By on March 21, 2011

As Detroit was skipping a decade or two of car R&D by concentrating on packing increasing numbers of 128-ouncer-ready cup holders and faux-wood trim into big trucks, it became necessary to make it clear to the targeted buyer demographics that these trucks really weren’t, you know, trucks. In fact, they were more about protection from street crime and potholes than anything else, which is where slapping Mercury badges on the Explorer and Oldsmobile badges on the Blazer came in.

Who better to show off the Blazer’s— wait, make that the Bravada’s— civilized nature than Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter? Right! Sure, the good ol’ Olds 98 got better mileage, was much more comfortable, and smoothed out bumpy roads better than any truck, but so what?

By 2002, focus groups had made it clear that residents of suburban Fear Enclaves felt that sport utility vehicles somehow shielded them from the depredations of urban criminals, and so this ad for the Ford Explorer Mercury Mountaineer features the reassuring voice uttering the words “more security” as sirens wail in the background. Those sirens are for the hapless victim who was foolish enough to bring a Grand Marquis to a combat zone!

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16 Comments on “Adventures In Badge Engineering: Mercury and Oldsmobile SUVs!...”

  • avatar

    What the hell was up with Oldsmobile using the descendants of famous people to sell cars?? First Noah Webster and then Ernest Hemingway? What a depressing ad campaign.
    Joan Hemingway’s vocal inflection seems a tad medicated.

    • 0 avatar

      It all tied in with their then-current “Not your father’s…” campaign, which has gained some infamy since.

      They had Leonard Nimoy and his daughter selling the “shuttlecraft” first-gen Silhouette, William Shatner and daughter slinging the W-Body Cutlass Supreme coupe, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley pushing the Cutlass Calais, and Ringo Starr and daughter hawking the Cutlass Supreme sedan. Their dual tagline theme was “Not your father’s Oldsmobile,” and “This is the new generation of Olds!”

      We all know how that worked out, especially since the “new” generation still included such young-mobiles as the H-Body Eighty Eight and Ninety Eight, and everybody’s favorite hand-me-down Cutlass Ciera.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I despise SUVs for helping kill the station wagon but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Bravada.  Could I afford to gas one up constantly?  No.  Do I need AWD?  No.  But for some reason I still want one damn it!  Maybe it’s that rocket logo that still calls my name.

  • avatar

    People don’t want station wagons.  The Flex is proof of that.

    • 0 avatar
      John Fritz

      Yup. Unfortunately. Those are damn nice cars and I never see them anywhere. Except for a big line of them at the local Ford dealership parking lot. There’s plenty of them there.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      No. People hate station wagons.

      That’s why GMC is tripling down from their top-selling Acadia, to the Terrain, and coming Granite.

      It’s also why Caddy redid the SRX in a friendlier 2-row format to CTS-level sales volume.

      Not to mention the Buick Enclave being one of their top profit-makers.

      And the Traverse / Equinox doing great volume every year.

      And those are just the unibody CUVs. BOF SUVs are essentially similar to the classic BOF wagons of the past, just jacked up and higher-roofed.

      Americans actually *love* wagons, they just hate the name.

  • avatar

    It is rather insulting for two major auto manufacturers to claim that American cities are as wild, dangerous and environmentally demanding as a Jeep trail at 13,000 feet in the Rockies, isn’t it?

    They needed to have gotten out of Detroit a bit more, hadn’t they?

    The Oldsmobile driver needed to have yielded better while driving through the sewer gas clouds, the water spray, and the gang rape scene. It seemed that nothing kept that driver from using caution while blindingly speeding by road crews. Perhaps the ad should have included actually running down a couple of guys in hard hats to demonstrate how silently their bodies impacted the Bravada.

    The Mercury ad was better. Never before was a moving bridge made to appear so frightening and horrifying. The narrator’s voice was excellent. I think he also did Phillips Milk of Magnesia ads showing painfully swollen sausages as stimulated plugged colons.

  • avatar

    You know, the only person I knew who drove a Bravada was also the one guy who could afford to drive anything he wanted.  One of my best buddies back in college was a kid who came from real money.  Really real money.  Once, we were goofing off once in Macau and his father came to visit but had to rush back to the office Hong Kong office.  Had a helicopter pick us up and immigration and customs met us on the roof of his building when we landed.
    Back in the states, he drove a Bravada.  Other car: F-150.  Son drove an Explorer with crank windows.
    Whenever I see a Bravada, I think of my buddy’s father, who would drive miles out of his way to go to the cheaper gas station.

    • 0 avatar

      I worked for a very wealthy man back in the 1980’s. He could buy any car he wanted, but he bought a loaded Chevy Impala every three years. When they quit making the two door coupes, he switched to the sedans. It’s been often noted that Sam Walton (of Wal-Mart) drove an older pickup truck.
      I guess that’s how the wealthy stay that way? And here, I thought I was being cheap…

  • avatar

    Nobody with an IQ bigger than their shoe size would buy this crap

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    I remember a Bravada of this generation in the “experimental assembly” area in Lansing. By that time it was J,L, & N city and  Olds really did not have engineering control anymore, so it was an unusual sight. They were looking at a 5.7L TPI Corvette engine in one. They wanted to give the Olds something special to distinguish it, but the rework was too much for the business case to work out. Olds sold so few Bravadas it was dropped for a year or so, if my memory serves. I love the Olds ‘face’ on the next generation, ’96-7.
    That was the story of life for Olds at the time, there was no money to do much more than badge engineer low volume Bravada. GM actually was on the verge of bankruptcy in ’92.

    The last Bravada was quite a nice vehicle and ironically, the Line 6 engine a product of the former Olds engine team who had evolved into the Line Engine Team in Lansing. Olds was even finally given a first, with the new ’02 Bravada out months before TrailBlazer and Envoy. The excitement was short lived when the phase out of Olds was announced shortly thereafter. A good friend, third generation Olds dealer heard the news on the radio while out for breakfast with his wife.  I remember her asking how GM could kill Olds just after they got the great new Bravada. Ron Zarrella is the answer.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      They were looking at a 5.7L TPI Corvette engine in one. They wanted to give the Olds something special to distinguish it, but the rework was too much for the business case to work out.
      Didn’t the GM Skunkworks even work out a version of SmartTrac that could handle 500lbs ft of torque?  My dad always wanted either a Bravada or an Aurora.  What he ended up with was one of the last S10 based Blazers off the assembly line.  Purchased two years used and with 22,000 miles on it, he paid $11,000 and he’s still got it.  If you’re ever in Ohio and see a fire engine red Blazer with plates that say “DEERE 1” just wave at your friendly John Deere salesman.

    • 0 avatar

      @Dr. Olds: I have a 97 Cavalier that was built at Lansing, which is on the verge of turning 248,000 miles, probably tomorrow. Thing is, it was sold in Youngstown, OH, the back yard of Lordstown assembly. You know, the home of the J’s. You’d think the ones that were sold there would have been built there.
      Regardless, it’s a tough little car that keeps on keeping on, and if we didn’t live in such a harsh climate (Western Michigan), I’d keep the thing to 400,000 miles. I think the car’s mechanicals could do it, but I don’t think the body will last that long…
      The folks in Lansing did a good job. We have a high regard for Lansing built cars, as our family has owned a few over the years, especially my wife’s family. Now I’m hoping the folks in Orion Twp. did as good a job on my Pontiac G6…

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @ Educator Dan- I don’t know about the skunkworks, but it would not surprise me. The GMC Syclone drivetrain handles that much, but I don’t know if it is AWD or 4WD. I just stumbled on a YouTube Video of one on the strip a few minutes ago. 

      GM had some big challenges with the higher HP engines developed in the late ’80’s. I recall a graph depicting “Shift Energy” with axes of torque and RPM. The upcoming Northstar V8 and others, including the HO Quad4 with 7,000 rpm shift point were outside the capability of any of the existing transmissions in the GM lineup.  We had to design shift torque reduction algorithms in engine controls to protect them. 

      @Geozinger-I recall those Cavaliers being built in Lansing I can’t remember why, but more volume was needed than other plants could build. If seem to remember finding it odd that the Tonawanda, NY sourced 2.2L was used, rather than the Lansing Delta Township sourced 2.4L Twin Cam(Quad 4). The 2.2L was not used in any other Lansing product. Please correct me if your Lansing Cavalier is not a 2.2L!

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Signal11- Reminds me of a trip to Nantucket Island a number of years ago with a wealthy friend. His even wealthier friend there had a new ’05 GMC Envoy he kept on the island. They needed 4wd occasionally for the sand when going to the best beach for surf casting.

    I remarked that it was good to see an American brand vehicle. He replied that he chose it because it was the best one on the market! They had expensive Mercedes sedans, too, and could afford whatever they wanted.

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