Ever know a car you can’t escape? That’s my relationship with the Colonnade Cutlass models from 1973-77. It’s not the only car I’ve ever known, but it’s the car I’ve known the longest.
My own saga in the “Cutlass Chronicles” starts way before I was born. I’ve talked about the 1964 Super 88 that switched my fathers side of the family from being Ford loyal to Only Oldsmobiles need apply. When my dad landed a job at Raychem in 1970, out went his Dodge Lancer GT and in a lightly used Cutlass “S” Coupe, Midnight Blue, White Vinyl Top, 350 Rocket and, well, can’t you tell my dad still rhapsodizes about this car through his emphysema hack 40 years later?
Anyways, in December 1975 the dream Cutlass was totaled out by State Farm Insurance after a crash at the intersection of Bay and University (again, can you tell I’ve been told this tale time and time again?). And at Paddleford Oldsmobile sat an unsold and well optioned Cutlass Salon.
It was one of 4 Cutlasses purchased by my dad and his 4 brothers in 1975. My Dad’s Salon, White on White with a full white Vinyl top, 8 track player, 350/Turbo-Hydramatic/A/C and most power accessories save drivers seat was apparently ordered by a local Cocaine Dealer as a “business card” but when that Cocaine Dealer went to jail, the “Cocaine Cutlass” as it was known was sitting unsold, an embarrassment to Paddleford Oldsmobile for those in the know.
So with a “Drug Lord might kill you for his car” discount, my father drove off with one of the last 1975 Oldsmobiles on the showroom floor. This Cutlass would see him through 23 years of life. 3 Jobs, one divorce, one child (me). It eventually became my first (running) car at age 16. Running a loose term given that the Turbo Hydra Matic (never really serviced) could not shift to 3rd, so 60-64mph in Super was all she wrote before it overheated. Nevermind the fact that the back brakes didn’t work.
When I finally parked it in 1999, it had seen 374, 232 miles over 24 years of neglect. Above it’s shown next to its replacement, a 1995 Eighty Eight Royale LS. It sat in the garage dormant for the next 12 years until last year, my Uncles and Aunts and myself tired of the clutter that verged on Hoarders level, gave it to a family down the street that has a number of these Colonnades. Maybe it became their latest Cutlass to cannibalize or create with.
When I see perfectly restored or cared for examples I have to fight my initial reaction of WHY? They were huge, beastly, inefficient dinosaurs when motoring was taking a strong slant towards efficient FWD hatchbacks. But then I remember how safe certain elements felt as a Child, as the beltline above my skull and the whine of the Turbo Hydramatic hustling 4,300lbs of body on frame Body By Fisher Goodness from Lansing that was like my big brother, in steel.
In that I recognize that I long for the some of the comforts, along with the amazing discomforts (215 inches long and that’s all the rear legroom I get?!?!?!) of a car that said “Home” for the majority of life. Like that Aunt you learned to love as an adult, so it goes with me and the Colonnade Cutlass.