1977 Omega V-6 Sports Pack Ad. From the author’s collection.
If you didn’t need your mid-to-late-1970s ride to be particularly fast, but still found a sporty look and precise handling alluring, automakers obliged by offering bucket seats, consoles, thick-rimmed steering wheels, gauges, stripes, spoilers, improved suspension systems, stylish wheels, and sticky raised-white-letter radial tires for many of their models.
Also arriving during the same decade were bigger bumpers, stronger roofs, standard electronic-ignition systems, and standard front disc brakes, among other items. What was missing, however, were the large-displacement powerful engines that were available just a few years before, and their higher compression ratios and premium fuel requirements. True dual exhaust systems were nixed with the advent of the catalytic converter, and performance rear-gear ratio options also faded away.
Given the higher-priced, lower-octane unleaded fuel of the day and tightening emissions standards, dialing back power, even in models that were otherwise festooned with customary muscle-car accompaniments, was commonplace. While mpg had always been important for selling mainstream cars, it became even more of a priority, as the country suffered through gas shortages and skyrocketing prices. Fuel economy gauges were appearing on the same option sheets that also offered tachometers.
Amid the chaos of the 1970s, Oldsmobile was still producing stylish vehicles that buyers desired, as evidenced by the incredible sales success of its Cutlasses as the decade progressed. For those who wanted a sporty one, the 4-4-2 handling-and-appearance option still offered visual performance appeal and great handling, if not blistering acceleration.
In the 4-4-2 tradition, the compact 1976 Omega two-door coupe or hatchback could be optioned with the $171 ($763 in 2018) code-Y66 SX Package, which superseded the 1974-’75 S package. It included special wheel-opening and body-side decals with “SX” identification, as well as rocker-panel and wheel-well moldings, sport-styled outside rearview mirrors with driver’s-side remote control, FE2 Rallye suspension, and the Custom-Sport steering wheel.
A 105-hp one-barrel 250-cu.in. inline six-cylinder engine was standard. A 110-hp 260 two-barrel V-8 (Oldsmobile) was optional. A 140-hp 350 two-barrel engine (N/A California) or a 155-hp 350 four-barrel were also offered at extra cost.
The three-speed manual transmission was standard with the six and the 260. A three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic was required for the 350s, and it was optional on the six and 260. An interesting drivetrain combination was the 260 mated to a floor-shifted five-speed manual overdrive transmission. It was the only engine that the five-speed was offered with. Rear-gear ratios were 2.56:1, 2.73:1, and 3.08:1, and many were restricted to specific engine and transmission pairings.
For 1977, the grille, taillamps, and interior (including the instrument panel) were updated, and a 105-hp Buick 231-cu.in. V-6 two-barrel engine replaced the standard straight-six. A bold new “value package” was the (code Y75) Omega V-6 Sports Pack. As you can see from the print ad and the TV spot that are included in this article, when you ordered the extra-cost bucket seats, sports-gauge group, SS-III wheels, and raised white-letter tires, the SX Package was added for free! Such a deal… as long as you wanted a V-6.
If you think Oldsmobile wasn’t trying to attract a performance-minded buyer despite the fact that this Omega was V-6 powered, consider the fact that the print ad ran in Car Craft and possibly other auto-enthusiast magazines. Readers of this particular periodical may have laughed at statements like, “To make it go there’s a rugged 231 V-6 that’s got plenty of muscle…” Yet they may have also thought a car that looks this sporty with handling to match and achieves, “26 MPG on the highway and 19 city with [the] available automatic transmission in EPA tests,” may be a practical daily driven alternative to their fire-breathing weekend warriors.
If the V-6 wasn’t your thing, the SX Package was still offered at $187 on Omegas equipped with the optional engines. For 1977, there was the 145-hp 305 two-barrel (Chevrolet) engine. The three-speed manual was standard for the 231 and 305, and the automatic was optional, yet required with a 170-hp 350 four-barrel engine that was reserved for California and high-altitude regions.
The SX package returned for the 1978 and 1979 Omegas, and even continued when the model line went to a front-wheel-drive platform for 1980.
Rarely seen today, the RWD Omega SX and the V-6 Sports Pack offered the appearance of performance and the handling prowess to back it up, but strived to placate the pump-price-pummeled public of the 1970s by installing more fuel-efficient engines and drivetrains in place of the Rockets, heavy-duty transmissions, and steeper rear gears of the recent past.
How successful the plan was can’t really be quantified here, as I was unable to find production figures specific to the Omega with the SX Package or those with the V-6 Sports Pack. If you have SX-specific production figures from a reputable source, please feel free to share them here.