By on September 24, 2020

Today’s Rare Ride represents a landmark for the Oldsmobile brand and a somewhat unsuccessful luxury badge experiment for General Motors.

Let’s check out the rarely seen first-generation Oldsmobile Bravada.

Rare Rides featured a Bravada way back in 2017 when this series was a spring chicken. But that Indianapolis 500 pace car was far removed from the Bravada’s genesis seen here.

By the time the Bravada entered production, the GMT330 platform was no spring chicken. The founding fathers Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Jimmy arrived for the 1983 model year, entrants into the new compact SUV class. For the first few years, all examples were two-doors, but American consumers cried out “More doors equals more sales.”

General Motors complied in the spring of 1990, when new four-door variants were introduced as model year ’91s. Wheelbase increased 7 inches (to 107), and made the four-doors almost 7 inches longer overall (at 176.8 inches) than the two-door counterparts. Still, the Blazer and Jimmy weren’t quite luxury vehicles.

The luxury SUV market was slim pickings in the early Nineties, with options limited to larger trucks like the Range Rover and Grand Wagoneer. But GM thought there was a place in the market for a luxurious compact as well. So Bravada was born.

This first-ever SUV to wear the Oldsmobile badge (and its first truck-based vehicle since the Twenties) arrived later in 1990, also as a model-year ’91. Designed only for U.S consumption and only as a four-door, Bravada had many more standard features than the Blazer or Jimmy. The exterior was differentiated by sleeker front and rear treatments that were more integrated than GM’s lesser choices. Bravada received a unique turbine alloy wheel design, and its own side trim. The overall look was monochromatic upscale, and two-tone was not offered in this generation. Inside leather was standard, as were digital gauges and an exclusive swoopy center console.

Fitting the mission, only the GMT330’s largest engine was available in the Bravada: the 4.3-liter Vortec V6. For 1991 Bravada used old throttle body injection, but switched to electronic fuel injection in 1992. Engine refinements brought 1991’s 160 horsepower up to 200 in 1992. All Bravadas had a four-speed automatic and had an exclusive drive train via SmartTrak. An all-wheel-drive system, it was full-time and automatic. The system used a transfer case by Borg-Warner. It was shared with the Astro and Safari vans, as well as the special GMC Typhoon.

GM made changes over the Bravada’s run to further differentiate it from its siblings. Aside from the engine upgrade in 1992, the instruments were revised the same year. In 1993, an overhead console with digital display arrived, and so did the excellent Gold Package. Additions in gold were an exterior pinstripe, badges, and gold turbine alloys. By then, all three GMT330s were due for a refresh. Blazer and Jimmy were reworked for ’95, but slow-selling Bravada had to wait a year. It appeared wearing new (and arguably less distinguished) clothes for model-year ’95.

Today’s Rare Ride is in great condition, in excellent sporty red over tan. It might need a bit of cleanup, and is yours for $3,495 in Portland.

[Images: seller]

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31 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Most Excellent 1992 Oldsmobile Bravada...”

  • avatar

    I’d almost forgotten about these. It was almost as if corporate was going out of their way to kill the Oldsmobile brand, a charade of yes-men in a board room where one guy suggests “leather seats” and the rest vigorously agree, another guy says “just the big engine” and nods from around the room again.

    “GM made changes over the Bravada’s run to further differentiate it from its siblings.”

    You say differentiate, I say tarted up, you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to…

    • 0 avatar

      From my understanding it was the dealers who were pushing for a SUV to sell. Plus it was an Olds and traditional Olds buyers expected things like the big engine and leather seats so starting there made perfect sense as many of those dealers had GMC versions to sell if the customer wanted a cheaper version.

      • 0 avatar

        I can see how the dealers would have been behind these trucks (and thanks for point it out).

        Looking back it all seems so bizarre. 1992 was barely ten to fifteen years after so many longtime Oldsmobile buyers found Chevy 305 under the hoods of their new Oldses (as well as other non “Rocket” engines). Those customers were really mad and it was kind of a big deal in the history of the brand’s decline- but the Bravada was nothing more than a continuation of that philosophy. Go figure though… money talks.

  • avatar

    I had the GMC Jimmy version in sea-foam green. I actually kinda liked it…for what it was. Loaded with leather and such, it provided a somewhat upscale ride. At least the (then) in-laws likes that I was actually driving an American brand, versus the Japanese and German stuff I was usually driving.

  • avatar

    Does the interior smell like Marlboros?

  • avatar

    A Bravada?

    Man, your dad had to be like a dentist or a McDonald’s franchisee to have one of these back in 1992. And Mom probably drove a Grand Caravan with wood paneling…….

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think we could even swing a Blazer Tahoe.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        My dad bought a new 91 Blazer Tahoe 2 door in mid 90 since the 91 came out early that year. It had the 4.3 single port fuel injection which replaced the somewhat anemic 2.8. The 4 wd had the floor lever since the electronic control system was relegated to the upscale Bravada and GMC.
        After a couple of years the white paint started getting chalky and peeling to the point where the dealer was embarrassed into getting him a new paint job. He got 200k out of it with normal maintenance including some suspension work including torsion bar bushings that seemed like premature wear.

    • 0 avatar

      He had a Sega Genesis in his room *and* a Super Nintendo in the den. And had a ‘Game Genie’ for both.

  • avatar

    ABS warning light is on. Aren’t ABS modules and other parts for GM cars from this time period pretty much more costly than the vehicles are worth, and/or unobtainium?

    • 0 avatar

      ABS VI parts are that bad these days? I thought GM put that in practically everything in the early 1990s (that system was one of the bright spots of auto technology back then- a real sweet spot between affordability and safety, and an admirable accomplishment by GM to develop that particular system and bring it to market).

      • 0 avatar

        The prices on an ABS pump from that era are all over the place. You may spend from $80 to $500 depending on where you look from.
        On the other hand, I don’t recall the ABS pumps failing that much in general, I guess the ABS light is on because of a wheel sensor and those cost about $20 apiece. long story short an ABS like wouldn’t stop me from getting this truck if I was in the market. The price and condition are good enough

        • 0 avatar

          Oh yes, certainly. If the fault light is on but I like the vehicle, then it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me either. Worst case the ABS simply doesn’t work (maybe need to pull the fuse or maybe not).

  • avatar

    The last of the original AMC Grand Wagoneers wasn’t a lot bigger than the Bravada. It was 186 inches long, ten inches longer, but had a 109 inch wheelbase, close to the Bravada’s 107 inches. The Wagoneer was over 74 inches wide, while the Bravada was under 66 inches wide. The last year for that big Wagoneer with the 360 cid V8 was 1991.

    The next year, 1992, Chrysler came up with its smaller Cherokee, and made a new Grand Wagoneer out of it with leather and the 318 V8. That was about the same size as the Bravada, the same length, a couple inches wider, and a shorter wheelbase. IOW, the 1992 Bravada was competitive at the time with the Jeep.

    The 1992 Range Rover was the same length as the Bravada, five inches wider, but with a much shorter wheelbase, and it didn’t have a V8. It also didn’t sell in numbers anything like the new Jeep. What it had was a name and bragging rights.

    • 0 avatar

      The Range Rover offered only a V8 in 1992 in North America, same as every year since 1970. Other places like Australia could choose a chugger diesel if they felt the need to flaggelate themselves for some odd reason.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    “its first truck-based vehicle since the Twenties.” So this is chronologically the successor vehicle to the Clampett’s truck?

    Didn’t see a lot of Bravadas but before GM discontinued this generation of Blazer/Jimmy they were ‘blowing out’ the 2 doors at remarkably low prices. A number of my friends and neighbours bought them thinking that the deal was too good to miss out on. Generally they were happy with them, except for the fact that they were quite fuel thirsty.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    If you can’t swing the real thing, the awd transfer case from one of these and any number of the solutions to stuff an LS in an S10 chassis can give you the typhoon experience for less money that you don’t mind driving. You could just drop it in one of these but the 2 doors just look better to me and would allow for a clone.

  • avatar

    These were sharp when they came out, especially in white. Good mix of upscale, but not garish. I would love something like this today.

    This generation was the last of the boxy models that looked good and I would actually want to buy. The next gen had the rounded front end that were just too soccer mom for my taste. Also just seemed chintzier.

  • avatar

    My old boss had one and I drove it often. It was loud, rattled and rode like a buckboard. There’s a reason Ford sold Explorers 10 to 1 over these things.

  • avatar

    My old boss had one and I drove it often. It was loud, rattled and rode like a buckboard. There’s a reason Ford sold Explorers 10 to 1 over these things.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, people flipped over those Explorers.

      Sadly, Ford’s non-solution solution was to run the tires at 26psi, which for sure would make the ride softer, but also make it wallow on curves.

      At least the GM products managed to stay rubber side down.

  • avatar

    This was yet another reason for Oldsmobile to no longer exist. Just make the Bravada features available on Blazer/Jimmy.

    Remember that Ford was covering all sectors of the market with their various Explorer option packages including, by mid-decade the $38k Explorer Limited…about $63k today adjusted for inflation. The Mercury Mountaineer was pretty much superfluous out of the gate.

    • 0 avatar

      The Explorer Limited was more like low $30s back in the 90s, roughly 50% over a base XL. Nowadays a top of the line Explorer is north of $50K or about 50% more than a base 2020 Explorer. Nothing to see here.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I remember there was a rich kid in college whose grandfather bought him a either a new Jimmy or Bravada,it was 93 or 94. It had the supercharged engine, it was pretty sweet. Does anyone remember if the Jimmy or the Bravada got this powerplant?

  • avatar

    My parents bought one of these off a local company that had it as a former company car which got put in their back lot and forgotten for a couple years. They got it for a steal. It was like 5 years old, had only about 15,000 miles and I think they got it for 5K. The company just wanted to get rid of it. It was fully loaded black on black. It needed new tires, and a good cleaning and that was about it.

    It was the family’s “extra” car. But at the time, it was the only SUV in the family so it proved useful. It ended up becoming by default the car my younger brother “drove” and took away to college (but my parents still called “theirs”).

    We took it on many ski trips, it was great in the snow and reasonably comfortable and largely trouble free for several years. That digital dash made it seem fairly techy. Sadly was totaled when it was hit by a drunk driver while parked, probably with lots of life left in it. My brother replaced it with a Mercury Mountaineer.

  • avatar

    At old GM I worked with a guy who was an engineer *and* a beancounter and had a brand-new one of these. He and his spouse were out with another couple (because 4 doors) and stopped at a light when somehow another vehicle ended up coming toward them in their lane. He quickly put the Bravada up on the sidewalk (because SmartTrak) and quickly stopped before slamming into anything (because ABS). He was very pleased, and his friends were impressed.

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