By on November 13, 2013

02 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPlenty of front-wheel-drive Cutlasses go to The Crusher without being photographed for this series, but here’s one with an interesting customization job that attracted my attention. Why didn’t GM ever make a wagon with a red-glass option?
11 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen a car is on its last owner and that owner knows it, the space-saver spares seem to appear right away.
03 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car’s final owner must have scored a deal on some of that “fix-a-taillight” red tape. Inspiration!
04 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinA little packaging tape over the top, you know, to provide strength.
15 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRiding in the back of this wagon must have felt like riding on the Hell Highway System.
13 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOldsmobile’s little line of flags, allegedly from nations with GM employees, lasted for a good chunk of the 1980s and 1990s.
08 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin3800 power, of course! Note: Sajeev Mehta, having joined the Cutlass Jihad, points out that this is actually a 3300 engine.

The wagon version of the Cutlass Ciera became the Cutlass Cruiser. The Judds preferred the sedan.

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40 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Hell Edition...”

  • avatar

    The Judds couldn’t afford a Ninety-Eight?

  • avatar

    That line of flags is onde odd thing. The explanation does not make much sense. If these are the countries in which GM had employees in the 1980’s, then where’s the brazilian flag? Also, what is the portuguese flag doing there?

    • 0 avatar

      The flag badge first appeared on the ’73 Cutlass Salon, which was supposed to be the “European-inspired” model in the Cutlass lineup. Of course, European inspiration back in those days pretty much amounted to bucket seats and Mercedes-style color-keyed wheel covers.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        The first Cutlass Salon performed well in a comparison with a current Mercedes Sedan. Car & Driver, or Road & Track, I can’t recall the details.
        Salon was a little more than bucket seats. The seats were better than many cars of the day, with recliners, which were rare.

        The suspensions were well tuned, which is why the Olds compared well. The salon only accounted for around 1% of Cutlass sales, so they are pretty rare.

        • 0 avatar

          Any A/G-body (RWD), when equipped with a “heavy-duty” suspension package (F41/Gran Touring/other) was reasonably fleet on its feet; no Lotus Elise, but with predictable understeer to the limit, along with the ability to kick the tail out under WOT, should the urge hit. The A-body FWDs w/o h/d suspension, not so much; more understeer and lower handling limits. The only experience I had with a heavy-duty suspension was an ’88 Celebrity Eurosport wagon, and I think most of the improvement, IIRC was a steering rack with a little more feel! (The normal A-body experience (Century/Ciera) was steering with sort of a “rubber-band” feel around center with some building of effort, but with absolutely zero feel in the rack despite good self-centering after a turn. The brakes were OK, but somewhat challenging to modulate. Never drove a late example with ABS, but I suspect that helped a lot!)

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting about the flags. I grew up with them but they’d always seemed to be there, so I never thought about it…

        • 0 avatar

          When I was growing up, I thought it was just a decorative colored stripe. I never looked close enough to see they were flags. Nobody in my family ever had an Olds.

        • 0 avatar

          The Cutlass Salon flags started out as a special trim, but like most GM badging, became the ‘common’ tag on all Cieras. Just like the Caprice fleur-di-leis, was just on top line only to any taxi/fleet car by the 80’s.

      • 0 avatar

        I think this may have migrated to the Calais as well, for a time–at least the “International Series” for the Calais (as well as other Oldsmobiles; remember that the new W-body Cutlasses made their debut in 1989, after they killed-off the G-body Supremem/Classic/whatever it was!

    • 0 avatar

      General Motors had an assembly plant in Azambuja, Portugal. It shut down in 2006 after 43 years.

      • 0 avatar

        My goodness, yes. Closing that plant was a multifaceted legal wrangle for a long time prior, during, and after the actual closing. (I lived in Portugal shortly after the fateful closing, but had nothing to do with it.) For me, it was an education in scale, since closing one factory might be a very big thing to a town or even city in the US, but it’s rarely a national event. This closing was very much a national event in Portugal.

  • avatar

    I had a string of 3 of these in 4 dr sedan trim as company cars. They were an 85, 88, and 90 models. Mine were top of the line and well equipped. Each had versions of the 90 degree Buick V6. The most powerful was the 88 model with the 3.8. I believe the one pictured here has the 3.3.

    I was in the fleet manager’s office one day shortly after I got my 88 model when the GM Zone rep came by. He said the 89 model Cutlass would have a brand new look with lots of changes. I was dissapointed when they came out and about the only thing changed was a more rounded rear glass.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @Cobrajet- I remember the Dealer Announcement Show when the Cutlass Ciera was launched. The front seemed much rounder, more modern than other cars in ’82. The car was a hit. Oldsmobile Cutlass was consistently the #1 seller, with Ciera #2 or #3. Along with 88 this gave Olds (3) of the (10) best selling cars in the country for a number of years!

      I liked the company 98s and Toronados we had until a new Zone manager came in and said we could drive whatever we wanted as long as it was a Cutlass Ciera Diesel. They were pretty good cars in their day, no balls of fires, though. The 3300 and then 3800 helped a bit.

      The rounded back lite was overdue, a day late and a dollar short, if you will. Ford announced their intention to leap frog GM’s dominance in the mid-size sedan segment with Taurus and they did!

  • avatar

    Ok, I don’t even want to know what he was doing back there!

  • avatar

    My late mother-in-law had the Buick version of this car, same color, same year; the grille is really the only difference. She bought it for her antique business and it suited her well for numerous years.

    She loaned it to me once and I figured, well it beats walking. I was surprised, it actually drove pretty well and was comfortable over distance. It had Buick’s 3.8 litre engine and it never felt as if it was lacking in power. Not much of a handler of course, more like a pig with a steering wheel attached to its head but it wasn’t designed to be one either. As I recall, reliability was never an issue either; it was just a very uninspired car.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    My father had an 89 sedan version of that car as a company car. It was surprisingly comfortable. I think it got around 30 on the highway with the 3800 V6. He caught some flack for getting that as his company car, as the standard car for execs was the Crown Vic.

  • avatar

    You inspired me to seek one of my least favorite car commercials of all time on Youtube. It had stuck in my head, popping up in my consciousness unbidden like a sonic hangnail. Enjoyu!

    • 0 avatar

      I watched it from my email, but your link didn’t show.

      Who washes a car on one side while the DOORS ARE OPEN on the other and you’re cleaning the interior. That’s just idiotic, and a great way to get your car fairly damp, at least on the door panels.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Outta sight, outta mind. At least, that was the thinking.

    Tear out the interior in back, tape the rear windows, and nobody can see inside. We crack the front and rear passenger windows, and we pretty much have ourselves a mobile meth lab.

    So began our business enterprise…we saw ourselves as Bo and Luke Duke, except this time, the still was in General Lee, and we, like them, would stay one step ahead of the law.

    And our plan would’a worked if it weren’t for the damn stink pouring out.

    In the end, my brother found religion in prison. Got ordained through a distance learning program. And new teeth, thanks to the taxpayers of the Volunteer State. Has a small church now of pentecostal flavor. I play in the praise band and speak in tongues when the time is right.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Someplace,somewhere an old, clapped out Cutlass Ciera is carrying on hooptie duty.

  • avatar

    Perhaps it was best that Luke was ignorant in the extreme.

    The Black Ops disk lay broken in half on the stained rug. Luke felt compelled to pick up both halves to verify it’s destruction. Mom barked orders. “Get out there!!”, she screamed, getting the very last drag from her cig as soon as she finished speaking. She exhaled with a “I’m waiting…” expression. Combat was frozen forever on the screen. Luke shut off the toppled Xbox. “Bitch.”

    He brushed aside a mangled, year old Fangoria to get to the other semi-clean sock. “Not that one.” The cotton was yellow and hard to the touch. He had “used” it. He found another candidate under the futon. It was not the same sock, but it did pass the sniff test. Jeans were another story. The most recent pair was heavily-stained, and still reeked of the swill of a hundred Bay Area dumpsters. He transferred his personal effects into a wrinkled pair from the overflowing hamper. “Where’s the fuc^ing trash bags?”

    The shredded and filthy heel area of his jeans, which were two sizes too long, rolled beneath the soles of the $25 Target skate shoes. He gave the security door a forceful slam as he emerged into California’s trademark paradisaical squalor. Even in Cherryland, pride in ownership was apparent in the neighborhood. Just not this house. Overgrowth and a lawnmower, dead by Luke’s hands, marred the home’s street presence.

    The Olds’ nose down attitude corrected itself when the young man climbed inside. A blown-head-gasketed Cressida, crowned with a shredded blue tarp and junk tire to secure it, was inexplicably parked in the middle of the driveway forever. The donut spare eased what steering effort there was while navigating around it via the ruts in the front yard. It was a one-handed affair. The other hand crunched testicles, alleviating the minor discomfort brought about by a hygiene problem. Once the wagon bounced onto Meekland Ave, drive was selected, and a hearty space saver-favoring peel out voiced Luke’s displeasure.

    Because nobody drives a car in silence, Luke’s fingertips gripped the bare shafts of the Delco to command noise. Pink emanated from the sound system, instantly compelling the young man to punch the dashboard with his full being. “There’s never anything good on!” He flipped down the glovebox door to retrieve a cheap MP3 player and earbuds. It still had a bit of charge left in it. Although stale, the music was more to his liking.

    Bury me in fu#king Vegas!
    Bury me in Vegas
    Bury me in Vegas baby
    I want sex, I want cars,
    Want the drugs, grab the stars
    Leave the past behind
    With some drinks in those bars
    Bling bling

    The red bumper bounced over the avenue. Red, from the happy chance of a dumpster-sourced can of Rustoleum, piece of cardboard, and a couple oxy. The previously grandma owned wagon now made a statement. It said “I’m too good for this car, and I don’t care about it.” A statement which outweighed having a presentable vehicle. The customization continued to the back windows. Luke had actively sourced from several Walmarts, 10 rolls of tail light mender. Reasons were three-fold.

    A.Tint windows so the smell doesn’t get too bad.
    B.Create an homage to Wes Craven’s 2006 masterpiece, Pulse. (“It keeps “them” out. Hahaha.”)

    When a roll of strapping tape was happened upon, it was applied to help reinforce the windows. Because “That’s what they do for hurricanes.”

    Luke had been driving for 10 minutes before realizing he had no destination. “Screw this.” He produced the latest Droid from his pocket, and called up his sweetheart Karla. “Okay, but I only have 45 minutes before I have to leave for class.” Luke exceeded the recommended speed of the space saver tire the whole way to Karla’s.

    As soon as his girlfriend nestled her obtuse posterior into the Cutlass bench, she started ripping into him. “How long are you gonna be a trash digger?” The beauty school student’s bad hairline waved in his face. She was too good for him. THIS, was too good for him. Once his self esteem was thoroughly shattered, she beckoned he take her to the Target. After a rushed return, she departed with a “I’m gonna be late now. Great.” The dreams of having a romantic encounter in back, on the new carpet he found, went out the window.

    The trusty 3800 droned north. Behind some bars were his favorite dumpsters to hit. Lot of aluminum in there, and he had some privacy. Bags filled the back of the cruiser, and the smell of stale beer filled the interior. He left the Cutlass parked in a loading zone. Just a quick walk around the corner to the next locale. It was the motherlode. He filled two bags.

    While a glass coffee table with missing glass top caught his allure, a nearby tow truck sat in front of the wagon. The driver gave Luke a one-minute grace period. He looked around once more, then backed his T-bar under the red bumper. In about 8.5 seconds, the wagon was gone.

    Luke threw the full garbage bags at the back wall in a fit. One burst on a gas meter, scattering the loot everywhere.
    “No. No. Shut up. I need you to pick me up.”

  • avatar

    Jared made some poor choices.

    “Dudeeee look at this!” Jared exclaimed as Bobby walked down the front steps of his mom’s house.
    “Whoa!” Bobby said.
    “Janet lifted some stuff from True Value and I wanted to see what I could so with it.” he said as they walked around what was left of the Cutlass. He pointed at the bumper “red spraycan” and then past the expired windshield stickers at the rear windows “red tape on the windows”.

    “Why tape on the windows?”
    “I thought it would make it easier to smoke in”
    “Uh… yeah ok bro I like it” Bobby said as he hi-five’d Jared.
    “Dude you have any herb?” Jared asked. Bobby smiled and said “Let’s go smoke my mom is up my ass about my tarantula getting out.”

    Jared opened the driver’s door and Bobby climbed over the seats as the passenger door no longer opened. Jared plopped himself in from of the console and fired the 3300 back up. One seventy or so on the clock, but Jared didn’t notice the odometer quit turning some time ago, he was too consumed with inhaling the joint Bobby handed him. Puffs of white smoke circulated through the interior as Jared cruised down the pothole ridden streets of Mt. Oliver, he casually blew through stop signs and the transmission struggled to climb the hill to Brownsville road as they again listened to the copy of “Insane in the Membrane” Jared taped off of the radio. Bobby briefly dozed off but was awaken by the jarring turn into the parking space in front of the brown and faded green apartment building. Jared hit the horn and Stevie came out to the wagon.

    “I hear Barry’s got some acid down at his place on 17th, we’re gonna head dahn there” Jared said as he cracked the window.

    Stevie opened the driver’s side rear passenger door and plopped himself down. Jared handed him the joint and he took a deep breath. The Cutlass shifted hard in reverse and then after straightening out the wagon lumbered down Brownsville road to 18th street carrying the trio to a near certain high.

    “Jar, why did you tape up the windows?” Stevie asked.
    “So we could smoke!” Jared said as he looked into the review mirror.
    “Wicked!” Stevie exclaimed and took another drag from the joint.
    “See I told you!” Jared punched Bobby and woke him back up. Bobby mumbled something and reclined the seat.

    The Olds pulled onto the length of 17th street and Jared struggled to park the long car, casually bumping the Mitsubishi and the Toyota as he attempted to parallel park. When they exited they were met with an unwelcoming stare from an older woman across the street sweeping the sidewalk in front of her row house. Stevie nodded his head up at her in effect of “what you gonna do”. Jared grabbed on to Stevie and pulled him onto the sidewalk.

    “Don’t screw with her, her nephew is like ATF or something” Jared explained. He tugged at Stevie’s jacket and led him to Barry’s front door. An obese gentleman clad in boxers and a wifebeater opened the door as Jared knocked.

    “I saw you guys pull in, wassup J-dawg, Stevie” and proceeded to high five them.

    Several hours passed and late afternoon turned into early dusk. The door to Barry’s place opened and Jared and Stevie exited thanking their “bro” as Jared shut the door.

    “Where did you park?” Stevie inquired.
    “I thought right here” Jared said as he looked on with bloodshot eyes.
    “Hey Stevie, where’s Bobby?”

  • avatar

    Had an 89 and 2 93 Cieras. The 89 was equipped with the Chevy 2.8 MFI V6 and the impossible to kill THM 125C 3 speed auto. The 93’s both came with the Buick 3300 that went over 300K without ever being opened up. The only trouble spot was one of the 93’s that was loaded to the hilt for the time. It’s 4T60 trans crapped out at 100k and needed replacing along with struts and alternator but was otherwise good. The lower tier 93 had the 125C trans and went over 300 without a hitch. These were all comfortable cars, especially the 93’s which came with std driver and passenger power recliners and pleasant blue interiors. I miss there simplicity and comfort and still to this day consider these A-bodies as newer versions of the Valiant/Dart and Nova.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Miss not having a center console and tons of foot and leg space up front. You could sit 2 more up front in a pinch.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine had an identical wagon in college years ago. That thing was un-killable. 300k+ miles and the car just wouldn’t die. It ran extremely well, too.

  • avatar

    I had a black 1988 Ciera sedan for a few years in the late 90’s. Big V6, burgundy leather seats. It was a reliable car, but two child seats barely fit in the back seat and getting the kids in and out was a PITA. Sold it to a local mechanic and saw him drive it around for a number of years. Not among my favourites, but not even close to the worst cars I have owned.

  • avatar

    “Note: Sajeev Mehta, having joined the Cutlass Jihad, points out that this is actually a 3300 engine.”

    Thank you Sajeev.

    Just to be insufferable, I’d like to point out that there was never a 3800 in an A-body Olds. They were available with the Buick 3.0L, 3300, pre-3800 version of the Buick 3.8L, and a couple non-Buick engines that I don’t care about.

    I’d also like to point out that the 3800 had the engraved intake only in 1988, while the 3300 had it in every year of production.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I would have been neat, since Olds was once touted as the innovation division, if they made a AWD version of the Cutlass Ciera since the Pontiac 6000 STE and SE offered AWD as an option. There have to be a few of those as Junkyard Finds.

    One of these with a 3800SC transplant would be a screamer.

  • avatar

    Between my having to replace a head-gasket in a 1984 Sunbird on my then college-student’s budget, plus (and more to the point of this article, FWD GM A-bodies) the inability of the Buick dealer to diagnose a cold-engine power-loss in the Chevy-derived 2.8L carbureted V6 in my Dad’s 1986 Century (the last year for carbs in that car; a family friend and mechanic later found a TSB which would have fixed it), my family gave up on GM in 1990 for Honda, having had Oldsmobiles and Buicks going back to 1971.

    With that said, however, I think that Honda-fication may have been delayed at least a little if my Dad would have ordered, or had been able to find, a Century with the 3.8L injected V6; I got to drive a friend’s 1985 Century Estate wagon, loaded-down to the bump-stops, and even with all the weight, that engine pulled like a freight train, nice crisp shifts from the THM 450C 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission! And as is the case a lot of times, GM cars get better through the years: I know that the latest examples of the A-bodies were damn near bulletproof, and while not up to Lexus standards, were OK enough for the day; I seem to recall having a Ciera as a service loaner from the Honda dealer years ago with 30 or 40K on it, and it rode well with few interior rattles or things falling off. (No major repairs being done to the Honda–oil change, rotate tires, etc.; just didn’t get to the dealer in time to catch the shuttle that morning.)

    However, as usually happens in salt country, the tinworm gets these before the engine craps out, or at least that’s what I’ve observed around Northwest Ohio as the A-body population has dwindled.

    @MRF95TBird–hooking up an A-body AWD setup with a modded 3800SC would be the ultimate sleeper indeed! Drop a 1983 Celebrity Eurosport body on top of that combo (which, in 1983, was nothing more than a stripe/blackout package with F41 suspension, unlike later years; the Celebrity never even got the Buick 6s) and go trolling for M5s! 8-)

    • 0 avatar

      With GM engines don’t make a mistake, stick with a 90-degree cylinder bank.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, IIRC, the Chevys (2.8, 3.1, 3.4) were all 60-degrees. In reference to @MRF95TBird above again, the 6000s (including the STEs) never got the Buick engines, only the Chevys. I think this car’s 3300 is a de-stroked Buick, “upgraded” from their 3.0L offering found in the Skylark and Somerset circa 1985-ish.

        Of course, let us not forget the base engine on all of these cars–the 2.5L “Iron Duke,” coupled with the THM 1-or-350C (don’t know what the number was) three-speed auto. Unlike the 3.8L V6 coupled to the same tranny in the bigger G-bodies, the Iron Dukes could barely get out of their own way, and make all sorts of noise while doing so!

        Have to say that this car’s interior looks reasonably good for it’s age (bordello trimmings aside), and is likely typical of what would be found on a dealer’s lot: power steering and brakes, power windows and locks, base Delco AM/FM ETR cassette stereo, delay wipers, air/cruise/tilt; note the markings on the left control stalk are completely worn away, as is normally the case with that part, plus the tachometer in the “Rallye” gauge cluster that won’t drop to zero when the engine is turned-off.

  • avatar

    Picked up a 1993 Cutlass Ciera sedan in extremely good condition (white with blue interior) back in May for $500 from a friend of the family. Miles on the ODO showed 112,000. Previous owner said, and I confirmed that his mother (previous, previous owner) had spend considerable cash within the last 2,000 miles on a rebuilt 4 speed trans. Had to drop $800 bucks into it (MAF sensor and CAT) to get it smogged here in CA. Since then it’s performed flawlessly. My wife uses it for her short commute on the weekdays. We drove it 900 miles or so from OC to Sonoma County over the summer and just got back from a long weekend in Vegas (another 600 miles). What a great car for getting down the interstate—cruises effortlessly at 75 mph, with easy acceleration to 85 or so to pass all while delivering 26.9 mpg. Headliner is starting to sag, the auto trans shifter knob cracked and fell off, but that’s it. Would love to find a solid, low-mileage, late-model version of this car in the station wagon variant. Oh, and the brakes are kind of funky and require early application along with attentive modulation.

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