Junkyard Find: 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1974 oldsmobile cutlass salon

The fourth-gen Olds Cutlass was one of the few bright spots for The General as the Malaise Era grew darker for Detroit. You could get T-tops, factory 8-track players, velour interiors in a wide range of bright colors, and who cared if engines were making less than one horse per two cubic inches? The Salon was the top-of-the-line Cutlass for ’74, with reclining bucket seats, radial tires, and other futuristic goodies. Here’s one that I spotted in a Denver self-service yard not long ago; nearly 40 years of personal luxury for this Olds.

Those body-colored hubcaps really added some class to the Cutlass Salon. The seat belt starter interlock, mandatory equipment in ’74, added annoyance.

Oh yes, Whorehouse Red interior was a must on a cream-with-red-roof Cutlass in this era.

This car visited Mexico early in its career.

I’m not going to look up the horsepower figures for what I’m guessing is an Olds 350, because they’ll just depress everybody.

Instead, imagine you’re cruising your brand-new Cutlass Salon with the A/C blowing cold and Grand Funk on the radio.


These headlines! It’s no time to buy a car.







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  • Swilliams41 Swilliams41 on Oct 07, 2013

    One of my high school buddies dad bought a Cutlass Salon. Chuck drove that car like he stole it! Nice car and I remember the reclining buckets which were rare on American cars of that era. It also had good power from the 350. Most noticeable though was the ride and drive. It was quiet, comfortable and handled decently. I remember the Pontiac Grand Am of the time being slightly firmer but the Cutlass had better interior materials. Both were big improvements over other mid-size's of the era.

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    • NoGoYo NoGoYo on Oct 07, 2013

      @BklynPete That seems like a lopsided comparison...the Torino and Buick would be heavier than the others because of their engines. And thus would naturally handle and perform a bit worse.

  • BklynPete BklynPete on Oct 08, 2013

    NoGoYo -- And you'd be absolutely right! Tire-smoking torque regardless, Kojak and Starsky & Hutch didn't really have such great performance rides. Matador won acceleration because it was lightest. In handling and fuel economy, Gran Torino 460 and Regal 455 were the worst plowers of a very piggy lot. They were only a bit faster than the more "agile" Cutlass Salon 350. But to paraphrase what J.J. Gittes' associate Walsh said at the end of "Chinatown" -- coincidentally released in 1974 -- "forget it Jake, it's Motor Trend."

    • NoGoYo NoGoYo on Oct 08, 2013

      If I remember correctly, the 460 weighed something like 800 to 900 pounds...which must mean that you can get a Lincoln Mark IV under 5k by pulling its engine out. =P But yeah, the big-blocks were not massively more powerful than the small-blocks but weighed a lot more, it was easy to see why most people in, say, 1976 went 350 in their Cutlasses.

  • Laszlo I own a 1969 falcon futura 4 door hardtop, original inline 6 and c4 transmission and it still runs to this day.
  • BklynPete So let's get this straight: Ford hyped up the Bronco for 3 years, yet couldn't launch it to match the crazy initial demand. They released it with numerous QC issues, made hay for its greedy dealers, and burned customers in the process. After all that, they lose money on warranties. The vehicles turn out to be a worse ownership experience than the Jeep Wrangler, which hasn't been a paragon of reliability for 50 years. The same was true of the Aviator, Explorer, several F-150 variants, and other recent product launches. The Maverick is the only thing they got right. Yet this company that's been at it for 120 years. Just Brilliant. Jim Farley's non-PR speak: "You don't get to call me an idiot. I get to call myself an idiot first."Farley truly seems hapless, like the characters his late cousin played. Bill Ford is a nice guy but more than a bit slow on the uptake too. They have not had anything resembling a quality CEO since Alan Mulally turned the keys over to Mark Fields - the mulleted glamor boy who got canned after 3 years when the PowerShi(f)t transaxles exploded. He more recently helped run Hertz into the ground with bad QC and a faulty database that had them arresting customers. Ford is starting to resemble Chrysler in the mid-Seventies Sales Bank era. Well, at least VW has cash and envies Ford's distribution reach and potential profitability.
  • Mike Beranek This guy called and wants his business model back.
  • SCE to AUX The solid state battery is vaporware.As for software-limited pack capacity: Batteries are obviously the most expensive component of an EV, so on the rare occasion that pack capacity is dramatically limited (as in your 6-year-old example), it's because economies of scale briefly made sense at the time.Mfrs are not in the habit of overbuilding pack capacity just for fun, and then charging the customer less.Since then, pack capacities have been slightly increased via software because the mfr decides they can sacrifice a little bit of the normal safety/wear margin in the interest of range. We're talking single-digit percentages, not the 60/75 kWh jump in your example.Every pack has maybe 10% margin built into it, so eating into that today (via range increases) means it's not available to make up for battery degradation tomorrow. My 4-year-old EV still has its original range(s) and 100% SOH, but that's surely because it is slowly consuming the margin built into the pack.@Matt Posky: Not everything is a conspiracy to get your credit card account, and the lengthy editorial about this has nothing to do with solid state batteries.
  • JLGOLDEN In order for this total newcomer to grab and hold attention in the US market, the products MUST be an exceptional value. Not many people will pay name-brand money for the pretty mystery. I can appreciate the ambition of selling $50K+ crossovers, but I think they will go farther with their $30K-$40K offerings.
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