Rare Rides: The 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Sedan, FE3ling Zesty
Last week we featured the very uninspiring Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, which was a basic three-box A-body that never excited anyone, ever. Today we look at another Cutlass from the Oldsmobile Cutlass Everything Incorporated timeline.
This one’s a bit more exciting, as it says FE3 on the back.
The Cutlass Supreme name was a historical one at Oldsmobile, in continuous production since 1965. Initially a rear-drive personal luxury car, it transitioned for 1988 in two ways: It became front-drive, and also a midsize family car. Upon its fifth-generation conversion and drivetrain swap, the Cutlass Supreme got a lot more modern and with the times. The rear-drive G-body (previously called A) was in production from 1977 to 1988 and was still being made when the new Cutlass Supreme entered production.
1988 was the first year for a new midsize W-body platform that became a long-term mood at GM. The Cutlass Supreme debuted in coupe form initially and was Oldsmobile’s version of the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Lumina, and Pontiac Grand Prix. Also available as a fun convertible and sleek sedan, the W-body was entirely more in line with what consumers of the Eighties and Nineties wanted than its predecessor.
Available under the hood were a single 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder and V6 engines of three different displacements: 2.8, 3.1, and 3.4 liters. Transmissions were either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual, though the vast majority sold were automatic. The 2.3 was a Quad 4, closely related to the high-output W41 version found in the previously featured Calais. That engine was available from 1990 in the International Series trims, the sportiest offering. The 3.4 was offered from 1991 onward. 1980s Cutlass Supreme customers chose from 2.8- or 3.1-liter engines only.
Much like the Ciera from last week, Supreme’s trim options were slimmed down over time. Oldsmobile (unsuccessfully) tried to transition itself from Regency Elite Broughamification to the International Series European Businessman customer and pleased neither of those groups in the process. What they did sell were a lot of mid-trim SL models.
Oldsmobile fiddled with the Supreme’s styling over the years, and made it very slightly longer in 1990 and 1992, before shaving off a tenth of an inch for 1996. Overall length varied between 192.1 inches and 193.7 inches for the four-door. The two-door versions were always just a bit longer than the sedan.
The 1997 Cutlass Supreme would end up the last Cutlass Supreme ever, as well as the shortest-lived W-body name in the group. Regal, Lumina, and Grand Prix lived much longer, happier lives. Supreme was replaced in 1998 by the (gen-two) W-body-based Intrigue, as Oldsmobile went its new – and final – styling direction.
Today’s Rare Ride is a Cutlass Supreme SL with just 19,000 miles. It has a 3.1 V6, automatic transmission, and FE3 suspension package. In other words, nearly as sporty as you could go without springing on the International Series. Huge smoked heckblende action combines with an out-of-place luggage rack/spoiler mess, but the rest looks good: lace alloys, sporty red trim stripes, tweedy buckets. With three days left it’s been bid to $4,000 and has met the reserve. Interested?
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- SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
- MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
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We had a 1989 International Coupe virtually identical to the black-and-gray one in the 2nd picture. Although the 2.8 V6 was reliable, it was undersized for the car. It was a decent ride (the digital dash was a thing to behold at night), but the crappy GM interior quality of that era kept rearing up. My wife was quite adept at using a hot glue gun to reattach the map pockets that kept falling off the seatbacks. The brakes were never its strong suit either, but it had a great highway ride. We ran it for 5 years and I upgraded to a 1995 Impala SS. Looking back, this is a typical GM effort, good enough to sell, but never good enough to be desirable.
I owned a 91 version of this Cutlass. Loved it. Leather seats, controls on the steering wheel and drove really well. Totaled it and got a 93 Grand Prix which was on the same platform. But god was that thing a POS compared to the Cutlass.