It was 15 years ago that Oldsmobile introduced its last new model, the third generation Bravada which was hardly an Olds. Rather, it was a faintly re-badged Chevy Trailblazer/GMC Envoy that was only offered with a Chevy-sourced 6, no “Rocket V8” was available for this pathetic last gasp offering. The handwriting was on the wall and the oldest American marque, founded in 1897, would be completely eliminated by 2004. Feral Cars Field Scout Ben Edge spotted a very real Olds that had been produced 50 years before that Bravada embarrassment. It’s a wild 1959 Ninety-Eight, the pinnacle of the Oldsmobile line at the time that’s a bit “distressed” but holding its own these days.
It’s a four-door (no pillars between the front and back doors) hardtop that wears GM’s cantilever design roof and wrap-around rear window. Shared with Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac and Chevrolet, the ultra horizontal roof, introduced that model year, was supposed to give the impression of floating above the car. The term “rollover standards” hadn’t yet been conceptualized so the fact that there was very little structure keeping the roof attached to the car was of no real concern. Seat belts weren’t even an option; keeping one’s head attached to one’s body in this fine car was not even a secondary concern. Ah, the Eisenhower era – the age of innocence and/or willful ignorance.
So we got on an Olds tangent and it’s been going great guns — would “roaring rockets” be a better way to phrase this? — ever since. Of course, most of the Olds seen in the wild are more recent Cutlasses. These mid-sized middle class models were both aspirational and, for the most part, attainable. Cutlass was Olds’ bread and butter from the mid-1960s until the Cutlass hangover of the late ’80s/early ’90s when Oldsmobile just slapped the name “Cutlass” on a broad variety of cars that didn’t have all that much in common. This brilliantly successful youngish brand within the greater Oldsmobile brand became very diluted and, ultimately, meaningless. Way to go GM brand managers!
We like this spiffy ’72 Cutlass Coupe that epitomizes the long hood/short or sloping rear deck school of design. Isn’t it classy looking, waiting at the valet stand of a hip Koreatown boite (admission by invitation only) for a “now” and very much “with it” local entrepreneur-irony peddler. Here’s where you can insert your own “not your father’s Oldsmobile” comment. Thank you.
In a somewhat less trendy setting, we noted this ’68 Cutlass wearing the de rigueur vinyl top as well as some apparently well earned patina. That’s quite a bit of front overhang but, then again, there’s quite a bit of rear overhang, too, The Olds logo rear side marker lights are as swanky as you would expect in a car that proudly bears rocket imagery, a tradition dating back the the dawn of the post war era, the beginning of what we like to call “the age of Oldsmobile.”
This drool-inducing ’72 Cutlass convertible seems to have been artfully posed for us with just a tad of spillover on the eco-conscious xeriscape lawn of this stately home. The car appears to have been immaculately maintained and is finished in gleaming Antique Pewter. Marvelous!
We found another ’72 Cutlass convertible that’s all buttoned up.
That factory pin-striping really pops off the white body but, come on, how about sending the front bumper out for re-chroming? Jus’ sayin’.
The next generation Cutlass, like this ’76, used GM’s new “Colonnade” architecture: no more pillarless hardtops and convertible production ceased. On the other hand, the federally mandated energy-absorbing bumpers look strong enough to take on a runaway locomotive
While the Cutlass name ended up on quite a number of disparate models, the essence of the original Cutlass carried on into the 1980s by coupes wearing the Cutlass Supreme designation. We kind of fell hard for this shovel nosed ’84. “Central Car Casting? Send over a car that represents the fallen decadence of the ’80s. No, don’t bother to wax it.”
During the swashbuckling Cutlass years, Oldsmobile still produced conservative sedans, most of which went by unloved or unnoticed. Here’s a 1998 Olds Eighty Eight, one of the last of Oldsmobile “big cars” appropriately finished in vanilla. By 1959 standards, this was kind of a small car. It’s 200 inches long while the ’59 is a foot and a half longer and weighs almost a half ton more.
We captured an Eighty Eight of the same vintage speeding down an inner city street in the small hours of the night. If only GM had thought to market it as a film noir homage. But, dash it all, they didn’t and what remains of Oldsmobile is a gnawing feeling that keeps reminding you that something important is missing that hits you in the gut every now and then. That’s the heartbreak of Oldsmobile.
Want the most perfect ’59 Olds Ninety Eight convertible you could ever imagine? It’s all yours here in nearby Plymouth Township, MI for a measly $72,900. Yikes!!! A tad less costly is this ’59 Ninety Eight two door hardtop, topped by GM’s “postage stamp roof” and offered for a mere $39,500 in nearby Clearwater, FL.
We couldn’t help ourselves when we remembered that Ringo and his daughter Lee Starkey did a “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” commercial at the start of marque’s death spiral in the 1990s. You didn’t ask for it but here it is. How do you supposed they licensed the original version of “A Hard Day’s Night” for this? Theories? Peace and love, peace and love!
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