Rare Rides: An Ultra Brown 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Cruiser
In the Eighties, did you seek a compact car with the highest possible number of lamps at the front? If so, the choice was clear in ’84: Oldsmobile Firenza.
The Firenza was Oldsmobile’s mid-luxury version of the extensive J-body platform. Beneath Firenza in J-body land were the Pontiac Sunbird and Chevrolet Cavalier, while above/astride it were the Buick Skyhawk and Cadillac Cimarron. The J-body cars were new for ’82, and replaced the rather awful H-body entries like Sunbird Safari and Monza. Assuredly the modern J-body was a welcome relief.
Initially, Firenza’s body lineup was a bit limited. For the ’82 model year, Only the two-door hatch and four-door sedan were available. The range expanded in ’83 to include the Cruiser wagon, and ultimately added a two-door sedan in 1986. Firenza was placed in the Olds lineup beneath the X-body Omega (later replaced by Calais). Despite its small entry-level status, power and luxury equipment were still an option for the aspirational Oldsmobile customer.
Visually, the Firenza was differentiated from its siblings by its front and rear clips. Both were designed to mimic other cars in Oldsmobile’s lineup. The front clip featured an integrated aero-type look, with six lamps up front. Four lighted the road ahead, and two were for turn signals. Unlike other Js, Firenza’s grille was integrated into the lower portion of the bumper instead of under the hood. The rear look was vertical rectangular lamps as seen on so many Olds models.
Engines ranged from lowly 1.8- and 2.0-liter overhead valve engines to overhead cam engines of the same displacement. Toward the latter part of Firenza’s life (’85 onward), it could also be ordered with the 2.8-liter V6 from the Chevy Celebrity. However, that engine was part of the sportier GT package, and was only available on the hatchback. Sorry, no sporty Firenza Eurosport wagon to be found. Transmissions were four- or five-speed manuals, or a three-speed automatic.
1987 saw the Firenza start to wind down, as GM had bigger entry-level aspirations for Oldsmobile. The V6 coupe vanished after ’87, and for the Firenza’s final year in 1988, the front end adopted a lookalike clip to the popular midsize Cutlass Ciera. 1988 was the debut of reworked Cavalier, making it clear Firenza was finished. In 1989, Oldsmobile customers wanting a compact were directed to the mid-life Cutlass Calais instead.
Today’s Rare Ride is a relatively low-option example with an automatic transmission. Power arrives via the 1.8-liter overhead cam engine, which means 84 raging horses. With 22,000 miles, this excellent condition example sold recently via a dealer in Minnesota for around $7,900.
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The headlight and turn signal arrangement is supposed to bring to mind past Oldsmobiles, like the '59 Olds, and the '68 Cutlass.