Abandoned History: Oldsmobile's Guidestar Navigation System and Other Cartography (Part VI)

Sacrificing much, GM spent billions and billions of 1980s dollars on technology and engineering entities at the behest of CEO Roger Smith, who wanted to transform The General into a company more resembling a conglomerate like GE. Half a decade later Smith was gone, and the remaining brass began to unwind the costly EDS and Hughes deals and return GM to its standard operating procedure. But behind the layers of finance and paperwork, Guidestar GPS was developed. And the first time the public got to see it was in 1994 in a very exciting debut.

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Abandoned History: Oldsmobile's Guidestar Navigation System and Other Cartography (Part V)

As we learned in our last installment in this series, the lowering of the digital and governmental barrier between civilian and military GPS assets in 1996 was a boon to the consumer side of navigation, and (per our comments) land surveying as well. It was a timely turn of events for General Motors after the Orlando area TravTek experiment of 1992 proved either too costly to scale, or alternatively not valuable enough in the eyes of consumers. Before we get to GuideStar, we need to cover much context around why GM was so keen on high-tech things in the Nineties, and the massive amounts of money it spent in its pursuit.

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Abandoned History: Oldsmobile's Guidestar Navigation System and Other Cartography (Part IV)

General Motors spent a lot of time and money in the development of TravTek GPS. As we learned in our last installment, the comprehensive (if clunky) navigation system used a touchscreen, had live traffic information, and could even make phone calls. Installed in 100 Toronados used in the greater Orlando area for an entire year, GM, AAA, and various government parties were eager to see just how useful the system was and if it was worthwhile. Narrator: It wasn’t. Let’s find out why.

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Abandoned History: Oldsmobile's Guidestar Navigation System and Other Cartography (Part III)

We return to our spicy Oldsmobile content this week, with the introduction of GM’s first publicly tested in-car navigation system, TravTek. Arriving in the early Nineties, TravTek was launched more than two decades after GM’s magnet-based DAIR prototype failed to make production. This time The General was determined to make good on their big investment. Onward, to Orlando!

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Abandoned History: Oldsmobile's Guidestar Navigation System and Other Cartography (Part II)

In last week’s installment of Abandoned History, we learned about General Motors’ 1966 magnet-based primitive navigation system, DAIR. The inclusive system featured emergency messages, traffic bulletins played inside the car, and route guidance. DAIR never progressed beyond the concept stage and two total test vehicles, largely because it would have meant buried magnets and accompanying signal relay stations at every major intersection in the country. Some 25 years later The General tried it again, but technology progressed considerably by that point.

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Abandoned History: Oldsmobile's Guidestar Navigation System and Other Cartography (Part I)

GM’s exclusive Guidestar navigation was available on a select handful of early 90s Oldsmobiles for a very short period of time. Gone as quickly as it arrived, the expensive system was at the forefront of in-car automotive navigation. Believe it or not, it was Oldsmobile that offered the very first navigation system for a passenger vehicle in the North American market. But what happened to Guidestar that led it to be featured here at Abandoned History? The tale begins in 1966, with a genius idea.

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Junkyard Find: 2001 Oldsmobile Alero Sedan With Manual Transmission

General Motors built cars on the N Platform and its derivatives from the 1985 through 2005 model years, and five-speed manual transmissions were available on various N-based machines throughout that time. Very few American buyers of these cars were willing to operate three pedals by the dawn of the 21st century, but I have managed to find a five-speed-equipped Olds Alero in a Denver self-service car graveyard.

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QOTD: Missing Brands

Today's UCOTD got me thinking -- what now-dead '90s brands do you miss?

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Junkyard Find: 1996 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme SL Sedan

From the 1966 through 1997 model years, American car shoppers could walk into an Oldsmobile dealership and drive out in a new Cutlass Supreme. During its peak sales years of the middle 1970s through the middle 1980s, the Cutlass Supreme reigned as one of the best-selling cars in the land. Today's Junkyard Find, found in a Denver-area car graveyard, comes from the often-overlooked twilight years of Cutlass Supreme production.

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Abandoned History: General Motors' Turbo-Hydramatic Transmissions (Part III)

We return to the Turbo-Hydramatic once more today, and our third installment sees us at a critical point in the timeline of the automatic transmission. Fuel economy pressure from the government and performance demands of the consumer increased considerably in the intervening years since the THM’s debut in 1964. That meant the creation of lighter, more compact, and cheaper versions of the Turbo-Hydramatic compared to its flagship shifter, the THM400. GM branched out into the likes of the THM350, THM250, and the very problematic THM200.

In 1987, GM stepped away from the traditional THM naming scheme and switched to a new combination of letters and numbers. Number of gears, layout, and strength combined to turn the THM400 into the 3L80. But the hefty gearbox was already limited by then to heavier truck applications; passenger cars moved on to four forward gears after the dawn of the Eighties.

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Abandoned History: General Motors' Turbo-Hydramatic Transmissions (Part II)

Our Abandoned History coverage of the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission series continues today. The THM was a singular solution to two different automatic transmissions in use by Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Buick in 1963. Turbo-Hydramatic arrived at a time of modernization for the automatic, which prior to the mid-Sixties was regarded as inefficient and less than smooth.

The THM400 was the 1964 replacement for the Hydra-Matic and Buick’s Dynaflow and established itself as a smooth and reliable gearbox. It proved useful in a variety of luxury and heavy-duty applications and shrugged off weight and torque easily. In short order, it took off as the transmission of choice for various small manufacturers outside of GM. However, no matter how excellent the THM400 was, it found itself squeezed by a drive toward greater fuel efficiency. It was also a bit hefty to be of broad use in smaller or lighter passenger cars. GM needed more Turbo-Hydramatics!

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Abandoned History: General Motors' Turbo-Hydramatic Transmissions (Part I)

A few weeks ago, we concluded Abandoned History’s two-part coverage of the Chrysler UltraDrive transmission. Within the comments was a request for more transmission coverage of an equally abandoned nature. Let it be so! Come along as we discuss the vast automatically shifted expanse that was the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission family, by General Motors.

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Abandoned History: General Motors' High Technology Engine, and Other CAFE Foibles (Part IV)

We return to the saga of GM’s High Technology engine today, after taking a diesel detour in our last entry. Concurrent in the High Technology engine’s timeline, the Oldsmobile diesel’s failure was quick, but certainly not painless. It put the majority of American consumers off the idea of a passenger car equipped with a diesel engine. And by the time GM pulled the diesel from its various brand lineups, there was a strategy change over in HT4100 land: Not calling the engine HT anymore.

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Abandoned History: General Motors' High Technology Engine, and Other CAFE Foibles (Part III)

In today’s edition of Abandoned History, we return once more to the late Seventies engines of General Motors. After the disaster which was the V8-6-4 and the subsequent release of the quite flawed HT4100 V8, we take a sidestep today into diesel. Time for a turn with the cost-cut cast iron Oldsmobile oil burner that accompanied the troubled gasoline engines at GM dealerships across the country.

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Buy/Drive/Burn: Upmarket Brand American Midsize Sedans in 1997

We’re back with more 1997 midsize sedan action in today’s edition of Buy/Drive/Burn. They’re all on the smaller end of the midsize sedan scale, all American, and crucially, all wearing semi-upmarket branding.

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  • Cprescott My 2016 Hyundai that I bought in January 2019 cost $13k and takes less than 10 minutes to fuel and gets over 500 miles to a tank - lifetime average MPG of 45. Golf carts make no sense at all.
  • ToolGuy If I were in the market for a new truck today (and I'm not) I would take a long look at the Ram. 8 years ago this would not have been the case. Sample size = 1.
  • Pianoboy57 This car won't crush anything. It'll get crushed by all the F250s we have around here.
  • Ajla At $22K to start it might have some legs. At $34K I don't know why they are bothering.
  • Redapple2 Love the styling of the amazon delivery thingy.