Junkyard Find: 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1979 oldsmobile cutlass supreme
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.
Someone 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.
Still, someone wanted to buy it. Unfortunately, this car failed to be rescued and is now crusher-bound.
Engine 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.
No cassette or even 8-track player, but at least this car’s original purchaser opted for the AM/FM stereo radio.
You’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.
The upholstery looks pretty good, but that didn’t save this Supreme.
Those who want style, value, and good gas mileage choose Cutlass Supreme.
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5 of 70 comments
  • TomLU86 TomLU86 on Oct 17, 2018

    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....

    • See 2 previous
    • TomLU86 TomLU86 on Oct 24, 2018

      @ponchoman49 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.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Oct 19, 2018

    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.

  • SCE to AUX Looks like a good buy, but I'm not into alterations.
  • Ajla I'm smart enough to see the popularity of CUVs.What I'm not smart enough to understand is how selling 20000 sedans in small markets is superior to selling 20000 sedans in a larger market.
  • SCE to AUX Ford's drug of choice is the F-Series; they don't need no stinking sedans.
  • Kendahl We've been very satisfied with out Focus SE hatchback. (It has the 5-speed manual transmission, not the dual clutch automatic that never worked right.) We'd buy another Focus, this time an ST since we moved from 1,000 feet altitude to 6,000 feet, but Ford no longer makes cars except for the Mustang. Ford has lost us as customers. They don't make anything we want.
  • SPPPP I guess they couldn't get the Opel branded airbag shipped over, eh?