This is it, the ultimate mid-sized 1986 Oldsmobile. Well, the ultimate FWD mid-sizer, anyway; in ’86 you could still get the old RWD Cutlass Supreme in Brougham trim. But it was a dinosaur. Forward-thinking middle agers and hip, happening Grandmas turned to the Cutlass Ciera without looking back.
Let’s consider this car’s snout for a minute, and remember how in 1986 Ford’s Taurus upended the entire mid-sized sedan market with its smooth and slippery new look. This Ciera’s front clip – the whole car, actually – is pretty good looking and was quite contemporary right up until that fateful day in December, 1985, when Tauruses arrived in Ford showrooms. Instantly, this became your father’s Oldsmobile.
Olds was really trying in those early years to create a car of contemporary style to help move GM into the FWD future. I rather like the blunt noses from ’82 through ’84; they befit the rest of the car’s attractive squareness. When I spotted this Ciera from afar, I rather hoped it was one of those. To the extent I have a bucket list of cars I want to find and photograph, the earliest A bodies are all on it.
Of course, Olds had to respond to the Taurus, and in 1987 composite headlamps appeared in a slightly rounded nose. Olds kept the traditional grille, though.
Most of the Cutlass Cieras still on the road here in Rustopia are from the later years, after GM Taurusified the A body as best it could, after the tooling had long been paid for, and after this car had become the darling of fleets everywhere. Their numbers have started to dwindle here over the past few years, but I’ll bet if I visited the nearest Wal-Mart right now I’d find three or four parked outside. Once in a while, you might even find an earlier six-window sedan there too – but never, ever in time-warp, showroom-fresh condition like this one.
I wish I had checked the odometer – I’ll bet this thing has less than 50,000 miles on it. The interior is spotless; colors on every surface are strong and fade-free.
Eventually, Oldsmobile quit caring that much about the Cutlass Ciera’s style. The price was right, it was roomy enough, it was reliable enough and cheap enough to fix, and driving one didn’t suck, so people kept buying them. So after 1989 Olds rode this car out for as long as it could with minimal changes year to year. But now, looking at this minty fresh Ciera dressed in its Sunday best, it’s nice to remember when Oldsmobile really tried to put its best foot forward with its new sedan.