By on February 29, 2016

1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera front RH view in California junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

The Cutlass name was applied to so many different Oldsmobiles that you could put together an all-day Cutlass Badging Trivia Challenge and have no shortage of material. By the middle-to-late 1980s, Cutlass had become something of a sub-marque for Oldsmobile, with the Cutlass Ciera, Cutlass Calais, and Cutlass Supreme on different platforms and causing madness in subsequent generations of parts-counter guys. The Ciera (generally spelled “Sierra” by most owners, because what the hell is a Ciera?) achieved its greatest fame as the car driven by various bad guys in the excruciatingly Minnesotan film “Fargo.”

Here’s a Cutlass Ciera — a Brougham, no less — that I spotted in Denver last week.

1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in "Fargo", Image Source: "Fargo"/PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and Working Title Films

The Ciera in the movie was an ’87 sedan in Burnt Umber paint and Olds dealer Jerry Lundegaard never mentions a Brougham package, so today’s white ’86 isn’t exactly the same as the movie car, though I’d say it’s close enough.

1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera velour upholstery in California junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

The 1980s were fat years for American velour manufacturers.

1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera tachometer in California junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

There’s no point in photographing the odometer in this car, because GM was still using five-digit units at this point. However, the brightly-colored tachometer with the Oldsmobile rocket emblem and chugging 5,550 rpm redline has a lot of interesting design elements.

1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera intake manifold emblem in California junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

Under the hood of the Olds is the same 2.8-liter pushrod 60° V6 used in such machines as the Chevy Citation, GMC Sonoma, and Pontiac Fiero. Sadly, the Isuzu Hombre never got the 2.8.

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[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars | Image Source: “Fargo”/PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and Working Title Films]

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110 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Brougham...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    I had an ’82(?) 3.0l V6 with vinyl top and the same wire wheels and white walls. It was a big step from a ’79 Chevette in the day. I only had it for a year in 1987 before picking a brand new 1988 Beretta GT.

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    Ah yes, the lovely GM A-Body circa 1982-1996. We had two examples in our family. One, a blue-on-blue 1986 2.8L example, used to be our neighbor’s, but my brother bought it off of them to be his first car. It amazingly managed to soldier on until 1999. My dad bought a maroon-on-maroon 1995 3.1L example in 2001 that lasted him all of three years until the timing chain snapped. It wasn’t exactly his first choice of car in that time period but when you can get a deal…

    These are prime examples of post-mailaise mediocrity and the fact that it continued to sell past 1989 even though the N, G, and W platforms all came into existence is purely baffling.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Wait – I know this one!

    Ciera is a blonde girl who surfs!

    …and drives a Grand Am…

  • avatar
    Balto

    These cars have earned total cockroach status in east coast cites. These are probably the most common car I see from the mid-late 80’s to the early 90’s still crawling around, other than pickups, XJ cherokees, and conversion vans. every one has to have seriously faded paint, sagging headliner, a front bumper cover almost dragging on the ground, and a garbage bag duct taped over the passenger side window.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Yup, this is the case for many reasons.
      Plentiful: so many variants of the same car with interchangeable parts
      easy to fix
      and finally….they were/are fairly durable in as much in typical GM fashion nothing will work great but the engine and trans will last if you change the fluids once a presidential administration.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a college roommate who had a cutlass supreme wagon that replaced a custom cruiser that was towed and lost by the city of Baltimore. He had a bag over a window for a while after somehow doing a 180 and sideswiping a pole

    • 0 avatar
      NOSLucasWiringSmoke

      15 years ago these were still all over the place in Ontario, but they’re almost all gone now. Before the taxi regulating authorities passed laws restricting vehicle age they were extremely popular as cabs into the late 90s. I assume this was because they were cheap and roomy, and parts were plentiful. The real lemons would have been weeded out after a few years, and the survivors were true cockroaches.

      If I see one now it’s worthy of a double-take (I will double-take over the weirdest cars). I think I might have seen two since the New Year in a city of a million people. I passed one on the expressway on my morning commute awhile back. It was about an ’87 or ’88 Ciera (similar to the car in this post, but with the post-1986 aero-style headlights and the waterfall grille) making its way across town. Next to a modern midsize sedan like my Accord it looked quite small and low on its 13- or 14-inch rubber. The side mirrors were comically small compared to what they put on cars now. When I see something like this I reflexively think that someone’s grandparent handed down their low-mileage garage queen.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    These were everywhere when I was growing up… and I mean everywhere. The perfect mom car while the dad had the pickup, luxury, or sports car.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    My dad had a late ’90s Cierra as a company car. At the time I still had a learner’s permit and thankfully my mom made me learn to drive on her Toyota Corolla (read: 5 speed manual). Once I drove the Cierra all I can remember is how numb it felt. The Corolla was easily more fun to drive.

    I thought Fargo (the movie) was OK, but I have watched the first two seasons on Fargo (TV show) on FX, and it is a fantastic show.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “The 1980s were fat years for American velour manufacturers.”

    I’d much prefer that over leather.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Always amazed by how well the majority of these GM interiors have held up. Taste might be subjective but I still prefer the velour interior for wear, durability and the ability to get it in many colours.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    What’s both funny and sad is this MY86 needs only a few exterior changes to be mistaken for an MY95.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Well how else do you think Fargo got away with passing off a new car as being several years old?

      • 0 avatar
        thattruthguy

        The Oldsmobiles in Fargo, including the scenes in the showroom and service department, were consistently backdated to about 1987. Jerry and Wade’s 98s were the style that ended in 1990. The last year for the square edged rear window on the burnt umber Ciera in the movie was was 1990; from 1991 to the end of production, Cieras had a rounded rear window. IMDB says there are several years of similar Oldsmobiles that are presumably shown as new cars, including the “brand new burnt umber Ciera” and Jerry and Wade’s newer 98s.

        • 0 avatar
          NOSLucasWiringSmoke

          I thought the Ciera/Century/6000 sedans and coupes went to the more rounded rear greenhouse for ’89. The Celebrity stayed square-rigged, though, possibly because it was in its last year while the others remained in production a bit longer (when did the 6000 end, ’91?).

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            Yes, that is correct. The rounded greenhouse for the Ciera/Century/6000 sedans started in the 1989 model year, while the Celebrity retained the old style. The final year for the 6000 was 1991.

            On a related note, the Ciera coupe received a new roofline for 1986, which was adopted by the Century coupe in 1989. The final year for the Ciera coupe was 1991, Century coupe lasted until 1993.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          Incorrect. The Ciera went to the curved rear window mid way through 1986 on the coupes and in 1989 for all sedans. They also gained flush headlights starting in 1987 on Broughams and 1988 onward all had these headlights. The rear end of all 1989 on up coupes/sedans also changed from the squared off look to a more rounded curve with different taillights and grilles in between. The fuel injection logo also disappeared after 1986 and the flags logo not long after 1989. The interiors also changed during the 90’s, the steering wheel went over to the air bag style starting in 1993 as an option on base models and the seats changed yet again in 1995. Pretty easy for me to tell the years apart on this car unlike most of the cars built in the new Millennium.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Yet another case of grandpa or grandma’s creampuff, unceremoniously dumped by an indifferent relative after he/she passes on. Sad…

    • 0 avatar
      nicktcfcsb

      Robert your 100% correct, it takes that and an uninterested poor junkyard staff that allows cream puffs to get sat in the yard with the other “junk”. The obviously garaged 30k mile 1981 corolla with perfect paint and interior made me kinda sick to my stomach at my old local pick n pull

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      It’s also possible that this example has higher mileage and a failed 440 trans axle due to lack of maintenance which is quite common during the 1980’s. Notice the circle around the second “D” in the shift indicator. It’s not very common to see a 1986 with the multi port 2.8 in the Ciera line as the majority had the Iron Duke or the carbureted Chevy 2.8. The GT of course used the Buick 3.8 SFI V6.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    When discussing the New Generation of Olds in 1990, one car is conspicuously absent:

  • avatar
    MLC LS1

    I had the SAME exact car! The only difference I can see between the two is the radio in this car doesn’t have an equalizer like mine did. I was 18 years old at the time. I bought it off a local older gentleman in 2003 for $150, he just wanted to get rid of it as it was his late wife’s car that he used for grocery getting. He had parked on the side of the road next to his house with a sign on it, “$250”. At the time, I just had my 1992 Camaro, my only car, repainted to the tune of $3,000.00. I couldn’t stand the thought of putting my pristine thirdgen through the destruction of a Northeast winter. I stopped and looked at the Brougham, and ended up buying it for $150.
    The car was rough, it had ALOT of rust on the body from sitting in his moisture laden garage for many years. However, the motor and trans were pristine since he was mechanically inclined. I remember the car had 117,000 miles on it when I bought it. My uncle (a mechanic) hooked me up big time by slapping inspection stickers on it. There was no way this car would pass with the rust it had on it! Once it was roadworthy, I generated many a story with the car. Lets see if I can remember some of the good ones. Oh yea! The car had a few kinks that needed to be worked out. Remember I said the motor and trans were solid, well…it was everything else around them that went bad. The radiator blew up in the bank drive through. The heater core went bad a year into having the car. A radiator hose exploded while parked out front of a Wawa while I was conversing with an old high school acquaintance.
    Throughout my ownership, I decided to give the car some “personal touches”. I spray painted it primer gray, wrote “454” right behind the headlights on the fenders with black paint and a paintbrush, and put a huge ricer wing on it from one of my buddies at college who worked at Autozone and had a wing laying around that somebody returned and they couldn’t resell. We put it on in the parking lot of the college with a hitch receiver and a ball peen hammer! I even put cherry bombs on the exhaust! My favorite act was driving through the Philly street races with the wing and having the ricers yell, “DO A BURNOUT! SHOW THAT WING WHOSE BOSS!” I couldn’t get her to spin em’ with 4 people in the car.
    The car even earned me my college nickname, “Lunch Tray”. I got the name from stealing trays from McDonalds, putting them under the rear wheels, locking the e-brake, and doing powerslides through the college parking lot in an inconspicuous remote area. One day half my class pulled up in their cars afterwards to watch!
    I truly loved that car. I never had to worry about somebody scratching it, or taking it into bad parts of town and having it vandalized. It met its unfortunate demise 30,000 miles later in 2006 when rust got so bad that I decided to junk it. To replace it, my buddy’s brother happened to be selling an 88′ Pontiac 6000 at the time. I bought that car for $500, and stripping the 86′ Olds of all it’s good parts since the cars shared the same platform. The best part, was that I was paid half the original cost of the car ($75) by the salvage company that picked up the car. What a car!

  • avatar
    Boff

    I learned to drive on an ’84 Celebrity. It had the carbureted 2.8L V-6; the fuel-injected 3.1L that my dad later had in an ’87 (?) as a company car was vastly superior. My stepmom had a Pontiac 6000 that seemed in another league of style compare to the Chevys. I’m not sure where the hate for this platform comes from, as my recollection is that they drove pretty well and were solid choices for a family vehicle. Unfortunately my mother didn’t maintain the Celeb too well…it had an alarming tendency to swap ends under moderate braking and by the end it was down at least a cylinder (and 50% of its original horsepower) and produced neither heat nor A/C. It kablammo’d in spectacular fashion while my brother was driving it on the highway, after 200,000 very hard km of use in our hands.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      it had an alarming tendency to swap ends under moderate braking

      Lack of brake proportioning valve – they all did that. Grandma’s V6 Celebrity coupe, my Mom’s 82 Iron Duke Celebrity sedan, in icy conditions they could be down right dangerous under braking. IIRC the Celebrity also ate front brake pads as a result, chewing through them at an alarming rate.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    You can tell the one from the movie isn’t a Brougham, because it hasn’t got the Brougham shield on the turning indicator lens up front.

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    Wire wheels! Whitewalls! Thick velour seats!

    Excellent junkyard find.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “Sadly, the Isuzu Hombre never got the 2.8.”

    No, but the Trooper did.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’ve driven one of these, albeit a newer example – I think a 1993. It was a shockingly boring shade of powder blue, which I feel many of them were by that time (and the Celebrity was often that color as well).

    http://bestcarmag.com/sites/default/files/13466991G3AG55N7P6400789_1.jpg

    It was SO numb. You couldn’t feel anything in there, and not in a “Wow this ride is luxurious.” sort of way. There was also one level of acceleration, which was on or off. You may coast, or you may accelerate very slowly. The amount of pressure you put on the pedal makes no difference. The thing was only slightly more boring to drive than a later Century – but I wouldn’t know that for a couple more years when my grandparents let me drive their 99 Century Limited.

    But even though it was 20+ years old, that interior still looked new.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Not much difference between the MY93 and MY86.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I can tell! And that is a sad state of affairs for a car to be the same in 93 as 86.

        BUT – these make super cheapo used cars if you just need a car to get around that’ll be reliable. Nobody wants them. I see them on CL in quite clean condition with not high miles for ~$1000 whenever I bother to look.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          $1,000 USD?

          Scrap + 100-200 at most depending on condition.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            It’s a running car, and assuming it’s got nothing wrong with it I don’t see a problem with $1000.

            Where do these scrap + 200 deals exist? We’re in a post-c4c world!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            When I tell the seller nobody will buy a 93 A-body in 2016 for a grand when so much better stuff is selling for the same price. So his choices are take scrap value from the yard or scrap plus $100 for his trouble.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            He’d tell you to sod off unless he was absolutely desperate to sell. Someone will buy it, for the aforementioned car + working + $1000 formula can be a tough find for someone needing wheels.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Even I am not spending a grand on an A-body FWD in 2016, I’d love to meet the fools who are. Here are better contenders in the first car category and bear in mind no price is firm:

            ’98 chevy truck $1,500

            https://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/5469645619.
            html

            ’02 Saturn SL – r-title $1,500

            https://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/5469641410.html

            ’98 Honda Civic – $600, new clutch/high miles

            https://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/5469585384.html

            ’90 Ford Bronco – $2,000

            https://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/5469603954.html

            ’06 Pontiac Grand Prix – $2,000

            https://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/5469486902.html

            ’00 Park Ave – $1,300, new tranny

            https://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/5460063786.html

            wait… holy mother of dog… wtf?

            https://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/5452359930.html

            Oooo Chrysler TC!

            https://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/5469525771.html

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Lol, you’ve lost it. The only ones which are applicable here are the ones where the ask is within $500 of the $1000 limit.

            -Silverado has unlisted miles. I’m betting close to 250k.
            -Rebuilt, damaged Saturn? You’d rather have that than clean A-body?
            -234k miles Civic, vs <100K A-body? Really?
            -The PA is a no-go because of how it's been ghetto modded, and the too high miles.

            The others are not within price spec. Are you alright? I'm talking clean and undamaged A-body with perhaps 100-120k miles, for $1000. Better contenders?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            There are no “clean” and undamaged A-body FWDs in 2016, even the junked example is average condition.

            “Silverado has unlisted miles. I’m betting close to 250k.”

            That’s a GMT400, so depending on the motor miles do not matter. GM offered the 4.3, 305, 350, and 454 in those years and the only one I m’eh is the 305. I can also sell an inspected truck fairly easily if I need money quick. Try that with an A-body.

            “Rebuilt, damaged Saturn? You’d rather have that than clean A-body?”

            Depends on how jacked up it is, 28 knows quite a bit on the Z-body Saturn.

            “234k miles Civic, vs <100K A-body? Really?"

            I can sell an inspected Civic when I'm done with it.

            "The PA is a no-go because of how it's been ghetto modded"

            Seems like you doubt our lord and savior, 3800 (plus new 4T65-E!).

            Between the Grand Prix and PA, I'd go Grand Prix because its six years newer for similar money.

            The point is driving a 93 something as your only vehicle in 2016 -that's not a truck- isn't wise in 2016. You can have something from the last decade for dissimilar money but anything old will require some wrenching. Kids today need to learn.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Nah, I’m with Corey here. I’d take a hypothetical $1000 A-body over anything you listed. Especially one with the 3300.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            +1000! I needed some sensible support here. Especially given the average consumer does not know the 23,334 fault/info checks necessary about the Park Avenue or the Saturn like 28 does, or have prior inside industry experience.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Corey

            That’s true, I am certainly an outlier (also a weirdo). But let’s break down your hypothetical A-body and assume passable tires/brakes:

            Pros:

            3100 or 3300 goodness.
            Used to be bazillions in junkyards so cheap parts in theory.
            Chance of theft is near zero in 2016.
            Some power features may be available (I think PW/PL were standard on Olds)

            Cons:

            Fluids are somewhere between 10 and 23yo (some may have been changed at some point, hence the 10).
            Electronics/sensors are 23yo.
            Shocks are 23yo.
            Muffler/exhaust is likely 23yo.
            Radiator is likely 23yo.
            Cooling hoses are likely 23yo.
            Cheap steel, so expect rust.
            Uncomfortable interior.
            A/C should still be R12, so chances of working A/C are low.
            No airbag in the 93 A-body.
            The platform is from 1982, so crash ratings are somewhere in that 80s range of acceptability.
            How old is the battery?
            What does the undercarriage look like in terms of rot?

            So you buy it, and put the labor and cheap parts into it (hoses, fluids) in order to head off potential problems. I get the cheap wheels/reliability argument, but you’re still driving something we drove in high school and ordinary people are not buying this off of you when you tire of it.

            Part of what I learned having a sickness for certain worthless vehicles is when you have no money, its important to buy things which have intrinsic value to other ordinary people. Running pickup > A-body, Honda anything > A-body, 3800 > A-body (but not by much to the proles).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I would add here the 3.3 was available until 93, and the 3.1 carried on until 96. So you can find one with airbag for the driver and R134 refrigerant. GM went R134 for 94.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ten years ago for $900 or less I would have said the equivalent 88 or whatever A-body was worth a look (as long as it was TBI and not a carb). These cars were built cheap for the masses of the 90s, hell I think the later N-body is a big step up and those weren’t great. The 60V6 (or earlier 3300) is your only real asset and I just think in 2016 one can do better for their I have no money first car in the Northeast.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            I was just offered $1,100 for my 2005, 3800 Buick with just under 120,000 kms, no body rust, a new catalytic converter, nearly new oxygen sensors, 4 month old ECM and 4 tires with less than 12km on them. Just passed Ontario certification and e-testing.

            The body does have cosmetic issues (no dents) and the interior wood trim (plastic) is extensively scratched by the dog that it was used to chauffeur around. But there are no tears on the velour seats or headliner.

            Of course that was trade in value from a dealer.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I think it depends a lot on region as well.

            For me in central FL, rust is very rarely an issue on anything, most vehicles were converted to R134, and finding a low-miles decent condition A-body isn’t *that* hard (although it’s much easier to find a good Panther or LeSabre).

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            The asking prices that I see for clean A-bodies are $1,500-$2,000, and I’m sure they will sell for $1,000. People will pay at least $1,000 for almost any car that runs well and doesn’t have major body damage or rust, or at least they will in the rust belt. I’d take a well maintained A-body over any of those other CL examples.

            I bought a 1996 Cutlass Supreme in late 2013 with 58k miles. I just bought it for fun, because I’ve always liked the styling. Since then, I have put 15k miles on it, and haven’t had to repair anything. Just oil changes, and I treated it to a new set of tires. These old GM cars can be very reliable for someone looking for cheap transportation.

            Around here, the once-common A-body has been replaced as the cheap car of choice by the W-body Century. You see tons of them on the road in various states of disrepair. Sometimes you even see more than one per household.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @r129

            So, three years ago you sourced an MY96 with an average of 3400 miles per year of use for a secondary car. I may have done the same at the right price point, but the hypothetical A-body is going to have nearly double those miles at acquisition and probably won’t be in a true “clean” condition.

            Here is such a unicorn as you have, but for $3K and its avg and not clean due to body damage IMO (also could be TMU):

            http://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/5421994681.html

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            Admittedly, mine is not a typical example, but it illustrates that there are some low mileage older cars that aren’t going to need to have every component replaced after you buy it. My car was owned by an elderly man, then purchased by his neighbors for their daughter to drive during college, then it was returned to them and used as a second car for a few years. Because the car saw regular but limited use, it was in good working condition.

            If the car had 30,000 miles and sat in an old lady’s garage untouched for 15 years, that’s a whole different story, and there’s no telling what will need to be replaced all at one time once someone starts using it again.

            That example you provided is worth nowhere near $3,000. It’s dented, it has some mechanical issues, and it seems like it’s had a few owners, but perhaps most importantly, no one wants a Cutlass Ciera. Sure, people will drive a Cutlass Ciera at the right price, but it’s never going to be desirable. The Cutlass Supreme Coupe, on the other hand, is a thing of beauty, worlds ahead of the Ciera! At least in my mind.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @r129

            I actually have one of those “old lady” specials myself although its an MY02. I changed the three key fluids (coolant/oil/transaxle), cleaned the throttle body, replaced the thermostat, and proactively replaced two sensors (coolant and the TPS). She runs like a top, gets phenomenal mileage for an automatic, and was worth every penny. But the average person isn’t going to run across these sorts of vehicles and for them I feel its best to go with something as new as you can in the best condition you can afford with bonuses for unpopular or unloved models.

            The gentleman I cited with an 96 A-body similar to yours may be worth a look or you could take your 3K elsewhere and look at a newer Buick Century for the same or similar money.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Well if you’re shopping Century models of later origin, then the answer is Regal 3.8!

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            Actually, I shouldn’t say that no one wants a Cutlass Ciera. I really, really want this Cutlass Ciera:

            http://www.carwashcarsinc.com/1987_Oldsmobile_Cutlass%20Ciera_261108590.veh

            I would never pay even close to $6,995 for it, but I want it. It’s hard to determine what is reasonable to ask for a car like that one. No matter how old (“classic”) it gets and how nice it is, I don’t think it will ever be desirable to most of the general public.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            GM was really making a surprising number of coupes circa 86. That one is about $4k overpriced, ha.

            I didn’t know there was a “Grande Edition” Olds Ninety-Eight either. Motorweek taught me in their 86 GM lineup vid.

            http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/new/171110/1986%20Oldsmobile%2098%20Grande%20Folder/1986%20Oldsmobile%2098%20Grande%20Folder-02.jpg

            Is this better than a Brougham trim?

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            That Grande Edition is certainly interesting, but not really my cup of tea. I never liked the extremely upright roofline of the 98 Regency coupe, and I prefer Oldsmobiles that are pretending to be sporty rather than the all-out Brougham varieties. The 88 coupe of the time was much better styled, but at that point, I’d rather have a LeSabre T-Type, one of the only times I’d choose the Buick version over the Olds.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I always think about the sheer disappointment which must have accompanied people going to their GM store in 86. Must have been quite a WTH moment as they pulled up with their 85 Eldorado or 84 Ninety-Eight and saw the sad little new one.

            I would’ve went right up the street and got a Lincoln instead.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I can’t believe there was a brougham edition I hadn’t heard of… Grande by Oldsmobile. Must. Possess. One.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            A monumental moment! I just showed 28 something about a brougham he never knew.

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            My grandfather bought a brand new 1986 Buick Park Avenue. At the time, he was excited about the trimmer size that would fit into his garage and driveway better, and FWD for better traction in the snow. Turns out that it had quite a few problems when it was new, such as stalling out without warning while driving, but once those bugs were worked out he kept it for another 12 years. His major complaint was that the ride wasn’t as nice as the old RWD barges.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yes! We must share this with the Brougham Society.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m not a member! Though I thought I had joined before. That’s pending now.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Ooh boy, nostalgia. That Ciera pic is my first car, right down to the sky blue paint and alloys. Hand-me-down from a wonderful grandma when she stopped driving it. It was quiet, it was cushy, it was fairly emasculating for a high school student but I knew how lucky I was to have a car. I believe the 3.1V6 was hooked to a 3 speed auto and it was quick enough in the mid 90s, although the ratio gaps were alarming and there was no tach to show just what the fury underhood meant.

      Lots of funky 1980s GM traits in that vehicle, from the switchgear to the ancient interior design language to the way the doors clanked shut. It drove huge even though it wasn’t much larger than the 1991 Camry V6 w/5spd that Mom had at the time. Those two cars right there demonstrated why Toyota and GM went on separate trajectories in the 90s.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Thusly why I call these “GMs Camry”, dull dull dull, but they’re robust if you can avoid rust. If anything these A-Bodys seem to be a little more robust over equivalent Camrys.

      Heck, I see more As than any older Hondas from that period.

      Im with 28D in that he stresses age, just got done working on ancient fuel hoses in my Volvo. But if a cheap Cierra wagon showed up, Id seriously consider it.

      Better to have a nice Hyundai, than a battered bare bones Honda.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I feel the Ciera has less rust issues than both an equivalent Camry or Accord, and also later Century/Regal models.

        My friend in college had a very late model Cavalier Wagon in teal, affectionately called “The Cheese Wagon,” because it was square like cheese. That thing felt pretty robust to me when I rode in it circa 06.

        She traded it in in 08 or 09 on a new Jetta. :(

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Theyre close to Camrys, certainly a step above Hondas.

          Here in the midwest decent A Bodys command anywhere between $1500 and $2000, $1000 would be a bargain.

          I feel weird aboit my future, eithet Ill have an A or some sort if Hyundai. Cars that enthusiasts hate for some reason.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          “I always think about the sheer disappointment which must have accompanied people going to their GM store in 86. Must have been quite a WTH moment as they pulled up with their 85 Eldorado or 84 Ninety-Eight and saw the sad little new one.”

          Back in 1984 Potemkin, one of the established Cadillac dealers in the NYC area would advertise that the 84’s are the last of the “real” full size DeVille’s and you should order now because the new 85 FWD C-body might not be you liking. Same in 85 regarding the E-Body Eldorado and Seville.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Keep in mind, Lexus at this time was introducing the LS400 at a bargain price.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The LS400 was not available until 1990. That is not “at the time.” Are you trolling intentionally?

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            OMG – not trolling. An honest mistake – you are correct.

            My memory must be failing. I bought my first car in 1986, which was an Integra, and I assumed that Lexus was starting up at the same time as Acura.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yeah, Acura had a 4-year lead on Lexus. But Honda was so conservative (and I think scared from their Rover Sterling experience) that they refused to put any big money into Acura.

            And here we are today.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Good point. I don’t think Acura realized what it would take to counter MB’s brand history.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Was it a 4 cylinder? My 1993 with the 3300 pulled you back in the seat when the go pedal was pressed down and a simple upgrade from the stock 185/75 tires to 195/7014 and HD gas rear shocks made a big difference in handling and road holding.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I have never seen that sweet tachometer before, which is odd considering the number of neighbors/friends/community members who owned Oldsmobiles in my 1980s childhood.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I thiiiink the later ones had the horizontal speedo also? Seems like I recall the one I drove was lacking any complete gauges like you see here.

      I imagine this varied for International, Brougham, and whatever else trim levels.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        My 1991 had a half-circle speedometer the size of a pie plate. This Brougham one looks waaay sportier. I don’t think the horizontal ones survived into the 90s.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Ahh, right the big half circle, like other Olds products of the time. I think Cadillac might have maintained the only horizontals into the 90s.

          http://bestcarmag.com/gallery/1992-oldsmobile-cutlass-ciera/page/5

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            If I recall correctly, the Century kept the horizontal speedometer until 1993, switching over to the giant half-circle for 1994. The Ciera lost its horizontal speedometer earlier, maybe after 1989 or 1990. The Ciera also offered an optional full gauge package on various trim levels until 1992 or so.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      That tachometer was part of an optional gauge package. They also offered a pretty sweet digital instrument panel as an option. I know because my dad probably sold a gazillion Cutlass Cieras back in the 1980’s, and had a couple of loaded-up ones as company cars.

      The International Series model looked pretty sharp.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    “Sadly, the Isuzu Hombre never got the 2.8.”

    Well, I should hope not, given that the Hombre was based off the second-gen S-10, not the first.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Thank you, thank you for the shout-out to the parts-counter folk who had to deal with Cutlass naming nonsense. I dealt with too many idiots who would get into a towering rage when asked which model of Cutlass they had (because there is only one and it’s their car!). Having said that, I drove a number of the Buick version with a 3.8L V6 and those things were stupidly fast for the day. I saw many shocked faces on BMW drivers when that 3.8 Buick would run away from them with smoke pouring off the front tires (pre traction-control era) These were good solid cars, basically a ‘fixed’ version of the x-body.

  • avatar
    Sloomis

    My ’96 Ciera wagon is the car that drove me straight into the arms of Toyota and Honda. Haven’t bought an American car since.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Funny considering all the 1996 A-bodies that are still on the roads vs 1990’s Asian cars which are almost non existent in the entire Upstate, Ny area.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Great, 20 years on and the A-bodies resist oxidation better than the Asian makes in the Rust Belt. In the rest of the world and for the first 15 years of ownership, a lot of us would prefer a vehicle that doesn’t feel like it was engineered 50 years ago. Ever wonder why the Cutlass Ciera nameplate no longer exists but Asian makes now hold the top 3 sales positions in the sedan category?

        The axiom that Toyota reliability is a punishment because they are so boring that no one wants to own one that long is far more true for a Cutlass Ciera than a Camry.

  • avatar

    My first junk car adventure as a dealer came by way of a black ’87 Cutlass Cierra XC Special Edition – complete with buckets, floor shifter, tach, and all. This was when I was at a little lot just north of Central Ave in St Petersburg, so let’s dispense with the niceties and understand this was in the ghetto part of town.

    Anyhow, this comes in trade on a ’97 Altima. A meek but nice girl in her early 20s and her blustering a**hole boyfriend give us the Cutlass (which they bought from CUT RATE PETE’S BUY-A-WRECK AUTO SALES LLC, for real), $500, and a few payments of $75/week. Their budgeting conversation went as such…

    Me: “$75 a week is pretty standard, man. Its only for a few months.”
    Him: “Man, that’s sooo f**kin much, bro. Plus, she the only one workin’. F*uuuuck.”
    Her: “Well, its not bad. We need a better car.”
    Him: “Yeah but now I gotta hustle more? F*uuuuuuuck.”
    Her: “Baby, I could always work another half shift at McDonald’s…”
    (He slowly turns his head to face her)
    Him: “Bitch, you SO muthaf*ckin’ stupid.”

    So, yeah. Anyway, the deal was inked at $60/wk (whatever) and away they went after he briefd me on having to start the car with a screwdriver. And he was gracious enough to leave me with both sets of screwdrivers – his and hers (not kidding).

    I called my friend Stephen up immediately.

    “Know that s-itbox you want for $400? I have one.”

    An hour later, we’re tooling around in this gorgeous Cutlass Cierra XC. One brake caliper kept locking up, no A/C of course, the tach worked, the speedo didn’t, and the ignition cylinder would sometimes rotate itself out of position, so we’d have to re-screw-start the car while driving. All four tires leaked air, so all four tires eventually became filled with fix-a-flat. We’d do j-turns, curb off embankments, hit things with it, murdered his ex-girlfriend’s garbage can and mailbox with it. The car was a rolling mess for the six months we shared it.

    Eventually, we got bored with it and Stephen put it up for sale outside his job at CVS. A less rational and more alcoholic Doc Brown bought the car off him for $900 and three gallons of “fuel additive” that “makes the carburator get 100MPG through science, you wouldn’t understand.” It smelled like urine and washer fluid and Schlitz and it probably was.

    The last time I saw the car was three months afterwards on the shoulder of the Courtney Campbell Causeway with three orange IMPOUND stickers on it, one wheel removed, and the decklid completely missing.

    Two nights later, it was on fire.

    The day after that, it was finally towed away.

    That’s my Cutlass Ciera story.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    I assume that’s your partner in the wood chipper.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    That Tru-Kote, though…

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Had an ’85 Celebrity Eurosport version of this in the early ’90s. Same 2.8 MFI H.O. motor, based on the earlier H.O. 2.8 made famous by the 1981 X-11. I think the Fiero GTs from these years also used this motor.

    Unfortunately, it wasn’t particularly exciting to drive or very fast though. I remember it as being a pretty boring car. Nothing overtly bad but not exciting in the least.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    My grandfather had a Ciera when I was a kid back in the ’80s. I remember being mightily impressed with its ability to idle silently – my parents were Saab people, so a car whose operating status was only indicated by the tach was a novelty.

    Grandpa was a bit of an ascetic type. The Ciera had these little strips of multicolored flags under the logos inside. That kind of colorfulness just wouldn’t do; he taped them over.

    Now Grandpa and Oldsmobile are both dead. I mourn one of them.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      That kind of colorfulness just wouldn’t do; he taped them over.

      Wow I saw so many of those little rows of flags that fell off the cars by their 5th birthdays he could have just waited.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Ohh colorful old people. Hopefully the tape he used was black, it would look like someone had underlined in bold the model name of the car.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Almost looks like it was driven in, although the tach and temp gauge in normal operating range indicates some kind of electrical calamity while operating.

    Wonder if grandpa died and the family just wanted it gone.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    What ever happened to crabspirits?

    • 0 avatar
      MWolf

      You know, I was wondering the same thing about crabspirits. I stumbled across Junkyard Finds and was reading the comments (which were witty enough, just so no one feels left out), and ended up reading one of his stories. It was what made me come back for more, aside from being a car nut.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Since Oldsmobile was considered to be the “innovation” division with such advances as the Rocket V8, automatic transmission, Jetfire Turbo aluminum V8, an airbag option on full size models in the mid-70’s and a passenger car diesel, well scratch that last one you figure they would have offered a AWD version of the Ciera like Pontiac did with the 6000 STE.

    http://oppositelock.kinja.com/1989-pontiac-6000ste-awd-a-unicorn-s-unicorn-1682154654

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My long time friend is currently driving a 1995 Buick Century wagon that currently has 160k miles on the odometer and aside from a new intake gasket and wheel bearing on the front passenger side has needed little else outside of normal wear and tear to the car. It is dead reliable, starts up everyday, even in 25 below zero weather conditions and can haul around a ton of stuff for his business. The best part, he bought the car for $350 because the car wouldn’t start which ended up being a loose battery connection!

  • avatar
    RP82

    My parents had an ’86 ‘Cutlass Cruiser’ aka Ciera wagon purchased newish around ’87 or ’88 when I was 5 or 6. I remember it was a demo car and I pointed out to my father after he had purchased it one day that the rear tail lights didn’t match. One side had the silver spear logo and the other had a fatter transparent logo that blended into the lamp(thinking back it was probably hit or maybe assembled this way by GM’s quality control at the time). Fast fwd many years later it became my hand me down when I got my license. It had the 2.8 2v carb’d motor and 3 speed automatic slushbox. By that time the paint had faded down to the grey primer on most of the top of the car. It had the fake wood grain decal along the side and my father had removed much of the emissions equip out of the car over the years, including the cat converter. I must say it sounded decent w/ the hollowed cat and the factory muffler. My friend once had a cackle when he spotted the ‘CHOKE’ lamp indicator in the instrument cluster while we were crusing around. I definately put that car through hell and back being a reckless teenager but it kept trucking. I think it had somewhere around 140-150k at that time. It ended up sitting for a few years after I put through the tests and my father eventually gave it away. That’s my Ciera experience


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