By on July 13, 2018

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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58 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1991 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, a Wagon-only Olds...”


  • avatar
    Funky

    A customer of mine had one of these. His had a rearward facing seat in the back that could seat three adults in a pinch. I know this because I once sat in the seat along with two other adults one day when he drove a bunch of us to lunch. His at that time (mid 1990s) already had more than one hundred thousand miles on it. He claimed he loved it and that it gave him no problems.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I have much lust for these ESPECIALLY with the 350 that was basically a truck engine, which is appropriate for these BOF cruisers. I never liked the LT1 in the non-Impala SS B-bodys a little bit too high reving for the actual target customer.

    The last V8 RWD Oldsmobile – Requiescat In Pace

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Roomy but ugly. I do not miss large wagons one bit, although anything with Oldsmobile written on it gets some attention.

    I suppose you could use the front clip to build your own RWD 1990s Ninety-Eight, but I wouldn’t. Ford’s Crown Vic, although without an optional engine to match the LT1, was the better looking car, but I don’t like the way they drive, nor their cramped interior (given their size anyway).

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I drive by a couple of clean Roadmasters a couple times a week, oddly they are only four houses apart.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Box B-Body is better than bubble B-Body. The only reason to like the bubbles is the LT1. This is the hill I will die on.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      But 307 V8 QudraJunk only from mid 80s until 91 for Box Wagons is why I despise them.

      I’ll take a 1989-1990 Caprice sedan with TBI 305 but the E-QudraJet makes me bow at the altar of fuel injection.

      I will admit however that the bubble B bodys should have had much better braking systems, but typical cheap-a$$ GM precluded that.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I like fuel injection as much as I’d like my next breath, but my ideal B/C (RWD C) body is an Olds coupe with a Rocket under the hood. Doesn’t need to be a wheezing 307, a retrofit of an Olds 350 or larger would be ideal.

        https://jerseyshore.craigslist.org/cto/d/1981-oldsmobile/6629987573.html

        I want it SO bad. There are several body parts I would offer in exchange.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          As long as you don’t live in a state with emissions inspection you can always rip the carb and ancillary crap off the engine and install an aftermarket TBI.

          One of the reasons I stay so mad at GM over its late adoption of TBI is the simple fact that I think an engine like the Olds 307 could have been so awesome with TBI and Ford had a reliable system to stick on the 302 by 1985.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            No emissions here, but wouldn’t adding EFI help, rather than hurt, emissions?

            Or is it that they won’t accept it because it isn’t factory?

            Edit: I wouldn’t throw the factory Olds 307 (in that Ninety-Eight for example) in the scrap pile, it’d find its way into a G body Cutlass.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            There are many states who would frown at the “non-stock” and taking away all the vacuum tubes etc even though it would likely pass the “sniffer” test. If the state has a visual inspection, you are screwed.

            As an example lets say you had a 1982 Olds 98 and a V8 out of a pickup truck from a newer and stricter emissions model year. Most states wouldn’t let you transplant the engine because – OMG! It came out of a truck!

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            I gotcha. Silly. But, this IS the government we are talking about here.

          • 0 avatar
            Weskyvet

            Hate on Olds all you want but that 307 breathing through 3 inch diameter side pipes was the background music to many of my teenage adventures in lust and one can never discount the aphrodisiac powers of that velour backseat…. Ahhh memories what I wouldn’t give to have another 88 Cutlass Supreme Classic.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Weskeyvet, we aren’t hating on Olds, quite the contrary.

            I just think a big car like that Ninety-Eight deserves a bigger engine. You won’t find me putting an LS engine in it, either, nor a Chevy 350. It will be an Oldsmobile engine, or nothing.

            The 307 is great for the midsize Cutlass, as I said, unless it was in trouble, I’d put it in a Cutlass Supreme.

            There are G body Cutlasses out there. Here is one in Florida (where I assume you’re at by your screen name, also, thank you for your service).

            https://tallahassee.craigslist.org/cto/d/1988-oldsmobile-cutlass/6638919171.html

            Pretty one in New York
            https://newyork.craigslist.org/lgi/cto/d/1988-cutlass-supreme-classic/6615022668.html

            Neither have the pillow top seats, but they do have the 307.

          • 0 avatar
            Weskyvet

            Now I must talk my wife into letting me have that and my Jeep. Gee thanks John…. and no I’m not in Florida (I try to avoid God’s waiting room) I’m in Western Kentucky I just screwed up typing up a unique user name.

            Side note: I paid $300.00 for my G body because the owner got all bent outta shape tracking down vacuum leaks and didn’t feel like digging through the vacuum lines to replace valve cover gaskets. That car went through hell and back and I sold it for $300 after my now ex wife talked me into selling it.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Oh, well, you can change it. When you log in, on that page it takes you to, you can edit your screen name there.

            I am an Oldsmobile fan, though I’m a Ford guy at heart. I have only had one Olds, a V-6 Achieva, and despite my experience with it, I still like them, lol.

            Right now, I’m debating on buying a new car later this year/early nrxt, or building a collection of older cars I’ve always wanted.

            If I go with the latter, there will be several Oldsmobile cars, including a 1999 Aurora, an early 80s B/C body coupe (that Ninety-Eight I posted above is ideal), and a Cutlass of some sort (either a G body, or an A body). I also found a 1966 Starfire a few months back, and absolutely fell in love with it. It sold, of course, but I’d still like to have one, if I could find it.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Absofuckinlutely.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      I had a box ’79 Impala wagon for many years. Classy two-tone silver/grey instead of the Mactac wood. 350 with 4 barrel carb, posi rear end. I added rear air shocks to prevent sagging with heavy loads. An amazingly versatile vehicle, like a limo and pickup combined. Friends nicknamed it the “comfy pig”.

      3-way tailgate was excellent. Battering ram bumpers mounted on shocks. But there were no proper headrests, and the rear folding seat did not split. Dumb. Exfoliating paint was marginally stuck on. And it was longer and wider than it needed to be. Should have evolved into the form factor of the Ford 500 wagon.

      Lots of good memories though.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        You only think they were good memories, obviously the product of clever marketing that made you believe it was classy, versatile and comfortable. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, but you were clearly fooled by the marketing.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        I worked with a guy who had a Ford Explorer that he loved, that vehicle was there for several important events in his life. One day he went for a bike ride, on his way home three fire trucks passed him, he noticed smoke bellowing from the vicinity of his house. When he got there his Explorer was fully involved, fortunately they put the flames out before the house went up too. It was parked with the engine off and just burst into flames. But he’s got lots of good memories, that’s the important thing, y’know?

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Sounds like he shoulda bought a Dodge Charger instead, that could never happen to one of those.

          http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-fiat-chrysler-recall-20170714-story.html

          https://m.iaai.com/VehicleSearchResults.aspx?KeyWord=Charger%20fire

          I suppose the lesson is to avoid every car maker who’s ever had an issue with fire. Hope your legs are in good shape, because there’s no chance of a Huffy burning.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    My neighbor has this exact same car in this exact same color and don’t forget to mention that this car can carry full sheets of plywood and they lay flat

  • avatar
    ajla

    I have a ’94 Roadmaster sedan right now and it’s still a very nice car even in mid-2018.

    Compared to my Charger, the Dodge’s interior is a sardine can and although the Hemi certainly has more legs, the LT1 doesn’t feel or sound like it’s down 110hp and 65 lb-ft.

    • 0 avatar

      If such a Ninety-Eight existed as I mentioned with Olds styling, would you rather have that than the Buick?

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      I remember the days when the LT1 was a beast of an engine. 0-60 in just under 7 seonds!

      I had a ’94 Roadmaster Limited (in brown!) with the towing package. It was a fun car with a lot of attitude. Surprised a lot of drivers with the grandpa-mobile. Michigan salt began eating the rear quarters so it got traded in on a Honda Element. *sigh* I would buy a new, updated Roadmaster right now if I could.

      • 0 avatar
        whynotaztec

        I had a 95 SS in dark cherry (not the purple nonsense featured here). 0-60 in 7 seconds was pretty good then. Of course that is what my Accord hybrid does now.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Wow, look at all that room. I was partial to the Roadmaster wagon of these variants.

  • avatar
    Mackie

    “Purp Drank” colour? I had to google it and I feel ancient now. Doesn’t anybody over the age of 25 write for TTAC anymore?

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    I had a ’92 with the 5.7 from 1999 to 2007. Dechromed, rolled rear pan and smoothie bumper from Mooneye’s,
    re-paint in that Impala SS purple, later model Roadmaster mirrors. Comfortable, great highway cruiser, and a pain in the ass to fit in a parking place.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I never liked these final B-bodies. All of the curves and hard edges are in all the wrong places. I suppose if you look at them as the final body-on-frame GM cars, then they have some significance, but I consider them hideous.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I couldn’t agree more.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Even disguised as a Cadillac these had an exaggerated round bulbous look to them which by the 90’s was getting very dated

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Hideous is the perfect word. I remember seeing the first Houston Police Department versions and thinking “My God what the hell has GM done?”. Except for traditionalists, I think no one cried when the Arlington plant ended sedan and wagon production and started cranking out Suburbans.

      Enthusiasts consider the ’70s the Malaise Era because of strangled engine output. I propose the ’90s as the Design Malaise era.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        The other day I suggested that the malaise era may have actually drifted into the early 90s. I was resoundingly beat-up for that thought… Just sayin’ ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        ” I propose the ’90s as the Design Malaise era.”
        As a kid of the 90’s I’d agree with that, everything was a soap bar to me. Mercedes, Volvos, early 90s Panthers (the square ones) were the only cars that stood out to me.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Only ONE Custom Cruiser will do:

    https://barnfinds.com/almost-showroom-1975-oldsmobile-custom-cruiser/

    Now THAT’S a wagon.

    (Doesn’t hurt that if you painted this baby Burnt Orange, it’d be my first car.)

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    Despite being around when these were new, I was unaware Olds built any Custom Cruisers in this body style until years later. Probably didn’t help that the differences between the Caprice and Roadmaster wagons were minuscule, even though the Chevrolet-derived front end resembles an Oldsmobile more than anything.

    Interestingly enough, Wikipedia states that the ’91 Custom Cruiser not only outsold the Roadmaster wagon, but the Country Squire and Colony Park combined.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    “…through the 1996 model year, when GM gave up on rear-drive sedans for a while.”

    I see Corey would prefer to forget the Catera existed?

    Also, I knew these Custom Cruisers existed, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in real life.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Too bad the photos don’t properly show the roof window, which was the distinctive feature. And if this is loaded, why no roof rack? I always thought the roof racks on these wagons were the perfect finishing touch.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    When you look at what Honda and Toyota were cranking out in 1991, it’s no wonder GM lost so much marketshare over the years. Look at this thing. It is hideous. I can hear the stupid metal “clank” from those GM seatbelts.

    That Oldsmobile is hideous. GM redeemed themselves with the 1st Generation Aurora, which is the best GM car of the 1990s. ***Not up for debate***

    Then they ruined that with the second generation by giving us the replacement for the Oldsmobile 88 as an Aurora, then killed the brand.

    I’m getting off-topic, but perhaps this ugly duckling needed to be produced to give us the beauty that is the Aurora. They had to look back at this POS BOF wheezy V8 wagon and say “Ya know, Olds deserves better than this.”

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    This thing just begs for an LS 6.2 liter (420hp/460tq) and 6 speed auto.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    From the front this isnt a bad looking car, but from the back (with an amazing amount of blank space you never see on modern cars) and the side you have a grossly over-sized Ford Taurus wagon.

    The biggest mistake GM made with the Caprice was trying to style it like its mid-sized offerings of that time. Ford pulled it off somehow but GM simply couldnt.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    All of the B and D bodies (the last big BOF Cadillac sedans) get the TBI 305 or 350 from 91-93. Then in 94-96 they swapped to the iron head LT1 350 or the L99 4.3 V8 which was just a smaller LT1.

    The Olds would have gotten the same upgrades in 94, but it was dropped after the 92 model year so it never got the newer motors. It wasn’t just to slight Olds buyers.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The problem for these cars was timing. Ford released the Explorer in 1991 which pretty much took any wind out of the sails of these that remained after a decade of minivans being the preferred way to shuttle ones family around. The era of the big wagon was over by the late 80s for better or worse.

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    I never understood how GM could nail the downsized full-sized models for so long and replace them with some of the worst products ever conceived. Ugly as sin.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    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.

  • avatar
    Jetfire88

    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, [email protected] 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, 4×8 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.


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