Rare Rides: A Pristine 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon, Shift-It-Yourself Edition

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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rare rides a pristine 1978 oldsmobile cutlass salon shift it yourself edition

Hearing the Cutlass name inspires visions of 442, of color-key rally wheels, or perhaps thoughts of tacky aftermarket ruination and glittery paint.

This grey fastback sedan doesn’t often come to mind, but perhaps it should. Presenting the 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon. Likely, Olds called it Salon because you can fit big hair into it.

Or not. The history of Oldsmobile’s Cutlass was a long one, and by the 1978 model year the midsize nameplate was in its fifth generation. As it was the late Seventies, downsizing and saving fuel was the name of the game. For its fifth edition, Cutlass lost six inches in wheelbase and offered considerably smaller engines than just one year before.

Cutlass still rode on GM’s A-body, but it was a lighter, leaner, shorter variant. Designed to handle several body styles and engines, the new A focused on flexibility. Seven other vehicles aside from Cutlass utilized the new A-body, representing cars from Buick, Chevrolet, and Pontiac. The base engine for Cutlass was the 3.8-liter Buick V6, but customers could get their hands on larger engines, including the 5.0-liter Chevrolet 305 V8. Two diesels were made available for buyers who were into that sort of thing.

At the start of its new generation, the Cutlass family included four separate lines: Supreme, Salon, Cruiser, and Calais. Supreme and Calais wore more traditional formal roof styling in sedan and coupe styles, while Cruiser represented the five-door wagon. Salon was the alternative choice. Split between base Salon and upmarket Salon Brougham, the new name brought fastback styling to the table. Two- and four-door options made up Salon offerings, and the A-body went in a new direction.

Customers spoke with their wallets. All other Cutlass offerings were immediately much more popular than either of the Salons. The sedan was the first model dropped from the new Cutlass line, living only through 1980. A year later the Salon coupe followed suit. Oldsmobile continued with a wide variety of Cutlass models, splitting the lineup between front- and rear-drive varieties in 1982. Ciera switched to front-wheel drive on a brand new A-body platform, while Supreme stayed sporty on the rear-drive G-body.

Today’s Rare Ride is a simply stunning 1978 example of the Cutlass Salon. With the Olds 260 V8 (4.3L) and a five-speed manual transmission, the Salon had just 34,000 miles on the odometer. We say had there, as this Salon asked $10,000, and was listed for a short time before being sold.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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  • Ltcmgm78 Ltcmgm78 on Jun 08, 2019

    The ratios didn't seem to be spread unreasonably. I must admit that I never saw another 2.3L Fairmont with a manual transmission again. I took the car to Germany when I was assigned there. The fastest it would go on the Autobahn was about 75. It caught fire in my driveway one morning. Had a leaky fuel line going into the carburetor and the ignition coil lit it up one morning when I was trying to get to work. Cooked everything under the hood. Took the insurance check after it was totaled and bought a 1985 SAAB 900 Turbo sedan.

  • Ltcmgm78 Ltcmgm78 on Jun 08, 2019

    I remember seeing the news footage of the Horizon steering wheel swinging from one direction to the other. I never tried to replicate the issue. Keeping my hands on the wheel seemed to dampen any possible ill effect. Driver in the video turned the wheel to full lock left and let go of the wheel. It cycled far back to the right and back to the left again.

  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.
  • Stuki Moi "How do you take a small crossover and make it better?Slap the AMG badge on it and give it the AMG treatment."No, you don't.In fact, that is specifically what you do NOT do.Huge, frail wheels, and postage stamp sidewalls, do nothing but make overly tall cuvs tramline and judder. And render them even less useful across the few surfaces where they could conceivably have an advantage over more properly dimensioned cars. And: Small cuvs have pitiful enough fuel range as it is, even with more sensible engines.Instead, to make a small CUV better, you 1)make it a lower slung wagon. And only then give it the AMG treatment. AMG'ing, makes sense for the E class. And these days with larger cars, even the C class. For the S class, it never made sense, aside from the sheer aural visceralness of the last NA V8. The E-class is the center of AMG. Even the C-class, rarely touches the M3.Or 2) You give it the Raptor/Baja treatment. Massive, hypersophisticated suspension travel allowing landing meaningful jumps. As well as driving up and down wide enough stairs if desired. That's a kind of driving for which a taller stance, and IFS/IRS, makes sense.Attempting to turn a CUV into some sort of a laptime wonder, makes about as much sense as putting an America's Cup rig atop a ten deck cruiseship.