On this past Monday, I had taken another evening walk through my neighborhood on the first day of fall of this year.
Locusts were chirping loudly, and the air was cool and comfortable, being in the lower 70s.
Determined not to spend another post-workday evening in front of my televison or computer screen, I devoured my dinner and set out with my Canon camera before the sun had fully descended.
Settling into a steady gait, I felt the day’s tensions slowly evaporate as I looked around at the various, picturesque houses, lawns and driveways I passed.
Merely being out of the house during the week can have a calming, medicinal effect on me amid the steady stream of problem-solving tasks I execute continually on a Monday-through-Friday basis.
On the eastbound leg of my usual walking loop, I came across this fine specimen of a 1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme, parked in front of one of my favorite houses on this stretch of neighborhood blocks.
Bigger and more artfully styled than all the other vehicles parked on the street around it, this Colonnade-era Cutlass stood out like automotive royalty.
Imagine one, specific trim level – in this case, the non-Brougham Supreme coupe – accounting for over 186,000 sales, in a year when the Cutlass model line, by itself, sold over half a million units.
Looking across the street from the Cutlass at the late-90’s-era, North American sixth-generation Honda Accord, I was amazed at how much difference there was between the two vehicles which had been among the most popular sold in the United States in their respective times.
Even though close to a quarter-century separated those two designs, it made me think of the shift in priorities in what mainstream, upwardly mobile customers wanted and expected from their cars.
Coupes are all but dead in 2019, with the only small number of two-door models still available all being specialized or sports-minded vehicles.
Utility Vehicles, meanwhile, seem to have taken center stage and now occupy the niche in popularity that affordable personal luxury cars like our featured Cutlass once held.
Thinking about this makes me a bit sad, as I think about all the changes in the automobile landscape that have taken place even just since my own entry into adulthood in the 1990’s.
Let me say this, though…
As I’ve aged into my forties, I do definitely understand how ease of ingress and egress can be an important consideration.
Standing up from my seat on the CTA “L” train cars sometimes now requires that I grip one of their metal poles to reduce strain on my knees as I get ready to deboard.
Sitting low in a coupe, or even in a sedan, might require some similar bracing as I’d rise from the driver’s (or passenger’s) seat to make my exit.
Suddenly, being able to step into a raised-height vehicle without ducking too much or having to plop down into a seat seems to make a bit more sense, aesthetics of the vehicle be darned.
Under certain circumstances, though, I’m sure I wouldn’t put comfort of entry or exit as a top priority if I could have the Curbside Classic of my dreams for occasional, limited, leisure use.
“Pure Americana” was what came to mind as I gazed and clicked a few frames of this Cutlass in front of this beautiful, old, white, frame-construction house.
Reminders of Oldsmobile’s one-time dominance among American brands, like this beautiful Cutlass, come along fewer and further between.
Edgewater’s blend of old architecture, and large, tall trees was the perfect backdrop under which this Cutlass was picturesquely parked.
May what is hopefully a 170-hp Oldsmobile 350 “Rocket” V8 under the hood continue to burble on, smoothly, for years to come.
Even though not completely stock, and with just a few, apparent, minor cosmetic imperfections, this Cutlass’s beauty was undeniable.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Monday, September 23, 2019.
Well written and well shot. We must live within spitting distance in Edgewater and I’ve been hoping my CC will be lucky enough one day to be caught as the subject of your post! There’s also a blue 62 Merc sedan that hangs around Magnolia south of ridge that seems new to the neighborhood.
VK, thank you, and it could happen! I have not yet seen the ’62 Mercury (another great, obsolete brand).
I myself own a 1976 cutlass SALON and don’t see any other Salon ‘s on the road only surpreme’s
Mark, that has also been my observation about the Colonnade-era Cutlasses – Salons are far apart and few between. (Care to post a picture of yours?)
I did spot (and write up) this example almost three years ago, but it was in bad shape: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1977-oldsmobile-cutlass-salon-evergreen/
I have a 76 salon as well never seen one the same glad you saved such art
Very impressive! I have always struggled with creative writing like acrostics, so I think I’d struggle writing an acrostic for a Ford Ka.
And regarding your point about mid-life prioritizing of the ease of ingress and egress, Oldsmobile tried to please you with swiveling seats (though I’m not sure if the ’76 models still had them).
Eric, I had actually tried to incorporate “Strato-Buckets” into my acrostic, but failed! LOL
Thank you Joe, for stepping out on this evening to go exploring for some CCs. You make some great observations here, along with your beautiful pics. The neighbourhood backgrounds and twilight really add to the attractiveness.
“Bigger and more artfully styled than all the other vehicles parked on the street around it, this Colonnade-era Cutlass stood out like automotive royalty.”
Excellent point. I studied graphic design when I was in my late teens, and we learned about visual ‘pressure points’. Areas in a view selection that create unnecessary visual tension. The Mazda parked behind the Olds, with its many sharp angles coming together in a small space, has many pressure points. It exudes tension. Whereas the Olds has no pressure points. It is very relaxing to look at. Soothing visually, in fact. The human eye can sense the difference, and naturally find the subject with less visual tension, easier on our eyes. So, your observations are bang on!
Thanks for a great read, and lovely pics!
Thanks, Daniel. The Cutlass is a very graceful looking car, especially in comparison to the Mazda behind it – I can kind of get what you’re saying in reference to “pressure points”.
The Olds designers got this car “just right” after the original droopy, dog jowl version. The ’73 coupes that followed the semi-fastback 68-72 Coupes were a visual disaster, to my designer eyes.
Fortunately this reskin did show what good surface development could do! The car jumped from a busy lump to a graceful vehicle that simply looks better with each passing year. The proportions are just right and there are no phony scoops, excess creases or other busy “things” tacked on to destroy the clean design; unlike the vast majority of todays’ vehicles. DFO
A friend of mines mom had one of these bought new, when I was in grade school in the ’70s. I thought they were great looking cars as a 10 year old kid, and I still feel the same at 53. Great find!
Had a 76. Eventually added a 455. Still had the 2.43 diff gear. Would walk a new corvette on the highway. Gotta love cubic inches. Young man who bought it from me promptly wrecked it.
I’m wondering if this spent some time as a Donk wanabe, that is sitting too high for the stock suspension. So my guess is that it did have 20″ or bigger wheels at one point and when that owner got bored they either sold those wheels and tires separately and put the ones that were on the car when they got it back on, or the current owner quickly ditched the big wheels for these.
Possibly, but tires look much lower profile than original, exaggerating the fender gap, and given its age and apparent well maintained state (look how clean the rear brake drums are behind the wheels!) it’s possible the suspension had been rebuilt with new springs, which sometimes sit higher until they gradually settle
Good are the times when we can feature cars from the ultimate decade, the 1970s.
Oldsmobile owned that decade.
Others tried, but didn’t find that same sweet spot.
Dodge would be an example of the “others”.
Joe, your photography is always impressive.
Odd how some try to mimic it (me) but never come close to success.
But it’s good to see you put your talents together with an Olds.
Nice work, and thanks, Jason!
Probably the last car to represent the ideas of Sloan’s ladder. Oldsmobile still made their own engines (aside from the Chevy 6, and I can’t imagine many Cutlasses were sold with that engine!), and the Boomers who bought these still remembered and valued the reputation of the “Rocket V-8”.
As car salespeople still say, “for a few dollars more per month” you could own this Cutlass V-8, with a better engine and arguably better fit, finish, and materials than you got in a Malibu – and lots and lots of people did!
What a Beautiful lady I always get goose bumps when I see one of these Lady’s on the road or in articles I had a 77 it was a Dream to drive you could take Muhammad Ali’s quote “floats like a butterfly”.
Thank you for the memories
I had one just like it..but black to be the opposite year of my father’s 67 olds 442..(which we still have)..great cars and fantastic style… thanks for posting
Between the Cutlass, the Malibu, the Century, and other colonnade models such as the Monte, and the GP? these must have topped a million units in sales that year. Very impressive.
Having said that, there is so much more diversity of choice available today than there was then. You mentioned the Accord, consider also the Camry, Acura, Genesis, upscale Hyundais, Audi, SUVs, etc., to diversify the market. In the 1970s, buyers tended to choose from the General, Ford, or Chrysler, predominantly.
I thought these 1976 Supremes were very nice, but their sides were a bit plain. Had they used the crease from the bottom of the 1973, it would have been enhanced greatly. The front and back ends mostly survived from 1975.
I wonder what an Olds buyer from those days would purchase today. A Buick SUV, if still loyal to GM? A Lincoln of some kind?
Lee, I know quite a few aging Colannade owners who are now happy Accord, Camry and Lexus ES owners. They were GM loyal for years, but enough was enough. Their prized Colonnades were followed by a succession of GM failures that were so bad that they drove their owners to the once unthinkable – Asian brands. Once they made the switch they never came back.
1976 Colonnade production:
Chevrolet (Chevelle, Monte Carlo) – 763,475
Pontiac (LeMans, Grand Prix) – 321,908
Olds (Cutlass) – 500,129
Buick (Century, Regal) – 305,085
Total – 1,863,597
Stumack, thank you for this. I don’t know why, but before seeing the numbers, I would have assumed that Buick had sold more Colonnades than Pontiac. The difference was all in the number of Grand Prixs sold – roughly 230K, versus 143K Buick Regals.
Great photos of a great car.
The house is interesting as well. It looks 10-20 years older than the rest of the neighborhood.
Thanks, Dan. And that’s a great observation about this house. It definitely looks at least a couple of decades older than the ones around it. I keep thinking there’s some history there. It’s also at the edge of a triangular plot of land. I wonder if the neighborhood just kind of developed around this house.
I’m 52 ..my first car was a 76 cutlass supreme with a 350 four barrel…it was the rust orange with a white vinyl top and white bucket seats automatic on the floor…smooth ride .drove it all over the country…finally had aburned valve ..drove it like ..used a little more gas but I didnt care ..gas was 95 cents a gallon
I have seen that color combo before – its striking in person. Sounds like it was a sweet ride!
In an unusual “pre-cc” effect, on Sunday the 29th I read two scripture passages in our worship service, one of which was Psalm 37. I learned that psalm had been originally composed in an acrostic style in the original language (Hebrew, I think).
When I read this cc I did not have to look up the meaning of “acrostic”
Lee, that’s a great reference. I also seem to recall that many Psalms were written in an acrostic style based on the Hebrew alphabet.
Nice find. That thing is dope! Would drive it everywhere.
1976 was a big year for car sales after a 2 year recession in 1974-75. I still go back and forth on whether I like the plain sides as on this car or the more sculptured earlier versions.
Your photography is, as always, very, very nice.
Thanks, JP. Like you (and to also reference Dennis Otto’s comment above), I like both the original ’73 with the side-sculpting as well as the restyled ’76s. If offered one today, I’m not sure which I would choose.
Thanks, everyone. Again referencing Oldsmobile’s one-time dominance, I was listening to a late-’70s / early-80s compilation I purchased earlier this year, and Nielson/Pearson Band’s “If You Should Sail” references “Oldsmobile” right around the 0:52 mark. I could totally imagine “sailing” around the streets circa 1980 in a car like this ice-blue Cutlass – in supreme style.