Ransom E. Olds started building his eponymously named Oldsmobile in 1897, eleven years before the company was acquired by the newly formed General Motors. During the post war era, Oldsmobile was truly an aspirational brand for the haute bourgeoise for whom Chevrolet was too common and Cadillac too expensive and, perhaps, too ostentatious. By the 1980s Oldsmobile Division’s best sellers were badged Cutlass, the model having been a more deluxe version of its earlier F-85 “medium” compact. This Cutlass Supreme was the sporty version, a two-door coupe with a long hood and a short trunk that helped Olds to a 10% market share back in 1985. Yes, Americans bought twice as many Oldsmobiles as Toyotas a mere 28 years ago. Yet, by 2000 GM had thrown in the towel and announced it would phase out its oldest brand. What’s extraordinary about this one, spotted in San Francisco the other day, is that it hasn’t been turned into a low rider or “donk” custom — it’s pretty much the way it was, with that swank half-vinyl roof treatment and fake-o wire wheels, when it rolled off the assembly line almost 30 years ago.
Check out this TV commercial wherein Cutlass is pronounced “the most popular car of the 80’s” — we’ll assume this is based on sales of individual model nameplates but, still, very impressive. The slogan “There Is A Special Feel In An Oldsmobile” didn’t stick, nor, alas, did Olds.
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