By on April 25, 2012

A funny thing happened while reading the comments on Monday’s CTS-V coupe design study: I recalled that car design students are brands unto themselves, complete with perception gaps.  I was certainly a Yugo, no “gap” needed.  Others were solid BMWs, most of the time.  We had a few Ferraris, even if they performed like every other Corvette in class. And there’s the rub: just because a “Ferrari” makes something great looking, did they make the best concept in the class?  Is a flashy rendering really that great, if it will never make production without a truckload of compromise?

With that in mind, walk about 100 yards with me from our last case study. Behold: another radical GM coupe on the same lot.

As much as we all like the CTS-V coupe for merely existing, it is sorely lacking in ATD. (Attention To Detail)  If you want to rally around the General for making a coupe with brass balls and brilliant ATD, well, you could do much worse than the 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.

 

Boring or beautiful? That’s really in the eye of the beholder, but the remarkable level of ATD is impossible to question. While the CTS-V’s headlights are fancy and cutting edge, these projectors were practically state of the art for the time.  They are so tiny, but they (barely?) pass Federal regulations!  The classic Oldsmobile twin grille is similarly small, but logically extends from the headlights.  And the hood?  That dent (and the ensuing insurance claim) is the only problem: look how few cutlines convey this shape!

Yes, this design is truly boring by today’s standards. There are far too many parallel and horizontal lines for people outside of the Bauhaus.  But look at the time and effort needed to get such harmony to market!  The hood stamping alone is a bean counter’s nightmare. And when a bean counter fails, a designer wins.  ATD FTW.

 

Obvious irony of the adjacent Buick notwithstanding, look at the Cutlass’ sleek and integrated design. The 1980s were big on minimalism–which is always popular in design circles–and the Cutlass does what we expect from this era: it makes sense from any angle. Every line sings in harmony with the other. And the ribbed bodyside molding (Detroit’s collective hat-tip to Mercedes) adds the necessary tension to keep the Cutlass from looking like an amorphous blob from the side. While it will never flex its muscles like a modern coupe (consuming whatever hormones they fed Barry Bonds), you can’t call this rig a fat and bloated beast.

More items to mention: the greenhouse is tall and free of black plastic triangles. Compared to the CTS coupe, wheel arches are in a far superior ratio to the rest of the body. Badging is present and obvious, but doesn’t demand your attention.  And those A-pillars are stupid, stupid thin: no way that bit of minimalism will ever come back!

And where are the door handles?  Their integration into the body is rather CTS-like in attitude and GM-game-changing in persona.  The execution is pure brilliance…but I am getting ahead of myself.

 

How I long for a day when new cars have badges that actually mean something. Perhaps a car with a real name doesn’t need huge badging, as name recognition alone demands a subtle, soft promotion! The hard sell belongs elsewhere, like on every non-Navigator Lincoln.

 

 

Heaven help me.  After seeing the truly awful execution of the CTS coupe’s door pulls, these B-pillar mounted levers are a sight for sore eyes. Sure, these things were magnets for scratching, but this design is packed with ATD.

Attention to detail is tough to execute, but the designers of the GM-10 platform certainly had a blank check to make this happen. With the CTS coupe in the same place?  Not likely.

Your opinion of their functionality is right no matter what, but the sheer number of brass balls needed to get this item green lighted into production is what we all need to appreciate.

 

OH MY DAMN…SON!

There’s an invisible C-pillar. There’s the right ratio of glass to body.  I’ve been in one of these coupes, and the visibility is outstanding.  If you hate spaceship-themed cars, I am cool with that.  But if you can’t appreciate the amount of ATD present between engineering and design departments in this photo, do me a favor and stop reading this blog post.

Seriously, everyone responsible for making this happen deserves a pat on the back.  And a free drink, on me.

What did it take to get this into production? Brass balls perhaps?  Yes and no.  GM probably wanted this quite badly after seeing the success of the original Mercury Sable.  But still, someone please bring this trend back: I want rearward visibility again!

Pretty please?

 

Is this still a boring car to you?  The sheer volume of line/crease integration presented here will always bowl me over.  My favorite element is the license plate: the Cutlass was seemingly designed around it!  This was no afterthought, and the final touch was tucking the plate under and behind all the supporting lines around it.  Modesty: it’s a good thing.

And while the tail lights are a minimalist tribute to Oldsmobiles from decades past, while the backup lights are almost invisible while remaining gigantic, this coupe is just as ballsy as that CTS-V coupe.

 

Matter of fact, even after 23 years on the road, this Cutlass is still ballsy, brilliantly executed and brand honest.

And though I wish the CTS-V Coupe had this Oldsmobile’s level of ATD, I know Cadillac’s “Art and Science” design will have plenty of followers in the year 2035. Flash sells, even if a design school “Ferrari” made it, hoping for the best come implementation time. Not that I know who made the CTS-V coupe, it just takes me back to certain evenings in the design studio.

Sometimes the memories are enough to get the mind wondering. And wandering.

Kudos to the GM-10 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe: this vehicle embodies everything I like about GM when they want to make a statement, and have the balls to incorporate ATD in the final product.

 

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73 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme SL...”


  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I’ll give GM their due: the styling department knew what they were doing in the late ’80s. The cars may have been crap, but the bodyshells were nice. The lettering style on the badge is sorely out of date, though. Looks like leftover stock from the ’70s.

    For years I thought the 4-door version of this was an upscale Saturn, due to the similarities in the rear glass treatment.

  • avatar
    espressoBMW

    Are those photos really old or were you just lucky enough to find one of those with all the plastic cladding in place and the paint not peeling away?

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I’ve generally found that the more knowledgeable we becomes in certain areas the more we can begin to appreciate the sometimes subtle, often overlooked elements of a design, innovation, technique, and so on (and this includes both the good and the not so good). Your ability to pick out and highlight elements of design like this really helps me to see and appreciate these cars in a new and different light. Great stuff.

    Excellent points about the C-pillars here. and I think you’ll find a lot of people agreeing with your longing for the kind of rear visibility enabled by this particular design.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Nice, but the LH Chryslers were better, and they did it with four doors, too.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    For car that was not up to standards for reliability I dod remember they were selling 100K annually without advertising.

    The Ciera even made Kiplinger’s Top 10 Cars That Refuse to Die.

    http://m.kiplinger.com/article.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fkiplinger.com%2Fslideshow%2Fcars_that_wont_die%2F2.html&type=slideshow

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I remember I was in college in Kalamazoo, MI, when I first glimpsed one of these parked in front of the Orrin B. Hayes dealership in 1983. That was a “Whoa!” moment….one of the few. This car is one of the few 80′s designs which one could call “classic”…a little understated yet charismatic excellence in an era of wretched excess.

    Well done, mate. Thanks for the piece.

  • avatar
    dcars

    I owned one of these cars and it was distinctive, but the mechanical design was not that great. The rear disc brakes were a constant expensive problem. The transmission was also not very good and the ride was like a mattress, it felt like you floated down the road. The doors were big and heavy and the back seat was very difficult to get into.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I guess they didn’t engineer the hinges to account for the heavy doors, explaining why the handle on the passenger side isn’t close to lining up with the indent on the B pillar. Doesn’t look like the driver’s side sagged much at all.

      I see a lot to like here, but that rear end looks like they ran out of time and decided to wrap it up and call it good enough.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Honestly, I’d prefer a CTS-V coupe, even with its mediocre door handles.

    Also, on the license plate thing — why are so few cars designed with a front plate in mind? The majority of states in the US require one, after all. But rather than an actual designated location on the car, we get an awful-looking chunk of ABS plastic bolted to the front bumper.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Obviously the CTS-V is the better car, but its a garish, awful design that really embodies a lot of what is wrong with auto design today.

      This was still a mid 80s-90s W-body, but people who can appreciate good car design have the ability to separate the car from the design. As misguided & nightmarish as the E65 was to own, I still swoon over it’s design. Its a beautiful car that I want nothing to do with.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    The Oldsmobiles weren’t so bad due to the more pronounced body-side molding, but the related Buick Regals of this era *were* obese amorphous blobs. The worst part about it to my eye is the silhouette view from the rear, which is the view you have if you happen to be following any of these things on the road. The contouring of the body panels below the beltline and the glass curvature/tumblehome above the beltline appear to be one continuous coradial curvature. If that doesn’t define “amorphous blob” I don’t know what does.

    The door handles on the coupes are slick and completely different from those on the sedans. That’s another beancounter’s nightmare.

    The well-executed details you mention are great, but all in they don’t sufficiently contribute to an overall sense of excitement or elegance with the design. Like you say, it’s still a boring average car. It would be worse without even a few of the details, but is that the type of praise a truly great (or even a “good”) design should receive? Looking at an overall design and picking out small details for praise reeks of digging deep for contrived compliments of the type that sorority girls mention when trying to set a guy up with their fat, ugly pledge sister. who “has such a great smile.”

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Oldsmobile made popular Cutlass coupes. In the 1970s.
    When this car was designed, the demand for coupes had ended. The Camry, Taurus and Sable were four doors. Hot four doors. But instead of crafting a hot four door, Oldsmobile put out another coupe. This car design is fabulous, and not in a gay way. But putting out a perfect coupe in a hot four door market was throwing pearls before swine.

    This perfect coupe was released a year before it’s four door sibling. This meant that the peak interest in this new design couldn’t put sedan buyers into Oldsmobiles. By the time the four door was available, it didn’t look enough like the perfect coupe to put butts into new Oldses.

    GM had a great line of coupes when the Market wanted four door sedans. So, even with a beautiful line of coupes, the demand from the Market wasn’t swayed. Remember this when the thought crosses the mind that a perfect design is hoped to sway buyer’s needs. BUYERS BUY BASED ON NEED. Lust all they wished on the perfect coupe, buyers married four doors in 1989, as they still do today.

    But this was a Cutlass! It had a legacy! This perfect coupe was a honorable Cutlass design. But this was no longer 1974, it was 1989.

  • avatar
    DubTee1480

    “our last case study”
    Is there to be no more? I usually enjoyed these posts :(

  • avatar
    tkewley

    In response to the “What did it take to get this into production?” question, IIRC the commonly accepted figure was a rather staggering $7 billion for the GM-10 program. While I agree that the Cutlass’ styling was stunning for the time and has even aged fairly well, it probably should go without saying that GM did not make their money back on these cars owning to their predictably poor materials and build quality.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Maybe, maybe not…remember, this basic platform is STILL IN PRODUCTION on the Chevy Impala.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sure they didn’t pay it off as quickly as the Panther chassis, but yeah, this platform’s been around long enough to pay off the cost. Probably.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        What I’ve always marveled about is the myriad # of engines and transmissions that have been offered in the GM10 cars. Everything from 4 cyl to V8, from 3 speed auto to 6 speed auto to 5 speed manual, engine displacements from 2.5 to 5.3 ltrs and hp from barely 100 to 300+! With the Panther Ford generally only offered a narrow range of engine choices given the model year and always with a 4 speed auto.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Very interesting point Dan, but I think this has to do with how the platforms where used. Ford used Panther for three basic models (CV and Grand Marquis which were virtual clones) with station wagon and coupe options only in the 80s. GM trotted out the W in coupe and sedan form in 9 different models across four brands for according to the Wiki, I suppose it had to be more flexible.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_W_platform

  • avatar
    TAnthony

    This was my first car, only white and in “International” trim. I’m not sure how I feel about this post as everything in mine broke BUT the drivetrain…that ancient (even then) V-6 and tranny were damned near indestructible, as long as you had an endless supply of water pumps and alternators.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    OK, I’d go with the Cutlass being a nice, but not particularly ballsy design, cool door handles notwithstanding. But my personal favorite GM car from this era is the Chevy Beretta. And I also have a soft spot for the full size sedans, particularly the Ninety-Eight – a very well executed shrink-wrapped big car.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      A friend is still driving an ’89 Ninety-Eight Regency Brougham(elite? limited?) with around 300,000 miles. It sure is a wilted beauty! It has a level of detailing unheard of these days. Fender spears, Lighted steering-wheel controls, opera lights– complete digital gauging with calendar, oil life and such not.

      This Cutlass is a handsome coupe, but You’re very correct in that the marvel was that top-line sedan. What a car!

  • avatar
    david42

    A very unexpected subject! Love it.

    I always liked the greenhouse on these cars. So slick & futuristic.

    For me, the only let-down is the wheels. I would’ve liked to see something more disc-y and less fussy.

  • avatar

    I remember test driving one of these when they first came out. Can’t remember much beyond a gutless powertrain and low, tight back seat. Oh, and blue digital instruments.

    GM tried hard to hit the ball out of the park with the GM10s, putting a ton of effort into making each of them unique. Lots of little details. But they arrived late and short in too many areas. Both the 1986 Taurus/Sable and 1993 LHs got much more positive press and buyer reactions.

    The door handles caused one further headache: when they made a CS convertible, it had to retain the B-pillars. I knew one of the engineers who worked on that car. He claimed that they made it incredibly rigid for a convertible of the time. That car with the guzzling DOHC 3.4 would be an interesting car to have.

    Another odd powertrain offering: the Quad Four with a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    geeber

    When this car debuted, I really liked it, and the basic design still looks good today. The roofline is clean and the overall design carries the Oldsmobile brand cues very well.

    Unfortunately, GM later ruined it with a really ugly restyled front end, and the door-mounted safety belts installed on all GM10s were a poor (and somewhat unsafe) response to the federal government’s mandate for passive-restraint systems.

    The GM10s were repeatedly delayed, if I recall correctly, which meant that they weren’t exactly cutting edge by the time they debuted. These debuted in early 1988, or over two years after the debut of the Taurus and Sable (late 1985 as 1986 models).

    The big problem was that GM failed to realize that mid-size buyers were migrating away from coupes. Buyers were switching to sedans in response to child-restraint laws and their own aging physiques. Ford didn’t even bother with a coupe for the Taurus and Sable, correctly figuring that the Fox-platform Thunderbird and Cougar could handle that (dwindling) demand. GM, based on the overwhemling success of the old Cutlass Supreme, Buick Regal, Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevrolet Monte Carlo, rolled out the coupes first, and didn’t have the sedans available until the 1990 model year.

    • 0 avatar
      jellybean

      Yes, I agree, timeless design. One of those rare beasts, a perfect design. I referred to them as the GM Jellybeans (like my name!). I rented one when they were new, always liked them since. Bought an ’88 last year for $600 as a project. It was bright red, with red velour interior, nice shape, no rust. Unfortunately I discovered the whole front end underneath was collapsing and had to be replaced. The back was sticking up in the air! Oh well, lesson learned. Sold it for scrap.
      Yes, GM was late to market with these, something called the GM10 debacle.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    Thanks for this. I have a new appreciation for this car.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    This would have been smack in the middle of the Chuck Jordan (may he RIP) design era. I believe these vehicles will be absolute classics one day. Sure, GM issued some stinkers (Achieva, second-gen Lumina), but most of these are near-timeless minimalist wonders. I’ve always felt this way.

    The second FWD Seville (especially in de-baubled STS trim), the first-gen Aurora, the ’92 and ’97 Park Avenue, the C4 Corvette, even the dustbuster minivans smack of minimalism and ’80s space-age tech fairly happily coexisting on the same body. The admen did their best with the whole Pontiac line and a few other examples to ruin what are basically the purest expression of semi-modern FWD vehicle architecture.

    I realize this will bring out the skeptics, but this was GM’s design heyday, in my opinion. Sure, they’d put out a few high points in years previous (’59 Buicks, the original Toronado, the ’64 Riviera, the “stingray” Corvette), but IMHO they were largely hit-or-miss paeans to guady ornamentation. The Jordan era was one of quiet excellence and basic soundness – exactly my kind of design.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      But, oh, how those vertical door handles broke. And broke. And broke. I had a cousin who had one of these while I was growing up and it seems like every two weeks a door handle mechanism failed.

      GM’s optimistic reach (see also: Toronado/Reatta CRT touch-controls) far exceeded technology’s (and GM Accounting’s) grasp.

    • 0 avatar

      I pretty much agree with you, the Chuck Jordan era of GM products is quite underrated. Then again, you have a tough act to follow when Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell were before you.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re forgetting Rybicki?

        These were done toward the tail end of his term.

        http://history.gmheritagecenter.com/wiki/index.php/Rybicki,_Irvin_W.

        Jordan’s products began with the dustbuster minivans and the Bubble B-Bodies. Possibly the Lumina as well.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Interesting to read the GM Heritage bio on him that you linked to. Basically, it said the cars of his era weren’t good but it wasn’t his fault. The car celebrated here was lumped “with consumer and critical failures such as the GM-10 cars, X-platform and the J-cars.”

        While I think some elements of this design certainly contrast with the haphazard efforts from GM today, I recall that at the time these cars seemed like half-@$$ed reactions to the Taurus and Sable.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      I agree completely with you.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Well, I’m glad I’m not alone on the license plate design. That is something Olds always seemed to put attention too, up until the Intrigue and Alero.

    I’ve always liked this design, maybe because we had a G-Body Cutlass Supreme for so long, as well as a Sable sedan and wagon.

    I feel like they took a step backwards on the update in 93(?), with the small rectangular sealed-beam headlights (also used on the 93+ F-Body).

    And don’t forget the convertible with the handle bar ala’ old GT500s, for body rigidity.

  • avatar
    Mark in Maine

    I owned one of these – a bright blue one with the basket handle and the ‘six headlight’ nose. People either loved it or hated it. It drove and handled so-so, but was fairly rigid for a convertible. I recall it having a proper two adult-sized back seat. My favorite styling element of these cars was the rear spoiler that Olds offered on some models – the center section was body-color, and the curved outside edges were molded into the tops of the tailights – it gave that somewhat smooth rump a little visual interest. My Cutlass eventually succumbed to the rustworms, but the almost-new top went onto another one just like it . . .

  • avatar

    But still, someone please bring this trend back: I want rearward visibility again!

    Hey Sajeev, yo very well know that rearward visibility is now provided by sensors and the occasional camera. Don’t see this changing any time soon.

    What irks me about this car is that it is a very general design. A professional, thorough, attentive design, but so many other cars on the road then looked like it! Maybe familiarity does breed comtempt.

    As to the Cadillac, it just needs to loose some of it garishness, increase the green house and do something to those side rear windows. Arts and science but that part needs of course a massive dose of ATD. Then it would be an impressive car design-wise, too.

    BTW, love these posts. Pls keep them coming!

    • 0 avatar
      majo8

      I agree about the rearward visibility issue. I just picked up a 95 Ford Probe for 24 hours of Lemons duty, and have been putting some miles on it. After the last four years of driving an ’06 Civic Coupe and an ’05 Mustang, driving the the Probe is a revelation — just a quick look over the shoulder and I can see everything I need to successfully execute a lane change at speed, or to simply back up safely.

      I forgot how easy it was to see rearward from cars made over 10 years ago……

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      I wouldn’t count on rearward visibility making a triumphant given current rollover standards. The pillars and roof are too structurally important, and the C pillar is the easiest one to bulk up without compromising styling.

  • avatar
    amac

    Nice article. I share your appreciation for this design.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Great job, Sajeev, on a car that I would never expect to read about on TTAC other than in “junkyard finds”. I agree that this is a very coherent design that has aged well over time.

  • avatar
    Dekinorman

    Great post, love your passion and knowledge!
    One question though – what’s wrong with skinny A pillers? Or did I misread the ‘stupid, stupid’ and assume that you don’t like them?

    • 0 avatar

      You misread it I believe. He, like me, wants them back!

      Problem with skinny A pillars is that consumers perceive cars with them as more fragile than cars with thicker ones. So, they sadly won’t be coming back any time soon. It goes along with all the ugly, angry car design themes these days.

      To paraphrase Sajeev, “Stupid!”!

    • 0 avatar

      Stupid can also be used to positively enhance another word. Sort of like how Michael Jackson said something was “bad” but that meant good. :)

      And because modern day crash tests (probably) make pillars as large as we currently see, odds are making a pillar this “stupid” skinny is nearly impossible. Unless they have a triangular cross-section that makes it fatter inside, to remain sleek outside.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    But my personal favorite GM car from this era is the Chevy Beretta.

    What a unique perspective. Prsonally I always thought the Beretta and Corsica were about as forgettable as you could get style wise.

    I’m really loving this series!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Sacrilege! Sajeev praising a non-panther! Now I know the earth has spun off its axis and is hurtling toward the sun…

    Now back to our program…

    I liked almost everything about this platform, and tried to buy a 1990 Lumina, but the Acclaim was cheaper, and apparently, the better buy, for us at least.

    Now for the no-nos about these:

    1. Door-mounted seat belts and the resulting impaired peripheral visibility – I had a serious design and safety issue with that feeature, perhaps unfounded, but it just didn’t appear to able do do as good a restraining job in the event of an accident. I didn’t like how the shoulder belts were mounted just far enough forward to get in the way of my vision in the cars I checked out, all sedans, of course.

    2. They were built by GM, which I absolutely hated through the 1980′s, mainly due to the X cars.

    That’s it.

    Now for the good:

    1. Exibit A – the general cleaness of the entire design, especially the quarter and back glass integration. GM could turn it on when they wanted to. I’m just happy I wasn’t sentenced to be sealed in the back seat of one of these in a St. Louis summer!

    2. The convertible version – wifey and I fell in love with those the first time we saw one drive by when at our son’s baseball game one evening, and when we saw one in a parking lot, well, we pored over it checking it out. Stunning! The way the roll bar was integrated to quarter glass that actually was functional. We wanted one sooooo bad…there was just nothing about the design as a whole that I could find fault with.

    3. Sidescripts. Every car should have them, no exceptions. I went out of my way having custom mirrorchrome sidescripts made for my Impala. They still look like new, and they glisten!

    Which car was more attractive? The Lumina or this? The Cutlass coupe clearly wins. The sedan? Hard to beat a bright red-orange Lumina Euro Sport! A guy up the street owned one back then, and I would go out of my way when walking the dog to slather and drool over it! I deserved that car, not him! Couldn’t afford such things back then – raising a family was my rightful priority, so no regrets.

    A very nice find, Sajeev. Goes to prove GM didn’t do everything wrong, just most things…

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I remember so well at the ripe young age of 17 seeing one of these at the Olds dealership on the show room floor just like in the photo. It was the same red SL with gray on the lower portion and red cloth bucket seats, 2.8 liter 130 HP V6 and the 440 over drive transmission. A 5 speed stick was offered on these too and that helped give the white Grand Prix it’s Motor Trend Coty award that year. On the same showroom floor sat this car’s immediate predecessor the G-body Supreme Classic coupe in dark blue with V8, bucket seats, T-tops 4 speed transmission and stunning chrome rally wheels. I liked both for different reasons but now at the age of 41 find myself wanting a RWD G-body for a fun Summer cruiser over the more generic W-body GM-10 coupe with it’s wheezy 2.8 liter V6.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      The sad thing was that the 307 V8 and quadrajet weren’t pumping out much more HP than the 2.8V6… (More torque down low yes but hp wasn’t it’s forte. I too would rather “cruise” in the G-body but would rather drive the GM-10 on a long trip.)

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    I think like everything else artistic, you have a generation of designers/engineers whose creations all follow a similar style. GM-10 I believe began in 1982 so roughly your ’75-’85 generation is responsible for this beauty. Ninety’s style wasn’t all so bad, so I suppose you could credit that to the ’85-’95 (Gen X?) generation, Really not until mid 2000s did I think mainstream design drove off a cliff, nice one Gen Y.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    If the paint weren’t faded this would be an elegant car, very tastefully stylised yet modest.

    I’m not big on car styling, but I do prefer the simple, timeless styling of the 80′s and 90′s thats been long lost in favor of flashy angular messes with no windows.

    The door handles are a neat touch too, but I remember them breaking a tad easily.

    The most impressive bit is how so much ATD this thing has yet how so much isn’t obvious, where did the art of modest styling go?

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    This article makes me want to go find one and perform one of those Wbody 3800 mods documented so well on 90′s Grand Prix models.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    A few years back I looked at buying the convertible version. Early 90′s White w/burgandy interior and the 3.1. Nice driving car with a good powertrain and 4w discs. What turned me off was the cheap Roger Smith era plastics and door mounted belts to comply with the passive restraint requirement. The late 80′s early 90′s 240SX/Sliva convertible had a similar design. Door mounted belts, basket handle “rollbar”. I wound up buying another Ford T-Bird, yes a real RWD personal luxury cruiser and have been content with it ever since. If the GM10 was designed as RWD w/IRS it would have modernized the G-Body keeping RWD fans happy and have been competition for the T-Bird/Cougar though Ford did consider using the FWD Taurus platform for the T-Bird/Cougar to compete with the GM10.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    The interiors of W bodies were attempting to appeal to old timers of the day with velour and horizontal speedos. But, these buyers were turned off and drove off in boxy Cieras til 1996.

    The younger ‘Boomer’ buyers went to ’89 Accords and Camrys, which have grown into the “Oldsmobiles” of the 2010′s.

  • avatar
    mccall52

    @Michael Karesh

    “Oh, and blue digital instruments.”

    Another word anout ATD along those lines. Back in the day my father had one of these as a loaner while our 1988 Pontiac Bonneville SE was at the dealer for some warranty repairs. I remember a small Oldsmobile rocket logo in the vacuum fluorescent display next to the speedometer. Always thought it was a cool touch, must have made a lasting impression being its been pushing 25 years since I’ve seen it.

  • avatar

    Yeah, I’m a month late, but I just had to say I really appreciate this series and this particular entry. My second car was a ’92 Lumina Z34 with the Quad Four, and I really liked it while it lasted.

    Like KalpanaBlack said, those door handles were SUCH a pain. I spent months climbing in from the passenger side. One day, neither handle would open and I had to call a locksmith. He’d seen the same problem with these coupes many times before.

    But I didn’t care, because my car looked bad ass, especially in its gunmetal gray with red pinstripes. Much cooler than my half-wrecked ’86 Thunderbird (which I’m sure you agree is a highly underrated design itself).

    And say what you will about the Quad Four (I’ll probably agree), but at least my car blew the doors off of any previous Monte Carlo SS–which is basically what it was meant to be.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    It is sort of hard to believe this design came from GM. Its GM10 stablemates certainly didn’t get the less is more, clean design. My parents had a 90 Lumina coupe, in Torch Red and it was much more jarring to the eye, red color not withstanding. And of course, the Pontiac’s of the 80′s and 90′s couldn’t leave the factory without 10 more feet of plastic cladding on everything and obnoxiously red gauges to boot.

    The Olds division at the time of it’s death was well worth keeping over Buick.

    • 0 avatar
      jayzwhiterabbit

      I couldn’t agree with you more! Why in the world they closed Oldsmobile and left Buick is still a mystery to me. Oldsmobiles were by far the best GM cars being built in the late 90′s and early ’00s. The Olds Intrigue was by far the best-looking and highest quality GM-10 W car made, and the Alero was a hell of a lot better looking and had a much nicer interior than the awful Pontiac Grand Am. Plus, the Aurora was a cool car from the start.

      I had this EXACT Olds Cutlass Supreme coupe, in the exact same red/gray color combo. Dude, I loved that car. I loved the digital dash and that unique c-pillar/roof/rear glass. But yes, my door handles became brittle and broke off, and the interior plastics were just atrocious. The interior looked straight out of the 70′s with maroon velour fabrics to match! Mine had the 2.8 V6 and 4-sp auto, and it was pretty reliable for years. However, when the car reached 150k it was shot – rear suspension sagging to the ground, dash warped from the sun, no color left in the upper fabric on the seats and package tray, and constant overheating and eating water pumps and hoses. But it was a fun car while it lasted, and I really appreciate seeing it on this site. I always thought those years of Cutlass coupes were underrated.


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