Rare Rides: The 1991 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, a Wagon-only Olds

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1991 oldsmobile custom cruiser a wagon only olds

Among the fairly common group of vehicles produced on General Motors’ B-body chassis in the 1990s, one stands out. It’s extra-long, fairly luxurious, a last-of moment, and unloved among the sort of people who collect older vehicles.

No, it’s not the Impala SS, which everyone overprices when it’s that Purp Drank color. It’s the Custom Cruiser, by Oldsmobile.

General Motors updated its perennial B-body lineup for the 1991 model year, as the three-box platform morphed into one big, aerodynamic bathtub. In typical fashion, several GM brands offered essentially the same vehicle, with trim differences to suit the brand. At the Ace of Base level was Chevrolet’s Caprice Classic sedan and wagon, plus the later “hot rod” Impala SS variant (’94-’96). In the middle returned the Buick Roadmaster name, with accompanying Roadmaster Estate. At the top of the pyramid was the super-length Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. And in the lower-upper-middle somewhere, Oldsmobile with its Custom Cruiser.

One would reasonably expect the Custom Cruiser was accompanied by a sedan variant labeled Ninety-Eight, but that spot was taken by a brand new front-drive C-body. Oldsmobile was in the middle of a push for the modern, younger customer, and traditional large sedans didn’t fit that mold. There it sat in the lineup — a large, rear-drive V8 duckling in a showroom of front-drive V6 vehicles (plus the AWD Bravada). The flagship wagon of the Oldsmobile brand was considerably larger (and different) than the flagship sedan of the very same year.

Shin kicking didn’t stop there. The Custom Cruiser did not receive the detuned LT1 5.7-liter love of some other B-body models, but offered either the 5.0-liter 305 engine, or the 5.7-liter Chevrolet 350. The Olds Rocket V8 was a thing of the past. The only engine available for 1991 was the 305, and for ’92 the 305 played base engine to the 350.

Unlike its other B-body counterparts, Oldsmobile’s more modern image mandated the Custom Cruiser forego exterior wood trim. Instead, two-tone paint coated the boaty body. From Internet observation, it would seem this light blue was the most common color, followed by white over grey, and then maroon.

The modern front clip and lack of plastic wood (plood?) was not enough to keep wagon sales hopping. First year sales of 7,663 dropped to 4,347 in 1992. At that point, Oldsmobile decided it was time to throw in the towel and cede wagon sales to Buick and Chevrolet. The last rear-drive Oldsmobile wagon had gone away, and took with it the title of Last Truly Large Oldsmobile. The rest of the B-bodies would soldier on with decent success through the 1996 model year, when GM gave up on rear-drive sedans for a while. Perhaps sir would like a DTS with Northstar?

Our Rare Ride subject today was featured recently on the Craigslist of northern Wisconsin, which is a neighboring state to Michigan. With seemingly every option available at the time, clean blue leather found itself dappled in sunlight from the Vista roof (another last-of). This wagon had 130-odd thousand miles on the clock, and asks just $2,500. The listing was removed over the past day or so, but it may pop up again. In the meantime, keep Oldsmobile in your hearts and minds. I do.

[Images: seller]

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  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Jul 27, 2018

    I want to like this, but the execution is just a bridge too far for me. Some of it is the bubble styling, but some of it is the radical difference in overhang between front and back. Visually it looks like a fat guy with his butt hanging off the back of a barstool. I'm not a huge fan of the last-gen "blob" Rivieras either.

  • Jetfire88 Jetfire88 on Feb 16, 2019

    I just ran across this site while searching for OCC stuff. I am an Olds Guy, a wagon guy, and an old hotrodder. I have had many Olds Cutlass and Box wagons, then I moved up to bubbles. My fave Olds was the '73-77 Cutlass wagons, but they were not really very good cars, bad build quality, cr@p paint/body integrity, and they rusted while I slept. The chassis under all these B-body wagons goes all the way back to '77, the only major diffs are ABS and metric lug threads, and the Olds 305 was used in all but Chevies. I parked my 1st '91 OCC wagon next to my '73 Vista, and they are the same size! I can hall 8 folks, class 3 hitch, 4x8 anything, and still avg. 20 mpg. That is with either SBC 305/350. I leave the SBC in my drivers because it works well, cheap and easy to fix. If your OCC doesn't have enough power, change it. You can always cop out and put in an LS1, but do the right thing and put in a real Olds, like this (Hurst tribute, Olds 455, TBI, using all stock parts). http://s564.photobucket.com/user/jetfire88_photos/media/Hurse/Hurst-parks-019.jpg.html The styling may not be everyones cup of tea, but it's infinitely better than driving around in a MommyMobile that seats 12 or a pickup that needs its own zipcode.

  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"