The junkyard is akin to a candy store, mounds and mounds of delicious treats and morsels to look at and perhaps inspect closer before deciding on something to sample (and share here). However, like at the candy store, what looks great from far away sometimes isn’t as exciting once you get closer. Kind of like when you choose a red lollipop and assume it’ll be cherry and it ends up being cinnamon. Nothing wrong with cinnamon per se, but not what you were looking for.
So it was the other day when I spied something bright red a few aisles over and ambled over like a moth to a flame, wondering what tasty treat awaited me, surely it’d be something sporting, or maybe just sporty-ish since I was in the GM section after all. But then it became obvious it was an Oldsmobile, not a brand overly associated with either bright red or sporty. Even worse, an Achieva, one of the less durable nameplates in that brand’s long history. Still, I had recently found my old digital SLR the day before and after a quick charge of the battery, figured this might be a worthy subject to test it out on for a few licks.
The Achieva was based on the same platform as the Pontiac GrandAm and Buick Skylark. Built for the 1992 through 1998 model years, it succeeded the Olds Calais which used the same platform and wheelbase. Of its platform-mates, the GrandAm was the most ubiquitous by far as far from what I recall, but then it gets murky, the Skylark had that weird pointy schnoz and never seemed terribly popular, but the Achieva seemed a bit weirdly styled as well.
I think the main problem with all of them was that they seem a little long for their width (or better, their narrowness). However, the front is probably its best facet, I don’t mind that grille treatment with the way that the hood sort of folds down over it like a bucktooth. The lack of gratuitous chrome accentry is alright as well, it certainly fit into the ’90’s idiom.
Was the Olds rocket badge crooked from the factory or was it replaced at some time? We’ll never know. Someone did just screw the plate holder through the plastic bumper with zero regard to how the stylist wanted the name to appear, hopefully that wasn’t done by a dealer.
This is to me its best angle, just dead on from the front. Large lights, clear marker/indicators, black grille, bucktooth color bisecting it with a small badge, decently shaped lower spoiler with air inlets. Nothing ostentatious, just business. Purposeful. Almost (in a whisper) European.
But then there’s the rest that brings you straight back to Ohio or thereabouts. A long side, rear fake fenderskirt-look wheelwells cribbed from the Caprice, the largest rear spoiler (on a FWD car) this side of the Fast and Furious set, etc.
I suppose the rear sort of matches the front with the black panel around the plate area, at least the not overly large taillights don’t preclude the trunklid from having a decent width cutout to open at the bumper.
Here the long body and squared off fender shape pays dividends with a pretty deep and wide trunk although it’s a bit on the shallow side. Easy enough drop your carry-ons into. Carry-ons? What are you implying, you ask?
Yes, this was a rental car in what should be called Avis Red but instead was called Flame Red (I think GM still uses Flame Red today, in fact). While this is a 1997 produced in May of that year, production ended before the new year and supposedly any 1998’s were for rental fleets only, not for the public. In reality, the majority of Achievas overall probably were rentals, at least in the last few years of production.
Like most GM sedans of at least the ’90’s the trunk lid always wants to pop up, it will not stay down without being latched. I’ve resorted to starting to put something heavy on it to get a halfway decent picture with a more or less closed trunk, but I just realized that maybe this was done intentionally for the rental car market? The last few rentals I’ve gotten all were lined up with their trunk lids open as a convenience for the customer and GM did stuff a lot of cars in there over the years.
Part of my initial ambivalence was seeing it was an SL trim level, I assumed that this was mid-grade and there was likely one below and a higher-zoot one above it, both of which tend to be more interesting in different ways. Not so! The SL was the only way the four door was offered as of 1995, it’s kind surprising that GM didn’t just pocket the 50 cents or whatever the pair of SL badges cost them and sell it as just the Achieva. Actually it would make perfect sense, there is zero reason to spend that money in this case. They already had cut the ad budget to pretty much zero, I couldn’t find an ad or commercial from the last few years at all.
There wasn’t even an engine option, while previously offered with a couple of V6’s (Buick 3.3 and Chevy 3.1) as well as multiple power levels of the “Quad4” engine, as of 1995 the only available engine was the new “Twin Cam” 2.4liter transverse four that produced 150hp@5,600rpm and 155lb-ft of torque at 4,400rpm mated to a four speed automatic transmission of course powering the front wheels.
The inside seems to have held up surprisingly well over the last 23 years. The seats had that typical GM mousefur velour and the plastics are pretty, well, plasticky. Two airbags for front passenger safety beats the old half-baked seatbelt solutions in vogue a few years prior.
Alright, so the window and door lock buttons seemed to get plenty of use. But by getting use and looking this used up, it appears that they still worked, so there’s that. That door release handle is horrific though, the Cavalier had a similar looking one, as did the pickups and SUV’s I think as well. Solid, but just a horrible feel and look. Look at any competing Honda of the era for a lesson in how to design something that gets touched every single time you get out of the car.
A driver-centric dashboard (revised for 1996) but gray HVAC knobs that look very Pontiac of the time. Someone took the radio, but left a key that didn’t fit this car (I tried unlocking the wheel). There’s one cupholder behind the automatic shifter with a scrotum-style boot, that center console is too narrow to fit two side by side (cupholders I mean). And do you remember the old days before airbags were invisibly integrated into dashboards?
Almost 186,000 miles! More than I expected from a former rental car that looks in pretty decent shape overall. I suppose the pitting on the bucktooth should have given me a hint. Still, no visible rust outside, and the interior had minimal wear besides those window switches. The gauges (“gages”) look the same as most other GM cars of the period, at least there’s a decent complement of them and no “Dashboard of Sadness” as with a few generations prior. This may be one of the earlier cars to show which side the fuel filler door was on, a boon for any car renter.
The backseat looks pillowy-soft, but a little low to the ground. There was also a 2-door coupe available (through 1997) with the same wheelbase so apparently decently roomy in the back.
I still can’t say I’m overly excited by it, but not really sure what rental I might have picked over it if I saw it on the Avis lot. I might have actually given it a shot, just like that lollipop in the midst of the candy store it certainly stands out and calls attention to itself compared to what’s clustered around it…At least they’d take it back from you after the weekend; once you actually taste the cinnamon on the lollipop it’s all yours.