Oldsmobility at the Office


As the 1980s faded into the 1990s, Olds kept one foot planted as firmly as it could in the 1970s. After all, plenty of bluehairs would still line up, with their checkbooks open, for faux luxury. But even as our elders took delivery of cars like this 1993 (I think) Ninety Eight Regency Elite, you could see that this is exactly how they’d end up, and fast. (Presumably the cars, and not our elders. -Ed.) These cars just seemed cheaply thrown together and covered in as much ticky-tacky as it was possible to apply. Remember how all the girls in seventh grade inexpertly slathered on their makeup? This is their automotive equivalent.


But unlike those girls, Olds was old enough to know better. I’m sure this time period gave Oldsmobile quite a shock; after all, the Cutlass Supreme had been America’s car during much of the ’70s and ’80s, when it seemed there was some sort of Cutlass in every other driveway. But by 1990 those days were over, and Olds would spend the rest of its life trying to figure out what it should be. Sadly, their soul-searching didn’t stop them from selling dreck like this.


At least this example’s interior isn’t chewed up too badly. I spotted this not-quite-Curbside-Classic one day a couple of weeks ago in the parking lot at work, and photographed it for much the same reason one slows down to rubberneck at a crash on the highway.


And then it turned into Oldsmobile Week in the office parking lot. Maybe my eyes had just become attuned to them after noticing the whored-up Ninety Eight. The telltale sign of a W-body coupe is the door handle in the window frame, of course. At least GM had figured out by the mid-1990s that when multiple vehicles share a common platform, each needs to have a unique and brand-specific style. Unfortunately, Oldsmobile’s W-body coupe ended up being the most anonymous of the bunch.


That cabin doesn’t look like too bad a place to be, though. Except for that dimple in the armrest, this one looks to be in pretty good shape for its age. I think this Cutlass Supreme is from about 1995.


This 1998-or-so Eighty Eight was parked across the way from the Cutlass Supreme. By the time it was built, it was already too late for Olds; we can all see that now. But Olds was still pitching, hoping the Aurora would catch on, and tried to make all their cars look a little more like it, which explains this aero front end.


I knew an elderly lady who had one of these. She’d driven nothing but Oldsmobiles for 40 years, Cutlasses mostly, and she described her Eighty Eight as being one of her favorites–powerful enough, comfortable and easier to park than the larger cars she was used to. The cabin certainly looks like a decent place to be.


But of all the Oldsmobiles I saw in the parking lot that week, this is the one I’d have. Sure, except for the front and end clips you couldn’t tell it from the Buick LeSabre. Sure, they were smaller on the outside than Cutlass Supremes of a generation before, and lacked the presence of Eighty Eights gone by. But I spent enough time in them to know they were competent enough, comfortable enough and plenty roomy.


Could the time I spent in these have softened my heart toward them? The others, I’ve never so much as sat in.


Check out the solid interior on this one. I’m rather charmed that the seats are covered in cloth–and that single cup holder is amusing. Fortunately, by the 1990s GM got the memo that both front-seat passengers might want to stow their respective venti caramel-mocha macchiatos.


Ah, GM paint from the ‘80s. Anyway, if I ever come upon one of these, in the elusive coupe version with a For Sale sign in the window, I’ll be tempted to bring my checkbook–even if the roof looks like this.