunken. The prices of second-hand of the GM diesel engine were at levels ridiculously low.

30 years it took the americans to regain confidence in diesel engines. And then there was the Dieselgate.

that were able to replaced the engines for the Rocket 350 petrol, which at least were more reliable though consumed average of almost 16 l/100 km The reputation of Oldsmobile was completely shattered, and it is said that led to the demise of the brand, whose sales were languishing without remedy until the year 2002, when General Motors turned off your life support. It was also a hard blow to the confidence of the consumers in the diesel engines, when they began to give a level opportunity for a generalist.

oldsmobile-diesel-4The sales of diesel passenger cars were testimonials from the 80’s onwards, and regulations, anti-pollution american did the rest. At the end of the 90s, Volkswagen sold some TDI of the form of affirmation, before the big push Clean Diesel in the year 2009. An offensive with engines 2.0 TDI that were convincing in performance and in consumption. An offensive that several european brands premium they said, even General Motors launched last year a version turbo of its best-selling Cruze.

And then there was the scandal of the engine emissions TDI of the Volkswagen Group. A scandal which could bury forever the diesel in the U.S., when he started to clean his reputation.

Source: Autosavant
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