By on December 15, 2012

I have very little love for nostalgia because, to be frank, the auto auctions I visit every week are overflowing with it.

As the Rivethead, Ben Hamper, was fond of saying, “The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence until you start cutting that shit down.”

For me that fecal threshing consists of repairs, recon work, and getting a car from yesteryear in the hands of someone who loves it far more than yours truly.

But I do have one tender spot in my heart when it comes to true automotive works of art.  Especially when they’re loaded with old school kitsch and delusional fantasies.

I recently found three original Oldsmobile dealer promos from the glory days of the late 60’s.

Now keep in mind we’re not talking about the type of retro art that makes most folks “oooohh” and “aaahhh” with wondrous amazement at one’s buying prowess. No, this was just typical kinda cool kitsch that I found at the nearby Blue Chicken Auction in Dallas, GA on a Friday night.

For some reason these classic Oldsmobile posters and hang-ups appealed to me in a way no Roger Smith era wall art ever could.


Elementary school arts and craft designs intermingled with the promise and potential of space age technology and powerful thrusts of American made glory. All for your joy Mr. Customer!

An outer circle, an inner circle, and a golden rocket taking us ever upwards to the glories of future Oldsmobiles.

There was one other thing I bought in that grouping which may have indeed given ol’ Roger a little inspiration for his demonic Saturn spawn.

That other, other, other import fighting division in GM’s seven headed monster that ended up cannibalizing itself.


There is just something “awe shucks!” inspiring in that classical space age, paperboard, mega sized poster that spoke to me at the Blue Chicken Auction that evening. For once, I had to give in to my frugal nature. If for nothing else, than the sheer joy of owning what once was an American icon.

The bidding started at 5 dollars from yours truly.

About five seconds grinded by, the auctioneer was within a hair whisk of the hammer going down..  when all of a sudden…

6! Damn!

I popped back in at 7. A brief bidding war with the shadows came and went, and I soon became the new owner of all three Oldsmobile Futuramics for 11 dollars, times the money.

11 times three came to 33. Add the 7% buyers premium and 7% tax, and the final real total came to 37.55.

Did I get a good deal? Well, who knows. For now it is occupying my man cave next to the last known skinny picture of John Travolta and an old play called “Hair: the American Tribal Love Rock Musical.” The only two things I still have in my life which date all the way back to the Reagan era and my 16th birthday.

I can’t recall a time when I ever bought a piece of automotive art that didn’t have an engine attached to it. But the Futuramic Oldsmobile artwork just seemed so simple, so hokey, and so well aligned with the neighboring art at my office, that I just couldn’t resist the seduction of that moment.

Besides if I get the urge to drive my only Oldsmobile on the lot. The Cadillac of minivans no less. What better way to memorialize that experience than by leaving behind three more pieces of Oldsmobile history to keep the skinny Travolta and super-afro hallucinogenic man company.

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33 Comments on “Hammer Time: Futuramic Oldsmobile!...”

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Thanks, as usual Steve. Cool purchase, wonder if E-bay will feed your desire for more Old advertising? John Travolta drove “The Cadillac of Minivans” in Get Shorty. Saturn was good idea that went horribly wrong. Yes, I used to own one. GM may have gotten a new type of conquest sales: Cars for those who don’t really like cars. There’s still Subaru Legacies. I bought mine for grad school commuting.

    • 0 avatar

      how saturn went wrong:

      I certainly do sympathize with the beauty of those old icons (as well as Hair!). My only similar purchases have been two toy Peugeot 404s, both on Ebay. They sit on top of a toy car carrier my parents gave me for xmas 1960.

      My gut still wants a real 404. My intellect says it’s a daffy idea, far more trouble than it’s worth.

  • avatar

    Ah, Oldsmobile….. wherefore art thou?

    I got my start in the auto business working at Oldsmobile consumer relations in Lansing, which at the time was subcontracted to EDS. I was there for five years from 1993 to 1998 both as an inbound call rep and also as a new hire trainer.

    I readily remember the huge Aurora banners adorning the walls: “Behold the rebirth of Oldsmobile”.

    One of my best memories was working as a volunteer at some of the events at the 1997 centennial celebration in Lansing. I still have many keepsakes and pictures from that terrific (and nostalgic) time.

    What’s in my garage right now, you ask?

    2004 Oldsmobile Silhouette
    1997 Oldsmobile 88LS

    • 0 avatar

      College 1995 to 1999. Had an Aurora poster hanging on my dorm room wall from the NAIAS where the car was introduced. I’m such an idiot for throwing that sucker away.

      Although my dorm mates perfered the picture of the Penthouse Pet of the Month that usually hung next to it.

    • 0 avatar

      I am a massive Olds fan. I bought a ’95 Aurora launch brochure on eBay when I was in high school. It’s huge, glossy, very high quality, and was in perfect original condition. This was back when they still included actual paint chips in the back.

      The number of exterior and interior colors is mind-boggling compared with today. I seem to remember something like 23 exterior and 7 interior color choices, along with no-cost leather delete (though I’ve never seen a single Aurora interior without leather). I assume the cloth used was the velour-wannabe stuff from the mid-90s GM H-body.

      I also have the VHS-equipped ’01 Aurora launch brochure (also bought on eBay), and THREE copies of the 2003 Oldsmobile full-line brochure with interactive DVD (Alero, Aurora, Bravada, Silhouette; and some absolutely fantastic Oldsmobile historical montages). These will need to be pried from my cold, dead hands.

      I’ve also got some pretty neat Smith-era early ’90s Olds brochures. Made during the “Not your father’s…” tagline days.

      My freshman year (’04-05 year) dorm room had a fold-out of a 2001 Maxima, so you’re not alone in that particular brand of lunacy.

  • avatar

    Those are some neat signs, though I’d like to know how true those horsepower claims were.

    • 0 avatar

      Those were gross, not net, figures like today. Ive seen GM dyno charts from the ’60s, so I tend to believe those claims. Net is about 75%.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Carmakers advertised gross HP that typically involved open exhaust and electrically operated water pump, and tested in a dyno cell where the enviroment was much cooler than underhood air. Numbers tended to be inflated in the interest of advertising, but the converse in the interest of determining drag racing classes. The Oldsmobile 350 CI, W31 was rated 325HP at 5,200 (iirc), which was correct, but it made 365 HP at 5,800, the real peak! It dominated it’s stock NHRA class!

      Federal law required that only net horsepower be advertised, commencing January 1st, 1971. The emasculated, low compression 1971 Oldsmobile 442 455 CI W30 was rated at 350 gross HP when it was launched in fall of ’70, and re-rated 300 net in 1971.

  • avatar

    In the 60’s regular gas was 95 octane and premium was 100+ (more in springtime when water was purged from the tanks). Good luck getting 385 hp out of those engines with 87 octane gas today even with octane enhancers like ethanol.

    • 0 avatar

      You need to keep in mind that the octane rating system has changed since then. In the old days what was posted on the pump was RON or the Research Octane Number. However there is also the MON or Motor Octane Number. The same fuel will “score” about 8-10 points higher on the RON test as it does on the MON test. What you see on the pump today is an average of those two number RON+MON/2.

      Also before 1971 it was common practice to quote the gross HP number without the losses of the accessories or being constrained by a full exhaust system with mufflers that gave acceptable sound levels. Today was you see it the Net HP with the engine driving all the accessories (except AC) and a complete, as installed in the car, exhaust system.

      • 0 avatar


        Don’t the Europeans use just the pure RON method for their octane rating?
        If so, why do we incorporate the MON method at all? Just leads to confusion. And doesn’t MON method depend on choosing some sort of “standard” engine? And that choice can be completely unrepresentative of the variety of engines out there today.


  • avatar

    Any car that was the subject of the very first rock and roll song (and was used by Medgar Evars to outrun the KKK) has some serious cred.

  • avatar

    Dad owned a couple of Oldsmobiles. I found the “not your father’s Oldsmobile” ads amusing. Personally, I thought the very middle of the GM “ladder” was a rather boring place to be. After Buick got a V-8 and you could get a Hydramatic in a Pontiac, what compelling reason was there to buy an Olds?

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @nikit- A Million people a year chose Oldsmbile from 1973 to 1986, when CAFE and GM’s corporate reorg sent the division on the downslide.
      More than any brand but low priced Chevrolet and Ford, and at times, more sales per outlet than even those brands.
      Cutlass accounted for 25% of the midsize market, GM siblings capturing another 35% combined leaving the rest to Ford, Chrysler and Import brands. Cutlass share was about Camry and Accord combined today.
      I asked a salesman at a Chev-Buick-Olds-Pontiac Deal why they sold so many Cutlasses and he responded, they are just better. The Japanese raised the bar and won the quality competitions, but Olds was it in the ’70’s and early 80’s.

    • 0 avatar

      Until company wide reorganizations in the 70s and 80s, Oldsmobile was GM’s advanced research division. Their cars always had the latest and greatest new features and technologies first, before filtering out to the rest of the GM brands after a model year or two.

    • 0 avatar

      It has been my experience and MHO that Olds made the best, most durable V8 engines.

  • avatar

    Did you get a good deal?

    Are you happy?

    Happier the customer, the higher the gross. You, of all people should know that!

    Enjoy your classic pieces. I’m jealous!

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Nice piece Steven!

  • avatar

    After they quit building DeSotos in ’61, my Father switched to Olds ’88’s in ’62. Some quality features like a hood that locked on two sides at the front, and a dual outlet heater at driver’s and passenger’s feet.Both the new hydramatic and the power steering pump went within a few months.
    The 1965 model was nothing but a badge engineered Chev that shook and rattled. Supposedly, no longer built by god-fearing folk in Lansing.
    The 1968 model collapsed its suspension, and wandered down the road.
    The 1972 and 1980 were great at rusting
    The Oldsmobiles seemed to get progressively worse, and when they quit making them few tears were shed.

  • avatar

    Think of nostalgia as just another way of appreciating history. These items speak of the time when Oldsmobiles were muscular cars. (Not “muscle cars”, though Olds had those too, but muscular cars that were hefty, strong, well crafted, powerful and had stature.) The time when Olds were the kind of car an engineer would buy, like a doctor would buy a Buick. It’s sad to think how Olds lost its way.

    I went to an auction, too, and wound up with three more cars. Two are relevant here: a super-clean low mileage deep green ’78 Mercury Grand Marquis, and a loaded clean ’76 LTD Landau. Sofa size seats, vinyl-covered roofs, huge V8s, four-mobster trunks and “road-hugging” weight. What barges! I call the big Mercs of that era “Hawaii Five-O” cars because McGarret was always wallowing around in one as he chased bad guys.

  • avatar

    I was always a GM guy, but I didn’t get my 1st olds until 1996.
    I had a kid on the way, and wanted a bigger, sportier 4 door. I was looking for a chevy Impala SS, and I knew the end of the run was coming to a end, but I couldn’t afford a new one, and the used ones that I saw, were either run into the ground, (Good Price) or were just about as expensive as the new ones. (crack price)
    At the time, the selfish side of me wanted a El Camino, but you can’t do that kind of crap with a kid on the way, and not have to pay the consequences…., dang women. ; )
    So one day, I’m at a olds dealer lot looking at a used Chevy Impala SS, (crack price) and i spotted this B body wagon sitting on the side of the service building. I asked the sales guy that was with me could we look at it, he said sure, but it was the courtesy vehicle and had a bad tranny, and they had just started using a silhouette mini van. Turns out that it was a 92 Olds Custom Cruiser wagon with the 5.7L V8. with 100,000 miles on the odometer, white/siver (no wood grain) with red interior.
    I told the guy if they ever decided to sell it, give me a shout, because it met several of my goals…,
    1) 4 door family vehicle 2) GM vehicle 3) could carry 8 people, or multiple sheets of 4×8 plywood with the rear gate closed.
    About 2 months later I get a call from the salesman and he say that the dealership is going to wholesale the car that week, and if I was still interested it was $6500, non negotiable, and it had a rebuilt GM tranny in it now. I went down the next day and wrote the guy a check for the Olds wagon.
    As time went on, I found out that my 92 OCC was more unique that I realized.
    It would be the last year that Olds would make a wagon, as well as the last rear wheel drive platform for olds. That being their last year, a somewhat limit number were made, about 6500 ballpark.
    I would imagine about quarter of those were used in taxi service, and sit in a salvage yard somewhere.
    I have the standard olds blue instrument lighting with the full gauge package and a tach.
    I’v add my own personal touches over the years of what I think the designers at GM would have really liked to have done with this olds wagon, but were hand tied by the bean counters.
    You can take a look here…

    anyhoo…, who would ever thought my favorite vehicle would be my olds wagon, when I have owned so many different types of GM vehicles.

  • avatar

    Olds to me conjures:

    Fully-hatted Nan & Pop Sunday drives to church.

    Metallic green paintwork with all green interior. Okay monotone throughout.

    The silhouetted Fedora and non-canceled turn signal.

    Methodist kill-joy who couldn’t or wouldn’t Cadillac.

    Futuramic? Seems Olds was trying to shed this image back than…

    • 0 avatar

      “with all green interior”

      Wow, you’ve stirred one of my earliest car memories.
      I was 5 and my oldest brother brought home a year-old ’59 Olds 98 convertible on a test drive. He was absolutely delusional about affording it and my father ‘explained’ his unwisdom to him as the car sat in our driveway.

      Meanwhile I was crawling through the interior… acres of new-smelling dark green upholstery and all the fragrances from the rag top. Plus that *totally* futuramic steering wheel and dash. Damn, I was in a spaceship! I believe the exterior was ‘crystal green’.

      Argument ended, car went back and I never got my promised spin around the neighborhood. Shortly thereafter my brother enlisted in the Air Force to escape my wrath. I’m still pissed.

  • avatar

    Ah, now these are the kinds of things that bring a smile to my face!

    Even though it’s been several years since an Olds has graced my driveway, I still have a large collection of Oldsmobile dealer promotions and such.

    It’s funny you should post this, as just yesterday I spotted an Olds Alero at a car dealer yesterday, and well, that side of me that throws practicality out the window caused me to send an email about it, seeing if I could talk them into taking my PT Cruiser in on trade for it…

    And if I do acquire it, it will become an Alero Brougham :)

  • avatar

    Steven, thank you as always – I look forward to your posts.

    The Oldsmobile bug bit me only once. In 1975, I bought a reasonably clean ’73 Delta 88 convertible, cranberry red with white top and interior, 455, and almost every option. I paid, as I recall, about $2500. It was a trade at a suburban Washington DC Lincoln-Mercury dealer, and had about 35K miles on it.

    I kept the old monster for ten years and ran it up to, I think, 110K. It was less than trouble-free, with plenty of electrical and cooling system and water leak problems – but I’ll always remember what that big ol’ 455 sounded like with the top down.

    In the end, my wife hated the car (windy with the top down, leaky with the top up), and it needed some rust repair, a full interior, a top, and some mechanical freshening up. When I moved to a condominium with only space for one car, uncovered at that, I knew the Olds had to go. I sold it to a gentleman who wanted to do a thorough restoration, and I sold it to him for, I think, $2500.

    Every now and then I see a cranberry-red ’73 convertible and I hope that it’s my old one, freshly restored. I hope someone is having a great time with it.

  • avatar

    Neat nostalgia pieces.

    Unfortunately it was a 79 Cutlass that broke down (again) and stranded us in the middle-of-nowhere Mississippi returning from a vacation. At 17 that experience put the nail in the coffin for me regarding GM vehicles.

    Even more unfortunately, the car my parents bought to replace it when we got home was an ’87 LeBaron convertible with the 2.2 turbo. This was only the second new vehicle my family ever purchased and it seemed like it was always back at the dealer for something that was going wrong.

  • avatar

    My first taxi ride was in a yellow 1950 Oldsmobile just like the one at the top. It was a high-class taxi company: 10 cents the first half mile and 5 cents each additional half mile! I remember the cabbie had a coin dispenser on his belt, and my dad got mad when mom tipped him twenty cents.

  • avatar

    The fact that I still see 1980’s – 1990’s Oldsmobiles driving on the road in the snow/salt belt of upstate, NY speaks volumes to me on there ruggedness and owner pride. My recently acquired 1979 light yellow Calais coupe with small Olds V8 that still looks and runs near new and goes down the road better than many newer cars I have driven is further proof that when GM wanted to make a good car they did.

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