By on October 15, 2018

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Oldsmobile has been gone since 2004, which makes it hard to believe that the Olds Cutlass spent most of the period from the middle 1970s through the early 1980s as either the #1 or #2 best-selling car in the United States. For 1979, the Cutlass came in second place (behind the Chevy Caprice), and thus these downsized A/G-body fourth-generation Cutlasses once crowded North American streets.

Now, most are gone, but this primered ’79 Cutlass Supreme coupe nearly made it to age 40, ending its days in a Denver self-service wrecking yard.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in Colorado wrecking yard, wheel - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSomeone took the first steps to creating a lowrider out of this Cutlass, installing small-diameter wire wheels and doing some bodywork, but the car never made it to true show-quality level.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in Colorado wrecking yard, note - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsStill, someone wanted to buy it. Unfortunately, this car failed to be rescued and is now crusher-bound.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in Colorado wrecking yard, 4.3 liter V6 engine - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsEngine choices for the ’79 Cutlass ranged from adequate to horrifying. This car has the base engine, a 4.3-liter V6 rated at 115 horsepower. There was a 4.3-liter Oldsmobile V8 as well (105 horsepower with gasoline power, 90 with diesel… but you didn’t want the diesel). Just to confuse matters, a 160-horse Chevrolet 305 V8 was added to the Cutlass mix for ’79 (leading to lawsuits later on).

During the late 1980s, I took a lot of road trips in the wagon version of this car: a Custom Cruiser. I recall it being underpowered but very comfortable.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in Colorado wrecking yard, radio - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNo cassette or even 8-track player, but at least this car’s original purchaser opted for the AM/FM stereo radio.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in Colorado wrecking yard, rear seats - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe upholstery looks pretty good, but that didn’t save this Supreme.


Those who want style, value, and good gas mileage choose Cutlass Supreme.


If you like these junkyard posts, you can reach all 1500+ right here at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand!

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

70 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme...”


  • avatar
    doublechili

    True about them crowding the streets. Anybody here north of 50 who did NOT drive (or drive in) one of those GM body type cars at some point?

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I didn’t. In ’79 I bought a Dodge Aspen, which at the time was still a more conventionally-styled, meaning curvy, not boxy) coupe. I lucked out and completely avoided the hard-edged, boxy look as my next car after that was an ’86 Buick LeSabre ‘T-type’.

      • 0 avatar
        doublechili

        I never owned one but did drive my sister’s sometimes or ride as a passenger (hence the “drive or drive in” qualifier). They were pretty popular in NY (LI).

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I didn’t either, these downsized A/G bodied GMs were a cheesy anemic version of their full sized predecessors. I had a full size ’76 Grand Prix that I hung onto for years so as to avoid these

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Yes I had that GM body type, a 1980 Buick Regal with the famous “3800” that was also available on the Caprice. 0-60 in 14 seconds! It sounds slow but you needed a V8 back then to beat that, and you didn’t beat it by much.

      It was a very reliable, comfortable car. Also, easy to steal, and parts from a chop shop were in demand. Mine wasn’t chopped, just stolen and badly hotwired, killing the alternator and running off the battery until it died, and was abandoned.

      I let the storage yard keep it, since I had already replaced it with an Accord, and the police neglected to tell me they picked it up the day it was stolen until it had two months of storage fees on it – more than it was worth.

      • 0 avatar

        I went thru a similar experience with a ’78 Buick Century that was 10 years old and had 130K on it.

        It still ran well, but once it was stolen and then spotted by my roomate, fixing it wasn’t worth the expense. I had the city tow it away with a tear iny eye.

        Those A/G bodies weren’t great cars but if you got a decent one they did the job. .

    • 0 avatar

      Never driven nor owned a GM product. Not that I have anything against GM. Always thought the Chevy SS was a great looking car, but I was at an age that precluded acquisition.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Each person has their own views of cars over their lifetimes. Even now, nearly 60 years after they were built and 50 years after my one opportunity to own one (and got shot down by my parents,) I still want a 2-door 1959 Impala. The designer at the time declared it the most beautiful car in the world–and I still agree to this day.

    • 0 avatar
      Funky

      Yes, right, I rode in the Chevy, Buick, and Oldsmobile versions all of which were owned by friends and family. And, I drove the Pontiac version as a rental for two weeks when visiting Colorado. These were everywhere. I still occasionally see one on the street.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    In 1979, the standard engine in these cars was the Buick 231 cid (3.8 liter) V6, making 105 hp. (The standard trans was a 3 on the tree, which I wonder if anyone bought…I’ve never seen one, they all had the optional (on lower trim lines at least) automatic).

    The first option was the Olds 260 V8 making all of 110 hp. (Low output, but smooth and very reliable)

    I’m not 100% certain, but I thought next (and smart option) was the Chevy 305 2-bbl that made about 140 hp.

    A 305 with a 4-bbl would have about 160 hp. I know it was offered on the “442” 2-door fastback (for which 1979 was the last year).

    It’s good to have a perch and write these columns, as long as you don’t assume all your readers believe everything, and therefore it’s not necessary to do any ‘due diligence’ on facts like engines transmissions, etc.

    It’s better to be correct though.

    • 0 avatar
      NOSLucasWiringSmoke

      That seems correct. The 4.3 litre V-6 that was optional in 1979 was the diesel engine. Olds seems to have dodged the bullet of the downsized Buick 3.2 litre V-6 that was made available in the early downsized Century/Regal.

      I remember when the A/G-body GM cars seemed to rule the earth, everyone seemed to have had one or knew someone who did. It was also the last major launch that GM did that wasn’t absolutely fraught with teething problems (probably since it was still a body-on-frame rear-drive platform using existing powertrain tech), before the early front-drive cars hit in 1979-82.

      The 1978 A-bodies weren’t quite the winner that the 1977 B/C-body downsize was (no roll-down windows in sedan rear doors? Really?) but the cars were generally well-packaged and serviceable. The overall dimensions got back to about where the mid-60s A-bodies were, relatively close to the ’55-57 Chevy overall (albeit wheelbase was shorter, 108″ versus 115″), which seems to show that that was a size of car a lot of people wanted; not too big, not too small.

      Our family’s cars included an ’80 Cutlass sedan (base model, 260) that my grandparents had, an ’82 Cutlass Calais coupe (before the front driver, it was a rare trim level) my parents bought used (267), and an ’83 Regal (3.8) an uncle was gifted by a brother (10 years old but a low-ish mileage BC car in beautiful shape). All remembered fondly.

      When I was shopping for my first car 20-ish years ago, A/G bodies about 12-15 years old were fairly cheap and plentiful and I tried to find one but gave up. I still regret that decision.

      • 0 avatar
        bufguy

        The sedans weren’t the hit the B bodies were but the coupes certainly were….The Cutlass Supreme and Buick Regal were huge sellers, between the two of them selling over 1,000,000 per year.

        • 0 avatar
          Johnster

          While these Cutlass notchback coupes and Buick Regal coupes were popular, it was generally felt that the styling of ’78 to ’80 models made the cars look too small and that it hurt sales somewhat. The ’81 restyle remedied this, but by then the price of gas had gone up and they were widely seen as looking too big.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        The Sedans you state are almost a carbon-copy of my experience—my Dad got a 1980 Cutlass Sedan as a company car, then traded up to a 1983 Buick Regal Custom Sedan, buying the Cutlass for my Mom, whose 1971 Cutlass needed replacement (and which was sold to an Olds enthusiast); both of the A-body sedans had the 3.8 Bruick V6, which was a little agricultural-sounding, but could still adequately get out of its own way. (As I’ve related in these Comments in past threads on A/G/new A-body (Ciera, et. al.) threads, my Dad’s trade of the ‘80 Cutlass for a 1986 2.8L (2-bbl. carbed) Century Limited Sedan (my Mom got his Regal) drove my Dad into the arms of Honda after quality problems galore — he formerly an Oldsmobuick man of the highest order!)

        My great Aunt’s brother brought a 1978 Cutlass Salon for his wife, and a year later, brought a 1979 Supreme for himself—IIRC, she had a 1970 Cutlass ‘S’ hardtop coupe, and he had a 1972 Cutlass Supreme beforehand. My Aunt had to be put into a nursing home in early 1987, and at some point before he got sick and was hospitalized, my Uncle traded his ‘79 Cutlass on a mint-condition 1980 Delta 88 Royale. After my uncle died, my Aunt (through her sister-in-law) decided to give me her 1978 Salon, and her SIL sold the Delta 88 to assist in settling the estate.

        The day we went to pick up the Cutlass at my aunt & uncle’s house, we were shocked at its condition inside: an inch of cigarette ash covering nearly every inch of the floor, and windows which were tinted yellow! (My Aunt’s habits of chain-smoking and drinking like a fish are what killed her!) Meanwhile, the person who had purchased the 88 was still arranging financing, so the car was still there; later, my Dad said he wished he would have had his checkbook along, as he would have bought the 88 for a substantial amount over the agreed price by the other buyer! It was so bad that, after searching the house and garage, I ran across a shop-vac in the garage, and I vacuumed spots for my Mom and I to sit. The smell was horrible, and even the odometer numbers were stained, as I found out when the miles clicked to 80,000 — the car had 78,000 miles on it when I got it.

        IIRC, it took almost a gallon of Windex, ten rolls of paper towels, and two or three cans of spray carpet cleaner to get that Cutlass up to my cleanliness standards, even at age 17! IIRC, a box of baking soda, along with leaving the windows open for a couple weeks when I could, got rid of most of the odor.

        Unfortunately, the poor car was just used up and neglected, and showed many first-year bugs, along with rattles galore, so when another aunt stopped driving, her son sold me her car for a modest sum, plus the Cutlass, which went to his then-girlfriend, and I jumped at the chance to be rid of it!

        Ironically, if I could find a last-year (‘86 or ‘87) Supreme Brougham Sedan, loaded to the gills (including the 307 V8 with the 4-speed overdrive), in reasonable condition which could be brought to almost showroom-condition with a couple thousand dollars worth of NOS parts, I’d grab it for a summer toy. As I’ve related, these commodity cars were used up and discarded, like their later FWD brethren, and the few that made it farther are probably demolition-derby or monster-truck fodder, or have been “donked,” to put it charitably!

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      TomLU86, you are correct. Most 1979 Cutlasses had the 231 Buick V6 (105hp) or the Olds 260 V8 (110hp). The Chevy 305 4-bbl (160hp) was a rare option; my dad’s ’79 Cutlass Supreme had one. The Olds 350 (175hp) was available, but only with the Hurst/Olds package. I don’t believe the 305 2-bbl (140hp) was available in the ’79 Cutlass, but you could get it in the Chevy G-bodies (Malibu/Monte/El Camino).

      The Cutlass pictured here has an Olds V8 – the oil filler neck at the front of the engine is a dead giveaway. But is it the stock 260, or did someone swap in a 307 or 350?

      • 0 avatar
        tomLU86

        Thanks Matt.

        I wasn’t sure about the 2-bbl vs 4-bbl..that probably varied between Chevy, Buick, and Olds variants (the Pontiac had the ‘new’ Pontiac 301). I’m quite sure in 1978 Car & Driver test a ‘new’ Cutlass with 305 4-bbl. Maybe it was a “442 only”? I think the 350 would be sweet in the lighter body (remember, this is the late 70s….near peak malaise!).

        To your point though, I also thought the pictured car had an Olds V8 because of the oil filler! Having just pointed out one error, I did not want to commit another, and didn’t recall the how the Buick V6 got it’s oil…

        NOSLucas, the 3.2 V6 (a downsized 3.8) only came on the Buick Aeroback base sedans. The Regals all had 3.8s.

        Ditto (sort of) Chevy: The base Malibu had a 3.3 liter (200 cid) version of the Chevy 3.8 liter (229 cid) V6,which was a small block Chevy with 2 cylinders lopped off (5 & 6). But the Monte Carlo base engine was a Buick 3.8 I think, not a Chevy 229.

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Foley

          Yeah, we shouldn’t beat Murilee up too badly, given how many different engine/trans combos were available in the Chev/Pont/Olds/Buick versions of the G-body.

          You COULD get the 305 4-bbl in the ’79 Cutlass, but it was rare (less than 5 percent). I don’t think you could get the 305 2-bbl in the Cutlass.

          The Hurst/Olds was the only way to get the Olds Rocket 350, but it stickered at over $12K, which was a lot of money in 1979, which is why Dad ended up with a chocolate brown 305 4-bbl Cutlass instead of a gold-over-white Hurst/Olds.

          I have no idea which G-bodies got the Buick 231 and which got the Chev 229, but if the distributor is up front and leans to the driver side, it’s a Buick.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            I will state for the record that Murilee’s picture, which has been featured here before, is indeed a Cutlass, and was called the “Cutlass Cruiser!” (The Custom Cruiser was a B-Body wagon version of the Delta 88. Same as the Impala/Caprice Wagons, Pontiac Grand Safari (Catalina/Bonneville), and the Buick Estate Wagon (LeSabre).)

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The Olds 260 V8 was also available with a 5 speed manual.

      These G-body Cutlass Supremes were also the most stolen vehicle of its time, 1980’s were near peak years for auto theft.
      An uncle of mine had a nice 84 Cutlass Supreme Brougham stolen from a mall parking lot. Thankfully it was recovered a few days later with a broken steering column and missing wire wheel covers.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I recall another Cutlass which Murilee found in a high-plains junkyard/car hoard which was a ‘79 Supreme in the ubiquitous blue-gray metallic with either a three or five-speed, no A/C, and the 260 Diesel! (IIRC, the 260 V8 Diesel was a one-year blunder.)

    • 0 avatar
      roger628

      No 3-on-the-tree on these. That ended with the Colonnades. Manual on these was strictly floor shift, as witnessed by the famous ’81 Malibu taxi AKA the Iraquibu.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Actually the 3.8 liter 231 V6 gained power and torque for 1979 with freer breathing heads and a new cam. It was factory rated for 115 Hp and 190 torque. 0-60 times dropped to around 13 seconds according to my 1979 edition of Consumer Guide auto test which was over a second quicker than the 105 HP 1978 model A/G body cars.

      The 260 V8 dropped to 105 HP for 1979/80 but remained at 205 torque at a low 1600 RPM’s as the up level option.

      The 305 2BBL was never offered in 1979 only 1978 on the A/G body line so that meant the LG4 4BBL engine was the top option rated for 160 horses.

      There was never a 4.3 liter V6 in these years. For 1979 only an Oldsmobile 4.3 liter diesel V8 with 90 HP was offered with both stick and automatic as a very very slow option.

      The 4.3 liter V6 diesel was created in 1982 mainly for the FWD A-body line but the re-named G body cars also got this engine rated for a pathetic 85 HP and 165 torque. It turned out to be a more reliable engine than either the 5.7 350 or 4.3 260 diesels that came before them.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    lol yes the 260 cubic inch V8, the first “upgrade” engine, pathetic.

    The low output of the 307 cubic inch Olds V8 (which came along later) made me wish for the SBC. In 4 barrel form it made about the same HP as a 2 barrel 305.

    When the 307 was finally sent to the glue factory in 1991 it had to be one of the last carburated V8s in mass production.

    • 0 avatar
      Duaney

      The carburated 307 was able to pass emission standards by 1991, but the Chev small blocks had to be fuel injected in order to pass. The small 260 Olds was low on HP and torque, but the crazy thing would run 80-90 mph all day long and deliver 20 mpg.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        GM’s “small block” engines were a pain in the rear all the way up through the ’80s. they used the 307 in the Caprice wagon up to ’88 or ’90; and I used to have repetitive arguments with parts jobbers because the VIN decoders all said “5.0 liter” and they’d try to give me parts for a 305. Some of them would get snotty and ask what made me think it was a 307. “Uh, the oil fill neck is up front, and it has Olds valve covers?”

      • 0 avatar
        tomLU86

        I learned to drive on a 75 Pontiac Ventura (in the early 1980s).

        It had the 260 V8. During the 10 years the car was in my family (my dad bought it used in 1977), the car had NO mechanical issues, so I’d say the engine was bulletproof.

        My perception is that between 1974-75, and say 78-80, the same engines tended to get better fuel economy. I base that on road tests of 74-75 Pintos or 76 Mustang IIs, that had the cars in the low to mid 20s, but our 1980 Ford Fairmont, a bigger car, could easily top 30 on long trips, and got 20-23 in the suburbs.

        The Ventura on the other hand would be lucky to get 20 on a trip doing 55-60. It wasn’t quick, but it was smooth, at least to 85 (which is as fast as I ever drove it). In suburban driving, it got 15-17 mpg. I cannot conceive of it getting 20 mpg at 75 mph. But I recall Consumer Reports tested a Cutlass (a bigger, heavier car) one in Feb 1977 with the 260 V8. They noted it’s anemic acceleration, but it’s steady state highway mpg was relative good, higher than our experience–and that’s just 2 model years difference.

      • 0 avatar
        ChiefPontiaxe

        I got around 17MPG in my ’78 Cutlass Supreme (260 2BBL) in mixed city/hwy driving. Smooth bulletproof engine!

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        “The small 260 Olds was low on HP and torque, but the crazy thing would run 80-90 mph all day long and deliver 20 mpg”

        Damn straight! Had a 260 in my ’81 Cutlass Supreme Brougham, loved that little V8. Get it on the open road, mash the accelerator into the firewall and hold it there all day long if you wanted. That 260 had the same bock, internals as the 350 so it would put out a 105 HP all day long if you needed it to and not complain one bit.
        .

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          I had a 1981 Cutlass coupe with the 260 right after a same year 4 door with the Buick 231 engine. The 260 barely required any throttle input to get moving. It was very similar to the old straight six engines of the time. If you mashed your foot to the floor it would barley go any faster. If you eased into the throttle gradually it would easily get up to 75-80 MPH and stay there all day long delivering well over 20 MPG on most trips. In fact it got about the same MPG as the 231 or 20 overall in combined driving.

          In contrast the 231 was rougher and noisier and required more throttle input. But foot to the floor it did give quicker performance.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    No lawsuits at this stage about Chebby engines in this generation Cutlass. That was earlier in Delta 88 fullsizers. By now GM was printing disclaimers in all their ads and catalogs.

    Also the Custom Cruiser was the Olds fullsize wagon. The wagon version of this was called the Cutlass Cruiser.

  • avatar
    bufguy

    The wagon version was not the Custom Cruiser, but the Cutlass Cruiser. From 1977-1979, the Custom Cruiser could be had with only the 350 0r 403, both decent engines…afterwards the 307 became standard.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      Strangely, in 1978 and ’79 you could get a Chevy 350 V8 with a 4-barrel as an option in the mid-sized Cutlass Cruiser wagon, however it was rated at the same 160 horsepower as the Chevy 305 V8 with a 4-barrel.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    Back in the day when GM standard instrumentation was a gas gage and all idiot lights. My company had tons of these as company cars. The fleet dept always ordered the optional gage package.

    I remember one I drove from the office pool that had been a salesman’s vehicle. The oil pressure gage always read near zero. The engine sounded fine so we all assumed the gage was faulty. After about a year, the engine locked up. Guess it was telling the truth.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The ’79 was pitiful compared to its older, larger siblings. The best-looking Cutlasses ran from ’68-’72, though I owned both a ’73 and a ’75 and really liked them. But after they got ‘castrated’ in ’76 they were effectively worthless and by the time performance came back to something decent the model was killed.

    • 0 avatar
      Duaney

      After owning and driving both versions, the downsized ’78 has vastly better handling than the ’77 and older, and there’s the same room on the inside. For pure acceleration sure the older versions were superior, but steering, handling, fun to drive can be more desirable. Today of course anyone can bolt a LS into the G body platform if they have to go that fast.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        The ’76 and older Cutlass was considered a “personal luxury vehicle” first and a performance vehicle second. If you wanted a performance version, you went with the 4•4•2, which had a stiffer suspension and, I believe, ran on slightly lower-profile tires. Back then, it was surprising how much handling difference you could realize by dropping from -70 series to -65s.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      My Mom had a Matador Red Cutlass ‘S’ Hardtop Coupe with black vinyl top, 350 2-bbl, automatic, A/C, rear-window defogger, 4-speaker AM radii, deep-dish wheels (don’t know if they were considered the “Rallye” wheels), and remote mirror. Great car!

      Today, one of those would get $20k easy, depending on the shape! If you have a numbers-matching, unmolested 4-4-2 (especially the W-30) or Supreme SX, you’re sitting on a gold mine!

  • avatar
    dshnva

    >> No cassette or even 8-track player, but at least this car’s original purchaser opted for the AM/FM stereo radio.

    Actually the car does have an 8-track player, as shown in your photo. You shove the tape in where the radio dial is (it’s on hinges and flips up). SELECT is for changing tracks.

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      good catch, thanks!

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Dunno about that — “SELECT” was always stenciled above the tuning knob on these.

      What I can’t figure out is when did these get the silver IPs with the dark characters? By 1980, all of the standard speedo clusters (without the Rallye Pack) were white-on-black, but this car had the same cluster I had in my 1978 Salon, with speeds shown in the tens, and “PRNDSL” for the transmission. (By 1980, they’d gone to “PRND21” and fives for the speed, including the highlighted “55,” the national speed limit.) I thought all Supremes in ‘78 and ‘79 got that other cluster (and maybe the Salon Broughams as well).

    • 0 avatar
      roger628

      This is a straight radio. On 8-tracks, the leftmost button has “eject”
      etched into it. Select means radio tuning.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    I finished parting out this particular Cutlass, it’s probably crushed by now. It’s an example of a clean, original, creampuff, until some teenager got it and pretty much destroyed the car. Not sure why it ended up here, maybe the slight accident to the right front, or impounded for some traffic violation. Most of the plastic parts usually sun damaged were perfect, so the car was always garaged by the previous owner(s).

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      I suspect the original owner (who was old and barely drove it) died, the car was given to some teenager/young adult in the family who didn’t really *want* the car but needed a car. Tried to make it “cool” by starting the conversion to a lowrider then something broke or the vehicle was in a minor accident and they just junked it rather than dealing with fixing a 40 year car they don’t actually want.

      • 0 avatar
        SaulTigh

        You know what I think is “cool?” Being practically given a nice older car that provides cheap and reliable transportation. Worth a little elbow grease to keep one of those nice and clean, ESPECIALLY with how expensive vehicles are these days. Maybe that’s why I’m so excited to put my grandmother’s car back into service as my daily driver.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Wonder if this one was beige or light brown, then sanded to primer before it ended up headed for the last roundup? I know that you could pair any interior color with exterior color back then, but the grayish-blue over beige would have been pushing it! (That aforementioned exterior color was pretty common, with the light blue interior.)

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    That engine lawsuit was speciousness in the extreme. Nobody who drove these gave a rat’s about what engine was in it. In fact, the SBC was probably the best choice available. Now, you can go to manufacturer web sites and some don’t even say what engine is in the car.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      GM built a business by differentiating similar cars based on things like which brand of engine they had. If the lawsuit’s claims were specious, so was GM’s entire brand strategy for decades. It’s also worth considering whether happy customers ever think about suing over what brand of engine is under the hood. 1979 was the year GM’s US employment peaked, and they still had about triple the market share they do today. I knew plenty of people who switched car companies after owning cars like this one.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I much preferred the previous generation, larger PLC’s from GM. Particularly in regards to engine choices. So opted for the ‘downsized’ T-Bird with the available 400 cid engine.

    Unfortunately that T-Bird suffered from numerous build quality issues and I experienced terrible dealer support.

    The downsized GM ‘full sized’ vehicles were however a game changer and quite good.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    The 77 GM full-sizers were game changers for sure!

    The best one, and one of the least expensive, was a Caprice with the 305 V8 and F41 suspension, A/C, stereo, defogger, and no other options.

    On a personal note, a high school buddy got his license around the same time I did in the early 80s, and his father loaned him his car–a 71 Challenger. It was ‘only’ a 318, but in 1982, that was pretty heady stuff, I felt so cool riding in it.

    Didn’t last. By the summer, my pal’s dad sold the Challenger and got a… used 1980 Cutlass, same body as this one, but with the (uglier, IMO) quad headlamps. And the 3.8 V6.

    I didn’t ride in that very much–if he drove, he took his mothers 78 Nova sedan, which had a 305 V8–and a more laid back owner.

    • 0 avatar
      Lightspeed

      I drove a few 78 Caprices with the F41 option, you could really hustle one of those.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Weird front-end styling choices for 1980, for sure — the Cutlass Salon Coupes and the new notchback sedans had the single headlights, while the “A-Special” Supreme and Calais (with halogen lights as standard) had the two on each side. (As did the GP, Monte, and Regal that year — wonder if all those came down the same line?) As you stated, the quad headlights looked ill-proportioned with the waterfall grille, and IMHO, it would have been better if they’d have used the Calais grille on all Supremes. (Heck, IIRC, the 1981 sedans went to the quad-light front from the ‘80 Calais, EXCEPT for the base Sedan, which had a tweaked grille from the dead Salon, and two headlights!)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Peak badge engineering in this era. Things have improved a lot in that regard.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Nope not even close, peak badge engineering was my ’78 Buick Skylark, AKA Chevy Nova, Olds Omega, Pontiac Phoenix. There was so little difference between those 4 cars it wasn’t even funny.

  • avatar

    We had a Supremely Gutless with the odd fire V6. Slow, lots of vibration, crap gas mileage to boot. This is the very car that drove us (pun intended) straight to BMW….going from this to a 3 series was like being out in a cold rain for a long time, then invited into the warm kitchen, given a seat by the fire, and a single malt scotch. My parents never bought an American car ever again….6 cars, bought by the affluent buyers every car company wants.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Aren’t those wire wheels worth something?

  • avatar
    ChiefPontiaxe

    My first car was a hand-me-down 1978 Cutlass Supreme Brougham- the first year of this body style, with the 4.3L 2BBL. It had the pillowed velour interior (in this same color), held down with fancy buckles which constantly burned my teenage thighs in the hot Miami summers. It was slow as molasses but smooth and reliable. Sadly was not very kind to it, but it lasted past 100,000 miles, whereupon I sold it to a family friend who used it for late night drug deals. Ahhh Miami in the ’80s

  • avatar
    Travis

    I’m really surprised to see so much disdain toward the early G body Gutless Cutlass. The right touches…these can be very nice cars. To me, the trim and color combos on these particular cars either make them or break them. Give me a velour bucket seat console car with a 260 V8, a/c, and no vinyl roof….any color except the pastels or pistachio. My personal favorite is the caramel metallic. Leave the body stock with the chrome trim and brougham appointments.. I’ll throw a set of color keyed 15″ olds rally wheels with 235/70-15s -white letters out- all the way around. Pull the 260 for a ~healthy~ 403, 200-4R transmission, change the gears to 3.23 or 3.42 and enjoy a really nice comfortable gentlemen’s cruiser that’ll haul the mail when you lean on it. As much as I’ve wanted to like them,,The collonade cars just never did it for me though.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      The 260 V8, IMHO, sucked gas like a bigger V8, but barely produced more power than the V6.

      Of course, as I relate up-thread, my example — a ‘78 Salon in Pastel Blue (with rust-colored lower-doors and rockers) — was worn out by the time I got it.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      I’m with you Travis. Order the Cutlass with the Calais trim(bucket seats, floor shift, gage cluster), 260 V8, which was a sweet little engine, no vinyl roof, a set of Olds factory rally wheels and you got yourself a nice car. I

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I had a 78 Regal coupe with a V-8 which had been my mother-in-law’s car. The car was very peppy. Nice car with wire wheel covers, landau top, power windows, cruise control, air conditioning, power brakes, power steering, with tan velour interior and dark brown exterior. These cars were nice if you got the coupe with the V-8. It handled very well for a car its size and was more reliable than many of the malaise era cars. For the time it was a luxurious car–a personal sized luxury car. It is much easier to find fault with cars of this era especially if you compare them to today’s cars but they were nice cars for their time and very comfortable.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      My Dad had two of these, as I state, with the heavy-duty/Gran Touring suspension, and they did very well. My 1978 Salon, OTOH, was equipped with the base suspension, I believe, and it paled in comparison.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Sgeffe and Carlson, you are both correct!

    When I was young and the car was in my family, I felt the 260 had “the power of a V6 with the gas consumption of a V8″. In a way, it did–rated at 110 hp vs 105 hp for the base 250 Chevy 6-cyl (or the 231 V6 in later years).

    However, 30 years later, having owned several cars, with generally good luck, I appreciate the SMOOTHNESS of our old 260 V8, and the DRIVEABILTITY—unlike the road tests in Consumer Reports, or even the car mags, of ‘surging, hesitating, stalling repeatedly when cold” of the malaise era, this car always started right up and ran smoothly, regardless of weather.

    So, if the 260 was THIS good, how much better a 350 Olds would have been….

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Part of my issue may have been with the transmission my Salon had: probably, the THM-200, which wasn’t a paragon of the usual Turbo Hydra-Matic reliability, especially in the B-Bodies of the era.

      And again, as I stated above, the car had been neglected and pretty much used-up by the time I inherited it. Never gave me any serious problems, just little nickel-and-dime, BS things, which, along with the gas consumption, made things difficult for my skinflint-college-freshman-commuter self.

      If the car would have been a little less shopworn, I might have done a frame-off restoration after college, but it was too completely gone — not enough good bones left for a good foundation, so the trade I mentioned was for the best.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      If anything the drive-ability issues CR always talked about was on the Lean burn Chrysler stuff of the same era and certain 1BBL equipped 6 cylinder Fords like my 1979 Fairmont I had back in the day. Not one single 260/301 or 305 equipped GM product of these years ever had these running behavior concerns they spoke of. In fact every single one of my Olds V8 equipped A/G body cars ran nearly as well as if they were fuel injected even with over 100k miles on them. And I have owned well over 20 of them over the years!

      The Rocker 350/403 equipped cars were a dream in this era. Smooth as silk, loads of low end torque and tire spinning power and they lasted forever with proper service. I’ll never forget getting in a 1978 black Rivera that an older guy brought in for it’s yearly checkup. It had 150K miles on the clock yet started on the first turn of the key, idled impossibly good and would throw your head back with but a mere touch of the throttle. Everybody in the shop talked about that car!

      • 0 avatar
        tomLU86

        re: Poncho

        I was an early teen when I was discovered Consumer Reports (CR) road tests in the late 70s. By then, my dad subscribed to Car & Driver for me, and I’d read Road and Track at newsstands.

        I liked CR road tests because they were very utilitarian then, generally objective, and their 0-60 times were slower (more relatable). Their reviews were not always logical..for example, they rated a 79 or 80 Toyota Corolla (rear driver) higher than a BMW 320i.

        I do remember comments like “stalled once after a cold start, then ran well” or “surged/hesitated”, but I didn’t associate them with any particular car.

        In the early 80s, when I started driving, our 260 V8 Ventura always started–it actually needed a tad more cranking in summer, but it would start. I forgot the ritual now, I think I pumped the gas 1x when cold, then slightly depressed and hit the key. Whatever I did, it started right up, had a normal idle, and went about it’s business smoothly (though now very quickly). It ran like a modern fuel-injected engine, from my hazy 35-year old memory.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Really a shame. My guess is that the engine and/or transmission simply wore out. It’s got the Olds 260 V8 (very common in these), likely mated to the horrific THM200 transmission. In 1979, these things were as common as Camrys are today. A friend of mine had a ’78 coupe, with the 260, and another friend had a ’78 fastback 2-door.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the mileage on it really is 99,773.6. I’ll bet the THM200 bit the big one.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • kosmo: “How’s that Ranger Raptor coming, Ford? Oh, it isn’t? I see. Thanks for the mobility scooter,...
  • dividebytube: When I’m down south I’m taken aback by the number of decent looking old trucks and even G...
  • redapple: RED…. Great catch. Love it.
  • teddyc73: What an ugly rear end.
  • FreedMike: Have you ever heard a Ghibli’s exhaust? I’d say that’s one big selling point. Otherwise,...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States