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?
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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