QOTD: Trucking Awful Nineties Design From America?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
qotd trucking awful nineties design from america

We spent the last three Wednesday editions of Question of the Day discussing the awesomeness which was Nineties truck and SUV design from America, Europe, and Asia. Now we’ll flip things around, and bring a critical eye to designs which didn’t age so well.

The rules of the game are probably seared into memory by now, but we’ll state them anyway:

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from a domestic manufacturer, even if sourced from an import (eg. Dodge Ram 50).
  3. The only eligible body styles are trucks and SUVs.

And the display of today’s dated design brings your author no joy. No joy at all — in fact I kind of like it.

“Hey, that Blazer looks funny,” was surely someone’s first thought circa 1991. And the funny looks were down to the small details which made up the unfortunately styled Oldsmobile Bravada. The Bravada’s origins lie in the GMT330 platform, which debuted in 1982. At that time the smaller S-10 Blazer and S-15 Jimmy represented new midsize entries into the growing SUV market.

By 1991, the designs were matured, assisted by periodic visual updates to keep things fresh. And that year was an interesting one for the Blazer family and its cousins. Most importantly, the first four-door versions of the GMT330s arrived (Hey, the Explorer was coming). It was also the last year the S-10 and -15 names were used in conjunction with Blazer and Jimmy.

Bravada was the first SUV offering from the Oldsmobile brand, and to make the considerably higher asking price seem worth it, all Bravadas were blessed with the largest 4.3-liter Vortec V6 engine and “Smart-Trak” all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive was permanent, unlike its siblings’ 4×4 systems. Outside, painted bumpers, gold badges (usually) and a different front end treatment displayed the owner’s prestige and personal brand. The interior was also made more upscale than its siblings, and featured a unique wave-like center console surrounded by low-quality ruched leather.

But the late introduction and unique components are what made the Bravada a bad moment in styling. It looked different enough to stand out, but was clearly a rebadge trying to be more luxurious than it was. The limited run of the first generation (1991-1994) meant fewer on the roads, and they looked old by the dawn of the second generation in 1996. Bravada also broke down more, because the all-wheel drive system was less robust than 4×4. It just didn’t work out for the first Bravada.

Let’s hear your selections for those poorly aged trucks and SUVs.

[Images: Oldsmobile]

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2 of 59 comments
  • Corey, the GMC Jimmy lost the S-15 prefix for 1992 but the "S-10 Blazer" continued until the redesign for the 1995 model year. Reason being, Chevy's redesigned fullsize SUV also kept its Blazer moniker until it was rechristened Tahoe for 1995, while GMC adopted the Yukon brand for its largest SUV in 1992.

  • AdamOfAus AdamOfAus on Jul 06, 2019

    ZJ was an odd photo to use for this article... Arguably my favourite JGC.

  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).
  • Master Baiter New slogan in the age of Ford EVs:FoundOnRoadDischarged