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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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]

Join the conversation
2 of 99 comments
  • 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.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?