By on July 19, 2021

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?

[Images: GM]

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27 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Sedan, FE3ling Zesty...”

  • avatar


    Needs more this:

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    It was 1993 and I was 14 years old. My mom was looking for a replacement for our 1987 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser for family road trip duty. While shopping at the only dealership she and my step-dad bought cars from for 18 years, my sister and I poked around at the cars in the showroom. It was a Pontiac, Olds, GMC, Eagle dealer. My sister fell hopelessly in love with a black on gray Talon with retractable seatbelts. Meanwhile, I found the perfect car for me. It was a white with red velour-ish interior Olds Cutlass Supreme sedan. I don’t remember the specs of the one in particular, but I slid behind the wheel and declared that I was absolutely going to get one when I was able to drive. My sister and mother both chided me declaring it an old man car. But I didn’t care, this was it.
    As with most young loves, mine was fleeting. While I admired Cutlass Supremes from then on, I focused my desires on the coupe version. But every time I see a Cutlass Supreme sedan I remember those few days 30 years ago. Which is never, since they are all seemingly gone.

    My folks eventually got a fresh-off-the-truck GMC Safari extended van with the barn doors in the rear and buckets for the middle row. It was teal and I really liked it. Little did we know it was a death trap.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Saw my requisite Astro/Safari just after lunch today. This one rather rusty and with ladders attached to the roof. So another old workhorse helping a contractor earn a living. Not a day goes by that I do not see at least one of these vans on the road doing similar duty, at least 15 years after it rolled off the assembly line. Yes they had terrible ‘crash test results’. But few vehicles appear to match them for long term return on value/durability.

  • avatar

    Digital dash, it must be THE FUTURE!

    Seriously though I thought it was going to be the coupe, that feels high for the forgettable sedan. Maybe these are somehow collectible now? Though I will admit that clean coming from Ontario is either near miraculous or Krown.

    Something more interesting IMO:

  • avatar

    My Dad’s Touring Sedan had that FE3 suspension. Run over a penny and you could read the date. There was ZERO give!

    I thought this was the cleanest, nicest design of the Lumina/GP/Regal/Cutlass Supreme family, but it just looked a little “blah” as a 4-door. I think the Grand Prix worked the best in that transition. And this is around the time (and age) when I became aware that try as they might, GM was just totally incapable of sweating the details. Massive panel gaps, leaks, electronic bugs, seat belts that are a hazard each time you have to move your head and can’t see anything but the door belt, 3 speed automatics when the Japanese had 4, underpowered 6-cylinder engines when the Japanese were putting silky smooth and powerful 3.0 V6s in everything.

    This was also right after “Roger and Me” and everyone was able to see how messed up GM really was. Biggest mistake was not having a four door right away and totally missing the boat on customers like my parents who have three kids to haul around and didn’t want a minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      “Roger and Me”

      I remember attending the GM stockholders meeting in Ft Wayne IN in 1992.
      Things started out with a guy in the audience grabbing the mic and demanding Smith autograph his VHS tape of the movie. Things went downhill from there LOL. We did get a nice free lunch at the assembly plant later on.

      • 0 avatar

        To the one guy who wanted to have an autographed copy of Roger and Me, after Roger was confronted by Michael Moore during a stockholder’s meeting in the movie:

        “Dude…read the room…”

    • 0 avatar
      pale ghost

      Another ‘Where’s Roger’ FUBAR project. The W car development cost $7 Billion in 1980s dollars. GM lost $2k on every W Body they produced. If GM had saved the cost of all of his fiascos (Saturn, SAAB, reorg, badge engineering, diesel, Ross Perot buyout, etc) and spent it on product development and quality, it could have been a world class out manufacturer.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    In the mid-00’s I looked at a 91 Cutlass Supreme convertible like the one pictured in white with a red interior for a mere $1800.
    It drove and handled fine, the 4 wheel discs were grippy and the 3.1 MPI had enough grunt but I couldn’t get over the cut rate Roger Smith era interior furnishings and door mounted belts. Fine for the weekend and summer cruiser but for everyday use they can be weary.

    • 0 avatar

      Lots of people hating on Roger Smith in here!

      • 0 avatar

        Yup, and I’m betting that he was voted “Most charismatic” and “Most likely to succeed” in high school. /s

        In reality, he had the look, demeanor, and voice of Elmer Fudd when he realizes that the end of his shotgun is tied into a knot again.

        I’ve seen deer with a more composed look on their faces before they meet their maker via a car bumper than what we saw on Roger Smith’s face during his time there. It was a total disaster and I don’t think, even in 2021, that GM has totally recovered. Or Flint.

      • 0 avatar

        Roger Smith and Tim Healey are alike in that they both get about 5% more blame than they deserve.

  • avatar

    When I was in high school, the W bodies came out and I wanted a convertible one in the worst way. As a high school senior, I had a job and money to spend, but no way could touch the convertible. I came very close to buying a used white coupe with gray interior with those lace look alloys. At the time, the Olds seemed like a really nice car to me (mind you I was driving a hand me down Dodge Aries 2 door, cream color with goldish interior and a…wait for it… brown vinyl 1/4 top. Ugh) Got a VW Jetta instead. That decision was questionable at times from a upkeep standpoint but the VW was cooler and fun to drive.

  • avatar

    One thing I don’t understand, the 4th generation Cutlass was the best selling car from 1978 to 1983, GM sold over 500k in 1978, where are they? and I ask because they are extremely expensive if you can find one it decent condition.

  • avatar

    OMG that interior – that cloth – that glorious cloth.

  • avatar

    “which has never seen inclement weather under its current ownership”

    I am now officially jealous of the weather conditions in Canada.

  • avatar

    I had a 1988 2-door Cutlass Supreme… It was ok

  • avatar
    Funky D

    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.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    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.

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