This is a follow-up to this article from, umm, February 2016. Uhh, sorry about the delay there.
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to finish this series. Finding five more obscure Oldsmobiles proved to be a tad difficult. See, I’d covered a broad swath of forgotten models from the mid-priced GM brand in my feature on the sporty FWD Oldsmobiles of the 1980s. Then Imperialist did a great piece on the Jetfire, Jason covered a bunch of Oldsmobiles in his Shockingly Low Volume Production Cars series, and then even I inadvertently wrote about the Toronado XS and the Cutlass Calais Quad 442. But it’s all ok–there were still some to go around! Let’s take a look at five more.
Cutlass Supreme SX
Years produced: 1970-71
Total production: 9374
The short-lived Cutlass Supreme SX perfectly captures a transition period in automotive history, as American car buyers left the swinging sixties in the rear-view mirror. Muscle car performance had been in vogue in the late 1960s until rising insurance premiums chased buyers away from nameplates like GTO and Roadrunner. Luxury was becoming increasingly trendy, a movement spearheaded by cars like the Ford LTD. The Pontiac Grand Prix had successfully brought this new flavor to the intermediate segment and Oldsmobile had followed this with the 1970 Cutlass Supreme, a Cutlass with plusher accommodations and a more formal roofline. The SX melded 1960s dash with 1970s panache.
This SX is listed for sale on Hemmings.
Eschewing the hood scoops and stripes and other flashy addenda of the 442, Cutlass Supreme coupes and convertibles equipped with the SX Performance Package (option code Y-79) were distinguished visually from other Supremes via discreet badging and rear bumper cutouts for the dual chrome-tipped exhaust outlets. Inside looked like any other Cutlass Supreme, with bucket seats and woodgrain trim (a console was optional).
Underneath the hood, however, was where the “Performance” of “SX Performance Package” came in to play with a choice of three different tunes of the big Oldsmobile 455 cubic-inch V8. And insurance companies were none the wiser, as the SX didn’t have a unique VIN number. For all they knew, your Cutlass Supreme SX was just a regular Supreme equipped with the standard Oldsmobile 350.
Oldsmobile barely publicized the new option package and seemed to be constantly shuffling powertrain options—not all three of the original engine options were available at the same time during the SX’s debut year. For 1971, there was only one tune of the 455 available. Still automatic-only – this was a luxurious Cutlass Supreme, after all – the SX now came only with the L32 455 with a 4-bbl carb, 320 hp and 370 ft-lbs of torque.
Alas, the scarce publicity afforded to the SX didn’t help it find buyers. The SX ultimately accounted for a tiny fraction of Cutlass sales and the package disappeared after 1971, although you could still equip a Cutlass Supreme with a 455 cubic-inch V8 in 1972.
Years produced: 1997-98
Total production: 16,177
This is your father’s Oldsmobile. Exactly what Oldsmobile was desperately trying to convince buyers it wasn’t selling. That controversial campaign had debuted in 1988 but by 1997, Oldsmobile’s renaissance was in full-swing. The decrepit Ciera was gone. The beautiful Aurora had launched and would soon be joined by the Intrigue and Alero, Oldsmobile’s most earnest efforts yet to appeal to import buyers. And yet amongst this tremendous change, Oldsmobile took their inoffensive Eighty-Eight, added whitewall tires and slapped the defunct Ninety-Eight’s grille and Regency badge on it. It was an attempt to retain traditional Oldsmobile consumers. You know, the exact same consumers Oldsmobile had been trying to get rid of for almost a decade.
The Regency was available with just one engine and one high level of specification. There would be no supercharged V6 or bucket seats: the Regency came only with the naturally-aspirated 3.8 V6 (205 hp, 230 ft-lbs) and a bench seat/column shifter set-up. Priced at $27,995, $5k above the base Eighty-Eight and just a few hundred dollars less than the discontinued Ninety-Eight, the Regency came equipped with traction control, leather seats and dual-zone climate control.
It would prove to be a last hurrah for the old Oldsmobile, with maverick Oldsmobile general manager John Rock telling Car & Driver the Regency would be “the last Buick we will sell”. It was priced just $2k less than a Lexus ES300 and looked like a 1992 Eighty-Eight Royale. Unsurprisingly, the Regency sold poorly: 8,219 units were sold in ’97 and 7,958 in ’98. For perspective, the ailing Ninety-Eight had sold twice as well in its final season and the Aurora sold three times as well both years. The Regency was gone after ’98, its Eighty-Eight sibling gone after ’99. By 2000, Oldsmobile had finished slowly peeling the band-aid off and all of “your fathers’ Oldsmobiles” were gone. Sadly, despite competitive new products, Oldsmobile’s renaissance came to an abrupt halt just a few years later.
Years produced: 1992-93
Total production: 1646
Oldsmobile had led development of the Quad 4 engine, touted as the first all-new engine developed by the division since the Rocket V8 of 1949. It therefore made sense for GM to make the highest output tune of the Quad 4 exclusive to Oldsmobile. Producing 190 hp (re-rated for 185 in 1993) and 160 ft-lbs, the W41 Quad 4 was introduced in the 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais Quad 442. The engine was then carried over to the 442’s replacement, the Achieva SCX, which would be Oldsmobile’s last “W-machine”.
Those figures may be equivalent to a modern-day base four-cylinder engine but at the time, the SCX was producing almost 1992 Camry V6 levels of power with a curb weight of only 2700 pounds. 0-60 was accomplished in under 8 seconds, while the only transmission available was a five-speed Getrag manual.
The base Achieva S could be optioned to include the SC (or ‘W44’) sport package, which added a firmer suspension, lower body cladding, a front chin spoiler, rear wing, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, fog lights and rear spoiler, and was available with the two lower tunes of Quad 4 or the optional 3.3 V6.
The SCX included all of the SC’s extra features, although interestingly it switched out the SC’s 16-inch wheels for 14-inch ones as the SCX featured in showroom stock racing series. On the plus side, it added 10 horsepower over the SC’s highest-output Quad 4, a higher redline, and the Computer Command Ride system. This consisted of electronically adjustable struts and shock absorbers and included a rear stabilizer bar. The CCR system was merely an option on the SC and only in Quad 4-equipped models.
If you purchased an SCX without air-conditioning, it even came with baffles in the fuel tank and an external oil cooler. Performance upgrades on the SCX, however, didn’t include larger brakes.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Oldsmobile would produce such a gutsy sport compact, considering they had been manufacturing sporty small cars since the H-Body Starfire. Oldsmobile may have had a rich heritage of performance and technology but the Achieva SCX (and SC) never sold all that well. Even the Achieva line as a whole lived very much in the shadow of the Cutlass Ciera, the archetypal “father’s Oldsmobile” (or grandfather’s). For 1994, the Achieva lineup was restructured and the SCX was gone.
Given the low production volume of the SCX, the failure rate of the Quad 4 engine, and the intended audience of these cars and those customers’ driving styles, it is highly unlikely there are many SCXs still around.
Years produced: 1970
Total production: 5341
While the first-generation Toronado’s breathtaking styling had been heavily subdued in 1968, that same year saw the arrival of the W-34 option code. Toronados so equipped had a version of the Oldsmobile 455 with a higher-lift camshaft, larger intake valves, and a cold-air induction system (1968 only). Horsepower was rated at 400, up 25 from the regular 455, although torque was reduced from 510 ft-lbs to 500. The lone transmission was the three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic 425.
For 1970, the GT name was applied to any Toronado specified with the W-34 option code—the cost was $47.39. Exterior modifications were limited to discreet badging and accent stripes, as well as rear bumper cutouts for the dual exhaust. While the GT had the more powerful 455, the heavy-duty suspension package was an additional option. Bucket seats were also not mandatory on the GT.
While the GT wasn’t a muscle car, per se, it was powerful and an eminently capable grand tourer. The big 455 could haul all 4500 pounds to 60 mph in around 7.5 seconds. The visual tweaks for 1970 also added a more square-jawed, muscular appearance than the ’68-69 models, which looked like the beautiful ’66-67 models had been forced to wear orthodontic headgear.
1970 proved to be the height of the W-34 option code’s popularity, even as sporty full-size cars fell out of favor, but the market overall was still shifting towards softer, plusher vehicles. The ’71 Toronado was even more conservative looking than the restyled first-generation and was heavily Brougham-ified, inside and out. Oldsmobile arguably made the right call to make it more Eldorado than Riviera GS.
Years produced: 1980-81
Total production: unknown number in 1980, 3959 in 1981
Ten years after the Toronado GT, and following an entire decade of plush, barge-like Toronados, Oldsmobile again tried their hand at a sport edition of their full-size, front-wheel-drive coupe.
At first glance, the Toronado XSC didn’t look like a sport edition. Exterior differences were limited to badging and the same kind of color-keyed wheel discs you would see on an old Chevrolet Nova LN or Oldsmobile Omega LS. Step inside, however, and you’d find the first buckets-and-console arrangement since 1970, available in leather trim, as well as some nice touches like a leather-wrapped steering wheel and full instrumentation. The gearshift was still mounted on the column, however.
Underneath, all XSCs had thicker front and rear stabilizer bars. In all, your $330 or so got you a decent amount of extra equipment over the regular Toronado. Alas, XSCs accounted for less than 10% of total Toronado production in its sophomore year, making these one of the rarest variants of the third-generation Toronado. They would be the only variant of the third-generation Toronado equipped with bucket seats and a console.
Well, I hope that was worth the wait. Isn’t it funny how many Oldsmobiles used such similar trim names? XC, SCX, XSC, XS… Meaningless alphanumeric designations aren’t a recent invention, after all. Stay tuned for the final instalments of this series, where we will take a look at some obscure Mopars and Jeeps.