By on March 27, 2014

05 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOf all the GM J-bodies sold in America, the Olds Firenza may be the rarest. In 1984, most Oldsmobile wagon shoppers wanted a stately rear-wheel-drive behemoth with a V8 engine, not some newfangled small wagon with a little communist-inspired four-cylinder engine driving the wrong wheels. Thus, Firenza wagons are rarer today than early AC Cobras. Here’s one that I found in a San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard last weekend, while I was in town for the fifth annual Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons.
02 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is the 2.0 liter version of the GM 122 pushrod engine. The 122 was a little less thrashy and rattly than the Iron Duke, but it also made less power. This LQ5 put out 86 horsepower, which was pretty miserable even by 1984 standards.
23 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHowever, at least this car had genuine electronic fuel injection. And not-so-genuine “wood paneling.”
19 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBrown-and-tan velour bucket seats.
03 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe last owner of this car must have had glaucoma or some other illness that requires the completely legitimate application of medical cannabis. If Mr. ex-Firenza Driver lived in my state, of course, he could just throw away the medical card, ride his Lambretta to the local dispensary, and buy some shatter hash.
20 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI must assume that this pin was applied when the car still had That New GM Velour Smell.
25 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSay what you will about the early J-bodies, but at least this one outlived most of its Japanese peers.

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55 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Wagon...”


  • avatar
    bauerjw

    Official cards containing a typo? Nice.

    In some weird twisted way that I can’t explain I wish today’s car manufacturers would look at 80′s machines like this and take their products down a notch or two. But I do like me some modern creature comforts. Sigh.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Oh, no… J-Body alert.

    Who can forget such incredible contributions to the automotive world such as the Cimmaron, and the- *gasp* -Sunbird.

    I had an ’86 Sunbird. Two door hatch “GT” model (ahhhhhh) with sweet quadruple pinstripe graphics.

    Even had a power driver’s seat AND the feather design wheels, which could be found on the Firebird and the Fiero.

    The tachometer was even rotated about 180 degrees or so counter clockwise, so when it idled, speaking clock language here, it would have been at about 5:00. Fancy…

    The non-turbo model (booo…). Talk about a dog.

    I still remember manually pulling up the headlight doors by hand before driving in the dark.

    Sweet memories.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      I totally had a 1990 Sunbird GT–TURBO. Oh yeah, 165 horsepower in that thing was a fantastic way to get tickets. I had a great time driving it though by modern standards it is a turd. It was super laggy; mash the gas, wait, wait, wait then BOOOOOOOOOOOST.
      However, it was the most unreliable heap of garbage I’ve ever owned. My brothers called it the Sunturd. Turbo seized twice, air con died twice, broke timing belt (non intereference) and then the head gasket went. I stupidly kept fixing and fixing–rather paying for fixing as this was before I had a clue. Paid $1800 at an auction for it, probably put in at least $7-8k of work over about three years. Then when I had to move, I didn’t have enough time to sell it so I took it to a Saturn dealer where they would buy any car from you, no questions asked. They gave me $400.
      I did like the tach winding up from 5:00 to 11:00, that was pretty cool. Plus the wacky angled center stack and two-part radio with the tuner up top and the tape way down below.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        The SunPidgeon I had (what my girl back in high school at the time called it) has been repainted blue and, as of a few years ago, was actually STILL in service.

        A complete sh*t bum of a man wanted to purchase this car from me, who consequently was my much older sister’s boyfriend at the time.

        I agreed to sell it to him for ALL of $300. Mind you, it was in good shape and ran well. Even had cold air conditioning.

        Then he gave me a sob story and asked to make payments… on a $300 car!

        Under pressure from my mother and sister, I said okay.

        He paid me all of $75 cash. I gave him the title. And he and my sister went their seperate ways.

        IN TURN… if you see a bright blue Pontiac Sunbird GT hatchback driving around the South St. Louis area, with a tall red-headed guy behind the wheel, PLEASE be sure to cut the douchebag off or give him a nice, tall middle finger for me, would ya?

        Nothing says “character” like ripping off a high school kid.

  • avatar
    rpm773

    I always liked how the General was big into putting descriptors in plastic block lettering on the front doors

    Fuel Injection, eh?

    Ooh, a 16V DOHC. Nice.

    It all seemed to be for stuff under the hood, though. EG, one never saw “Drum Brakes” glued to the rear quarterpanel

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      It wasn’t just the General who put all kinds of crap on the backs of the cars. I can remember seeing a lot of different cars of different manufacturers with stuff like: fuel injection, 5 speed, etc., etc. It was a real fad there for a while.

      I don’t miss it whatsoever.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      Lol!

      “OHC/FI”

      Try not to drool.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        That was on the Sunbirds with the Brazilian 1.8L. As I’ve related on other J-car J/Y Finds, my 1984 ‘Bird hatch, reasonably equipped, could at least get out of its own way (at velocities well over the 85mph speedo’s capability in a couple cases). The big letdown, besides the rust and the faded paint (though it looked like decent Lt. Briar Brown — until you got up-close), was the head-gasket I had to pay for out of a commuter college student’s budget ($500); that and the cold-engine stalling problem on my Dad’s ’86 Century Limited turned my Oldsmobuick family into a Honda family virtually overnight.

        This car looks like a reasonably well-optioned one — looks like power windows and locks, along with air/cruise/tilt (and the missing markings on the multifunction lever to go along with it). That Delco ETR stereo is identical to the one on that Sunbird — no seek/scan, just the clock-set buttons (except the buttons were black instead of the silver ones on this car).

        My aunt had a first-year Firenza hatch in the nice light green color these had, with no options at all save for possibly power steering and brakes and tinted glass — no A/C, four-speed stick. Car didn’t give many problems that I recall, but the key buzzer (which was the same for belts and key, unlike some GMs of the time) was wired backwards, so that the thing would sound when the key was in and the door was closed!

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      My 1987 Chevrolet R-10 says “Disc Brakes” on the brake pedal pad.

      Only the Front brakes are discs. Shouldn’t it say “Combination Drum + Disc Braking System?”

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Fuel Injection, EcoBoost. Tomato, tomah-to.

  • avatar
    tced2

    I owned an ’84 Sunbird turbo (bought new). I liked the configuration of the car (a hatchback). But it had numerous failures except the turbo and the (auto) tranny. I called it my “$250 car” – for the numerous $250 failures – many of them involving electrical hardware. My “favorite” failure was the turn signal lever. It broke off 2 times. I was very careful of this lever after the first failure and it continued to fail. I have owned many cars before and after that had no problem with the turn signal lever. The last breakage of the lever resulted in trading the car off. I had a friend who worked at (then) Delco who remarked that none of the electrical hardware was tested – it was just designed and put into production. I guess the customer was in charge of testing. It failed many tests.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      The hatchbacks looked pretty good. I remember thinking GM had finally found its small-car mojo when the J cars came out. Sadly, it’s not the last time I was wrong.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    My father in law years ago bought a cavalier wagon, same as this just not as nice. Paid $500 my wife’s brother drove it through college. They sold it $500 after 3 years or so. That car took some abuse and never quit.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I liked this generation of J body, it was rather cleanly designed with great sight lines. None of which you see today. This size wagon is a touch too small for my needs today, but I’d like the size of it, especially for city traffic.

    I’d much rather a Firenza SX hatch with the 2.8 V6 & five speed for me to cruise around in. But they were very low production, probably a fair amount lower than this wagon…

  • avatar
    the_yeti

    A 1984 Caviler was my second first car. It had this engine in it. I broke the bolts on the gooseneck trying to replace the thermostat. I held the pipe on with C clamps and that magic putty you see at parts stores on display with pennies stuck in it,.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    One of my friends in college (2006) had one of the very last Cavalier wagons made, as it had an airbag! Must have been a 1994? Were those still on the J-body?

    For the record that thing felt very solid, and drove pretty nicely. It was aqua blue, and she called it the “cheese wagon.”

  • avatar
    ja-gti

    The photo of the gear selector reminds me of a completely useless fact from my years driving an ’86 Cavalier – in the late ’80′s/early ’90′s, a McDonald’s BBQ sauce container would fit perfectly into the gear selector slot immediately ahead of the selector handle stem when in “D”. Made for some easy dippin’ of the finest nuggets in the land!

    • 0 avatar
      friedclams

      This comment cracks me up. Very evocative! Somehow I imagine that was not what GM had planned.

    • 0 avatar
      AthensSlim

      While I couldn’t dip with them there, I remember that McNugget sauce containers fit perfectly in the little cubby above the ashtray of an A2 VW. The ashtray itself did a perfectly adequate job of holding them for dipping once they were open. And, my bean bag cup holder wedged perfectly in front of the shifter and the lower dash. German Engineering!

    • 0 avatar
      TrenchFoot

      I’ll back this comment up 100%. I remember that the McD’s sauce cups didn’t fit aft of the shift when in D, so you put them in front. But I always forgot they were there until after I shifted into Park.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    “at least this car had genuine electronic fuel injection”
    TBI from the photo.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      That’s what I was thinking too. Not exactly genuine.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        TBI is legit. It’s one lonely injector run by a computer with approximately half the calculation capacity of a toaster, but it counts.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Hey, Chrysler thought TBI was good enough to keep making TBI trucks until 2001…

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          Agreed. Aren’t today’s EFI conversion kits (see, e.g., http://www.hotrod.com/techarticles/engine/hrdp_0912_efi_system_conversion/) essentially the same thing?

          TBI may seem half-baked, but I think it was a clever engineering response to a tough design brief: convert a carbureted vehicle to EFI while changing as little of the tooling as possible.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          I was gonna say that too. It’s most defnitely electronic fuel injection. The “Electronic” denomination isn’t dependend on *where* the fuel is injected, just that it’s got injector(s) controlled by electronics.

  • avatar
    TrenchFoot

    This was my first car, an ’84 Firenza Cruiser Wagon. Mine had the 1.8 OHC engine, but otherwise the same down to the wood contact paper. It was actually a pretty good car for a teenager: carried lotsa friends, you could sleep in the back, was pretty capable in the snow or on logging roads. And judging by it’s durability, the front end was likely made by Rubbermaid.

    It lost a temp sensor after a while and would overheat, eventually warping the aluminum head. Because of this I got introduced to car repair when my dad offered to ‘help me’ repair it. I spent a few weekends watching him and turning a wrench or two before the resurrected Firezna became mine outright. It probably started me down the road of car obsession and the burdensome ability to repair my cars “because I can”. Thanks Dad.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I always liked the Sunbird the best in terms of looks, especially the restyled GT models, but the Firenza and the Buick (Skyhawk?) also had clean looks.

    Pity the build quality didn’t match up…

  • avatar
    Quad442

    Wow, the Firenza was a pretty bad idea. Whats next a Fiero? An Allanté? The cars in this series are always unpredictable.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    This one is ripe for a Crabspirits story. It’s rare where we actually know the face of the Last Rider.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    I had an ’84 Skyhawk wagon. The J-wagons were a good basic design suffering from the usual GM corner-cutting. They swallowed lots of cargo and the rear floor liftover height was very low, this back in the pre-SUV days when that was considered a selling point instead of a flaw. The Firenza and Skyhawk dashes had a nice cluster with four round dials, which could be ordered with a full component of instruments (mine was the sort of intermediate package that had oil, temp and voltage gauges but no tach).

    So, about that corner-cutting. Mine suffered a cracked engine block at 23K miles, replaced under warranty. After that, it was pretty reliable except for the air conditioning. The drain for the system repeatedly clogged up, causing all the condensed humidity to be dumped into the passenger compartment. By the end of one Philly to South Carolina summer trip, there was several inches of water sloshing around in the footwells. Then there was the time that the A/C hose which is cleverly routed quite close to the exhaust manifold got TOO close and burst explosively, causing black burning-Freon smoke to billow out. My first thought was “engine fire,” so I pulled into a happily nearby parking lot, cut the ignition and RAN, expecting the car to blow up.

    Has anyone taken one of these and a Cimarron, and made a Cimarron wagon?

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    My first car was a blue ’87 Skyhawk wagon. Got my license with it (used to be my dad’s car) and had my first accident with it too. Sadly, the second accident totaled it after about 1 year of ownership back in 1998. Spent a lot of time fixing it up before it happened. It was the only car with an automatic I ever owned.

    Just a few months ago I saw an ’87-88 white wagon at the junkyard near SF! Memories! But the Firenzas are truly the rarest, along with the Pontiac version.

  • avatar
    mwerre

    Ah the A/C controls bring back some memories… anyone collect 1980s Big Three A/C controls? Would be one of the smallest collections ever, I think with less than 10 panels you could represent the A/C controls of 99% of the American cars built between 1980 and 1989.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      All of GM had the same layout, with probably two or three sizes, depending on the platform. Different ends on the levers, and maybe a “CLIMATE CONTROL” applique in the Buicks.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Surprised to hear that some commenters had HVAC issues with these. Say what you want about problematic GM products, over the decades their AC systems have been bulletproof. Every GM car I or family members have owned that was manufactured in the 60′s through the 90′s has had very reliable HVAC systems. In fact up until Rolls Royce was acquired by VW and subsequently BMW, GM supplied the Frigidaire units for models such as the Silver Cloud and Cornice.

    About 15 years ago an uncle of mine left the family the 4 door version of this car. It was gray with gray velour and the 1.8 OHC with auto. It was in decent shape but was sitting for a while. I managed to get it running but it’s motor was making some tappet sounds which apparently is the norm for older Brazilian 1.8 OHC’s. But once I ran it for a while and let it idle the noise dissipated. Ended up selling it to someone who need cheap wheels for $600. Last I heard they got a few years out of it.


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