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20 Classic Oldsmobile Models That Deserve Recognition

Vukasin HerbezDecember 17, 2017

  1. Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Diesel

In the late ‘70s, American manufacturers were all about fuel efficiency and downsizing. The era of big cruisers and powerful gasoline engines of the ‘60s was gone. Everybody was trying to find a way to introduce new, innovative technologies. Oldsmobile was on the forefront of this new trend with the introduction of the diesel engine in passenger cars.

In those days, American buyers were unaware they could use diesel fuel for their cars. European customers already had a couple of diesel cars on the market, but for the U.S., this was new. Oldsmobile introduced the 4.3-liter V8 diesel engine as an option for the Cutlass line. But soon this model was a subject to an enormous amount of recalls and engine swaps.

Simply, the 4.3-liter had the tendency to explode and shatter during normal driving. Even though the passengers weren’t hurt, the car was unusable and only good for scrap. Oldsmobile later introduced the 5.7-liter diesel that was somewhat better and more durable. But the 4.3-liter is the worst diesel engine in history.

  1. Oldsmobile Toronado XS

Most people probably know about the fantastic 1966 to 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado. It was a big, powerful personal luxury coupe with a twist since it was front wheel drive. In those days, only a few imports were front wheel drive, while all domestic cars, regardless of the class or engine, were rear wheel drive. However, Oldsmobile wanted to introduce something else and constructed an ingenious FWD system.

The designers drew a fantastic looking shape with a low roof and hidden headlights. The power came from a big block 455 V8 with 385 HP. The Toronado was a success because it introduced superb driving characteristics that left competitors in the dust. In those days, Oldsmobile was on the cutting edge of GM design, and the Toronado was their best example.

The first two generations featured dramatic styling and great driving dynamics, but in later installments, the Toronado lost its edge. It just became a copy of the Cadillac Eldorado. However, for 1977, Oldsmobile decided to freshen up the Toronado, introducing something completely different to the conservative styling of the car.

The result was the limited edition Toronado XS that featured a completely different roof than the regular model. It also had a wrapped-around rear glass and a sunroof option. The design looked strange, so Oldsmobile customers weren’t all that interested, despite its superb visibility. The XS option was $2,500 more on top of the standard price of the vehicle. This made the Toronado more expensive than the Cadillac.

Also, the sunroof option proved problematic since it had problems with water drainage and caused rust. At the end, Oldsmobile discontinued the XS version after only 5,166 cars, which are now rare, obscure pieces of Oldsmobile history.

  1. Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais 442 W41

Ever since the muscle car era ended in the early ‘70s, Oldsmobile has tried to recapture the magic of the original 442 muscle car. But numerous special editions in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, trim packages and even 442 badges on economy hatchbacks didn’t help revive the glorious spirit of the original performance Oldsmobiles. However, Olds produced some interesting models that were cool and performed well in their own right.

And one of those cars is the 1991 Cutlass Calais 442 W41. Behind that long name lies the compact, front-wheel-drive Calais two-door. It came with a highly tuned four-cylinder engine that developed 190 HP from 2.3 liters. Today, this doesn’t sound powerful, but they presented this car almost 30 years ago when 200 HP meant big power.

Thanks to its low weight, race-tuned suspension and gearbox, the little Cutlass Calais 442 W41 could accelerate rapidly. It could even beat those much bigger and more expensive cars. Unfortunately, they limited production to only 204 of them, which they used to homologate the car for the SCCA racing championship.

Despite the great performance, people quickly forgot the W41. However, they encouraged other manufacturers to present similar compact, but highly powerful cars. Without this little forgotten Oldsmobile, they wouldn’t have made the Chevrolet Cobalt SS or Dodge Neon SRT-4.

  1. Oldsmobile Achieva SCX W41

Despite the limited sales of the original W41 Cutlass in 1991, Oldsmobile knew the 2.3-liter four-cylinder had potential to be more than a footnote in car history. They discontinued the Cutlass Calais for 1992 and replaced it with the new Achieva model. So, their engineers decided to introduce another W41 model and develop the concept of a compact front-wheel-drive sports car further.

For the 1992 and 1993 model years, Oldsmobile offered the SCX W41 model. It was the last W-named performance version they ever built. They based the SCX W41 heavily on the previous model. It featured the same 190 HP, 2.3-liter engine that revved to 7,200 rpm. However, they improved the design, as well as the interior equipment.

They also made some changes to the suspension and brakes. The biggest improvement was the five-speed manual gearbox they developed especially for this model. The SCX W41 was the quickest car in its segment. But, despite its qualities, it still flew under the radar of most enthusiasts, selling just 1,600 of them.

  1. Olds Economy Truck

Not a lot of people know that Oldsmobile produced trucks and even had considerable success in that field. In fact, they introduced the Olds Economy Truck in 1919 and produced it through 1923 with a rating as a one-ton model.

The power came from the 227 cid four-cylinder engine which delivered 40 HP. Although it doesn’t sound as much power, it was more than enough by 1919 standards. Prices for this fine delivery vehicle were around $1,200 in 1919.

  1. Oldsmobile W-31

Since the muscle car segment exploded in 1970 with big block power, some manufacturers offered smaller and nimbler alternatives to those 427, 455 or 454 engines. And one of those forgotten and obscure models is the Oldsmobile W31. You probably know about the Olds Rally 350 they made for 1970 only.

But this W31 was its twin with less “in your face” styling and similar power from the high revving 350 V8. The car featured lots of “go fast” options, too. However, it flew under the radar since most customers didn’t know it even existed. In the end, Oldsmobile produced just 116 of those interesting machines for the 1970 model year.

  1. Oldsmobile Series 60

Introduced in 1938 and sold until 1948, the Series 60 was Oldsmobile’s entry-level model with all the important brand features. The Series 60 models were affordable, comfortable and quality machines with dependable six-cylinder engines and decent power.

In those days, Oldsmobile battled Chevrolet and other brands in the economy car field. But after World War II, the company moved to a more upscale market, abandoning their inexpensive models.

  1. Oldsmobile 88 Station Wagon 1949

Station wagons as car class slowly started emerging in the late ’40s. So, Oldsmobile had its 88 series models converted to a long roof configuration. And they equipped them with their signature wooden panels.

In 1949, the 88 Station Wagon was the least popular Olds model, so they produced just 1,355 models that year. This car was also the last “Woodie” wagon Olds produced. But people soon forgot it because the company started producing more modern models.

  1. Oldsmobile Starfire

Although Oldsmobile started the muscle car segment, it wasn’t active until 1961. That was when the rest of Detroit’s manufacturers introduced more powerful models that gained respect on the streets and the strips. But Oldsmobile saw the potential, so they introduced the Starfire. It was their top of the line model featuring an engine from their bigger models.

All big Oldsmobiles used the 394 V8 with 325 HP ratings. But in the Starfire, the engine delivered 330 HP, giving the 1961 model some performance credentials. These models weren’t true muscle cars since they were more luxury machines. However, they still had the power, performance and looks of most muscle cars.

  1. Oldsmobile Starfire GT

The mid-70s weren’t an especially good period for Olds performance. But when they introduced their new compact Starfire model, the Olds engineers decided to present the performance version of this car. They called it the Starfire GT and this model was an appearance package on the regular Starfire hatchback.

With special body stripes, color, details, wheels and a stabilizer bar, the Starfire GT was a bit more dynamic than their regular models. And it was the closest thing Oldsmobile had to a sports car in 1976.

  1. Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon Brougham

In the late ’70s, Oldsmobile was doing great with their annual production of over one million cars. But one of the reasons for their popularity was that Olds had lots of models on offer. Also, they were constantly introducing new models. One of the cars that Oldsmobile introduced was the Cutlass Salon Brougham.

It was an interesting hatchback version of the regular Cutlass model but with more luxury and a new name. The five-door hatchback was common in foreign cars but nonexistent on American models. So, Olds wanted to capitalize on that fact, so they presented the strange Salon Brougham. However, they dropped and forgot about it a few years later.

  1. Oldsmobile Hearse and Ambulance Models

During the better part of the 20th century, Oldsmobile and Cadillac were the most popular cars for commercial use as hearses and ambulance conversions. Many coachbuilders all over America used those big Oldsmobile chassis. So, the company always included naked chassis in its catalog, especially for those kinds of buyers.

Companies like Divco-Wayne Corp or Cotner-Bevington bought the biggest Olds 98 chassis, along with 455 engines. They used them as platforms for their hearse and ambulance conversions. Buyers could buy stretched limousines, as well, but those models were less popular.

These are the 20 forgotten classic Oldsmobile models that probably deserved better respect. These discontinued Oldmobiles are rare, so most people have forgotten about them. However, there are still many car enthusiasts who would love to see them return in modern form.

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