By on April 9, 2018

1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsEvery 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 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in California wrecking yard, fender badge - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars1982 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.

1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in California wrecking yard, trunk keys - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis 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.

1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in California wrecking yard, inspection stickers - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI 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.

1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in California wrecking yard, front seats - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMost 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.

1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in California wrecking yard, engine - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in California wrecking yard, carburetor - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsLook at that beautifully clean carburetor! This car was loved.

1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in California wrecking yard, speedometer - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsUnusually 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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152 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera...”


  • avatar
    RSF

    Doubt it was a trade. I’d say the owner either died or was deemed too old to keep on driving.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    GM sold about eleventy-billion of these. A solid family hauler at a decent price. @RSF, I agree; elderly family members car that no one wanted. I’m surprised a BHPH lot didn’t buy it from the junkyard. Unless something is really wrong with it.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    My MIL had one of these in the late 80’s – early 90’s.
    A four-cylinder – white with a blue vinyl top – she loved it.
    I drove it once – it was slow – and the 4 cylinder was clattery. It also had no steering feel.
    A little thing – but it always bothered me that they put the vinyl top OVER the blue pinstriping.
    So the pin stripe would end under the C-Pillar – then mysteriously come out again and finish up at the trunk.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My mother would have been doing good to have one of these A-body cars. No, she had two X-bodies. First a Pontiac Phoenix coupe that she wrecked in an ice storm the Christmas before I was born (so, 1992), and then a Buick Skylark when I was really young that I remember being profoundly unreliable.

      After that, she bought a Honda and never looked back.

      Still, my dad had a 1964 Impala coupe as a daily-driver and a 1973 Chevrolet C-10 Custom as a spare, so we had plenty of old GM metal around.

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        My first company car was an 85 Ciera Brougham with this same engine. Our family car at the time was an 80 Olds Omega X-body. There was a world of difference in the two. My next company Ciera was a 1988 with the 3.8 engine. It was a hot rod compared to the 3.0 carbureted engine. My last Ciera was a 1990 with a 3.3 engine if I recall. Not as powerful as the 3.8 but still a good engine.
        These were all traded in before 80,000 miles, so I can’t comment on long-term reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The vinyl top was inevitably dealer installed. As was the pinstripe. Evidently not at the same time…

  • avatar
    stckshft

    This one must have had Tru-Coat right off the showroom.

  • avatar
    redapple

    captain O

    The pin stripe under the vinyl roof because is was a scum thieve dealer add on.

  • avatar
    bg

    38 years later, and I can’t get this horrible jingle out of my head.
    https://youtu.be/tzy-dKfUpO4

    3 years later and still using it…
    https://youtu.be/0LJ-gMWlmpQ

    …and perhaps the worst version of all:
    https://youtu.be/kAmd0_JwIw0

    Besides mangling and torturing the lyrics to the song “City of New Orleans” to sing the praises of the Oldsmobile Cutlass Cierra (written by Chicago folk singer Steve Goodman and popularized by Arlo Guthrie), what sticks out in my mind over three decades later is the faux emotional earnestness the singer imbues their performance with…especially the execrable “urban” version. The overwrought musical production is a perfect metaphor for the cheap faux grandeur of the car’s style and trim execution.

    “Hello America how are ya!?” Get out of my head!

    • 0 avatar
      RatherhaveaBuick

      I love that last variation. Advertising the Ciera as an exciting sports coupe with a car phone for yuppies….what a pointless attempt. Catchy though…

      I have a soft spot for the A Body coupes…

  • avatar

    Perhaps this car was stolen once in it’s life? Look a the steering column….

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Maybe this and the “Bob’s Lock and Key” keys suggest the owner died; they could not find the owner’s keys, so they had new keys made before getting trading it in?

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Not only that, but the vinyl surround on the lower dash by the vents is certainly non-standard!

        This had to have been a special-order! Ace-Of-Base-model car with vinyl seats, and yet had cruise/tilt, plus an AM/FM ** radio, ** but no A/C or tinted glass, with the V6. (IIRC, the LS trim got you a front-center armrest, plus an eggcrate grille with standup hood ornament. This car was the equivalent of the G-Body Cutlass Sedan, which until 1980 was the direct descendant of the base Cutlass Salon “aeroback,” and which was carried into 1981, IIRC, with a different grille than the other Cutlass Sedans. Can’t remember if they had a strippo Cutlass Sedan for ’82, or if the bigger cars became the Cutlass Supreme Sedan, and I’m too lazy to look on “oldcarbrochures.com” to check.)

        • 0 avatar
          roverv8i

          My guess is the vinyl around the vents is original. The plastics in these cars were notorious for fading to different shades over time. I’m guessing various plastics were used with different textured parts and came from different suppliers with varying grades of plastics and UV protection. We have often seen articles and posts on this site where comments are made about some strange shade of orange or whatever when it in reality that’s the sun faded color. The most obvious is red going to orange or white to yellow but it seems to happen to most any color.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    I know some Hipsters who are crying over the demise of this ride.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    These were everywhere – especially in the Midwest – in the 80s and early 90s. Just about every family (lots of GM workers) in the suburb I grew up in had a A Body in the driveway for mom use, while the dad would have a truck or coupe.

    After my dad’s bad experience with the diesel engine in his Olds 98, we were the weirdos with an all Nissan fleet. Got a lot of flack for it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      There were everywhere, everywhere. GM sold like a million of them a year across all the brands and variations. And now they are GONE. Even here in God’s Waiting Room, where MeeMaw cars go to die too, I see maybe one beat to crap one every couple of months. In places with road salt they were gone decades ago.

      • 0 avatar
        RatherhaveaBuick

        Still all over the place in the desert, for whatever that’s worth.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          They’re still a regular sight in Indianapolis, but finally getting rare enough to the point that I notice when I seem them rather than just automotive white-noise in the poorer parts of town.

          Oh well, off to search craigslist for one! I’m secretly always wanted one for a winter beater, something they excel at IMO. Good amount of weight over the axles, fwd, really very decent clearance, and a cheap wheel size to scoop up generic snow tires for at wally-world.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Mine was a 91 with the 3.3L V6. In geriatric sky blue, of course. The properest Cutlass Ciera.

    9 model years after this example, it felt truly archaic and yet soldiered on for another 5 inexplicable years. The 1983 Camry and Accord made this thing feel ancient at the beginning of its run, and by 96 it had been pitiably offered as “competition” to two or three generations of Accord, Camry and Taurus. It’s amazing they sold any at all after 1987.

    I’ve still got a soft spot for it, though, so it is a shame to see this one sit in a junkyard.

    Why is the steering column *blue*?

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      The tilt mechanism would get sloppy or flat-out break. It was like trying to steer in a bowl of jelly. Cheaper to get a junkyard replacement than to do a rebuild.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        We had a 4 year old rental Lada 2104 back in 2004 from a small “rent a wreck” sort of outfit in Novosibirsk to drive to visit family in the Altai region. Well Ladas never had a tilt feature, but inexplicably this one had about 2 inches of up and down free travel! It’d be comical if it weren’t so dangerous. My dad managed it okay, even in the mountain roads with 6 people crammed in that little tin can (4 kids across in the back, my grandpa and dad up front).

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Of course, the REAL fun with the A and J-Bodies (Cavalier, Sunbird, etc.), was if the steering rack had the defect which caused blow-by in the power-steering until the rack warmed up after driving a short distance. This was known as “morning sickness,” and made for an interesting morning workout until you suddenly gained power assist as you were pushing to make a left turn on the wheel with all your might!

  • avatar
    deanst

    40 mpg! Wonder what that translates to under today’s testing methodology.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Anyone know the story behind the European flags under the badge?

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I don’t know but our fellow Russian immigrant friends with a newer one of these (late 80s or early 90s variant) in baby blue that we caravan-ed down to Daytona Beach in from Central NY. As a 5 year old at the time I thought all those flags looked classy as heck. The Ciera was a real luxurious pleasure boat compared to our tinny ’85 Civic sedan that we rode in by comparison. They had A/C, nice roomy velour seats, a powerful V6. Having said that I don’t remember being particularly uncomfortable in the back seat of our buzzy Honda. Funny how kids adjust to things. My dad recalls from the trip that our Honda needed fuel stops much less frequently as we were getting about 40mpg, even at higher 75mph speeds.

    • 0 avatar

      This was to give it Euro credibility. This would later evolve into “International Edition” badging. Chasing Europe was what GM was all about circa 82-95.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Oh yeah, our friends’ one had the “International Edition” badging. I wonder if GM marketing people realized that the most impressed person with this ploy would be a 5 year old (me).

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        The flags emblem came first on the Cutlass Salon, at least in 1978, when the then A-Bodies (which became the G-Bodies after the Ciera, Century, 6000 and Celebrity bowed in 1982) were downsized. It might have even been used prior to that on the last couple years of the Colonnade Cutlass Salons (the ones with a “fastback”-looking rear window), as well.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          The 1976 Cutlass Salon has the flags as well.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            First usage 1973.

            http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3184/5852941582_79cbb5aff3_z.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Interesting!

            So they got at least 15, arguably 20 years out of the meme; up to 1991 with the Calais. Did the W-Body Cutlass Supremes have an International Series? I know they had a mid-cycle refresh which brought passenger airbags and a redesigned dash, but I don’t remember if that was for ‘92 or ‘94.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Olds International Package.

      http://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/top-10-obscure-special-editions-and-forgotten-limited-run-models-oldsmobile-edition-part-i/

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/junkyard-find-1990-oldsmobile-cutlass-calais-international-series/

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I am of two minds regarding this. Truly appreciate survivor cars, particularly what were common models that have zero collector value. These are the cars that truly need to be preserved for other generations to learn what/how we actually commuted/traveled. Not the rare rides or exotics but these work a day steeds. Not to mention the love that obviously went into preserving this vehicle. It deserves better.

    However, it also symbolizes the downfall of Oldsmobile and the misguided management of GM. Why purchase an Oldsmobile when other divisions, for example Chev offer near identical vehicles, with matching levels of ‘luxury/comfort/sophistication’. And GM at this point started to fall behind other manufacturers in a number of ways, thus losing market share.

    • 0 avatar

      This one is so lacking in equipment that I can’t see the point at all in paying for the Oldsmobile version.

      • 0 avatar
        Hydromatic

        Loyalty to the brand, perhaps? The same person who’d buy a stripper Olds wouldn’t be caught dead in an optioned-out Chevy for the same price.

        At least that’s how it used to be.

        • 0 avatar

          That makes sense, I always forget how brand loyalty has seen serious erosion since this time.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I still feel that way.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Heck, the father of a girl in my high-school graduating class (and who also attends my church) had a habit of buying the top-trim Oldsmobile with only tinted glass, A/C and maybe a cassette stereo, but no power nothing, and the base engine! Did so right up until the last Olds he bought before they bought the farm, an 88 LSS with, you guessed it, wind-em-yourself windows!

          His wife, OTOH, always got a Pontiac, usually a Bonneville, with every box checked!

        • 0 avatar
          indi500fan

          IIRC dealers were a lot bigger part of the buying equation in pre-internet days. And much less consolidated store ownership.

          There were plenty of robust Olds dealers (at least here in the midwest) with loyal clientele. When GM killed Olds, they lost a bunch of good stores.

      • 0 avatar

        Maybe the local Oldsmobile dealer was a lot better than the local Chevy dealer.

        That was the reason my dad bought a bunch of Plymouths instead of Dodges.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Did each GM brand have stand alone dealers in the USA?

          In Canada (or at least Ontario) a GM dealership was generally a combination of Chev/Olds/Cadillac, or Pontiac/Buick/GMC. Allowed them to reach nearly every segment.

          The only one that I can think of offhand that was one brand was a small dealership in Stouffville Ontario called Giles that had less than 15 employees and had originally also sold Oldsmobiles but never qualified as a Cadillac dealer.

          I am old enough to remember when companies that supplied company cars, or car allowances had strict rules regarding the makes allowed based on your place in the organizational hierarchy. Had one acquaintance called onto the carpet for acquiring a Buick when that was above his ‘station’, as that is what was allocated for his manager. The CEO of course was allowed a Cadillac.

          • 0 avatar
            indi500fan

            Major US metro areas were generally standalone stores for each GM brand, although GMC trucks (non-commercial side) was often combined with Olds, Buick or Pontiac. Rural low volume dealers generally had multiple GM brands.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            You beat me to it, indi500fan. Two typical examples:
            – I grew up in streetcar suburb of a major city. There was a standalone Pontiac dealership in the village shopping district. It was Pontiac-only, I’m guessing, from the demise of Oakland (1931?) up into the 1990s.
            – Conversely, there’s a GM dealership in the small town in which my mom grew up. It’s been in business for 60+ years but never, to my knowledge, has been a single-brand operation. Since 2008, at least, it’s been Buick-Chevy.

            On-topic: Anyone else get a kick out of pre-WWII service bays? There was a BMW dealer in my hometown that operated out of a circa 1920 building. My strong suspicion is that the building had housed a Packard, Peerless, or Pierce-Arrow dealership at some point.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Power. 3.0, 3.3, or 3.8 liter V6 (depending on year) instead of 2.8 liter as biggest engine. Nicer interior for sure. Maybe a little nicer suspension bits? A little more curbside presence? The Olds versions of these cars was always the best looking.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    Woof. No A/C. In California’s central valley. That must have been rough.

    I liked these old A bodies. Mom had a ’90 MY one of these, with the 3300. It was a fast car for a new driver (which I was in the mid-90s) and I recall a lot of time in that car, both driving and as a passenger. 25 mpg, and it would flat scoot. Too much engine for a 16-year-old me.

    I had friends who drove A bodies from every division- Pontiac 6000s, Chevy Celebrities, Buick Centuries, and these Olds Cierras. Western NY in the mid-90s- you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting one of these.

    Now they’re all evaporated.

    I really, really want to feel bad for this car’s fate. It was obviously well-cared for.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      My Dad had an ’86 Century Limited, bought at the end of the model-year off the lot. Usual stock options: tinted glass, AM/FM cassette stereo, air/cruise/tilt, wire wheels, defroster, and worst of all, the 2.8L V6 courtesy of Chevy, the last year of carburetors on that engine. (My Dad didn’t listen to my 16-YOA pleas to special-order a Century with the 3.8L Buick SPFI V6.) I’ve detailed how a problem with the carburation eventually drove my Dad straight into Honda’s arms after being an Oldsmobuick man for years.

      When the car was running right, it wasn’t bad. No feel in the steering, but a nice snap to center; you could literally keep that thing going straight with a fingertip! It was what most people would call a “nice car.” Reasonable power, too; don’t know HOW people existed with that Tech IV Iron Duke in these!

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        I rented many of these A bodies in the 1980s. Most of the Pontiac 6000’s had the Iron Duke engines. These were badly underpowered and sounded like an Evinrude outboard motor under a load.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          At least the Iron Duke had TBI from 82 onward.

          Rough running paint shaker little bi#tch but started in sub-zero weather no complaints. Try that with your malaise era carbs.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I recognize a lot of Citation bits in there. GM must have really been desperate to rinse off the X-body stink.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    Wow I bet some freshly licensed teen would have paid some money for it. Not very much mind you, but it seems a bit of a waste…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Unlikely. Most freshly licensed teens would rather walk than be seen in such a car.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I think you’d be surprised, the hipster factor is strong with these. Falcons and Darts are getting to be too pricey, these boxy 80s domestics are the ultimate irony/norm-core statement like RWD Volvos but even less known/played-out. I have some very hip friends in San Diego that were drooling over an old Celebrity in cab-guise (still had the meter and everything) and before that I helped them look at a Century wagon.

        You heard it here first folks, start hoarding GM A-bodies!

        • 0 avatar

          My DeVille was sold to hipsters who bought it for irony reasons.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Irony like not having working A/C in a cushy Cadillac amirite? Is that what was a looming issue on it or was it something else that made you dump it?

          • 0 avatar

            Ha. It was a number of things really.

            -The AC wasn’t fixable without a conversion.
            -The master cylinder was on its way out.
            -Already repaired the cooler lines for ~$250.
            -The front brake line went as I got home from work. ~$175
            -And the rear air shocks were on their way out – that was gonna be big money.

            It was about done. Sat for too long, and had too many things going bad. Those buyers sold it on again already, I saw it on CL – all dirty and had a new master cylinder.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Last summer I saw a guy cruising down I465 in a 90s Deville on some huge dubz, with the window down quite literally wiping the sweat off his face with a kerchief. Priorities, dontcha know. Gotta hope he at least had a 4.9L!

          • 0 avatar

            On mine, the compressor had seized up. So even with it full of R12 replacement, still no dice. Was just gonna be too much trouble. I waited til fall to sell it, because don’t nobody buy a car with broken AC in the summer.

            I will say that car received more compliments than any other car I’ve ever owned.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Corey

            Master cylinder isn’t expensive, and those rear air shocks can easily be converted. Detroit steel lines of the period like to fail, and it was just a failure which finally made me dump my otherwise cherry Townie in 2011. I am with you on the A/C though, must be fixed or no go.

          • 0 avatar

            I got really lucky on that brake line. It failed just as I was pulling into my driveway. If it had failed even 30 seconds earlier, I’d have crashed. A minute earlier, and I’d have crashed at a big intersection.

            Really soured me.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Mine tried to kill me coming out of Walgreens. Fortunately I was about a mile from home (up and down big hill) and I had just enough fluid to pilot the ship into port.

    • 0 avatar
      jthorner

      May well have had a bad transmission and deemed unworthy of repair. The automatic transmissions in those cars were not especially durable.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Interesting.

        The THM125C like this car had was pretty near bulletproof, I thought. (My ’84 Sunbird had a lockup-clutch solenoid controller failure, where the car would go in and out of lockup repeatedly, which was solved by yanking one wire.) Didn’t think the overdrive units which followed later were worse.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      I am not hip, BUT an A-body wagon would be sweet and useful. Probably way more affordable than a pristine K or 240. Century looks best Imo near the end of the run, but a 6000 would be more rare and probably have better DD handling characteristics. Coincidentally I saw a Celebrity sedan on the road just yesterday for the first time in a while.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        The early years of the fwd 125 were problematic but by 84 or so it was pretty robust. When they added the overdrive (4T40) it was the most reliable trans in the GMPowertrain lineup.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    My neighbor had this model year Ciera when I was a kid. It was olive green and it was assigned to him as a company car. He hated it and called The Green Pig. I recall one day he was under the hood so I wandered over to see what he was doing. Apparently it developed a vacuum leak in one of the lines. He found the line with the hole in and jammed the tip of a pencil in it. The things your remember from childhood.

  • avatar
    brettc

    My grandmother had a 1985 Cutlass Ciera. Gold exterior and beige interior. I think it had the 2.8 V6, but I don’t remember for sure. The Ciera replaced her ’77 Lemans.

    Her next and last car was a ’95 Regal with the 3.1 V6.

    • 0 avatar
      TCragg

      I was going to post this, but my brother beat me to it. I also think the car in question had the 2-barrel carbed version of the 2.8L 60 degree V-6, but Wikipedia seems to suggest that because it was an ’85, it should have had the 3.0 or 3.8 V-6. Our own family car was an ’87 Celebrity, so we were no stranger to GM A-bodies. They were thick on the ground in the ’80s and ’90s. I saw a Cutlass Ciera of similar vintage to this one in a field alongside US-15 in PA a few weeks ago. There was a horse in the same field that seemed to pay it little attention.

  • avatar
    MoDo

    These things were everywhere in the 90’s

  • avatar
    richthofen

    Way, way too nice to have ended up here. Not a collector car by any means, but the type of car that would be a bit hit at a car show in the future just because no one thought to preserve any.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Looking again at that interior shot – what a mishmosh of colors.
    Light and dark brown – light and dark blue.
    Was it built that way?

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    “Tan Ciera! Tan Ciera!”. -Sheriff Marge Gunderson

  • avatar
    Sloomis

    I wonder how many times that 3.0 V6 had to be rebuilt/replaced to get that car to 148k…

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Good Lord, vinyl seats and no A/C. You could probably cook your derriere in that car.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    My father had one of these. I only drove it once and it reminded me of riding a pig with a steering wheel attached to its head.

  • avatar

    It just has *no* equipment! What dealer stocked Oldsmobiles without AC?! And I wonder who the buyer was, we need to come up with a profile.

    Older woman
    Always lived sensibly
    Saved her pennies
    Worked at a library
    Replacing her old Galaxie finally for 1982

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Cheap Yankees would buy these things with no A/C in Maine all the time. My grandparent’s first car with A/C was an ’82 Subaru – all of the ginormous American barges they owned never had it. “We don’t need it in Maine”. Of course, once they bought one car with it, they never bought another car without it. Still very, very rare to find a house with central A/C in Maine.

      And trust me as a Mainer born and raised – it gets PLENTY hot, humid, and miserable in Maine in the summer.

      • 0 avatar

        Most people just have a couple window units then? Or they just go without?

        My coworker is looking for a house around here in Ohio, and you can still come across older homes which don’t have central air. That’d be a no-go for me.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          There are a whole bunch of older homes here in the same situation, depends on price range really. Grandma’s never touched 1950-80 ranch tends to be a time capsule. Yet, they want all the money.

          I see real estate the way I do a car on the block, look for receipts and buy the cleanest one with the most options as the valuation doesn’t go much higher vs average/stripper model (historically about 10% more loaded vs not).

        • 0 avatar
          indi500fan

          Big difference north to south.
          In Cleveland (same thing Toledo and Youngstown) where I grew up, AC in homes was pretty rare up to the 80s.

          Cincinnati was more like the mid-south.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t really go outside in summer when it’s gross and humid, unless I have to.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            You could use I-70 as a dividing line, going north of it you really didn’t see too many homes with A/C. Even in my neck of the woods (Youngstown) only nicer, newer homes had A/C, much of the stock did not. But that’s been changing in the last 20-30 years.

            Now, there are drop in (for lack of a better term) A/C units that stack on top of a regular gas furnace output sheetmetal. Just place the unit in between the heat exchanger and the duct work, et voila! Whole house A/C… $3,000, please.

    • 0 avatar

      This car probably existed so that a dealer could run a newspaper ad with a really low price, and then flip the buyer to a better equipped car when they came into the dealership.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Car was supposedly from Pennsylvania, right?
      No AC was pretty common in the northeast at that time.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    This is later than 1982. The grille is wrong for 1982, IIRC.

    My MIL had a 1982 Cutlass Ciera Supreme (with extra cheese) back in the day. It had the 2.8L 60 degree Chevy V6, not the 3.0L Buick motor. It was actually a very good car for the times, they bought it new in 1982, and no real issues with it until it was totaled by a drunken teenager in late 1984.

    They bought a very similarly equipped but totally different colored (inside and out) 1985 Cutlass Ciera Supreme to replace it. *That* car had some issues, but I no longer remember what they were. I guess they more like annoyances, I can remember her complaining about it, but there was never a time where it didn’t run for them.

    If this car came from a smog-compliance part of Pennsylvania and ended up in California, I’m guessing the original owner died or gave it away. I would also hazard a guess that it had a mechanical failure that became fatal due to age.

    It was quite common back in the day to order your new car w/o A/C in Pennsylvania, only because it was an expensive option new, and a potentially expensive option to maintain. In fact, so much of the standard equipment on even the most basic car today were expensive options on cars back then. Combined with a buyer base that was older, not accustomed to having these things (many raised during the Great Depression) and leery of their durability, many cars came without.

    Kind of a shame, really.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Well said. The ‘younger’ readers/contributors may not understand how features that they regard as ‘must haves’ are regarded as frills, and sometimes unwanted and expensive frills by those with ‘more experience’.

      When vehicles were primarily mechanical, electrical components were regarded with suspicion as being prone to failure and hard/expensive to repair/replace.

      As for A/C we can open up the ‘climate change’ can of worms. However without addressing that, the fact is that in pretty much all of Canada, form most of the late 20th century A/C was generally required in a vehicle for perhaps 2-3 weeks in August. The rest of the time, the weather just was not hot enough, for long enough to make it necessary/worthwhile.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Wrong on the A/C – it is used every time you are on the ‘defrost’ setting, to dehumidify the air and help the windows clear faster.

        This is why A/C is so necessary in places like Seattle, because that’s what you are using it for a majority of the time. The fact that it also cools you off for three weeks in the summer is a bonus.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @redmondjp: certainly not ‘wrong’. What you are describing is a relatively new system. And does not exist in every car as not every car is sold with A/C. You probably are not aware of the existence of ‘vent’ windows. And possibly never rode in an car with an air cooled engine and no heater.

          So what you described while useful is not ‘necessary’, unless climate change is more rapid than I am aware of.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        You’re on point, Arthur. In the ’90s and ’00s, I used to get a fair amount of wheel time in a non-A/C pickup while visiting relatives who lived near the NY-Ontario border. Honestly, no a/c was fine most of the time. Exception: If the truck had been parked in bright sun for an extended period of time, which it seldom was, it’d be uncomfortable until you got moving. I’d have preferred an A/C-equipped vehicle for noise reasons when doing highway driving, but temperature and humidity-wise, things were fine. And without opening the climate change can of worms, 10+ years later, it’s a smidgen hotter there, and A/C has become nicer to have. The relatives subsequent truck has it.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      Yeah the ’84 Nissan truck that was “loaned” to me by my parents didn’t have air conditioning. Add in those funky plastic cloth seats and it made for one very sweaty back in the summertime.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Nope – the grille is correct for the low-line 1982 Ciera.
      http://www.oldcarbrochures.org/index.php/NA/Oldsmobile/1982-Oldsmobile/1982_Oldsmobile_Small_Size_Brochure

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Yup, I see that now. Trying to rely on my memory for a car I probably haven’t seen 25+ years is not a good strategy. But, lacking the cross hatching of the Supreme models, tells me this is a low budget Cutty. Even if it does have the flags underneath the badge.

    • 0 avatar
      CaptainObvious

      My wife had two great-aunts – Sis and Weenie.
      Never got married, lived together in CT their whole lives, inherited a fortune from their father.
      They traveled the world taking month long cruises, etc.
      The last car they had was a blue Buick Century – probably a late 80’s early 90’s model.
      When they passed, my mother-in-law asked me if I was interested in it.
      It was in perfect shape, low miles, etc.
      No AC. Manual windows.
      I passed.

  • avatar
    Aron9000

    Wow that thing is clean!!! Looks like somebody tried to steal it at one time, steering column is a different color.

    Also I’ve never seen one that was this poverty spec. No A/C, no pass side mirror, vinyl instead of the typical velour, no cassette player. Looks like the only option was the V6.

    Also can somebody please explain what was up with the flags on 1980’s/early 90’s Oldsmobile badges??? I did notice the lack of a white flag with a red circle or a red flag with the hammer and sickle lol.

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    The 82-96 A-Body, the Cockroach of the American Highway. Some cockroaches do get squished, though, and this is one of them.

    Two Cieras in our family. One, owned by my brother as his first car. He bought it off of our across-the-street neighbor when they moved up to something new in 1996. It was a 1986 2.8L in sky blue. Had a droopy headliner and the transmission indicator didn’t point at the right gear, but it ran pretty well. He had it until he bought a 99 Ranger and then it sat in our back driveway. I was going to drive it in high school, but, well… our jerk neighbor reported it as unregistered and it had to go. It was the first car I learned how to wrench on, though. Learned how to do bodywork too.

    The other example was a 96 in maroon. My father bought it off a used lot in 1999 when his Dodge Spirit gave up the ghost. It was adequate for a second car. He had it for probably three years until the timing chain on the 3.3L snapped.

    Even though these cars are kind of a joke, it’s amazing how many of them are still around.

    • 0 avatar
      Sloomis

      I think the fact that some are still around is due entirely to the large number that were produced. I’ve owned two A-bodies and they were not good cars, at all.

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        Oh, I wasn’t praising them (hence my cockroach comments) There were a ton of them made, they all used GM Parts bin construction (engines, transmissions, and such shared across other non-A platforms), and they weren’t very hard to work on. A perfect 1-2-3 for overstaying their welcome.

        I didn’t particularly like either of the ones in our family, but they drove. I still have no idea why people bought new A-bodies in the late 80s/early 90s when you had perfectly serviceable H, G, N, and even W bodies available. Or even the compact bodies.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    My dad had a turd-brown ’83 new, also with windup windows and no A/C. By the time he got rid of it in ’92 the sheet metal had rusted through in a variety of places, enough to let water in going through puddles, and the Iron Duke had trouble exceeding 40 MPH.

    Not one to learn his automotive lessons, Dad narrowed his 1992 replacement down to the excellent Camry, the exciting Maxima, and the Cutlass Supreme. He chose the Olds once again, and once again was punished for it.

  • avatar
    WestoverAndOver

    I would floss it. My grandmother had an ’83. White interior, navy blue vinyl top, blue velour interior. Hot! I miss it. My employment often brought me to MSP, and every time we rode past that (now gone) site in the ride share service, I had to drop a Fargo line in my head. This is my deal here, Wade!

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    This car had power steering. I can safely guess that the rack and pinion had to be replaced/ rebuilt before 5 years or 50k miles due to “morning sickness” caused by GMs use of incompatible sliding seals in the rack. I know this from personal experience with two 80s A cars.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    No A/C is 100% the reason nobody bought this thing at auction. I drove a few different old Mercedes with weak, old-school German A/C in HS/college and that was sweaty enough in the summer, can’t imagine having NOTHING to cool down your car in CA.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I’m guessing no A/C, vinyl seats or maybe an ill running or knocking 3.0 liter Buick V6 could be the reason this car was shunned. Finding a good running carbureted 3.0 today is very tough. 148K miles is a pretty good run for this engine without a rebuild assuming that was the case.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I don’t recall seeing a lot of these with the V6 and no other options (not even A/C!!). Usually it seemed like it was the other way around: cars with the Iron Duke and power everything.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      The General definitely still had some weird build combos available in the ’80s. My grandmother had a pretty well-equipped ’88 Celebrity (V6, cruise control, A/C, power windows and locks, tape deck) but the front seats (split-bench) didn’t recline! The saving grace was that the angle was right for most people, so they actually were pretty comfortable. On principle, though, it was galling.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        So weird. Ford had weird combinations too, including my own ’87 Taurus GL that was my first car. It had the V6, A/C, and a couple of exotic options (console shifter/buckets, contrast-color rocker panel moldings) but managed to leave out the basic power lock/window/seat group that was on almost all GLs.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          Favorite weird build of this era: I knew a widow of a fairly high-ranking, Whiz Kid era Ford exec. Her penultimate car was a “brass hat special” Grand Marquis. I can’t remember if she preferred leather or cloth, but it was the opposite of what the ladies in her bridge group liked. Consequently, Mercury built her a Grand Marquis with a split bench that was velour on one side and leather on the other. Not only that, it was a perfectly matched maroon color. You would half-expect the line workers to rebel against a project like that, but they did a really good job.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    That blue steering column looks like it came from my grandpa’s A-body, a 1990 blue on blue cloth Century. He couldn’t stand the car and only kept it 2 years. It was pretty boring but with the 3.3 it held its own.

  • avatar
    Big Wheel

    Oh man, back in the 1980’s & 90’s, GM A bodies were everywhere in SE Michigan with all the employees. Couldn’t throw a rock without hitting one. Since my dad’s father worked for GM, that’s all the cars my parents got until my mom had enough. My mom went from a 1982 Camaro Z28 that was a sweet looking black-on-black (hotter than Hades in the summer, slower than molasses even with the V8, leaked oil, overheated, etc.) to an A body Buick Century with the Iron Duke in Powder Blue.

    She. Hated. It.

    I drove it as well & man was it slow. Much like a lot other people with 70’s-90’s GM vehicles, my mom went foreign & hasn’t looked back: 86 Honda Prelude Si, 91 Prelude Si, 97 Prelude, Acura MDX, Audi TT, BMW 3 series, & back to Honda (CRV).

  • avatar
    jmo2

    When I was learning to drive the choices were my dad’s ‘93 Camry or my grandmother’s ‘89 Cutlass Ciera. The Camry was a Rolls Royce Ghost compared to the Cutlass. Ride quality, power, build quality, NVH were eons apart. These days I don’t think the gap between a Kia Rio and a Rolls Royce Ghost is as big as the gap between the Cutlass and the Camry. It was that bad.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Neither car was noted for steering, braking or handling. I have driven both and the major difference was the Camry’s V6 was really quiet but it didn’t seem that much quicker than a good running 3300 or 3800 equipped A-body.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    In MN, an A-body this rust-free would be good for another 100K.

    • 0 avatar
      Oreguy

      I grew up in MN (near the ND border). The streets, roads, and highways in the region were paved with A-bodies.

      …along with every mall parking lot, church parking lot, and as they aged… high school parking lots.

      It seemed that ownership was mandatory.

  • avatar
    cliff731

    I remember this one well… and the first 1982 Olds Cutlass that I ever laid my eyes upon was in a shopping mall in Oklahoma City, OK. The year was circa the fall of 1981, where a selection of GM’s new 1982 models were on public display!!!

    My brother later owned the station wagon version of this FWD Oldsmobile Cutlass. GM had relocated the fuel pump to reside inside the gas tank on these cars. He was crossing the Mississippi River Bridge on I-10 in Baton Rouge, LA, when that fuel pump decided to “quit” on said bridge. He, his wife and kids, and their medium metallic blue Olds Cutlass wagon went no further until a tow truck arrived.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    This was my dream car as a kid, specifically the 1984 model. I eventually owned an 85 that was on it’s last legs, but it got me around. The prettiest one I ever saw was two-tone cream and black.

    When you rode around squeezed between your parents in a 79 Chevy Custom Deluxe 10, smelling faintly of cow manure, you daydreamed a lot about riding in something nicer.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      You needed to dream bigger. ;-) I’m actually quoting a neighbor of my cousin, who said that upon my cousin’s purchase of her dream car, a VW Thing.

      The A-body owners I know had good experiences with them. Given more garage space, I’d totally rock a Eurosport, STE or SE, GT, or T-Type only semi-ironically.

  • avatar
    Hogey74

    Wow. Wrong continent but that car looks so familiar. The keys in the lock: The same as the old family 1977 Holden (GM) Kingswood I had as a first car. I had forgotten what they look like! The Kingswood was a similar sized car but based on a design from about 1970. A similar vintage but super smooth straight six 3.3 litre engine of Australian origin. That Buick v6 then came to Australia to take over and become rear-wheel drive as a 3.8 efi. Rough, unloved and with a lot of early problems. Holdens were all I knew back then but I now understand how poorly designed and built they were compared to the already quite good Japanese cars.

    I would love to find one of these, especially with a carb, when I come over there for a big drive. Great find!

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I’d drive it.

  • avatar
    gtem

    I’m now going down the rabbit hole of A-bodies on craigslist, thanks jerks!

    This one without photos sounds like a gem of a find (iron duke for better or for worse):
    https://fortwayne.craigslist.org/cto/d/chevy-celebrity/6539948169.html

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    That front bench seat with a full fixed back and plastic tray in place of an actual middle seat is one of the most pointless, cheap, stupid things I’ve ever seen. Even though Chrysler made great hay out of advertising 6-passenger room in the K-car, both the X-car and the early A-bodies were all 5-passenger models, regardless of whether your ordered buckets or a “bench.”

    Does anybody know what GM’s reasoning was? I can’t imagine it was was space or safety, since the later As all came with a third belt up front. My best guess is it was a cynical attempt to push buyers who wanted a six seater into a G or B-body.

    • 0 avatar

      GM’s only reasoning in those days was max profits with minimum effort.

      Everything then was cynical. OK, the S-10/S-15 were an exception. But this was NOT the same GM that delivered the home run full-size reboot for 1977 or A-body reboot for 1978. Yes those rides had their issues but so did everyone else in Detroit at the time.

      But by 1982, it’s almost as if they were saying, “We’re tired of being #1! Someone else can do it now. Trying to build a car as good as Japan is SO HARD!”

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        That was true when it came to the smaller stuff. But the mid and full size cars were still quite good for the time and some of the best stuff me family and friends owned during the 80’s and 90’s.

  • avatar
    Laflamcs

    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.

  • avatar
    bgfred

    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…


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