General Motors has seen many brands fail in recent years under its large umbrella of car companies. One of those companies was Oldsmobile. This brand was seen as an entry-level luxury badge that provided some incredible cars throughout its long and rich history. While they definitely had a few strikes, their best models are the reason that before their eventual closure in 2004 they were the longest standing domestic car brand. They were actually among the oldest in the world.
Surprisingly enough, it's already been 14 years since the last Oldsmobile vehicle rolled off the production line. Since then, many auto enthusiasts have started to collect some of the better models they produced, and a community has started to grow in appreciating the brand's contributions to the industry. It is for this reason that many people wish the brand (or at least certain models) were still around being produced. However, there were also some models that continue to draw scorn to this day. These models make people understand why the brand went under in the first place.
These are the 10 cars that make us wish Oldsmobile was still around (and 10 that make us glad they're gone).
20 Great: Vista Cruiser
Most people would never believe a station wagon could be beautiful. Apparently, they are very wrong. The Vista Cruiser was a classy line of family oriented wagons that provided massive amounts of space, powerful performance, and looks both head turning and smile inducing.
These wagons were of course equipped with large viewing windows in the upper sides and roof the the rear passenger compartment, perfect for showing the kids the land.
As for the parents, a powerful Olds V8 hauled the vehicle along, with soft suspension soaking up the undulating road as the sky wafted past overhead. The Vista Cruiser is truly a great from a bygone era.
19 Not Great: Aurora
The Aurora is more than a bit of a mess. On the outside, its just a slab of smooth blandness, on the inside its a cobbled together sob story of bad plastics, and under the hood isn't even worth talking about. While powered by either a V6 or V8, both are based on the Northstar engine, a power plant known for puttering out and going kaboom in time, without a real fix that doesn't cost a mint. Olds had fallen a long way since the 60's, and this lump of meh is probably the prototypical sample of just how vast the distance of that fall was. When GM fell and had to cut brands, some lamented the fall of Pontiac, but very few missed Oldsmobile.
18 Great: 442
Those who did bemoan Oldsmobile's loss, however, remembered the 442.
Olds' entry in the exploding muscle car craze begun by fellow General Motors marque Pontiac, the 442 was a beast.
Hitting sixty miles an hour from a standing start in under six seconds is no mean feat for a nearly half-century old car, and these did it with a tire smoking, Olds V8 howling, headrest testing vengeance. Slamming heads into headrests was the 442's specialty, but because of it's outlier status among the original muscle cars, today it is the cheapest way to get into ownership of that proper 1969-71 muscle car body style.
17 Not Great: Cutlass Calais
Sometimes looks can be deceiving. In the case of the Calais, they unfortunately aren't. Attempting to cash in on the glory of the past, this miserable compact was assigned the name of a line of proper Olds, though the car itself is massively distant from those proper cars. Front wheel drive, dull looks, hope-draining driving characteristics, and bargain bin everything defined much of the Cutlass Calais. The Calais was built during a new resurgence of brand engineering at General Motors, catalyzed largely by a need for cost cutting. This was cost cutting run amok, however, which quickly doomed this car to rot away in the history books instead of making a mark.
16 Great: Starfire
Starfire is a very hard name to live up to. But with a rear three quarter view dominated by an afterburner flame shaped set of character lines terminating in a point just behind the taillights, one can't legitimately argue this 1961 masterpiece fails to.
A gorgeous piece of uninhibited domestic design, influenced by the space race era the car was built in, the Starfire is a car which will probably always catch eyes.
Regardless of era, age, or background, any car that lives up to the name Starfire is a very cool car indeed. The interior is nearly as flashy, with aircraft inspired gauges paired with a horizontal speedometer.
15 Not Great: Intrigue
The names Oldsmobile, and likewise its nickname Olds, can predominantly be seen two ways. Those who experienced Oldsmobile's heyday think of them fondly as 'Olds,' a name signifying some mix of classiness, a certain non excessive level of luxury, with a little zest mixed in. Those who know mainly of Oldsmobile's more recent cars likely think of the name Oldsmobile as simply a vehicle for old people, as that is largely what they became. Cars for those not quite active enough to grasp the sad irony of the very names of the cars they were driving. Case in point, this Intrigue. A car bland enough to make white bread sound wholly exotic.
14 Great: Cutlass Supreme
When the gas crisis slammed the domestic auto industry and the big three automakers were sent spinning, ducking, and running away screaming for cover, all seemed lost for the muscle car. Then, a decade later, a hero emerged, standing strong amongst cold ashes. This fated hero was the G-Body. A series of General Motors cars that continued to carry the flag of muscle, with a cheap price to boot. The Cutlass Supreme, the last remaining true Cutlass, was Olds' contribution to the G-Body hero cars, and today forms the backbone of super affordable Detroit muscle. While from the factory their true power is masked, for those willing to do bolt on upgrades, an Excalibur worth of horsepower can be pulled from the G-Body rock.
13 Not Great: Bravada
Brand engineering can be made to sound good on paper, but in practice it sounds like a con man managing to hustle himself.
One would think common production lines for different brands would save a lot of money, but the problem is that they just turn out the same car.
So why even both badging them differently? The Bravada is a good example of this. Starting as a variant of the popular Blazer, as General Motors small SUVs went downhill, so did it, unable to stem the tide simple because it was the tide. As the Bravada became more crossover-like it began to appeal more to the demographic it was aimed at, but cost cutting ended any chance of it being a hit.
12 Great: Jetstar
Oozing 60's charm, the Jetstar manages to look both professional, flamboyant, and chic all at the same time. Introducing what are now modern staples like power steering and power brakes to the Olds' 88 lineup, the Jetstar matches an awesome name with awesome looks and decent performance for a giant coupe from the early 60's. It is a car easy to imagine in the role of a private investigator or gumshoe in a 60's television serial, prowling the mean streets in a squared off, V8 powered Jetstar that could get him and his associates in and out of trouble at a moment's notice.
11 Not Great: Regency (88/98)
The Regency was part of Oldsmobile's disappointing full size lineup in the 90's, which attempted to lure in European buyers with a car that dramatically under performed against any European contemporary in everything besides plushness. Which was even further undermined by the car being marketed towards a demographic who preferred a more taught driving experience than a soggy land barge. Bland and group-engineered into nothingness, the Regency was the product of a system that was very adept at producing failures. As one of Olds' greatest failures, it would also number among its last. A car company can only support so many duds, even if supported by the mighty General Motors.
10 Great: Delmont
While the 4-4-2 was closest thing Olds had to a pony car, their muscle car offering was perhaps as obscure, but just as deafening to behold. Optional on the Delmont was a monstrous seven and a half liter V8- the Rocket 455.
This lump of iron was incredibly heavy, but could blast the car down a straightaway like very little else, even of the time.
Not as popular as the cheaper and more abundant Chevy's, the Delmont remain under the radar and relatively cheap to buy today, and are as gorgeous as when they left the factory floor all those years ago.
9 Not Great: Firenza
Oldsmobile's final attempt at a compact car was an abject failure. Pitiful engines, strange engineering choices, bad suspension, and arguably worse styling crippled the Firenza's chances of ever coming close to competing with imported compact cars from the likes of VW, Toyota, and Honda. Helping to cement a stereotype that domestic can't make good small cars, the Firenza has its place in the history books, but definitely not an envied one. Due to lack of interest and questionable rust proofing, very few of these terrible contraptions are still roaming the streets. Perhaps when they are gone we will be able to forget.
8 Great: Custom Cruiser
What Oldsmobile seems to have done well in its history is provide a ride for middle class families. Nothing too extravagant, but nice nonetheless, and nothing overly fast, but certainly capable of a surprise.
The Custom Cruiser here continued some of the traditions of the Vista Cruiser, being a full size wagon built to be offered with a V8 and classic styling.
Faux wood paneling was also an option, which has created its own strange cult following in the modern era with those enamoured with the past weirdness and occasional extravagance provided by a wagon with more than enough power and way more than enough room to haul the family and anything they wanted to bring along.
7 Not Great: Alero
As with the rest of Oldsmobile's final range of cars, the Alero had a layered set of problems. The car was boring, with no reason for buyers with any taste whatsoever to buy one. It was a car born of mediocrity for people who didn't care. It was badge engineered, which meant it was really just a worse version of something else in the General Motors lineup that would steal its sales, and to boot was an absolute mess to work on. Basic maintenance sometimes required removing a significant number of engine accessories to get to basic components, which made what was a bland car just frustrating.
6 Great: Golden Rocket 88
There is definitely a trend of old Oldsmobiles with spectacular names living up to their monikers. The Golden Rocket is far less conservative than mere Jetstars and Vista Cruisers, however. Expansive chrome seems to highlight nearly every character line, body lines and curves are anything but subtle, and the hood ornament is a rocket launching off the car.
This is a style so flamboyant it appears to break the laws of physics in not being too much.
But perhaps we just expect this level of flash from a car of the era when the space race's engines had just fired for the first time.
5 Not Great: Achieva
This car looks like a balding office worker, with the two part mustache to match. While the 80's were tragically unkind to domestic automakers in general, they shattered Oldsmobile. It just took until the 90's for the pieces to start hitting the ground. One of those shattered pieces of former greatness is this, the Achieva, a car whose very name sounds like something agreed upon by committee for the sole purpose that if it flopped no one would lose their job. So what happened is that the car came out, was a flop, and eventually the entire company lost it's job.
4 Great: Oldsmobile 98
Back in the day, though, before corporate culture overtook and destroyed General Motors, they built things like the first several generations of Olds 98s. Beautiful, caringly designed full size cruisers the equal of anything else on the road in style and comfort. When employees built cars because they liked them. With a beautiful sweeping character line hiding the rear set of doors, this full size sedan could almost pass for a normally far more streamlined coupe, as it doesn't even have a B-Pillar dividing the rear and front windows. Not all changes to modern cars are because of management problems, but beauty is not that hard to achieve.
3 Not Great: Omega
At least One would like to believe it would be an easy thing to achieve.
The same company that built that drop dead gorgeous 98 series built this vinyl-roofed monstrosity, and decided to call it the Omega.
Fake chrome trim, fake wire wheels that are actually, and quite obviously, hubcaps, and a general sense that this is almost literally a pig someone put fake lipstick on. After the 70's, Olds had lost almost all of it's mojo. Corporate accountants were tightening purse strings and keeping engineers from working with enough freedom to build something good, and the designers had an even worse hand.
2 Great: Delta 88
Not all their mojo was spent just yet, though. This boxy sedan might have fake wire wheels. And plastic trim "chrome." But underneath that lay the seeds of greatness. A durable full frame backbone, a V8 engine capable of being uprated with simple and cost effective upgrades, rear wheel drive, and just the right amount of suspension slop to require true skill to drive fast while remaining incredibly comfy while cruising. This is perhaps the penultimate Oldsmobile, the Delta 88. Not sporting, but not totally incapable. Plush, but not extravagant. Adequately powerful, but not overbearing. More than enough, for less money than you'd expect.
1 Not Great: Cutlass Ciera
Then there were cars like the Cutlass Ciera, that continued attempts to take the Cutlass name and drag it thoroughly through the mud. All to get buyers to purchase something that wasn't even really worthy of the marque's name, let alone the name Cutlass, which had once hosted 442 as a sub brand. Remarkably drab, almost comically under powered, with an interior equipped seemingly to make car people cry and suspension tuned to make them sob, the Ciera may have truly marked the end for any hope for the ailing Olds. But while they went out in shame, Oldsmobile will always have some classics worthy of pride.
Sources: CarAndDriver.com, Hemmings.com, RMSothebys.com