By on November 9, 2018

Not just any regular old Achieva, the SCX was a cut above its siblings. In adding actual performance to the SCX trim, the Oldsmobile brand had one last hurrah with a performance coupe.

And someone’s taken care not to drive this one much at all.

By the early Nineties, General Motors saw it was time to replace Oldsmobile’s compact car offering. The N-body Cutlass Calais (nee Calais) held the compact banner for the Rocket brand ever since the 1985 model year. It was time for something entirely new.

Enter the Achieva, which was… an N-body. On dealer lots for the 1992 model year, the new Achieva matched the prior Cutlass Calais’ wheelbase, but offered a more modern, aerodynamic body. Achieva was available in either coupe or sedan guises, and in four total trim levels: S and SL were available on both coupe and sedan, while upmarket SC and SCX trims were reserved for the coupe only.

A W41 designation appeared late in the run for the Cutlass Calais, joining the 442 badging on the most sporty coupe model for 1991. Though the 442 nomenclature went away, the W41 stuck around, paired with the SCX trim on the Achieva in 1992.

Buyers who sprang for the SCX W41 received revised front and rear bumpers, a pair of fog lamps, and cladding around the sides of their sports coupe. In addition to exterior detailing, the interior saw a revised speedometer with 140 miles an hour listed (the standard car read 120).

That speed was made possible by a higher output engine than other models. The naturally aspirated inline-four engine was officially the W41 version of the Oldsmobile Quad 4. Ten more horsepower were on tap over the standard engine, for a total of 190. This was achieved via a less restricted exhaust system and different camshafts. Meanwhile, a recalibrated ECU upped the engine’s redline to 7,200 RPM. GM even built a special version of the five-speed manual for use in the SCX, with revised gearing assisting in acceleration and peak performance.

Underneath, the car rode on wider tires supported by a modified FX3 suspension package. FX3 changes included a wider rear axle with dual sway bars, a larger sway bar up front, and electronically adjustable shocks and struts.

Though it did offer exciting performance, the SCX W41 was not long for the world. Olds cancelled it after the 1993 model year. In total, 1,146 examples were produced in ’92, and 500 escaped the factory in ’93. Today’s 1992 example is in black, a medium-rare choice amongst the colors on offer that year. Just 218 black cars were produced. This one’s at a dealer in Ohio with just over 17,000 miles under its belt. Said dealer is willing to take $14,990 or thereabouts.

A small price to pay for the very last W-branded performance Oldsmobile.

H/t to Adam Tonge for finding this Achieva via his love of… looking at Achievas.


[Images: seller]

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67 Comments on “Rare Rides: Get Some SCX in a 1992 Oldsmobile Achieva...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “And someone’s taken care not to drive this one much at all.”

    That’s good – we haven’t had to look at it all these years.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Also, 17,000 miles – so, just about time to replace the alternator?

    All those pictures, and not a single one of the Quad 4. But hey, the hood insulator looks great!

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I can’t remember where I first read the term, but somebody unkindly dubbed these cars the “Underachieva.”

    It was nice to see souped-up special editions like this car. I seem to remember either these, or, later on the Alero, were part of the “not your father’s Oldsmobile” campaign.

    Even though they were sold as four seaters, the styling came at the cost of pretty bad rear headroom and whether four doors or two doors, they were really 2+2 seaters.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    This was one of GM’s better pseudo-performance cars, especially because Chevrolet and Pontiac styling became downright obnoxious around this time. Meanwhile, this was handsomely understated.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    This is better looking than a standard Acheiva, not by much. Did not understand the “Olds 98 Jr.” styling on this or whatever the eff Buick was smoking designing the Skylark in 92 at this time too. Although the “Lesabre Jr.” style after 95(?) was an improvement on that car, even if it was bland.

    15k? You’d better have a serious Olds or GM collection to even think about that money or anywhere near it. Rare, not valuable.

    • 0 avatar

      My favorite thing about the Skylark is the painter ads they did featuring Ed Lister. Whoever that is.

      https://www.etsy.com/listing/254583145/buick-skylark-automobile-original-1992

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        He was a California artist! Okay, according to the ad. The art looks very ’80s.

        I’d almost forgotten how hideous the front styling of the Skylark was. It’s like they were trying to figure out how to work the grille from the ’39 Buick into it (or maybe the one from the Buick Y-Job), and failed miserably.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Some tweakers that drive by here recently acquired an early ’90s Skylark, dark green and complete with plastic for one of the rear windows. They go through one sh¡tbox after another.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Ooh, good call on that Buick. I found that car to be an eyesore at the time, but I’d since forgotten about it. And I say as someone who, aberrantly or not, has had almost uniformly positive experience with the General from the downsized ’77 B-bodies on forward.

      Also, buyers didn’t “sprung” for the SCX W41, they sprang for it.

      Points to Corey, though, for enumerating the engine and suspension changes and not defaulting to the usual “this was an appearance package” dreck that scribes trot out much of the time when discussing an ’80s or ’90s GM performance trim.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Nice find. I’d quibble with this being the last Olds performance coupe, though – after this was discontinued, you could still buy a Cutlass Supreme coupe with the 3.4 DOHC V-6 and uprated suspension.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Say what you want about these, but I still see an awful lot of them still driving around, I guess GM can do something right when they want to

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The automotive version of The Walking Dead.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        How does the saying go? GM cars run poorly, but forever

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          GM cars run badly longer than Fords run at all.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Yep, so true, since my 1995 Achieva was a basket of problems at 101k, and my 1995 Taurus is still going strong at 245k. You hit the nail on the head, buddy!

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Lie2me asked how the old saying went about GM cars running badly for a long time. I answered. Don’t get so bent out of shape. It is an archaic expression at this point. Nobody holds up either company as a yardstick for durability.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            The actual saying is “longer than most cars run at all”. You just interjected your personal bias into it.

            And yes, many people hold Ford and GM trucks up as a standard for durability. Not as many as their cars, I grant you, but unless you just want to sh¡t all over everything they make, there are plenty of examples of reliable and durable products from both manufacturers.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Having run a shop for the past couple of years and worked as a service writer for two others before that, I’m not one of those people. Tritons are some of the worst engines put in anything this side of a Vega and I haven’t had a customer with a 6.0 or 6.4 Powerstroke diesel in years. I’ve sent quite a few 5.3 liter GM vehicles to the junkyards to join them in recent times. Like so many Fords, they have oil pump issues that lead to catastrophic failures in the hands of their clueless owners. None of the above routinely rack up big mileages before being towed away. I’ve even sent Triton F150s to the scrapper before their driver side rocker panels could rust into tetanus traps or their brake lines could crumble. Chances are if either company’s products impress someone, it is because their frame of reference primarily consists of the other brand’s products. Expand your horizons and you’ll be glad you did.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    $14,990 is not a small price to pay. Collectability so finite the value does not exist. Difficult to achieva sale here.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I love it. Wouldn’t pay $15k, but I love it.

    Always liked the Achieva, I had a 1995 S V-6 sedan, and it was quick but wasn’t great otherwise (leaky doors and intake manifold gasket, trans was about to let go, all at 101k miles), however, I still like them. If I ever have another, it will be a coupe, most likely a Quad 4/5spd.

  • avatar
    s_a_p

    I know this car well. Not the one in the article photos but the scx. In 1992 there was a hailstorm in Houston that damaged everything along I-10 car dealers. My folks came in and ended up buying a 1992 teal blue/green achieva scx. I remember hearing that it was 190hp from an NA 4 cylinder car and thinking damn that is the future! The hail damage was minor but was never fixed and my folks drove that car for 13 years. My dad ended up selling it after shipping it to Norway where they lived just prior to retirement. I’m pretty sure that if it is still on the roads of Oslo it’s the only one in Norway. I was 16 when they bought it and compared to my 1984 Plymouth Voyager minivan with the 2.2 that made about 3.5 horses this thing felt like a jet. Iirc the performance it offered was mediocre at best with a 0-60 of around 7 seconds. It seemed way faster than that due to the quad fours amazing(ly bad) NVH characteristics. I did always think that was going to be a somewhat rare and slightly valuable car though.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      0-60 in 7 seconds for a non-turbo, non-dedicated sports car in 1992 was far above mediocre.

      The Jaguar XJR was the fastest production sedan in the late 1990s and it hit 60 in 5 seconds flat.

      • 0 avatar
        s_a_p

        According to 0-60 times it tested as 7.6 seconds. I would say that qualifies as somewhat quick. Other cars with similar power were in the six -6.5 second range. I’m a big fan of the scx w41 Achievas. But they were not class leading cars. I made a lot of that post with my tongue pressed into my cheek, the dozen or so times I drove that car were a lot of fun.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          I still think its pretty respectable for its era.

          A 1992 Taurus SHO was 7.4 seconds, Thinderbird SC was 7.1 seconds, Mustang GT was 7.2 seconds, and they all had a lot more power and were considered
          more sporty (and successful).

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “It seemed way faster than that due to the quad fours amazing(ly bad) NVH characteristics.” :-)

      A friend used to drive a Quad 4-powered Grand Am. At some point it developed a hole in the muffler–I think it was from a stone strike rather than rust–that made it resonate really oddly. It actually wasn’t that loud and was livable when you were in or near the car, but almost magically the sound seemed to project to about a block away. My friend’s neighbor, who was studying in the US after serving in the Hellenic Army’s special forces, proclaimed, “I like your car. Eet sounds MEAN!” You have to picture this guy as looking and sounding *exactly* as you would expect for someone in Greece’s special forces: burly physique; black beard stubble; booming, heavily accented voice.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    ITSBEAUTIFUL

  • avatar
    nels0300

    I was 16 years old when these came out and worked at a busy quick lube place in here in the Twin Cities. I got to check out a lot of these cars, never saw the SCX, but lots of quad 4 Achievas, Grand Ams, etc.

    I always thought they were cool, but they sounded pretty gravelly and ratty compared to the import competition and the interior quality was very noticeably shit in comparison.

    If I had new car money back then, there is no way I would’ve chose this over turbo Eclipse/Talon/Laser, Prelude Si, or Integra GS-R.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Wow, that was close, Corey. You almost had me admiring this car. Then, I remembered that I owned 1989 Pontiac Grand Am with a Quad 4 (only 150 hp).
    OHHHH the things that broke or fell off that car.
    One day I tried to open the car door and the interior door handle came off in my hand! Until I could afford the time and money to get it fixed, I had to roll down the window to pull the exterior handle to get out of the car. Lots of fun when it was raining.

  • avatar
    jschuma3

    The base engine in the Achieva was the Iron Duke 2.5l 4 banger. Olds dealers referred to that model as the “Unda-Achieva”, and Quad 4 models were referred to as the “Ova-Achieva”…true story…grim times at Oldsmobile.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Count me as a fan, we I also liked the Citation X11 or whatever it was called. Seriously the Quad 4 was pretty potent, it was also found in the last model year Beretta , available also in a manual configuration.Much better looking than this Olds.
    I test drove a lower output quad 4 version in an auto tranny Grand AM while in HS.Pretty peppy for the time

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The X-11 wasn’t bad once they got past it being a stripe-only offering the first year.

      When I had my ’76 Vega GT, I wanted to swap a Quad 4 into it, but I don’t know if it could be made to work in a RWD platform, or if it would have bolted up to the Borg-Warner T50 5-speed in mine.

      I’ve since read a lot of negative things about the Quad 4, so maybe it was just as well. The Vega engine had 218k on it when I sold it for $750 (and the head had never been off), and it just needed re-gasketing (including a new rear main seal – rope seal).

  • avatar
    gtem

    This thing is seriously awesome, I love it.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Gtem, I’m hoping you check this thread for replies. I wanted to update you on my fleet.

      1) the Sonoma needs an engine. Not surprising given how cheap I got it, and I still think I did well for what I paid for it.

      I plan on doing away with the V-6 and going with an LS 5.3L. I found a 2002 2wd GMC Yukon XL for cheap that has no reverse. The 4L60E is what the Sonoma has, and so do the same era 5.3L trucks. I have studied similar swaps on the internet, and there isn’t much to it (especially with a running parts truck with wiring harness, motor mounts, ECU, etc). Basically, the most extensive modifications are the motor mounts and the exhaust manifolds. You have to get new manifolds off a Camaro or go with aftermarket shorty headers. I’m likely going with the OEM Camaro units. The tachometer won’t read correctly, but everything else should work. I can even reuse my radiator.

      2) I finally got the 2001 Altima home this afternoon. Going to throw a distributor in it this week and hope that fixes the issue. One of my best friends wants it to leave at the school (shes a bus driver) so she won’t be without a vehicle in the evenings. She said she’ll give me a grand for it, and I think that’s fair. Gotta wait 8-10 weeks for the title to come back.

      If the distributor doesn’t fix it, I’m going to just sell it as-is or junk it. I’m not going to invest a bunch of money into it.

      3) I’ve made the decision to go with the 4BT Cummins for the 1969 F-100. I can buy a complete motor with an Eaton 5 speed manual, frame cut with everything, for $3500. I’ll have to wait until early next year to do that.

      I’m thinking of finding a 1980s Ranger 2wd and throw the 351 from the ’69 in it. I’ll go all hot rod on it, 4 bbl performance carb, shorty headers, either a T-5 or a built C6. I’ll probably sell it once I’m done having my fun with it.

      4) The Taurus is doing well. Once the GMC is fixed, I’m going to start redoing the interior and go from there. May try to get the paint and body done sometime later in the year, depends on how much I’m able to work.

      So, hows the Audi? And the 4Runner?

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Woah that’s a heck of a fleet, and a heck of a game plan! I’ve got to ask, why not just take the easy way out and swap in another used 4.3L into the Sonoma?

        I’ve basically wrapped up work for the season, as my narrow 1-car garage makes it really hard to work on stuff inside, I’m relegated to wrenching in the driveway. I’ve swapped over to my winter wheel/tire setup on the Audi: “15 OEM split spoke Ronals that I scooped up off of craigslist for $100, and new (discontinued) 195/65R15 hankook i*cept snow tires that I got for $213 for all 4, mounted and balanced. I’d call $313 for a full winter setup with new tires a pretty sweet deal. I never finished my paint polishing work, but the panels that I did do really helped with the brillo’d paint. I’m actually planning on using the Audi for holiday travel to Ohio this year as we elected to leave dogs at home, should be an awesome winter-highway cruiser. I am planning on stopping by my brother’s over christmas break to throw a strut mount in the front end to hopefully cure a rattle on the passenger side, and re-install the original power steering pump, the reman he put on is quiet but loses pressure at parking lot speeds when its hot. The original was noisy but we suspect that was due to an air leak in the line, which has been replaced since as well.

        4Runner is basically even more of a garage queen that it was. I don’t even think I’ll bother swapping snow tires on it this year or doing a Fluid Film touch-up, since it will basically go un-used over the winter. It gets to the point of the battery being a bit flat when I go to start it just to drive it somewhere to circulate fluids and burn off some moisture. I’ll have to do some real soul searching to decide whether I want to keep hanging onto it. With our baby on the way, I don’t see us doing the sort of outdoor stuff we used to for a few years. I was seriously planning a big road trip out West in it to run a bunch of trails and see ghost towns and all that with my brother and some friends, but it was not to be!

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Well, as I said, there isn’t that much involved in the swap, and honestly, the 5.3L from that era seems to be the far more reliable engine. To go back with a 4.3L, I must find one from 2003-2004. Every one I run across is blown or already sold. I’m sure I could find one eventually, but since I can get my hands on a 5.3L so easily, I figured why not.

          I plan to upgrade to an electric fan (I have one from the 1992 Taurus I parted out a few years back) and I have a filter/pan gasket/solenoid kit for the 4L60E, to be installed with new fluid during the swap.

          That sounds like a good price for the winter tire setup, not bad at all there. I hope the Audi does well for you.

          Congrats on the baby, and I understand about the 4Runner. I’d do my best to keep it, and I only say that because I’ve talked myself into getting rid of a vehicle I dearly loved, and have deeply regretted it since. Once the child gets a bit older, you may find yourself with the opportunity to go camping and such again. Kids love that stuff, and itll be some great memories of doing it with their parents. Could give him/her a great appreciation for the outdoors and spending time with family.

          I’m planning on going out west next summer, not sure if I’ll take the Taurus or the GMC. Depending on how it’s doing, I may be more inclined to take the truck since I’ll likely find something awesome and rare and cheap I’ll want to tow back down south, haha.

          Honestly, I was thinking of a first or second gen Accord sedan with a manual, always liked those. I would also like to find an early (84-85) Tempo or early (86-88) Taurus for my collection. Something FWD would be easier to transport since I could easily use a car dolly. Who knows what I’ll find for pocket change that will be fun for me, haha.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Look at this thing! I wasn’t even remotely thinking about a VW, but it looks great:
            https://seattle.craigslist.org/kit/cto/d/1980-volkswagen-jetta-2-door/6746783786.html

            Not a manual, but a rare fully-equipped early Accord https://seattle.craigslist.org/oly/cto/d/1985-accord-se/6745979969.html

            Geeze, how cool is this? https://seattle.craigslist.org/oly/cto/d/1972-mazda-1800-luce-sedan/6729039608.html

            I’d go nuts up there, I’d end up having to get an auto transport truck lol.

  • avatar
    jimbo1126

    I was very interested in the Achieva and Skylark back in the day. I thought the exterior styling was great but the interior seating position was strange. Not to mention, GM putting these on sale for the 1992 model year without airbags was unforgivable. Most press dinged them for this as well.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Random thoughts: love the proper instrumentation. Quad 4 was decent for its time. Like Cavaliers, N cars back up the old adage about GM cars running poorly for a long time. Still a lot Grand Ams out there crawling about. Didn’t think much of these, but I actually thought the Alero was quite handsome.

  • avatar
    agroal

    “Nobody Sweats The Recalls Like GM”

  • avatar
    KOKing

    I seem to recall Chevy touting the Beretta with this motor as a half-price E30M3…

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      The SCX is probably as close as GM ever came to making an E30 M3. Like the M3, it was a legitimate homologation special that actually realized a fair amount of success in competition.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    When the Fiesta’s lease is up I’m going to buy the lowest mileage early 90s crapwagon I can find. I don’t care if I have to go to Barret Jackson and overpay. I want to shut the door and forget 9-11, forget Iraq, and Forget Cobain has been dead for just about 25 years. I don’t care what make or model it is.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    An old manager of mine owned a new (at the time) 442 W41 with the 5 speed. Remember at the time that affordable coupes and sedans usually ranged in the 140 to 170hp range. That car had some speed, but it was typical GM at the time. I recall that GM cheapened the design of the Quad 4 HO – to get the high revving 195hp, they eliminated balance shafts. Well, that engine was nowhere as smooth or quiet as a Japanese or German engine…a blender-full of gravel and nails comes to mind. The stick shift was notchy as hell and had long throws. It had the sitting in the bottom of a barrel high dash feel while the Japanese still had the sitting on top of the car feel. Air bags were finally being installed in newer cars, but that Olds still had those wretched door belts that never fit right and blocked your view.
    But, for a short period of time, in GM’s dark past, this car was a flicker of hope that they were serious about inexpensive performance. Like too many GM cars, it was canned instead of fine tuning it over multiple generations.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The Quad 4 held a lot of promise that sadly did not get fufilled. GM’s own ads showed a Quad 4 being hoisted into the air by numerous line worker hands (mixed race to be PC) and the line underneath said “The Vision is Paying Off”. Car and Driver called it a “jewel of an engine”…then..

    The blown head gaskets that would blow again and again (way worse than early mopar 2.2s). Car and Driver ate their words as the engine cemented its reputation as a rock tumbler. A good friend who’s 1970’s Olds had died bought a Grand Am with the Quad 4. After a few years of trouble free performance parts began to break off inside. Then the head lunched its gasket. Then one more time. Off to an Accord where she resides today.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Probably the last true hard core Oldsmobile performance car. So much misinformation about the Quad 4, it’s sad. The Achieva won the SCCA World Challenge Touring Car class three years in a row. This car was the homologation car. BTW, there are north/south kits to install Q4s into RWD cars, in fact, they’re apparently pretty popular for British cars and older hot rods.

    The Q4s didn’t get balance shafts until 1995, and in the early days was the power output was compared to much larger engines. The base Quad 4 output 150 HP, which was more than many six and some eight cylinder engines at that time. This was an engine that had a timing chain back when rubber bands were still the norm.

    I don’t know why there was so many problems with head gaskets in the 80’s-90’s. My suspicion that’s where the car companies took money out of materials to make a profit, but have paid the price for it since. What really killed most Q4s was the water pump as it was run by the timing chain. It was a $1000 (or so I’m told) operation and that was enough for folks to abandon the car on the lift.

    I had a 2.3L Q4 in a (bought used) 1995 Pontiac Sunfire GT that I ran for seven years. It was a stout little motor that never gave me any issues. It should have, as the @$$hole person who owned it before me fairly neglected it. Maybe I was reaaaaalllly lucky, I don’t know, but I had far more issues with the cheapo Isuzu five speed transmission than I did the engine.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “This was an engine that had a timing chain back when rubber bands were still the norm.”

      There were plenty of chain driven OHCs around, the Japanese just seemed to avoid using them in non-truck applications for NVH reasons most of the time, Nissan was the notable exception: GA16DE (Sentra), KA24(D)E (Stanza, 240SX, hardbody), VQ30 (Maxima).

      And within the context of all of the timing chain/tensioner issues that seemed to crop up over the last decade on various manufacturers, with GM’s 3.6L and 2.4Ls being particularly common offenders, I would have zero qualms with buying a modern car with a serviceable timing belt in it.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I suspect manufacturers had so many head gasket issues in that era because they were putting aluminum heads on iron blocks, except for GM who liked the high center of gravity, cylinder erosion, and head gasket issues they could achieve by putting iron heads on aluminum blocks. Whichever way they did it, having heads and blocks that expanded at different rates made hard work for head gaskets.

  • avatar
    hifi

    Crush it and recycle it into something decent.

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