In-Motion Classic: 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme – Fewer Calories With All Of The Flavor

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Monday, August 23, 2021.

Almost exactly one month ago, I committed an entire week to treating Chicago like a vacation destination, and my home on the northeast side like an imaginary AirBNB.  During each day of staycation, I tried to strike a good balance between actively doing things and relaxing.  I had learned from my memories of vacations with my family of origin that while it’s often beneficial to make plans in order to make the most of a trip, it can be detrimental to the intended renewal effects of time off to just keep going nonstop.  It was fun to try to see my city from a different perspective and pretend that I had only a limited number of days in which to experience it, and all within a budget.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass brochure page, courtesy of

It ended up being one of the most fun, adventurous, rejuvenating, and still cost-effective vacations I’ve ever taken.  Things like riding the $10 water taxi from the museum campus to Navy Pier (which I also explored), and visiting the totally free Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia University and Lincoln Park Zoo were just a few of the fun activities that again proved to me that spending a lot of money is not necessary to have a good time in a city like this.  This is especially true if one sticks to public transit.  I had tried to do something different every day before ending up at one of the local beaches for part of the afternoon.  Being unable to do too much in 2020 broadened my perspective about where I actually live, with many spaces having reopened this year.  Simply being able to go places again reinforced in me not to take such things for granted.

Lickity Split sweets shop. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Friday, October 5, 2012.

Friday, October 5, 2012.

One such treasure is a local frozen custard shop called Lickity Split, which is located on a main thoroughfare in my neighborhood.  I had ice cream on the brain one evening and had been ready to walk to a Baskin-Robbins about ten minutes from my house.  Sometimes, though, I just want something now, and while the walk to the B-R might have burned some pre-emptive calories in advance of whatever I was going to end up eating, my curiosity led me to do a bit of research to discover that frozen custard actually has fewer calories (about 20% less) and grams of fat (over 40% less) than ice cream, according to some numbers I found online from the USDA.  Not only this, but frozen custard has substantially more protein and calcium.

Lickity Split sweets shop. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, August 14, 2021.

I’m not sure why I had incorrectly assumed that custard would have been less healthy than ice cream.  When I think of custard, and not being super-familiar with it, I think of a thick, pudding-like substance that seems like it would be packed with more of the things that contribute to a thicker midsection, like a kind of fortified ice cream.  It turns out I was wrong (and I’ll be wrong again, many times), so off to Lickity Split I strolled on a Friday evening, with the intent of starting my holiday immediately after powering-down my laptop at the end of the day for what would be an entire week.

Lickity Split sweets shop. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, August 14, 2021.

The sweets shop itself is a gorgeous, little slice of Americana that looks like it could have existed in any decade from the previous century.  All manner of old-school candies are sold in the main part of the store in the event you want to take something home once you’ve finished your cone or sundae.  I opted for one scoop of peach-flavored frozen custard in a Joy cake cone, which I ate outside on one of the benches facing Broadway.  It was delicious, flavorful, satisfying, and just enough of a serving to where I neither felt like a glutton or like I wanted more.  I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between what I had just eaten and a scoop of peach ice cream, and I will be back, for sure.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Monday, August 23, 2021.

The downsized 1978 – ’80 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme was one of my very first favorite cars I remember as a kid growing up in Flint, Michigan.  By the late ’70s, I was of an age where I couldn’t learn the makes and models of cars any more quickly, and my playing of “count the Chevette” out loud while riding in either one of my family’s two Plymouths was a regular occurrence that surely must have tried the patience of the other occupants.  There’s something inside of me that still gets really excited when I see a Cutlass from the same, three-year run as our featured car riding on those beautiful, color-matched Olds Super Stock wheels.

This was the generation of Cutlass that was new when I was first paying close attention to cars.  I love the Colonnades, but my love for them came much later and after the 1978 – ’80 models had already entrenched themselves firmly into my heart as the benchmark, as desirable, classy machines that the tasteful people of Flint drove.  I don’t read about a lot of love for the ’78s especially compared to that for the super-popular ’76 and ’77 models, which I have never quite understood, as I feel it was the best-looking midsized personal luxury coupe of that new wave from GM, and a very attractive car in its own right.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme brochure photo, courtesy of

It’s true that like frozen custard, the downsized ’78 Cutlass Supreme coupe represented decreased numbers compared to what most people were used to from one of the United States’ most popular, individual cars: over 400 pounds and 11% lighter at (3,566 lbs. vs. 3,160 lbs.), almost a foot shorter (197.7″ long vs. 209.6″), almost five inches narrower (71.3″ wide vs. 76.2″), less than an inch taller (54.2″ vs. 53.4″), and all on a wheelbase that was about 4″ shorter (108.1″ vs 112″).  Despite these reduced exterior dimensions, the EPA-calculated interior volume actually increased, slightly, from 94.9 to 95.5 cubic feet.  Trunk space was virtually the same for both editions, at just over sixteen cubic feet.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Monday, August 23, 2021.

While the most powerful engine available for ’77 was Olds’ own 403 cubic inch V8 with 185 horsepower, the largest engine available in the ’78 was a 350 V8 with 170 horses.  By the time our featured ’79 was new, the most powerful engine available was a 305 V8 with 160 hp.  While I’ll concede that most ’77 Cutlasses were probably powered by the 350 and that many ’79s had a 305, I thought I’d use a comparison of the fuel mileage of examples from both model years with the smallest V8 available, the 260.  The combined city/highway EPA figure for three-speed automatic-equipped models were 21 mpg for the ’79 and 18 mpg for the ’77.  While this was not an earthshattering difference, it was an improvement of almost 17%.  The downsized Cutlass’s dietary and fitness program was a success.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme brochure photo courtesy of

The Supreme coupe was the most popular Cutlass for ’79, with almost 278,000 units sold.  This represents the highest sales total for any individual Cutlass model for any of its thirty-nine model years between 1961 and 1999.  For 1978, the first year of this downsized A-body, the Supreme coupe sold almost 241,000 units, which was only a slight drop from the 243,000 total from the corresponding ’77 model.  We know this factory Pastel Green example is not a Supreme Brougham, the next most popular Cutlass that year (with 137,000 sold) as it appears to be missing the oblong “Brougham” emblem on its C-pillar next to the “Cutlass Supreme” script.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Monday, August 23, 2021.

This was the generation of Cutlass Supreme that always looked correct to me from the start, versus the Colonnades, which never looked quite as sporty and tight, not to mention many of which had sagging or missing rear bumpers by the mid-’80s.  The aero restyle that arrived for ’81 made some of the Cutlass magic disappear for me, with less sculptural bodysides that also eliminated the signature kickup in the rear quarter panels.  I now wonder if ice cream might have seemed to rich for me later in life if I had been raised on frozen custard, though I doubt it, as I can barely taste the difference.  I can appreciate both, much like I also love a Colonnade Cutlass.  The 1978 – ’80 edition, though, will always have a special place in my heart as the serving size that seemed like just the right amount of Cutlass.

Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
August 2021.

Brochure photos courtesy of