Junkyard Find: 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1982 oldsmobile cutlass ciera

Every so often, I’ll be poking around in one of the self-service wrecking yards I frequent and I’ll come across a very nice older car, clearly babied by its original owner for just about its entire life. It will be a car whose resale value depreciated to insignificance decades ago, dooming it to a junkyard parking space the moment its owner trades it in.

Today’s Junkyard Find is such a car.

1982 was the first year for the Cutlass Ciera, as well as the front-wheel-drive GM A-Body platform. The best-known A-Body was the Chevy Celebrity; these cars sold very well but their lackluster build quality didn’t do GM’s image any favors. Production of the Ciera continued long past that of the Celebrity, all the way through the 1996 model year.

This one has keys in the trunk lock, which usually means that it was a dealership trade-in that failed to sell at the subsequent car auction. The pool of potential bidders who would want a 35-year-old Ciera, no matter how nice, is microscopically small, and nobody from that pool showed up to rescue this car. Note the “Bob’s Lock & Key” stamping on the ignition key.

I shot this car in California’s Central Valley, but it appears to have originated in Pennsylvania. That makes its zero-rust/zero-dents condition even more remarkable.

Most five-year-old cars don’t have seats this nice. GM wasn’t using the finest pleather available in the Late Malaise Era, so this car was treated very well.

The engine is an unusual 3.0-liter version of the venerable Buick 90° V6 engine. The 3.0 was built for just a few years during the early 1980s; this one was rated at 110 horsepower. The base engine was the rough-running Iron Duke four-cylinder.

Look at that beautifully clean carburetor! This car was loved.

Unusually for a GM car of this era, the odometer is a six-digit unit. 148,273 miles is about 100,000 more than I’d have guessed based on this car’s condition. The trade-in process must have been very painful for its owner.

Why drive a Rabbit or Le Car when you could drive a Ciera? “Even today, there’s still room to do it with style.”

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  • Laflamcs Laflamcs on Apr 10, 2018

    Oh I loved these A-body cars. My dad bought a dark blue Chevy Eurosport wagon back in 1986. With the black trim and red stripe in the molding, it was stunny. V6 had get up and go and the rally wheels looked great. He got lots of comments about it, I remember people walking up to the car and just saying "Wow." I totaled it in 87 (strong car, saved my life.) He replaced it with a grey Eurosport sedan, red interior. I bought that car from him after I graduated college in 1991. Roomy, very comfortable, well built, with a nice interior (upholstered door panels.) These cars were bought off the lot, and yes, as mentioned in earlier posts, these V6 models had NO power options and NO A/C. Just a simple, reliable, roomy car.

  • Bgfred Bgfred on May 22, 2018

    Based on our experience with an '83 Ciera, it defies imagination that you could make one of these run for 148,273 miles. It further defies imagination that you'd want to! We also had an 80 X-Car and an 83 J-Car - both of which were actually preferable to the Ciera. But it was the '87 Calais with disposable water pumps and mystery stalling that really took the cake...

  • Arthur Dailey Is most of your driving in stop and go urban traffic?Do you have kids, who you have to drive to and from their activities? Sometimes with their friends/teammates.Do you have pets? Do you have some mobility issues?Can you perform maintenance yourself?Do you have a discretionary fund for unforeseen repairs?Do you have another car, so that you only need to use this on weekends or rural/highway trips?Check your answers to the above. They may tell you that as nice as this car is, you might be better off with a new, boring but more practical SUV.
  • DungBeetle62 Before everyone dumps on California and their tax structure and Gavin's hairstyle, my recent road trip (which didn't get to California) was as follows when tanking up Super Unleaded.Texas - Fort Worth area Costco : $3.36Texas - Amarillo Sam's - $3.46New Mexico - Albuquerque Costco - $3.75Arizona - Flagstaff Sam's - $4.25Nevada - Henderson Costco- $4.72Oil is oil is oil is oil. State taxes vary, transporting the refined product varies, but a friggin BUCK AND A HALF more a gallon (and we're talking Costco to Costco here) ain't passing the smell test as you get out west. No, count me in with thinking someone out west is going for a bigger bite of the apple and figuring people will blame Newsom.
  • Tassos Whoever pays $23,000 for this 15 year old unreliable car will regret it. I would not pay half that.Go get an excellent E55 AMG, also 2008, and pretty close HP-wise, with far higher Torque, and a proper luxury interior..
  • VoGhost Why would anyone want to save a car dealer? No really - what actual value do they provide?
  • FreedMike Really nice example, but these are LEGENDARY for being money pits.