By on September 17, 2015

00 - 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The early fifth-generation Olds Cutlass was a huge seller in the United States; not as big as the Cutlass’ peak in 1976 (when it was the best-selling car in the country), but one of the most popular cars on the street during that period. However, very few Oldsmobile shoppers opted for the odd-looking Cutlass Salon fastback sedan (or its Buick Century sibling), making today’s Junkyard Find nearly as rare as, say, a Geo Prizm GSi.

As more proof that rare does not always equal valuable, I present a rust-free, totally restorable Cutlass Salon Fastback Brougham Sedan, spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard last week.
14 - 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Here’s a 4.3-liter engine, but it’s not the later 4.3-liter Chevrolet V6. Nope, this here is an Oldsmobile 260 V8, basically an Olds 350 engine with a smaller bore.

02 - 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

There’s no way that GM sold cars with these interior colors. I hope. The purple has the look of a custom touch added by the car’s final owner.

06 - 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Red velour and the flags of All Oldsmobile Nations, including what appears to be Albania.

05 - 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

If you’re springing for the Brougham, why not get the radio option that’s a little snazzier than Delco’s Poverty Package AM-only unit?

There wasn’t much good on AM in 1979, although fortunate Oldsmobile drivers may have picked up on this overlooked Ace Frehley tune.

Rickie Lee Jones learned a few things about songwriting while she was shacked up with Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss in Los Angeles. So the AM wasn’t a complete desert for your Cutlass driver in 1979.

Forget those imports — the Cutlass Salon has more headroom than the Volvo 242, more legroom than Audi Fox, and a longer wheelbase than the VW Dasher!

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117 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon Fastback Brougham Sedan...”


  • avatar
    cwallace

    Poverty Package, indeed- a friend of mine in college inherited one of these from his grandmother. We were astounded to learn that the rear windows did not roll down.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Not just poverty spec cars…we had a high level 1981 Cutlass sedan – one of our family’s few GM car products – and the rear main windows were fixed. The rear vent windows were power operated though. I recall Motor Trend blaming CAFE (even before TTAC) for the need to keep the car’s weigh under a weight category for testing. I think it was just bean counting.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I have heard it was to allow more hip room in back.

        Or another reason: A/C was pretty much standard by then!

        Now if I could find a final-year Supreme Brougham Sedan with a full build sheet (including wire or Rallye wheels, 5.0 V8 and 4-speed AOD), it’d be a nice car-show toy.

        As it was, my first car (as I’ve also related in these pages) was a used-up ’78 base Salon 2-door “hooptie,” with the same powertrain mentioned here. (Performed worse than the Buick 231 V6, but sucked gas like a larger V8.)

        And my Dad had a 1980 Cutlass Sedan (essentially a 4-door Salon, which replaced the subject of this article the following year) and a 1983 Regal Custom Sedan, so I’m well-versed with the A/G-Body of this era.

        (There was a Cutlass next to that 49ers Chebby from the other day, and I left a Comment asking about A/G-Bodies of this era! Ask and ye shall receive! :-) )

  • avatar
    turf3

    Hey, I was there at the time: the weird purple color is what those old GM plastics do when they age. On the door panel in question, the soft vinyl and the fuzzy fabric have remained more red but the hard plastic part is what’s changed color. Furthermore, if you touch it you’ll see that the plastic is busy turning back into powder.

    The truth is that plastic never stops cross-linking, especially under the influence of UV light and air pollutants. This is why I got rid of my Volvo 240 even though it ran and drove like a new car at 240,000 miles – I just couldn’t keep up with the fragmentation of all the hard plastic interior parts. Unfortunately, I think this is what will spell the end of the old car hobby, as cars after about the early 70s are basically full of plastics, which just can’t be economically reproduced due to the cost of injection molds.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      This. I have put it off by keeping it in the shade as much as possible; but the same thing is happening to the Taurus — the plastic interior bits that recieve the most sun are faded, and you can scrap them away with your fingernail.

      Add the PVC bumpers on the early Fords and Mercedes that shatter upon touching anything; and the car is crumbling away inside and outside. The only way I can think of to slow it down is keep inside in climate controlled setting at all times; at which point, it’s a museum piece.

      • 0 avatar
        julkinen

        I still think northern cars with pristine interiors but rotten bodies could be combined with southern, rust-free cars with completely fried dashboards. Up here in Finland, you rarely see a really sun-damaged interior.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Same here in Maine. Junkyards full of cars with perfect interiors, but holes in the floors.

          It is also VERY color dependent (at least for the old European cars I care about). Black interiors hold up the best, tan the worst. Blue and red seem to be in-between.

    • 0 avatar
      Garak

      This is one of those rare occasions, where 3D printing might actually save the day. Printing a single part is dirt cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      looks to me like the lower plastic door panel was replaced, and the closest junkyard match was white. grab handle clips, too- and one still fell off again.

      might have found a close matching shade of spray that just weathered over the years

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      But the dash looks almost perfect.

      That’s probably worth a shekel, since as I’ve noted on here, the more formal descendants of this car (1980 and up), along with their coupe brethren, many times will, if they don’t find their way to the junkyard flat as a pancake from a monster truck, or beat to nothing in a demo derby, find themselves in the possession of a certain demographic which will outfit them with wheels pilfered from the nearest 777, along with a sound system that will blow the top windows out of the Freedom Tower from clear down at The Battery!

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      3D printing?

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I have a 1987 Chevrolet truck that was abandoned for 8 years before I brought it back to life. The red didn’t turn that purple, but it definitely became a chalky pink/fuchsia.

      GM and plastics didn’t do the best from this era….

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I realize I’m an odd duck, I’ve always liked these cars’ styling for some reason I can’t quite explain. Living in the rusty midwest, to come upon a fairly complete survivor like this is something of a dream for me.

    That generation of A body would be a wonderful platform to either resto-mod or turn into a G-machine; cram any LSx into the engine bay, many of the performance suspension & brake mods developed for other cars & trucks use the same pieces. One could do this on a budget, too.

    Ah well, it’s probably well on it’s way to becoming a nice Chinese refrigerator by now…

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Although I know that my desire for a Big 3 (US or Japan) station wagon will not be satisfied, couldn’t something like this still be viable? A mid-size car with a hatchback, car-like styling with more functionality? It could be the saving of the sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        NOSLucasWiringSmoke

        I don’t think these were actual hatchbacks, they just had a funny-shaped trunk. The Chevy and Pontiac versions had conventional notchback styling and I think sold better.

        As for the midsize hatch, you used to be able to buy them. Tthe last one I think was the first-generation Mazda6. I had one for several years and it definitely had its advantages. But I guess the market has spoken because you can’t buy any of them anymore, just like station wagons. Buyers now are going to crossovers to get that kind of functionality.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          NOSLucas: You are correct, these cars are not hatches. They probably would have been much more successful had they been. Hatchbacks were still a pretty big deal at the end of the 1970’s.

          I can’t remember if the Chevy Malibu Maxx or the Mazda 6 hatch was the last one offered in the US. I had a Maxx, I loved it’s capabilities. I was able to stuff my whole drum kit in it with room to spare. At least enough space for a third passenger.

          • 0 avatar
            NOSLucasWiringSmoke

            I think the Mazda6 hatch held on through the end of that generation in MY2008, while the Maxx disappeared when the third-gen FWD Malibu debuted for that year.

            You could also get the first-generation Mazda6 in a wagon, also one of the last holdouts for that body style in the midsize class (leaving aside Mercedes or BMW as luxury vehicles).

          • 0 avatar
            ClutchCarGo

            My wife drives a Maxx, and has been very happy with it, but it’s 10 years old now and I expect her to begin lobbying for a replacement before long. About the only thing out there is the Crosstour, which isn’t as functional given its sharp slope in back. I also think that it’s pretty ugly, but she doesn’t seem to agree so maybe that will be what we go with. I don’t find the looks of the Maxx to be nearly as bloated.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            I’ve noticed that the Audi A3 5-door has some vague, remote, slight if you squint resemblance to the Malibu MAXX.

            I test drove one but the interior materials were just too darn low grade, and it was missing some key features I was hoping for.

            It was a shame because I loved the functionality of the vehicle – great utility – but like just about everything from that era at GM – terrible execution.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            @NOSLucasWiringSmoke — indeed, the Mazda6 hatch made it to ’08, while the wagon got axed in ’07.

            Oddly, while the Mazda6 hatch was almost indistinguishable from the sedan, the Maxx was actually a bigger car than the Malibu. Six inches more wheelbase.

        • 0 avatar

          Correct–it was a Cutlass Supreme with a smaller trunk. Sort of like the Caddie with the bustle-back.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          No cheap mid-size hatches that I can think of, but the Germans have you covered in the premium class. Audi A7 and BMW 4-series Gran Coupe are both hatches.

          While I prefer a proper wagon, I have owned and liked very much several hatch Saabs.

          • 0 avatar
            ClutchCarGo

            Yes, but I generally buy used, and a used Audi/BMW would make me very afraid for maintenance expense. That’s why I yearn for something from the domestics or Japan.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        Honda tried that with the Crosstour, didn’t work out so well.

      • 0 avatar
        spreadsheet monkey

        In Europe, our versions of the Fusion and Regal are available as hatchbacks. I’m sure Ford or GM could sell them in North America if they wanted to. I assume they prefer to sell crossovers instead.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Mondeo_(fourth_generation)
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opel_Insignia#Insignia_.282008-present.29

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      I also liked this car from the get-go, it was lambasted by the auto media when it came out for looking like a hatchback without actually being one. You cannot find a used one for sale anywhere, this one could be saved. Too bad I ain’t got the money, honey!

  • avatar
    JSF22

    I worked at GM in ’79 — first job out of school and I thought I had made it. But that’s another story. This car was the very one that made them change the policy of letting you order your own company car. The rampbacks were sale proof. Every Level 8 in the company was driving these damn things. Mostly two tone brown. They didn’t even handle that badly for the day, but flimsy doesn’t begin to describe it. Everything on it felt like it was about to break the day you got it. And a lot did.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      You speak the truth. My pal’s ’80 Grand Prix (same car underneath) was a complete wreck inside by 1983. It shook like a dog on the road while rattling like an old taxi cab, the door pulls held on by sheet-metal screws ripped out early, and the self-changing-color interior was well on its way to hell. Absolute crap.

      Why these cars were such awful things compared to the new Impala and brethren amazed me right from the start. They came out a year later, weighed almost as much (no, I don’t need some pedant quoting 3200 lb weights at me for a V6 3 speed manual – Car and Driver actually weighed them) and were like flimsy cardboard by comparison.

      They also sold extremely well as a type. This particular model looked out of place from day one. Round these parts people advertised the business of rebuilding the frames in the mid ’90s, so people liked them. My business partner had had an ’83 Monte Carlo he loved, and which I regarded as a pile of cr*p. For some reason, people would drive them while leaning over to the right, their heads almost to the rearview mirror. Weird damn things.

      • 0 avatar
        joeveto3

        We had a 79 Grand Prix, and right you are about the door pulls. They were total crap. We’d screw them back in, hit them with RTV sealant (I have no idea why, I was a kid at the time). I’d close the door and end up with the strap half in my hand and RTV all over me.

        Still liked the car though. It had power everything and T-tops. Ended up getting stolen. When it was found, a month later, it was stripped and dogs were living in the shell.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      It may have been the “first-year jitters,” as my ’78 Salon was a POS (though it wasn’t maintained well prior to my inheriting it), but by 1980, they’d gotten things squared-away with the Cutlass, and my family’s ’83 Regal (both of the latter started out as my Dad’s company cars) was the best of the bunch!

      I’ve heard about the frames rotting in the rear, around the suspension mounts, but the only problems my family had were the door bottoms and surface rust on the rockers (particularly the two Oldsmobiles). And this is in SE Michigan and NW Ohio, salt-encrusted for six months of the year.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    My dad worked for an Oldsmobile dealer when this thing came out. Almost 40 years later, it’s still hard for me to fathom that this asinine design was actually approved for release to the public. Oh, and the “brilliant” idea to equip the Cutlass sedan and its Chevrolet/Pontiac/Buick siblings with those stupid fixed rear windows.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      One thought about things like the fixed windows and frangible interiors is that GM believed their customers would associate smaller cars with shoddy cars and return to buying their more profitable full-sized cars once gas prices stabilized.

  • avatar
    NOSLucasWiringSmoke

    I never saw too many of these fastback models; I guess GM realized they were a bit of a mis-step and corrected it in hurry with the very formal-looking notchback sedan in ’80 (maybe both types were sold that year only?), those were everywhere when I was growing up in the 80s.

    My grandparents had an ’80 Cutlass sedan. It was a base model with a dark red cloth interior (not the brothel red velour, though), bench seat, strip speedometer, and that same 8-track player. I remember that the rear windows didn’t roll down (seriously?). They gave you a little quarter-window that flipped open in lieu, not the same at all. Originally equipped with the Olds 260, when that engine gave out (can’t have been good, my grandparents hardly drove it) my mechanic uncle swapped a Rocket 350 into it. My grandfather told me he would give me the car when I came of age but then sold it (he was a severe alcoholic, you couldn’t really rely on what he said). Last I saw it shortly thereafter (20+ years ago) someone had painted it pink (!) and the back bumper got ripped off trying to rope-tow something. :( Probably the rear frame had rotted over time, that was one thing these cars were known for. Although it could be fixed competently, many did a kludge job of it.

    My parents had an ’82 Cutlass Calais coupe for several years, which was quite snazzy with the bucket seats, console shifter, and gauge package. That one was equipped with the Chevy 267 V-8, so no fireball. I did some of my early [unsanctioned] learning to drive on that car, which gave me a lifelong fondness toward them. I tried to get one in the late ’90s when I was buying my first car but didn’t manage to find the right one; clean used examples sold very quickly even then and there was a lot of bondo specials around in the rust belt.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Pop’s Presbyterian fedora couldn’t possibly get blown off to fm stereo. Or waiting a year for a bustleback Seville.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Just to make a weird car even weirder, back in the ’90s somebody in my townhouse complex had a car that looked like this, but it was a diesel. When did that option start?

    In the preview of that commercial, the car looks like a giant Chev Citation. And man, did you see that body roll in the corners?

    • 0 avatar
      NOSLucasWiringSmoke

      GM sold these and the B-body full-sizers with diesel options from 1978-85. There were a couple of engines but the first and main one was an Olds Rocket 350 that was converted to burn diesel. They were largely considered to have serious durability shortcomings (cracked blocks and other problems because a gas engine block just wasn’t engineered for diesel compression), and gave diesel engines a bad name among American consumers (outside of those who were exposed to better diesels like Mercedes-Benzes and even VWs) for a generation.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Let’s set the record straight on the diesel conversion bit. The blocks were substantially beefier for diesel duty. Today, any surviving blocks are sought after by people looking to build powerful engines. The heads were a pure diesel design. What doomed the engine to failure was the requirement made by the GM beancounters that the diesel engine be build-able on the same tooling as the gas V8. That meant the same head bolt pattern for both engines, and the clamping force of the gas engine pattern was not up to the task of diesel compression. That was the number one cause of engine failure – blown head gaskets and the subsequent hydrolocking. My friend’s family had one and by 50K, the engine locked up with coolant in the cylinder(s). Had that poor business decision not been made, the outcome of the diesel in America would likely have been very different.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Amen! The last years of the Olds Diesel were pretty much as bulletproof as could be once GM figured this stuff out!

          Trouble was, the damage had been done!

          I think there was a 260 Diesel for all but the wagon (Cutlass Cruiser, which got the 350 Diesel) in 1979, but it was a one-year wonder, and the 350 became the only one available from 1980-1982, if memory serves.

          • 0 avatar
            Forty2

            IIRC there was also a diesel V6 towards the end of the GM diesel experiment. I think the first Ciera years could be ordered thusly but that’s all I remember.

            I do know that these cars (Cutlass Supreme and Salon) could be ordered/had with a 5-speed manual and the 260 diesel V8. Probably three were ever built.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Cadillac had a FWD diesel around MY85-86 and only a few hundred were sold. Someone found one on Ebay for sale north of 200K. GM SOP: get it working after it failing for years and discontinue it.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Yeah, there was a FWD 4.3L diesel V6 available in the A-bodies for a year or two.

  • avatar

    Love how the rear windows didn’t roll down, yet there wasn’t a flip-out vent window on the fastbacks. A dark time, indeed.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Ace Frehley’s first solo album was great. That is all.

  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    This “restorable” automobile is right where it belongs. The crap purple plastic is just a visual confirmation of a larger mistake made in engineering, that being… That it existed at all.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    The G body in all its forms was a staple of the blue collar middle class. I remember a ton of these growing up in Pittsburgh and my first car was an 81 Regal (in 1994)in two tone green with a 1/4 vinyl roof and a green interior. And the gutless 3.8 V6, which in hindsight was perfect for young lead foot me.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      That V6 was pretty agricultural, but it could still get the car to move out of its own way.

      The hidden secret of these, believe it or not, was halfway decent handling. I see some folks on here mentioning the bouncy-bouncy stuff, but with the F41 (Olds??)/”Gran Touring” (Buick), these cars at least made a halfway decent showing. Lots of predictable understeer, and reasonably sure-footed at the limit. (I could tell the difference between my ’78 Salon with regular suspension, and the two other cars I’ve mentioned which had the heavy-duty suspension packages I mentioned in order to haul around my Dad’s trunkful of medical supplies to support his sales job.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    That body bounce tho when they stopped em in the commercial! So well controlled. Like a 25′ boat, not a 40′ one!

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    I wonder what killed this car? The Olds 260’s power output is pathetic (110 hp?), but it was a very durable engine.

    My dad bought a Cutlass Supreme (the 2-dr notch) in 1979, but he opted for the 305 Chevy with 4-bbl. 160 hp made him king of the road in the Malaise Era.

    Meanwhile, the lady four doors down bought one of these humpbacks with the 260. She bragged that hers was better than Dad’s because it was a Brougham, which she pronounced “BROGG-um.”

    Ah, the 70’s. At least the music was good. (Yes, it was. Shut up!)

  • avatar
    dtremit

    It looks like the hatchback that no one wants, but has all the reduced practicality of a sedan! Certain formula for success.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    The environmental firm I worked for in the 1980s had a base (with A/C) 1978 Cutlass sedan as one of the company cars, so I got a fair amount of wheeltime in this model. Ours had the 231 V6. I remember the car being fairly reliable but pretty much devoid of personality. At least it was more pleasant to drive than the corporate Chevette. As for the featured car, I’ve hardly ever seen a vinyl roof on the fastback Cutlasses.

  • avatar
    otsegony

    All the future execs in MBA programs across the country should study this car as an example of the kind of thinking that nearly drove GM out of business. I drove one of these in the mid-80s that a friend had inherited from his grandmother. Horribly built, poor performance and handling and unreliable with the added frustration of out-of-touch styling and the bizarre idea that it was okay to have rear windows that didn’t open. I came from an all GM, all the time family and I think it deserves the crusher…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    My friend’s uncle had a silver one of these in mint condition along with a full restored ’69 Ford Torino which was parked next to it. The Torino was sold fairly quickly after his sudden death but I’m not sure what happened to the silver Olds.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “Look, a luxury Citation!”
    “But it’s not even a hatchback.”
    “Whaaa?”

    Another entry in the “several sizes of the same sausage made from floor grate scrapings” school of GM product design.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I beg your pardon…! The luxury Citation was the Oldsmobile Omega.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Or Buick Skylark. (Both of which had the notchback styling on the 4-doors; the Citation had the two-door hatch, but did follow-on with the Club Coupe, but don’t recall if it was ’80 or ’81.)

        The Pontiac Phoenix split the difference: 4-door hatch, 2-door notchback coupe.

  • avatar

    A neighbor had the Buick version–I think it was called a Century. It was a silver two door with charcoal graphics and the 3.8 turbo. I kind of think it would be cool to upgrade it with parts from a Grand National.

    But then I come to my senses and realize it would be better to just get a Grand National. Move forward a decade and buy a supercharged Thunderbird or Cougar XR7 on the MN12 platform.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Those are even rarer than the Olds versions. I recall seeing a base-looking 2-door Century go to its demise during a high-speed chase on “Cops,” and thinking “that’s not one you see every day,” as the po-po pitted the thing — last seen rolling over and over into a ditch!

  • avatar
    Menloguy

    My mom had a 1977 Cutlass Supreme Brougham coupe with a similar radio as the one in this Salon. I remember fiddling with the five buttons on the radio and the needle would go left and right and wherever. Was there a way to “program” the buttons so the needle would fall on your desired station? Also, in addition to the rear windows not rolling down, these cars had lap belts that did not have inertia reels. They simply ratcheted down on your hip/stomach so it was like being strapped to a gurney and it was particularly painful while coming back from having had a full course meal at a restaurant with a full stomach. The sedan versions of these cars had quarter windows in the rear doors that would flip open. This Salon model has the triangular windows way in the back that flip open – the air circulation in the rear compartment must have been horrendous. I pity the rear passengers who had to endure sitting in this car and this car must be crushed immediately!

    • 0 avatar
      NOSLucasWiringSmoke

      Those memory buttons were mechanical. You “programmed” a button by pulling it out, tuning the radio to the station you wanted, then pushing the button all the way in. I remember being fascinated by that as a kid, but never figured out how it worked (I should Google that…).

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Yup. I worked at Delco Electronics in Kokomo, IN where that design was invented and manufactured. The very last place that the MTR (mechanically-tuned radio) was assembled in this country was in Plant 1 (former Haynes Automobile body plant and then Crosley radio plant, bought by Delco Radio in 1938), at 750 E. Firmin St. Kokomo, IN. The former admin building (built in the 1950s) is all that is left standing.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Re: belts..yes, you had to pull them way out, then fasten them.

      The weird thing was the LOCKING inertia reels in the front seat. I’d constantly be fiddling with them. And especially when the car was new and the mechanisms weren’t worn, heaven help you if the belt had locked, and you just dropped the buckle when you unfastened! You would then open the door, and risk getting a fat lip from the retracting belt and buckle! ;-)

  • avatar
    rcx141

    You can’t wind down the rear windows? Why on earth not? Was that to save money? They really must have been desperate times for GM

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The idea was that by leaving out the window mechanism, the interior door panels could be thinner and produce a bit more width across the rear seats. This, of course, was an exceptionally stupid idea.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Chrysler did the same thing on the early 1981-82 K-cars but unlike GM corrected this issue soon after. GM’s rationale was that the majority of these cars came factory equipped with A/C so they didn’t think it necessary to correct this. Thankfully this car’s replacement, the 1982 A-body FWD cars, had roll down rear windows from the start.

        • 0 avatar
          Lack Thereof

          The FWD A cars may have corrected this, but the RWD G cars carried this mistake over and perpetuated it for another 6 years. As late as 1988, you could not get roll-down windows in the back of the G-body Cutlass Supreme for any amount of money.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        That may be part of the reason, but much more significantly: It’s because there is NO ROOM inside the door for the massive piece of glass to be lowered, as the lower portion of the door is over the rear wheelwell. Look at the side view picture, and where the rear lower corner of the glass is – it might be able to be lowered 4″.

        • 0 avatar
          Lack Thereof

          MOST manufacturers would deal with a problem like that by making the rear half-foot of the window a separate fixed pane, and only rolling down the forward portion of the glass.

          In some G-bodies, GM did split the window, but just made the small portion a flip-around smoker’s vent.

          • 0 avatar
            Menloguy

            The rear window in the 86 Celebrity I used to own only rolled down halfway. It did not have a smaller fixed pane in the door. Even halfway is perpetually better than the window being completely fixed.

            These G-body cars also had a cheap stamped metal ashtray installed (almost cynically) in the center of the front seat back if it was a bench seat. I cannot imagine anyone wanting to smoke in the backseat compartment with such poor ventilation.

            If you had a dog, it would bump its nose all over the inside of the rear window and slobber all over the door wishing for fresh air.

            The benefit from standard air conditioning largely depended on the composition and temperament of the particular family members inside the car. If junior sitting in the back seat cried for more cooler air to dad and dad switched the fan to full blast but mom felt it was too cold, then you were pretty much out of luck for getting cooler air in the back.

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      It was a mid-design change to save money, AFAIK.

      The expectation was that it wouldn’t matter because “Flow-through” ventilation had been mastered, and everyone was going to order A/C anyway. Who would want to roll them down? The thin doors were just a bonus. It was actually good elbow-room for 3 across in the rear.

      But customers cared.
      This design choice makes the 2-door the more compelling A/G body.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      What I read back in the day was that it was for CAFE purposes. The cars came out a little heavier than planned, which bumped them up a weight class for the dyno testing for CAFE. So a number of things were left out – the rear window mechanisms, and IIRC they had a very small gas tank, and some other things I can’t remember. This got them down to the next lower weight class, resulting in a slight increase in test mileage. Of course, in no way reflected in any change in real-world fuel consumption, just on the BS test.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My great aunt had this exact car in light green with 260 V8 and THM 350 transmission which lasted her well over 200K miles until she passed away. Lost track what happened to that car after but it did sell at her estate sale pretty quickly. This was back in the late 90’s. Never saw it since. I remember riding in that car numerous times as a kid and how well the A/C worked and how much smoother and quieter it was than our 1979 Fairmont with the 200 six. Pity about the rear windows not going down in these cars but hers had ice cold air so that made it a non issue on hot Summer days.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    I had one of these back in the day. It was a !00 dollar car. Way newer than any other 100 dollar cars which is why I bought it. Drove it a *short* time until the 300 dollar computer fried, then abandoned it. Well, what would you do ?

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Loved the 260 V8 in my my ’81 Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham. It was so overbuilt for the 110 HP is put out you couldn’t kill it. No 1/4 mile car but is hauled ash down the interstate once you got her up to speed. The G-bodies were great cars for their time IMO. Easy to work on, cheap to buy parts for and reliable. Perfect size, not too big, not too small. Mine was 12 years old with a 197K on it when I got rid of it. Still looked good inside and out. It wasn’t much for pulling my 3K pound boat (2:73 gears) or my snowmobile trailer on snowy/icy roads though, so it was replaced with a 4WD PU. Should have kept it!

    I’d love to have one of the mid-eighties Hurst Olds. Love those things!

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Complete, total, unmitigated crap!

  • avatar
    Extra Credit

    Haven’t seen an A7 in this colour combination before. Interesting…

  • avatar
    Lack Thereof

    I can see the factory-installed AM/FM radio being swapped for an AM one at the dealer, as part of a price-reduction strategy to get the damn thing sold.

    In 1979, my father got into a deoptioning battle with a Chevrolet dealer, ending in the dealer removing a Chevette’s AM radio and installing a delete plate, to bring the purchase price down by $50.

    For all I know, the AM radio in this Cutlass is the very same one that dealer pulled out of my dad’s Chevette. And the AM/FM radio pulled out of this Cutlass maybe ended up in someone’s Ninety-Eight.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I could easily see that happening. A lot of the stations then were AM, so this would be plenty for some buyers.

      It’s not like today with these crazy kids and their Kenny Chesney music that they expect in stereo!

      Now, get off my lawn!

  • avatar
    sckid213

    Funny about the “no roll down rear windows thing.” I use the climate control in my current sedan 99% of the time. I don’t think I’ve ever had a need to roll down the rear windows. In fact, I cycle them up and down every once in a while just to keep the juices flowing back there. If they didn’t roll down, I honestly would not care.

    But then again, I am a single guy. I could see how these Salons were oriented towards families, and I guess kids like to roll down windows? But if most were equipped with AC, I don’t think they would have been uncomfortable to be in.

    But I get it, it’s the principle. Even if you never roll them down, I could see why just the fact that you CAN’T would offend people.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    It’s interesting that the front bumper is gone–and, judging by the fresh cut marks in the mounts, probably since its arrival at the pick-a-part. Someone restoring a 1978-79 notchback? (That bumper wouldn’t work for a 1980; that year had its turn signals in the bumper.)

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      That was for the Supreme (notchback) and Calais Coupes, which had separate low/high-beam headlights on each side. The Sedans, Salons and Cruisers had the single headlight on each side. (1980 was the last year of the real formal-looking A/G coupes, as 1981 marked the advent of the “shovel-nose” Cutlass with a more aerodynamic look.)

      (The Calais also had halogen high-beams as standard. Woo-hoo!)

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    OMG! Polarizing then and now! This was GM bean counting at it’s best. Cheap Cheap Cheap…everywhere you look at it. However, it’s platform mates did very well. People apparently weren’t concerned back then.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Well, it *was* 36 years ago. Maybe they were trying for a shooting brake but only had 8-bit CAD.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    The right choice for a Malaise GM product with a weird back end was and still is a bustleback Seville from before the 4100 came along.

    Especially in triple dark blue. Triple dark blue Eldorados and Sevilles with the wires look fantastic.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    A uncle of mine had an 80 Pontiac LeMans 4 dr. The body was the notch back style of this. Styled halfway between the aeroback Olds and notchback Malibu. It had the flip out rear quarter windows which he rarely opened since it had a/c. I always thought GM’s intent was since most of the folks are ordering a/c, so why have roll down windows in the rear. Plus it saved the complexity of dealing with rear window regulators etc.
    Additionally the doors were thinner and had elbow room where the mechanism would have been. Then in 81 all of the G-body 4 doors went to the same 3 box notch style.

    IIRC GM actually considered this style as a Seville replacement. And you think the Cimmaron was a low point.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Yes..the Malibu and the LeMans were the more conventional 4-doors in ’78, 9. That LeMans had a “kick-up” at the bottom of the rear quarter windows, and the Malibu didn’t.

      Something just occurred to me: why did the Chevy cars from that period have a column shifter that required you to practically reach to the ceiling to move into and out of “Park?”

      The Chevvies of this era also all had “theater-dimming” interior lighting, while the Olds and Buck models didn’t! (Maybe the Pontiacs did, too — don’t recall!)

      • 0 avatar
        joeveto3

        That’s a great memory.

        The other thing that came into play with GM cars at this time, was the move from a seatbelt buzzer to a chime. It was so much more elegant and reminded me of an elevator chime. It was such a little thing, but it gave such an upscale feel.

        I know it’s easy to look back at these cars and rip on them, but I have very fond memories of the GM cars of the late 70’s and into the 80’s. Then again, I was a kid who never had to buy one or drive one.

  • avatar
    irieite

    The purple color on the door panels isn’t a custom job, it’s simply faded.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    The 82 Cutlass Supreme sedan my mother bought new around Thanksgiving of 81 is what put my parents off Oldsmobile forever. It was a beautiful color, Dark Redwood Metallic…maroonish, but more toward the brown/mahogany end of things than the purplish maroon colors GM was prone to. 231 v6, weak and wimpy, blew head gaskets, ran funny, just not a great car. I remember going up in the parking garage at the old Columbia Oldsmobile in downtown Cincinnati, via freight elevator, to look at their new car inventory…what a strange setup.

    One oddity was that the interior door trim was 1981-style and had LS emblems, while the rest of the car wore 1982 style Supreme emblems. Good old GM…they sold a lot of Hondas and Toyotas to people like my folks, who were disgusted with American cars from that era.

  • avatar
    LansingT

    My family bought a 1978 Blue Cutlass Brougham used in 1980. I doubt it was driven more than 15,000 miles per year, but was completely falling apart by the mid 80s. I can remember helping with a head gasket circa 1984 on the 260 v8, and had never before or since seen such sludge collect in an engine. The entire top end above valves was SOLID graphited oil.

    The engine ran true until the late 80’s but car cancer took over the frame and suspension. It was junked by 1988. It’s hard to imagine today that an 8 year old car was clawing from the grave and completely junk by year 10.

    It’s funny to see people that would hope to resurrect a car like this – I can remember what a financial curse this car was to our family, not to mention all the time spent under it for different repairs!

  • avatar
    BobinPgh

    What I find odd about the plastic parts is that these hard plastics in the car are deteriorating, yet the polyester slacks the driver was wearing are probably in the back of a closet, still totally intact. Polyester seemed to be indestructible, which is probably why the clothing manufacturers started selling Dockers in the 80s.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      You answered your own question without realizing it — those polyester slacks are spending most of their time sitting in a dark, climate controlled closet, not roasting in the heat of summer and freezing in the cold of winter, and basking in the UV rays of the sun. That is what causes plastics to break down so fast in car interiors; an automobile in climate control storage or a museum would likewise look pretty good a decade or two later.

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