Hello, fellow CC fans! My name is Keith… “long-time reader, first-time writer”. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been around, owned and enjoyed quite a few vintage automobiles in the twenty-six years I’ve been wandering this Earth, particularly the fine state of Minnesota and its surroundings. In time, I hope to share many of them with you, but for today, and for my first CC, I decided to pass over the unicorns and pick something a bit more ordinary. Or is it?
At first glance you might think this 1994 Cutlass Supreme is just another typical W-body–but something about it is a little off. Can you see what it is?
Midway through 1988, Oldsmobile released the new FWD Cutlasses, which replaced the venerable G-body Cutlass Supreme (and a topic for another day). Through 1991, the car mostly retained its original look, complete with glass composite headlights and accented side trim. But for 1992, the Cutlass received a face lift: quad sealed beams, a new bumper and hood design, and color-keyed body cladding were among the many features that carried this sporty-yet-practical Olds through to its finale in 1997.
“But wait,” you say: “This mongrel is sporting the later appearance package, yet it has the early front clip!” And you’d be absolutely correct.
I found this car languishing in a backyard in Austin, Minnesota, a place known more for its SPAM than its jalopies, but I digress. It was owned by a middle-aged divorcee who had inherited it from her mother–and it was a real cream puff, too. Just over 100K miles, zero rust, nice leather interior, fresh head gaskets and new, brand-name tires. The only problem was that she’d managed to get into a minor accident with it, destroying the left fender, hood, header panel, bumper cover and radiator.
Had her living situation been more normal, the story went, her husband/mechanic would have had it back on the road in a hurry. But since she’d recently thrown him out, there was no one to do the repairs–and so, there it was for the taking, available to anyone with $600 cash and the means to remove it. Needless to say, I pounced.
This was back in the bad old days, in which I owned neither a trailer nor a car dolly, and the car was 150 miles from home. What to do? The same as any crazy kid in my position would have done: round up my tools, hit the junkyard bright and early on Saturday, snag a radiator, buy a smattering of fluids, recruit a second driver and then head back to Austin. I did the repair, which included stripping off any damaged body panels, right there in her yard. We literally folded the hood in half and slid it into the trunk, aided by the fold-flat back seat. Then, with most of the front clip missing and a few prayers having been muttered, we hit the highway for the long trip home.
Fortunately, it was a pretty uneventful trip. With my old man in the lead, driving my then-DD Impala (another story for another day), we managed to make it back fine, despite the wreck having no front illumination except the indicators I’d zip-tied into place. At one point, we did encounter a State Trooper while in traffic, but he just laughed and continued on his way. Not exactly the response I was expecting, but I was happy to take it.
Upon returning home, my first priority was finding front-end parts. I had a particular white four-door donor in mind, but when I got to the boneyard, surprise! Four-door and two-door Cutlass Supremes don’t share front clips (or much of anything else, for that matter), and ’92-’95 coupes were non-existent. In fact, the only two-door I could find was a blue ’88. Interchange said it was wrong. Visual impression said it was wrong. But my measurements said it was right, so I went for it.
Here’s your CC Tip Of The Day: You can use ’88-’91 hoods/headers/bumper covers on ’92-’97 cars, and vice versa – but you have to use all three items together. Do that, and you’re golden. Fenders interchange across the years as well, so long as you can manage the trim differences.
Several weeks later, I found a guy on Craigslist who was selling a clean but paperless ’89 coupe for $200… and it was even in my color. Sold! The blue parts were returned to the car from which they came (at the time, that particular junkyard had a policy that you could return any undamaged part for a full refund, so long as you reinstalled it as you found it; it’s now under different ownership), and the white parts went on.
It seemed a shame to crush such a clean car. But without a title, its only remaining purpose was to sacrifice the remainder of its usable parts and take one for the team.
After 7,000 enjoyable and leather-padded miles, I gave the car a good detailing and sold it, for $1,700, to a nice gentleman who had a long commute. It was a nearly perfect deal – buy low, fix, enjoy, and sell high. Everything about this car formed the template for those that followed.