By on November 29, 2011

In 1990, you could give your BMW salesman $24,650 and drive off the lot in a 325i coupe weighing 2,811 pounds and equipped with a 168-horsepower engine and 5-speed transmission… or you could hand $14,895 to your Oldsmobile salesman and drive off the lot in a Cutlass Calais International Series coupe weighing 2,823 pounds and equiped with a 160-horsepower engine and 5-speed transmission. Ten grand more for rear-wheel-drive, eight more horses, 12 fewer pounds, and a blue-and-white hood emblem? I had forgotten all about the Quad 4-powered Cutlass Calais International Series until I ran across this forlorn example in a California self-service wrecking yard last week.
Granted, the N Platform-based Cutlass Calais wasn’t quite as handsome as the ’90 E30, and the build quality wasn’t quite up to Bavarian standards, but this Olds was a pretty good bang-for-buck deal.
The idea of an Oldsmobile with a DOHC 4-valve engine and 5-speed transmission does seem strange, even after nearly a decade since The General axed its ancient division.
It’s got leather. It’s got an auto-reverse cassette deck. It’s got that goofy globe-surrounded-by-flags emblem on every possible surface, including the trunk lock. And now it’s all getting crushed and shipped to China.
Another GM dream that didn’t quite work out as the marketing guys planned.


We’ll show that Oldsmobiles are really for young buyers… by showing a 100-year-old man disappointed in his 74-year-old son for buying such a sporty car.

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101 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais International Series...”


  • avatar
    geozinger

    I really won’t miss N-body all that much, but I wish I could get my hands on that HO Quad4.

    I could never really warm up to the N-body styling, although my brother had some late-80′s Pontiac Grand Am that wasn’t so bad looking. The cars drove OK, and the interior space was OK, but that awful roof line!

    EDIT: I looked at those photos again, that was a 5 speed car! That’s probably the Getrag tranny, not the crap Isuzu one that I have now… Bummer…

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I think the formal roofline worked OK on the sedan, but not the coupe.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I don’t think the formal roofline worked on any vehicle, but it was on practically every car GM produced during the era. From Pontiac 6000s and Oldsmobile Cutlass Calaises to Buick Rivieras and Cadillac Sevilles, they all had that ridiculous roofline and begged the question of how attractive they’d have been if whoever made the styling calls had been sighted and sane.

  • avatar
    jeanpierresarti

    Don’t forget the up-level FE3 “suspension” package! Actually it was quite fun to drive. The engine was peppy to be sure. I would suppose the modern equivalent would be the Cavalier errr Cobalt SS?

    Anyway brings back good and bad memories.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Oldsmobile seem to plaster this logo on almost all of its product back in the day. That’s when GM’s idea of an “import fighter” was a blacked-out window trim, and… that’s it, actually. Though the High Output version of the Quad 4 was actually quite impressive back in the day, with 180hp. Naturally aspirated, at that! Too bad it sounded like bolts in a blender… Weren’t the Calais with this engine called the 442?

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Some were. I think they went multiple packages with the 180 horsepower motor (the automatics got 160 horsepower). The rare find is the 190 horsepower W-41 showroom stock special.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      I believe they were called the “Quad 442″….the original “442″ derived from a Cutlass performance package that had “4″ barrel carbueration, “4″-speed tranny and “2″-dual exhaust… I suppose the B&B will tell me if I am wrong, but I thought I read that somewhere. So, I am at a loss to suppose what the “442″ meant on this 1990 version….obviously the “Quad 4″ is the first “4″, beyond that I’m clueless….

      The 1990 W30 Drier had a $10K higher price than this GM-turd? For that $10k you got a more-durable, better-engineered, better-performing, more-comfortable, more-esthetically-pleasing, more ergonomically-sound, arguably safer, likely more-efficient vehicle. For the $10k savings of buying the Olds you got, what? Pre-mature rust and lower car payments?

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        4 Cylinders
        4 valves per cylinder
        2 wheel drive

        or

        4 wheels
        4 seats four comfortably
        2 windows that open

        Not defending the cutlass at all. But 10K is a lot of money today, and was especially a lot of money back in 1990.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Adjusted for inflation it’s closer to 23K difference. In other words people who could afford a BMW didn’t even look at Olds. By the 1980s the car world was two-tiered, GM & Ford were still clinging to a multi-tiered price bracketing system that had collapsed as car loans grew longer and wages stagnated.

        So to be fair, the Olds Cutlass was actually a decent car compared to it’s compatriots. That is until the Ford Taurus jellybean showed up in I believe 1986? Then it was really an also-ran against that. GM didn’t exactly help itself either when it made 3 cars that were essentially the same and sold for little difference.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        “In other words people who could afford a BMW didn’t even look at Olds.”

        Actually, frustration with a $13,500 Dodge Lancer ES Turbo saw my family make the leap to a Porsche in a period of 12 months and then a BMW after the Porsche caused spousal envy. In hindsight, we’d have been better off if we’d considered Hondas at the time, but the German cars were at least better than the American cars of the era.

        Wage stagnation began in 1971, a year after the EPA began its war on our property rights.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        @CJinSD

        I wish I could venn diagram this out…but families who could afford an oldsmobile in 1990 probably made up 3/4ths of the US households. Families who could afford a BMW in 1990 probably were about 1/3rd or a bit greater, maybe 2/5ths, of all US households. Families in 1990 who could afford a full-blown 911 Porsche (versus a 914, 928, or other lesser models) were at most 1/10th of all US households. They’re stratospherically different in cost so the families that can afford all three don’t necessarily fit into the average category.

        EPA and it’s war on property right though…That’s gotta be an internet thing, right? You make up an inane statement and run with it because it’s the internet…Anyways, good for you and your ability to afford a Porsche.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The 928 was the most expensive Porsche on the US market most of the time it was sold in the US. There were certain years when a 911 Turbo was available for more, which I suppose is one interpretation of a full-’blown’ 911 Porsche. The 914 was gone by 1975, so it didn’t offer much competition to this Oldsmobile. My point was that we’d have considered an Oldsmobile if we hadn’t already been burned by GM and Chrysler. My mother actually considered a Merkur XR4ti, but the transmission stunk and the Dodge soured us on turbos before the decision was made, thus the naturally aspirated low end Porsche made more sense. She could have bought a 911, but it was less scary to double what she was spending on her next car than tripple it. Neither would involve a loan, and the credit mindset permeates your post. I know a plethora of people with means who could pay cash for all but the most expensive exotics with ease, but instead they drive anything from Tacomas to $35K sedans. The people leasing 3 series BMWs today are the ones who think savings represent the difference between their credit card balances and their credit limits. The cars are designed to appeal to the superficial, and they’re better designed than they look, drive, or endure.

        If you like charts, look what putting corrupt politicians in charge of our resources and land has done for our prosperity. Of course it is more concentrated in the hands of people who can afford politians.

      • 0 avatar
        mallthus

        The second 4 was for 4 valves per cylinder. I thought the 2 was for twin cam.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    The water pump probably went bad so it got junked.

    I’m about 99.9% certain about the above statement.

    • 0 avatar
      mcarr

      Bingo. I had a 1996 Olds Achieva that I dumped because the water pump went out. It was a decent car otherwise. Certainly better than the 2000 Malibu I replaced it with.

      • 0 avatar
        Contrarian

        Almost anything was better than that era Malibu. I always got as chuckle at the multinational logos stuck on these cars. It was the ultimate in GM Marketeering Wishcraft – as in “I wish we could actually sell American cars in Europe”.

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      Hey boss, I just had a great idea. Let’s drive the water pump with the timing chain/belt. When the pump fails the owner will be incensed at the huge repair bill and will trade/junk the vehicle, thus spurring the sale of a new one!

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      That and its essentially falling apart, that dash looks like its about to just shatter with the next bump.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      rocketrodeo: GM probably initially had a water pump designed correctly. But ended up squeezing any profit out of the vendor with whatever price point they were willing to pay. Thus the vendor had the cheapen it to the point of not losing money on every unit.

      You know, all those years of saving 10 cents here, 50 cents there, etc.. really paid off for GM.

      It would be nice if an interview was done with the top GM brass of the 80s and 90s (aside from Lutz) and see if they would even admit one bit at all of driving GM into the ground.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Wasn’t the Quad 4 known for being poorly balanced? I believe they eventually added balance shafts but not until after the damage to the engine’s reputation had been done.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I seem to remember you’re correct. The Quad 4 was powerful, but it wasn’t refined.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      No balanve shafts until the Twin Cam version came with 150 or so horsepower. The Bertta GTZ offered the 180 HP version and had one of the top slalom speeds. But most of us chose the V6 for it’s higher torque smoothness.

      Though the Beretta GTZ was advertised as a $20,000 off BMW M3, the V6 with chip, intake and exhaust was just as fast.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      The biggest problem with the Quad 4, at least initially, was their tendency to blow head gaskets, a pretty major introductory boo-boo.

      GM at its best (or worst); they get the idea of designing, manufacturing and marketing such a car, which was progressive for them in 1990 (5 speed manual?) and then blow it with the most basic of engine problems. Oldsmobile invented GM’s OHV V8′s and Hydramatic automatic transmissions (1949 & 1939 respectively) and then trip up on something as old-school as cylinder head sealing.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Add the Quad 4 to the long list of GM’s Deadly Sins. They desperately needed a modern 4-cylinder mill by the late 80′s, so in true GM fashion they came up with something that looked great on paper but the execution left much to be desired. I’d love to hear the inside story of how they managed to botch it up.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Grab the unique emblems for your wall MM, and let ‘er go. The nerve of GM to badge this POS, wrong wheel drive, econo-box as an Oldsmobile, one of the most venerated marques in Detroit history. Moves like this ensure my never buying a newer GM.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    That ad really bolsters Buickman’s claims that GM just didn’t know how to sell a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      And still don’t, now that they’re dropping Aveos from planes.

    • 0 avatar
      bodegabob

      They don’t do so well on individual models, but they are great at selling a vision or a general theme: “Heartbeat of America” “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie. . . ” “Professional Grade” “We Build Excitement”. Those were all good campaigns that were basically meaningless. But tell me: Does “Ford: Drive One” even come close?

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    That is one sad commercial.

    It makes me wonder whether GM’s decision makers were the American version of the Soviet Politburo with about the same level of market expertise.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    I’ve got two questions:

    1. What were two round things for on the inside of glovebox lid? Couldn’t be cupholders.

    2. Was ‘international series’ sold in all of the countries whose flags are displayed? Can’t be other then US, Canada and possibly Mexico.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      Yes those are cup holders. From a time when people didn’t need to consume fluids 24/7. We use to be able to wait until we actually stopped driving to drink – like a drive-in diner or theater.

      • 0 avatar
        Bimmer

        Thanks, mikedt. I thought that somewhere outside of Ontario with pothole ridden roads, existed glass smooth roads, so people could use it as cup holders. I totally forgot about drive-in, since all you see nowadays are big-box theaters.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        My ’71 Plymouth had two round flat spots on the inside of the glovebox door, which sat horizontal when open. They weren’t depressions, just flat spots. I’m not sure what would have been harmed by making the entire surface flat rather than suggensting cup holders with the circles.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        The first-gen Caravan had “cup holders” like that, the TV station I worked for had one and I was driving it with one of our reporters in the passenger seat. We stopped for some fast food and she put our drinks in them, and was shocked that they spilled all over the floor the first time I took a corner. And that, kids, is all you need to know about broadcast journalism.

    • 0 avatar

      As I recall, the flags on Oldsmobiles represented all the countries in which GM had employees allegedly working on car design. The thinking was that car buyers would see that engineers in Lesotho, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, and Uruguay had added that “furrin magic” to the mix and that they’d sprain their fingers to sign on the line that is dotted. Didn’t quite work out that way.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    I think Olds improved on this formula with the Achieva SCX. Again, poor marketing sealed its fate. I actually wanted to order one in 1994, but found out that the SCX W41 option was canceled.

  • avatar

    Why oh why didn’t they keep the Fiero going and stick this motor in it?

    • 0 avatar
      epsilonkore

      AMEN! +1

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The Fiero was never profitable so you can’t have it cannibalizing IROC sales on top of it. The only reason a GNX powered Camaro never happened was because it would’ve cannibalized precious Corvette sales. I mean aside from a limited edition T/A.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        Excellent summary of the General’s thought process! I mean, the idea of cannibalizing other makers’ sales never really mattered, did it?

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        ….denver….. you’re right, the GNX 3800 was stuffed into the Camaro’s sibling, the 1989 Turbo Trans Am, and paced the Indy 500……0nly 1500 or so produced for this one year only model, a future collectible if ever there was one. As for the Quad 4 not being used in the Fiero, the timeline is probably the biggest factor…..the slow selling Fiero was on the way out, and the Quad 4 was brand new and needed elsewhere in the mainstream GM lineup.

    • 0 avatar

      Having seen several Fieros with 200+ horsepower Lumina V6s in LeMons racing, I can say that more power wouldn’t have helped the Fiero. Hacking 600 pounds off it might have helped, though.

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        ….mm….the ravenous appetite of the LeMons phenomenon for decent handling 20 year old cars will sooner or later start affecting values on these future collectibles, much like demo derbies of past generations……..but at least LeMons cars go out with their heads held high, racing their guts out to the end……even though those guts, as in the case of the 3800 V6 Fieros, are not the guts they were born with. What does happen to old LeMons cars anyway? Is there a benevolent society that takes them in, like Greyhounds after a life at the dog racing tracks? Please tell me that those old warriors don’t end up on the metal recyclers’ scrapheaps. At least those composite panelled Fieros have a slim chance of avoiding that fate……..after you pull the drivetrain, there’s very little metal to bother with.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      That question was answered long before the original Quad 4 project was announced: the Corvette division decreed nothing but $#!+ engines for Pontiac’s mid engine runabout out of fear its sales would be cannibalized by performance bargain hunters. Why the horrid Iron Duke (good for trucks: bad for cars) instead of the far lighter and more powerful “Brazil” OHC engine, which made more power in turbocharged trim than the significantly heavier Tech IV and later V6 option? Why no small block V8 models, despite clearly having an engine compartment designed for such insanity? It meant GM was artificially stratifying performance along financial lines, instead of letting its internal divisions compete directly for the consumer’s dollar. The same behavior continues to this day, as GM is now seen as shooting itself in the foot with the ZL-1 Camaro project. They actually feared losing Corvette customers to Chevy and Cadillac, so a power-hobbled blower-fed LSA engine ensures a forthcoming Ford model is going to enjoy kicking around the Camaro for years to come.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      According to many Fiero fans/experts they were supposed to if the Fiero lasted post 1988.

    • 0 avatar
      RJD9605

      Dave7,
      The still born 1989/90 prototype Fiero had the Quad 4 in it.

  • avatar
    epsilonkore

    Growing up, my parents had a Rambler, an AMC Concord and Eagle (all three in variations of brown) before mom drove up in this blue Calais. I had high hopes of it being “my” first car when I was old enough to drive. I did drive it a lot, but mom never handed over the keys officially. Maybe it was my young age, maybe it was the fresh experience of driving something that wasnt a go-kart or ATV but I loved this car and that Quad4. I still credit it with my love affair of sporty compact coupes to this day. At the time it wasnt heavily panned (at least by the car magazines I read), though it was far from a BMW 3 series (I never once thought of comparing the two, was that seriously GM’s target with this car!?!). It did run well until 2004 when the engine died at 205,000 miles (not bad for a Quad) and was sold to a junkyard. Its probably already made its way to China by now, sad :(

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    …..according to Wiki the car pictured is one of only 200 “special editions” produced. The much maligned Quad4 debuted in ’87 as a twincam, the sohc version was a short-lived variant. The quad’s moment of glory was A J Foyt’s 257mph closed course record 1987 run in the still gorgeous GM Aerotech research vehicle. It was the last real Oldsmobile motor, the Aurora V8 development being shared with Cadillac’s Northstar. With it’s plastic cam cover off it bore resemblance to the famous Miller designed Offenhauser Indycar engines of the 1930′s. Unfortunately this cover was an integral part of the HE ignition system, so exposing the engine’s beauty was not easily done.

  • avatar
    AthensSlim

    I seem to recall that at the time, the HO Quad 4 had the highest specific output (180hp/2.3L) of any naturally-aspirated engine on the market, including the likes of Ferrari/Porsche/etc.

    My dad had a then new Grand Am with this same drivetrain in it when I was learning try. A GM guy who wanted the quickest practical car he could get, he was on the fence about getting one of these until we saw the spy photos of the upcoming ’92 models. I still think that any of the original N-bodies were much better looking cars than the second generation. And yes, his ate one head gasket and was working on another (slow coolant leak) before the WP gave out at 180k miles and the whole lot went off to the scrapper. By that time, the whole car was pretty well worn out.

    The Quad 4 was a tough car to drive smoothly with a stick, not so much because of the torque curve, but the tuning of the engine, for what I was later told were emissions reasons. Regulating the speed of the unloaded engine between 1000-2000RPM was tougher than in any car I’d driven before or since, making smooth launches nearly impossible.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Many stick cars from that time have the delayed throttle closing ‘feature’, ostensibly to improve emissions. You’re right, you have to be pretty deft on the pedals to get a good smooth shift. IIRC, manual trans cars still have that ‘feature’, but I haven’t driven any new cars with manual trans lately to verify.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      “I seem to recall that at the time, the HO Quad 4 had the highest specific output (180hp/2.3L) of any naturally-aspirated engine on the market, including the likes of Ferrari/Porsche/etc.”

      The Quad 4 hit 180 hp in 1990(78.3 hp/liter)
      The BMW E30 M3 had 192 hp from 2.3 liters in US trim when released here in 1987(83.5 hp/liter)
      The Acura NSX had 270hp from 3 liters in 1990(90 hp/liter)
      Ferraris V8s were also in the 80s hp/liter at the time. Porsche wasn’t there yet. In other markets, Honda had 100/hp liter engines in the 1.6 liter range during the same years.

      I can’t think of anything mass market that had as high a specific output at the time.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Oldsmobile had an exclusive limited run of HO Quad4s in the ’89 model year, released in 1988. It was the highest specific output engine available at the time. The 192HP BMW did not have a catalytic converter and was not certified for sale in the U.S.

        I was part of the Quad4 engineering team. The engine had great performance and was very successful in showroom stock racing. We had several turboed, otherwise stock development engines producing over 500HP, achieving over 200MPH in a stock body Calais.The Oldsmobile Aerotech achieved a closed course world speed record and over 267MPH with a purpose built 1,200 HP turbo 4 cylinder with Q4 architecture.

        Quad4 was the last GM engine developed by a car division in an Oldsmobile “skunk works” program. Consumers generally rated it very favorably other than noise. We chose a timing chain, which is still a GM North American design standard, because it was intended to last the life of the engine. Many import and other OHCs utilize belts, which require periodic replacement. A belt failure in a non-free spinning engine- any high compression engine- causes severe engine damage. Quad4′s water pump can be replaced without disturbing the timing chain. It is the later Twin Cam that requires disturbing the timing chain to replace the pump.

        We contracted Porsche, who actually have a contract engineering business unit doing work for other makers, to help improve the noise. One of the sources of noise was the splined connection between the water pump and the cam chain driven sprocket. Ironically, the design was changed to reduce noise, as well as cost, with the unfortunate result that the repair expense was high and cam timing could be wrong after a simple water pump replacement, if the techician did not know what he was doing.

        The head gasket problems were a huge disappointment and did not show up until cars were beyond the warranty period.By that time, there were 520,000 Q4′s on the road. We fought for a lengthy (costly!) extended warranty which was released to customers with the potential for the problem. Special head gaskets and bolt torquing procedures eliminated the problem and fundamental design changes in the TwinCam reduced the sensitivity.

        • 0 avatar
          RJD9605

          Doctor,
          You should have joined the Quad4fourms.com or the Quad 4 gruop on Yahoo.com. I want to ask you why didn’t GM come out w/the turboed Quad 4. There have been a few people in the Quad 4 community that have done this on their own. The is a guy who turboed a 1988 Fiero w/ a Quad 4. He just turns up the boost and destroys everyone.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @RJD9605- We worked on turbocharged and supercharged variants of Quad4. The engine had very good power potential, but the focus turned to pleasability- noise reduction. Capital investment dollars were short. In the end, attention was turned to the Ecotec, the Quad’s successor. GM has had supercharged and turbocharged variants of the new engine.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The US spec M3 did have 192 hp in 1988, fully certified with an EPA mpg rating of 17 city/29 highway. Of course it had a catalytic converter. I don’t believe there were any US market cars that didn’t have catalytic converters by 1987, and many European market M3s were delivered with cats at the time. They were also rated at 195PS/192hp, just as in the US. The non-cat models were rated for 200PS/197hp.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @CJinSD- I am sure you are right that by ’87 no gas engine could meet U.S. emissions requirements without a cat conv. Wikipedia says the 192 HP BMW was without cat conv. I recall a lot of complaints among enthusiasts that Euro high output versions were not available here, but don’t know about the M3.

        Olds said the HO Q4 was the highest specific output engine available in the country at the time. Maybe that was wrong.

  • avatar
    mjal

    I’m not saying that the Olds was not a POS, but $10K extra in 1990 for the BMW was a lot of money, 65% more, in fact than the GM product. Were they really in competition with each other?

    • 0 avatar

      No, that sort of comparison only makes sense after the passage of a couple of decades. These days, you can get a decent E30 for a grand, and a nice Calais International Series is about $900, so prices have converged.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Please show me where I can get a decent e30 for a grand, and I will take two or three.

        Then again, you can’t buy a Calais International for any price in Maine, non have survived. GM sold what, 10-20X as many of these turds as BMW sold e30s, yet I still see e30s on the road in rust-ravaged Maine every day. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Calais.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You can get an E30 with poor cosmetics and an expensive SMOG failure issue for a grand, but certainly not a decent one. I think their values have already bottomed out and are back on the way up. I’d say a Calais in equivalent condition to a thousand dollar E30 would be…the one pictured above right before nobody would pay $300 for it at auction.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Yuppies that couldn’t yet afford the Bimmer bought the Poncho Grand Am
    because it had that tiny split grille. The Olds? I have no idea who bought those. Not me, as I was still firmly entrenched in Chysler’s camp.

  • avatar
    210delray

    I bought a new ’90 Sable at the time for about $15,700 — a much better buy in my opinion. The car had a standard driver airbag (no silly door-mounted belts like that Calais), V6 Vulcan engine that never gave me any trouble (wish I could say that about the rest of the car), standard A/C, and an optional package providing a power driver seat, power windows, locks, mirrors, and those lace alloy wheels that were the cat’s meow back then (incredibly hard to clean though). The car also had optional ABS.

    I absolutely detested GM’s 80s fetish with near-vertical backlites on their coupes and sedans, and the N-bodies were no exception.

  • avatar

    Is that a Rampage off in the distance in one of the engine shots?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Just yesterday my Dad told me that my mother used to have one of these years ago, just like the one win the picture (except automatic).

    He’s been trying to get me into these but I always say “I’d rather skip the silly body-kit, save some cash, and buy the V6″.

    What MPG did these get? Anything below 30 and its not far off from the V8 Toronado that was just axed in ’85. Now thats a real Olds!

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I had a 95 Achieva with the quad-4. What a piece of shit that was. Everything about it was shit. Shit ride, shit interior, shit shit shit. GM programmed the 4t60E in these 4 bangers to upshift as fast as possible to save on mpg. You’ll be in 4th gear at 40mph and the motor will be bucking like a kid learning to drive stick. I hated it soooo much I was glad to see it self-destruct. The quad 4 was a shit motor that made great power in the high rpms but you’d be afraid to use it out of fear of blowing the damn thing up.

    Interestingly my next car was my beloved 94 Buick Regal with the 3800, same 4t60e tranny programmed the same way but with the 3800 the torque was enough to keep the ride smooth. That’s how cheap GM was back then. They wouldn’t even spend the $$$ to reprogram their autotrannys for different motors. Anyway the Buick ran forever and was the most reliable car I’ve ever had. Like I tell people, there are GM cars as reliable as toyotas. You just need to know which ones are the good ones.

  • avatar
    underachieva

    My college car in Arizona was an ’89 Calais International manual trans coupe almost exactly like this one. Loved it! It was fun to drive, got amazing gas mileage and stood up to a lot of hooning. Mine had the 80s mod Driver Information System below the radio and the dorky combonation luggage carrier/spoiler on the trunklid.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    This was supposed be “not your father’s Oldsmobile”, but when I went to test drive one of these, it was clear that the salesman would rather be doing business with my father. Hadn’t even pulled out of the lot and he was admonishing me to “take it easy”.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My aunt had a 1990 sedan version of this car with automatic and the optional Buick 3300 160 HP V6 which was a far more peaceful and torque laden mill than the raucous Quad 4 engine that saw high twenties MPG on trips and lasted well over 300K miles! It was the SL model with red interior as above, gauge package, alloy wheels and FE3 suspension. Overall not the best car at the time but hardly a bad one. She kept it spotless both inside and out for years until 307K miles when the torque converter finally gave out on the bullet proof 125 THM 3 speed automatic tranny and sold it to a repair shop for 400 bucks. They stuck a new converter in it sold it to a college kid who promptly wrecked it within 6 months and it got junked to the local yard for parts. Within a week the 3300 motor was pulled and purchased by someone so it’s possible that this long lasting Buick mill is still beating away under somebodies hood to this day. This was in 2009. Now said aunt owns a 2009 Corolla which she calls tinny in comparison but she does like the fuel economy she is getting.

    • 0 avatar
      friedclams

      The 3300 engine! What an underrated motor that is. I had a Ciera with one and the motor was the best thing about it. Smooth, powerful, easy on gas, and super easy to work on!

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        ……..but no amount of fine tuning would get rid of the 3300′s inherent V6 shake at idle……as efficient and reliable as it was, I guess the GM brass deemed it unsuitable for further development in an era of silky smooth V6′s from Camry, Maxima, etc.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    Let’s get one thing right, that Olds was garbage, absolute frigging trash. I still remember, with shivers up my spine, that thrashy raspy sound coming from them, that flat-footed drive, that aweful steering wheel angle. Can’t be melted fast enough into some DongPooFeng-whatever.

  • avatar
    A is A

    Look at the Spanish flag in the “International” logo (at the left of the “I”).

    There´s a black eagle in that flag. Badly done, but an eagle.

    The eagle (“Águila de San Juan”) dissapeared from the official Spanish flag in…1981. 9 years before this car was manufactured.

    The only Oldsmobile GM sold in Spain was the Alero (sold here as a Chevrolet).

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I’m pretty sure the bumper clips the chicken’s head at the 0:09 mark!

  • avatar
    Joss

    IMO
    N Cutlass was to Olds what the T Le Mans was to Pontiac.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    The engine was killer, the car they stuck it in sucked.

    Seemed to happen a lot to GM over the years, too bad too.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    I remember these well. As a young boy there were several of these in my particular early 90′s yuppie enclave.

    Never thought i’d see one again, even in junkyard livery.

    Once again, a great find! Thanks for continually giving us these memorable rides…albeit a Quad-4 ‘euro fighter’ :)

  • avatar
    Marko

    I still see these occasionally – many were probably garaged and not driven much, given who the target audience was in the ad – but Cutlass Cieras are much more common. The other “cockroach of the road”! (copyright Geozinger)

  • avatar
    KevinLG

    Y’know, I actually think these are cool. I’m just going to leave this here. http://www.cardomain.com/ride/2644257/1991-oldsmobile-calais

  • avatar
    mallthus

    My Grandmother (!?!) had one of these with 4 doors and in bright red (not this muted maroon).

    Lot’s of hard surfaces and what not, plus a really buzzy idle, but, all told, a fun little car. Suspension was VERY stiff and there was a lot of hop on rough roads.

    But, for its time, it was pretty quick. I drove it for a few months after she died but whereas a bright red sedan with a whale tale spoiler is cute when an 85 year old woman is driving it, it says something else about a 26 year old guy.

  • avatar
    OldsGuy89

    For all the grief you guys have given GM and the bellyaching you’ve done over the Quad4, I’ll tell you about my car. She’s a 1989 Cutlass Calais SL, Quad4 powered, and the only serious (but rare) problems have been in the transmission.
    The odometer, as of today: 327,154.7 miles. Original engine. Still giving me 33 mpg and running strong, too. I love my Calais.

    Food for thought.

    • 0 avatar
      mallthus

      That you’ve had a good experience doesn’t negate the thrust of the arguments made in these comments.

      Point of fact:
      The Quad4 was loud and rough when compared to similar engines from Toyota and Honda, let alone contemporary SOHC and SOHV engines. Balance shafts were, eventually, added despite adding cost and complexity while decreasing power output.

      Point of fact:
      Quad4 head gasket failures were very high compared to other engines, even other GM engines. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1993-02-16/business/9303182511_1_coolant-head-gasket-general-motors-corp)

      Point of fact:
      The cars had lots of hard surface plastics that didn’t look good when new and that fit together poorly, creating an interior that was both ugly and noisy. This complaint isn’t unique to the Calais or even the N-Body cars as a whole.

      The truth is, you got lucky. Just like I got lucky with my ’90 S-10, which went for 285,000 miles before body damage (from being used for work, as a truck) killed it. Yes, 285k during which the only major repair needed was a new starter motor at 245k. But does that make it a great car? No. It just makes me lucky.

  • avatar
    OldsGuy89

    I wasn’t trying to negate anyone’s arguments. Funny how when you try to provide some counterpoint, maybe a different perspective, how you get shouted at. My previous post was my experience with a car that I own and drive every day and that I’m highly satisfied with. Your results clearly varied.

    (PS- terms like loud, noisy, ugly and great aren’t facts. They’re subjective.)

    • 0 avatar
      mallthus

      OldsGuy89…

      Sorry. Wasn’t trying to shout at you. I was trying to make the point that your love of your car does not make it a good car.

      I love Austin Allegros even though I know that, empirically, they’re a crap car with horrible reliability, universally poor build quality, a body prone to to rust, questionable driving dynamics and polarizing styling. That I love them doesn’t make them good cars though.

      You are quite right too in saying that terms like loud, noisy, ugly and great aren’t facts. They are, in isolation, subjective statements. My use of the terms loud and noisy were as part of a comparison though. In this usage, they are objective statements of fact (a point decreased by me failing to provide data points in the form of dBA and vibration metrics). My use of the word ugly was, in fact, purely subjective. I think the interior looked like shite. Pure opinion. I didn’t call anything great.

      Look…I don’t want to get into a troll/flame war with you about this. I really am genuinely pleased you’ve had a good experience with your car. I am. But your post indicated, at least to me, a denial of the larger N-platform experience and, to me, that’s something of a catch-22 situation. If your car is crap and you know it and you still love it, you’re clearly insane. If your car is crap and you don’t see it, you’re not too bright. I’m going to embrace insanity every time, given this Morton’s Fork of a question.

      When I try to defend my experiences with or love of cars that, like the Calais, have real and genuine shortcomings (and, trust me, that’s a long list), I endeavor to do so in a way that makes clear that I’m fully aware of those shortcomings and my love comes in spite of those.

      Just my 2¢ + 2¢ more that no one asked for.

  • avatar
    OldsGuy89

    I’m not interested in arguing with you either. But even in trying to clarify your earlier statement, you still can’t keep from being insulting, derisive, and condescending. Amazing.

    I know my Cutlass Calais isn’t a world-beater. It’s not some candy colored supercar, won’t go 200 mph, won’t ever be featured in a magazine with a bikini clad girl draped on her hood, etc. I will grant you all those things, but that doesn’t make it crap. I can’t speak for the rest of the Calais that were built, but the one I have is solid. It has performed reliably, efficiently and comfortably for many years, and it shows no signs of stopping. For lack of a better word, that old car simply wants to live. You have to respect that. A crap car doesn’t rack up over 327,000 miles. Call me whatever names you want, you won’t change that fact.

    No need to respond. I won’t be posting here anymore, and you’ll just insult me or the car again anyway. Good luck to you.

  • avatar
    DreadPirateDoc

    Hey OldsGuy89 you have a nice ride there. My favorite car was my 1991 Olds Calais International in bright red. They came with four exhausts what were at the time huge wheels (16 inch polycast factory custom) custon vinyl body molding with a cateye reflective white stripe for the red ones and a nice powerful roar when you pressed the pedal. Mine did a respectable 112 miles per hour on the autobahn before the speed chip kicked it out I always wondered what my true top speed would have been without that little “feature”. And it did all of this while getting 32 miles to the gallon. I loved that car until the day some idiot rammed it dead while it sat in a parking lot. It was not the same as the buick and pontiac vehicles for the nice leather trimmed interior. In warrantee alone it far surpassed the other quad four cars. When my engine needed a new head gasket at 65,000 miles the dealership showed me a buick that was in for the same repair at 55,000 miles and pointed out that mine would be covered by the warrantee but the Buick would be on the owner to pay for. Overall my Little red oldsmobile was the best car I have ever owned.

    Don’t be disheartened by the sour grapes comments of some people. It is the nature of the internet to tear things down. People will pile on statements about how loud a car was that they never entered and tell you how there was a special edition car available in limited edition that was slightly better in their opinion than yours is. If only such a car had actually been for sale in a location you lived that might have made some sense but really they didn’t buy that car either and who wants to pay for posche, ferrari, lamborgini insurance to get eight more horsepower?

    Don’t let others get you down for liking your car. In the end it doesn’t matter what they read on the internet you have driven the car and know about the XM-1 learning automatic transmission that shifted like a dream. You know about the smooth thrill of the muted harmonic roar of a quad four when accelerating. You know about the torque band that was solid as a rock allowing you to choose any speed on your cruise control and never see the speedo drop and rise more than one MPH when going through hills and mountains. You know how it doesn’t lose traction in a curve even on ice. and virtually cannot be stuck in snow.

    In short you know you have a good car and it is your car and they can just do the sour grapes thing all day for themselves for nothing because they can’t have one at any price.

    Enjoy your sweet ride.


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