Rare Rides: The Stunning 1992 Oldsmobile Silhouette, in Teal

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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rare rides the stunning 1992 oldsmobile silhouette in teal

A special day has arrived here at Rare Rides. Our subject is modern, sleek, and the Cadillac of Minivans. That’s right, it’s Van Time with the Oldsmobile Silhouette.

General Motors debuted its new U-body vans for the 1990 model year. The Silhouette, Chevrolet Lumina APV, and Pontiac Trans Sport were a batch of aerodynamic and consumer-friendly replacements for the enormous rear-drive station wagons most people hated. The trio were also a follow-up to the Astro and Safari rear-drive vans, as those boxes didn’t appeal to the hundreds of thousands of households who went across the street to buy a Chrysler van instead. GM’s cutting-edge design debuted in 1986 as the Pontiac Trans Sport, and the finalized product went into production at the end of 1989.

With three doors and seating for seven, all U-bodies had plastic body panels like a Saturn to shrug off family use and rust. The Silhouette was the luxury van option from General Motors, as displayed via its refined tape stripes, deep tinted windows, and lace alloys. A high-spec interior included leather seating for seven which was removable and reconfigurable; every seat was a captain’s chair. The driver’s seat was powered, and most convenience features were electric. Rear air was also included — a feature that was far from prevalent in vans of the early Nineties.

Powering the Silhouette were three different engines dependent upon trim level. There were six-cylinders in 3.1, 3.4, or 3800 guise. Transmissions were all automatic, having either three or four forward speeds. An optional ride package added rear air shocks to level the Silhouette no matter the weight of people and cargo inside. A novel feature included with this package was an on-board air compressor.

Changes through the first-generation Silhouette were significant and included the addition of 3800 power, larger brakes with ABS, and a sunroof for 1992. A facelift occurred in 1993 that smoothed the front end and brought Trans Sport lamps to the rear. A power sliding door was added in 1994, along with built-in child seats, traction control, and a driver’s airbag.

The original Silhouette lasted through the 1996 model year, and as its successor was prepared the model’s offerings were simplified. In ’96 traction control went away, and only the 3.4-liter was available under hood. The General had learned its lesson about controversial van designs, and the Dustbusters made way for much more mainstream-looking vans in 1997. The U-body lived on in North America until 2007, when GM decided it wouldn’t sell minivans in its home market any longer. A revised U-body continues today in China, underneath the luxury Buick GL8.

Today’s 194,000-mile Silhouette 3800 is creating a buzz on Bring a Trailer at the moment, and is auctioned out of Oregon. There’s no reserve, and as of writing it’s bid to $1,302. Interested?

[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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2 of 47 comments
  • Man, I remember being all excited to see these debut because they were so darn futuristic. I also firmly remember the amount of laughing my Dad did @ GM for the lack of quality. Man he wasnt wrong, GM JUNK through and through.

  • JREwing JREwing on Jan 29, 2020

    This thing is pretty damn pristine for the age and mileage! Besides styling and typical GM interior quality, the major failing with the Dustbuster vans were the 3.1L V6 with the THREE speed auto. The 3-speed was terrible in my Corsica, which is easily 1000 lbs lighter; that lighter weight allowed the V6 to overcome it. No hope in the Dustbuster. The 3800 and 4-speed auto totally transform this vehicle - more torque, better mileage, and a more relaxed feel. The poor 3.1 was simply overtaxed in this application, and you heard it a LOT. I would totally take this over the 1992 Grand Caravan's 3.3L V6 and UltraDrive 4-speed auto that ate itself at 60,000 miles after 6 years of pampered elderly ownership (and about 6 months of similarly tame driving in our hands). It's an utter shame this Olds is in Oregon and I'm out of time off at work. It's seriously tempting to fly out there and roadtrip this back.

  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • 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.