Cohort Pic(k) Of The Day: 1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass – Rockette On Its Way To Supreme

Here’s a nice find from the Cohort by Jerome Solberg, a 1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass. A survivor of that brief ’61-’63 interlude when GM’s divisions went against the compact/import threat with their homegrown compacts. I’m talking about the Y-Bodies that appeared at B-O-P; each finding various degrees of success, though none quite meeting sales expectations. They would all grow to intermediates soon enough, but in the case of Olds, from that modest beginning would sprout the Cutlass saga. Not yet Supreme, mind you, but all stories got to start somewhere.

Not many of these compact Oldsmobiles have appeared at CC and for obvious reasons. For one, it’s been over sixty years since these came to the world. Second, they were the least selling of the B-O-P compacts. I could blame it all on the compact game being new to Oldsmobile, but Buick’s was the best-selling of the three, so that idea doesn’t quite add up. For 1962, Buick’s Y-Bodies moved about 153K units, while the Olds ones only managed 94K.

Today’s Cohort find is none other than a Cutlass, the top trim of the compact F-85 line. Considering later events, I probably don’t need to tell you the Cutlass version outsold the remaining F-85s by a large margin. Hence, the Cutlass went on to a long life while the F-85 progenitor is barely remembered (The moniker was dropped in mid-year 1972, although it was later resurrected for the base version of the compact Omega).

Still, as it was going to be with GM’s future output, these compacts highlighted the strengths –and weaknesses– of the corporation. Lots of effort and novelty into their engineering, with each division ambitiously aiming for the stars. Then, when sales numbers failed to look as rosy as promised, to retreat into familiar territory quickly. As known, the next intermediates would be as normal as normal could be.

In the case of the Olds F-85, the ambitions included a new all-aluminum Rockette V-8 as the standard engine, with double-wishbone front suspension and a four-link live axle with coils all around. All while enjoying the then-novel unibody, shared with its Y-body siblings.

That plus the not wholly sorted-out turbo business that showed up on the Jetfire version. Also known as the Turbo Rocket chapter (never enough Rockets in Olds messaging, right?).

Before I delve too deep into these, I should say this is not the first time the F-85/Cutlass has appeared at CC. So their background has been previously told (links below), covering their specs, history and performance.

But being rare survivors nowadays, any F-85 is worth its five minutes of CC fame, especially if it comes in Cutlass form. And this sample is rather extraordinary, even if it’s rather moldy. While it has California plates, all that mildew and mold suggests this thing must have been stored somewhere damp. Somebody’s grandmother’s basement?

And as appropriate for the Cutlass’ coupe role, this one carries that “smart front…” console that adds “sports car flair…” Apparently wrapped around Olds’ new 3-speed Roto Hydramatic. A smooth 3-speed unit that provided silky shifts and delivered a non-sporty 14 secs. from 0-60 on the standard F-85.

With its Roto Hydramatic, this Cutlass probably isn’t quite the sportiest of coupes. But it’s certainly a time capsule, still carrying some trappings of the late 50s Jet-Age obsession. Those who know the the nameplate’s saga know that those would soon be shed, for a more Broughamier Supreme future.


Related CC reading:

The CC Complete Cutlass Chronicles (“CCCCC”): Part-1 (1961-1963) Unfulfilled Ambitions

Vintage Car Life Road Test:  1961 Oldsmobile F-85 – Y Not Better?