Rare Rides: A Pristine 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, Much Driving Excitement

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a pristine 1993 oldsmobile cutlass ciera much driving excitement

Today’s Rare Ride hails from the the much overused Cutlass nameplate at Oldsmobile. Just in this series we’ve had the Cutlass Calais and a Cutlass Salon, and today we head to the end of the Cutlass era, with a Ciera.

We featured two very different takes on A-body previously in this series: The exceedingly rare all-wheel drive Pontiac 6000 STE, and an aftermarket Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport cabriolet. While that sporty Pontiac was an A-body exception when new, the Ciera was always a bread and butter model.

Cutlass Ciera debuted in 1982, as part of the fleet of new A-body offerings across General Motors’ brands (except Cadillac). Most similar to its Buick Century brother, the Ciera was available as a sedan and coupe from debut, and a wagon called Cutlass Cruiser bowed in 1984. The coupe made it only to 1991.

There were a wide variety of engines available on the Ciera, which ranged from a 2.2-liter inline-four through the common and crap 2.5-liter Iron Duke, and on to a range-topping Buick 3.8-liter. There was also a seldom-selected 4.3-liter diesel V6. Transmissions were automatic for the vast majority of Cutlass Calais examples, and of three- or four-speed persuasion. A four-speed manual transmission was offered only in 1984.

As the Ciera models were replacements for the rear-drive G-body Cutlass, Oldsmobile tried to please quite a few different customer types. This was the time when the brand simultaneously attempted to cater to the rear-drive traditionalist, the Euro-buying yuppie American, and elderly customers as well. To that end there were too many trims trying to transform the Ciera’s personality: Holiday Coupe, Brougham, ES, LS, GT, XC, S, SL, and International Series.

Some of these trims were deceased by the time the refreshed Cutlass Ciera arrived for 1989. More rounded shapes appeared, there was new trim at the sides, and no more hood ornament. At that point the aged 3.8 V6 was replaced by the 3300 V6. Of the remaining trims, International Series and XC went away after 1990. More trim consolidation happened in 1992 as the coupe was discontinued, and left only S or SL Cieras in showrooms. This was consolidated further in 1994, when only the S remained. Getting with the times, the Iron Duke was dropped after 1992, and 1994 saw a driver’s airbag, ABS, power locks, and rear window defogger as standard equipment.

Though still a solid seller, things were winding down for Ciera by the mid-Nineties: The very old design from 1982 was bested by competitors. In its final year for 1996, Cutlass badging was removed, and all examples became Ciera SL. Oldsmobile was still attempting to rebrand itself, this time stepping away from the elderly customer it had courted for so long. In the Nineties, the Rocket brand was even more desperate to transform than in the Eighties. In 1997 the Ciera SL was replaced by the N-body Malibu, lightly badge swapped into the Oldsmobile Cutlass. That version was a stopgap until the Alero was ready, and the final Cutlass was only offered through 1999.

Today’s Rare Ride is a basic 3.3-liter example from 1993. In white over red it goes without power windows or tachometer, but does have headlamps and air conditioning. Yours for $6,885 in Iowa. As personal anecdote moment, I’ve driven one just like this (in light blue). It was one of the most boring drives of my entire life.

[Images: GM]

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  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Jul 13, 2021

    I remember a friend of mine who was 2 years older than me drove a mint white /maroon velour Holiday coupe in HS. This was in '89. It was only a 4cyl though. She's now a math teacher at the school we went to. When you know, you know.I wonder what see drives now.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Jul 13, 2021

    When I sold GM parts, the Cutlass name was used on four different platforms, forget about asking which one the customer had, you had to have the VIN or see the car; of course this made people lose their damn minds and start calling you an idiot. Happiest day of my life was quitting that job to go back to college at age 40.

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
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